Vietnam War Memoir shortlisted for 2012 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

9780980690910Canberra-based publisher, Odyssey Books, is celebrating Stanford University Libraries’ announcement of the shortlist for the fifth William Saroyan International Prize for Writing.

Tales from a Mountain City: A Vietnam War Memoir by Quynh Dao is one of twelve titles shortlisted in the non-fiction category in 2012. The winners will be announced in September.

The award is intended to encourage new or emerging writers and honour the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality and stylistic innovation.

“Stanford is thrilled once again to honor the literary legacy of William Saroyan by awarding The William Saroyan International Prize for Writing,” said Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian. “However, the prize not only allows us to recognize the talents of an author whose archive we are pleased to hold but as well to engage with new authors, whose works are often found to be of wide interest and significance.”

Tales from a Mountain City is a blend of history and memoir told by a young Vietnamese girl growing up during the last years of the war and the communist regime. This is a poignant account of the innocence of a child, the innocence of a people, shattered again and again by the cruel tides of power and dogma, clinging tenaciously to their traditions, their home provinces, their hometowns, until the sheer pervasiveness of a communist value system drives them to suicide or exile.

Indirectly, this story raises many questions on nationalism and qualities of power, freedom and independence, human rights and human nature.

“William Saroyan celebrates humanity and I am moved that my work is among those considered as potentially worthy of his literary legacy. To be shortlisted for this prestigious award is already an honour,” said Quynh Dao, upon receiving news of the shortlist announcement.


The author escaped Vietnam by boat to Malaysia and came to Australia as a refugee in 1979. She is a member of the Refugee Council and Amnesty International.

“Quynh Dao’s book is part history, part autobiography. She has written an extraordinary account of a family utterly destroyed by Marxist-Leninist ideology over a period of 30 years. And yet, her will to survive was indomitable. This is not just the story of one family; it is the story of a nation.” – News Weekly

“Readers of this book will gain more understanding about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.” — The Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser

William Saroyan International Prize for Writing homepage:

Additional details:
ISBN: 978-0980690965, hardcover, 2010, $32.95, 286 pp.
Paperback to be published in 2012.