The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood Book reviews


Author(s): Kien NguyenDownload  


A story of hope, a story of survival, and an incredible journey of escape, ‘The Unwanted’ is the only memoir by an Amerasian who stayed behind in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and who is now living in America.

Some Reviews: 242 in


Tari rated it      

A quick read – difficult to put down. What a heartbreaking story of a young boy’s growing up years. Hard to think how many others shared these same experiences in war torn countries over the years. Makes a person so very grateful for growing up without having to live in a land torn by war.

Throughout the story was an underlying story of his mothers’ strugle to provide for her family and elderly parents. A very well written description of his perception of his mother and how much she changed over a few short years.

Reccomended reading for all.


Karyl rated it      

Kien Nguyen isn’t much older than my husband, but the horror he lived through in Vietnam as a child is far beyond the scope of any American’s imagination. His family, once very wealthy before the fall of Saigon, becomes one of the poorest families in war-torn Vietnam. He and his brother are shunned as “half-breeds,” their American ancestry evident in their features. Because his mother was once at the top of society, she is punished in the new Communist regime, and has to give everything up to prove that she renounces her previous capitalist ways. Kien’s suffering is magnified by the hatred of his aunt and her family, and he is tormented daily by his cousins. He is abused by his mother’s boyfriend, though he has a champion in his grandfather, who constantly stands up for him and tries to protect him.

At some point Kien attempts to escape, to find his way to America and possibly find his biological father. But instead he is met with horrific defeat, seeing some of fellow escapees murdered in cold blood. He is then taken to a re-education camp, where he is treated in a most inhumane manner for several months. But eventually, after years and years and years, he is finally rescued and comes to the States through a program for Amerasian kids.

It is so difficult for me, a comfortable American, to understand how humans can be so brutal to one another. What I find hopeful, however, is how Nguyen has not allowed himself to become embittered by the horrible things that happened to him in Vietnam. I agree with him that it is important for him to tell his story, so we can see the effects of the Vietnam War on its people, and to understand that the war didn’t end once the Americans pulled out.

Highly recommend, even though this book is incredibly depressing.


Chrissie rated it      

There is no question in my mind concerning how many stars to give this book. Actually 5 is too little. This is my all time favorite book. Many have it on their “to-read” lists. Put it at the top. Make it the next book you read.

The suspense at the end made my heart race. I had to stop to get air. I was racing over the words to find out what would happen even though I knew he would end up on the plane. You KNOW that he ended up in the States, he wrote the book there. I had to know exactly how it occured. There is no way a book of fiction can ever, ever create such suspense.

And then the message – how to live your life – is so good! And what this book says about people. Horrible, and yet maybe there is hope. I don’t know where to start except to say that we all must appreciate our life. Why do people only value what they are about to loose? Why is it so hard for us to appreciate what we have while we have it?

As soon as I can I will read Tapestries written by the same author. It is classified as historical fiction, but it based on his grandfather, who is in this book too. It is the author’s grangfather who tries to guide Kien toward appreciating life while you have it. The author expresses this musch better than I do.

You are making a HUGE mistake if you don’t read this book. Yes, it is hard, but life is hard, and the author has humility and he knows that he is only one of many, many others who has lived such horror.


Vy rated it      

As a freshmen I thought this book was sad but good at the same time.I taught me what my grandparents and parents had to go through when they were young.The book also showed me what Vietnam was like before the communist took over the country and the people’s freedom.As I was reading the book I never imagined that he would get rape by his mom’s boyfriend.That’s just really mean and sad for him.I feel like because of what happened, he learned it and later did it to that girl.I think it should be a requirement for highschoolers to read it because it’s a good book to learn history.


Jessica rated it     

So much persecution for such a young boy. Fear and confusion about the meaning behind the hatred were constantly with Kien, who did not initially understand that he had no control over it.

Kien’s world changed dramatically when he was still a boy. He was forced to grow up knowing that strangers and even his own family were judging him because of his heritage. He was poked, prodded, looked down on and made to feel inferior, and spent most of his first years not knowing why.

The way he told his story, after all these years, was touching. He didn’t lament his lot in life, he didn’t belabor the hatred and rejection, but he put all the facts out there and made the reader feel and understand what it was he went through.

It was very well written, and you can’t help but to root for Kien, and feel a certain mix of pity and alarm for his mother and brother. The fast-paced ending easily could have been something from an action/fiction novel, yet was the last moments of Kien’s life in Vietnam. An amazing view of a boy’s strength and determination.


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