Viet Thanh Nguyen elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and USC professor joins Barack Obama, Sonia Sotomayor and Tom Hanks in being elected to the academy’s 238th class

April 18, 2018 Darrin S. Joy

Viet Thanh Nguyen MacArthur Fellow
Viet Thanh Nguyen has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. (Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

University Professor Viet Thanh Nguyen of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Nguyen is among 213 notables elected this year to the prestigious academy, which honors exceptional scholars, leaders, artists and innovators, and engages them in sharing knowledge and addressing challenges facing the world. Other 2018 awardees include former President Barack Obama, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Tom Hanks.

Posting a portion of the AAAS announcement to Twitter, Nguyen expressed awe at being associated with one name in particular: “I shivered a little to see my name next to Barack Obama in this announcement about our selection as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.”

In historic company

With his election, Nguyen joins prominent historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Margaret Mead, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.

“This was a completely unexpected honor, for which I’m grateful,” said Nguyen, University Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Comparative Literature and Aerol Arnold Chair of English.

In 2016, Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with his novel The Sympathizer, which takes an unconventional and critical look at differing perspectives on the Vietnam War. Last year, he became only the sixth USC faculty member to be named a MacArthur Fellow and received a Guggenheim Fellowship earlier that year. In February, USC President C. L. Max Nikias named him a University Professor.

“Professor Nguyen applies his extraordinary talent as a scholar, writer and advocate to help us build empathy and broaden our understanding of the world,” USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller said.

Accolades for Viet Thanh Nguyen

With The Sympathizer, Nguyen garnered numerous accolades, including the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Literary Excellence from the American Library Association and a California Book Award. His follow-up — Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, a nonfiction companion piece to The Sympathizer — was a finalist for the National Book Awards in 2016.

Additional works — including The Refugees and the just-released The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, which Nguyen edited — have also receive widespread acclaim.

The 238th class of American Academy of Arts & Sciences fellows will be inducted at a ceremony in October in Cambridge, Mass. The full list of inductees can be seen on the academy’s website.