Mai Nardone’s Welcome Me to the Kingdom opens with two migrants from Thailand’s northeast who travel to Bangkok to make a new life for themselves in the bustling city. As they enter, they pass under a sign, asking visitors to “Take Home a Thousand Smiles”. It’s an ironic start to their lives in Bangkok, as the two live an unstable, hardscrabble life on Bangkok’s fringes.
The two are just a few of the characters that populate Mai Nardone’s short story collection. From a mixed-race daughter of an American-Thai couple, to two “strayboys” jumping from job to job, Mai’s characters try to carve a niche for themselves in a changing and sometimes unforgiving city.
In this interview, Mai and I talk about Thailand, the divergence between its public hospitality and the unstable lives of the migrants that live there, and how authors should write about this Southeast Asian country.
Mai Nardone is a Thai and American writer whose fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Granta, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. He lives in Bangkok.