The Boat is a collection of short stories heavily influenced by the author’s background and childhood experiences. Born in Vietnam, Nam Le fled to Australia with his parents while still a baby. The family was one of the many families of “boat people:" refugees fleeing the Vietnam War by boat and taking refuge in other countries.
Le has commented on the “clear parallels” between himself and the narrator of the stories, and has said that writing in such similarities came naturally to him in the writing process, but that his complex relationship with the country of his birth caused him to have a complex relationship with the text itself and the material with which it dealt. Other stories included in The Boat are set in a variety of different locations around the globe, including Colombia, Tehran, New York City, Iowa, and Australia.
Le’s history of writing poetry is reflected in the lyrical style in which the stories are written. While Le was concerned with the degree to which his poetic tendencies would influence The Boat, critics have praised his writing style. The Boat has won various awards and been hailed as a “book of the year” by various newspapers and websites since its publication in 2008.