Pioneer Girl: A Novel by Bich Minh NguyenPioneer Girl: A Novel by Bich Minh Nguyen

Pioneer Girl: A Novel

byBich Minh Nguyen

Paperback | January 27, 2015

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“A powerful and wholly original American saga.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Bich Minh Nguyen’s previous books—the acclaimed memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner and the American Book Award–winning novel Short Girls—established her talents as a writer of keen cultural observation. In Pioneer Girl, Nguyen entwines the Asian American experience with the escapist pleasures of literature, in a dazzling mystery about the origins of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic Little House on the Prairie.

Lee Lien has long dodged her Vietnamese family’s rigid expectations by immersing herself in books. But now, jobless with a PhD in literature, she is back at home, working in her family’s restaurant under her mother’s hypercritical gaze—until an heirloom from their past sends Lee on a search for clues that may lead back to Wilder herself, transforming strangers’ lives as well as her own.
BICH MINH NGUYEN (who goes by Beth) teaches literature and creative writing in the Bay Area, where she lives with her husband and their two children.
Title:Pioneer Girl: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 7.7 × 5.1 × 0.8 inPublished:January 27, 2015Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143126229

ISBN - 13:9780143126225

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Bookclub Guide

1. What prevents Lee from completing her dissertation? Why does she return home instead of getting a non-academic job and an apartment somewhere else?2. Is Hieu the reason Tran and Ong Hai keep the family in the Midwest? Would Sam have engaged in delinquent behavior if he grew up in California, where he wasn’t such an obvious minority?3. Does Tran’s favoritism ultimately help or hurt her children?4. Is Lee denying her heritage by studying Edith Wharton instead of Asian American literature? What are the pros and cons of studying an author’s work from an outsider’s perspective?5. Discuss some of the ways in which Lee uses food as a cultural metaphor. How can a desire for authenticity sometimes be an expression of racist stereotyping?6. What is the nature of Lee’s relationship with Alex? How does it change over the course of the novel?7. Are Lee’s thefts justified by the mystery she is attempting to solve? Since she can never definitively prove either that the pin belonged to Rose or that Rose put a child up for adoption, why is she so driven to learn the truth?8. Is Greg better off for learning that he may be related to Rose Wilder? If you were in his position, would you want to know?9. Do you share Lee’s love for the Little House stories? If so, what drew you to the books?10. In what ways does Pioneer Girl affect your understanding of the Little House series?11. What are some ways in which Lee’s experiences parallel Laura Ingalls Wilder’s? Does Lee ultimately have more in common with Laura or Rose?12. If you’ve read Bich Minh Nguyen’s other books, what are some of the dominant themes in her work?

Editorial Reviews

Early Praise for Pioneer Girl:“Elegant, sharp-eyed, and very funny, Pioneer Girl is ultimately about how one finds kinship—familial, cultural, literary—that transcends the usual lexicon about identity and belonging. Navigating Vietnamese ‘immigrant guilt’ and a stalled academic career, Lee Lien finds escape in trying to solve a literary mystery which leads her deep into her own heart and history. A wonderful read!”—Cristina García, author of King of Cuba and Dreaming in Cuban  “I love how the Little House legend takes a wild detour into contemporary life in Pioneer Girl. Bich Minh Nguyen’s wonderfully imagined literary history gets to the truth about mothers, daughters, frontiers, and the meaning of home. I couldn't put this down!” —Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life