30 Under 30: Kevin Nguyen, Editorial Director of Google Play Books

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This week marks the release of our annual 30 Under 30 issue, and because each of these individuals is so interesting, we thought we’d further highlight them by running some brief interviews with them.

Name: Kevin Nguyen
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Crown Heights
Occupation: Editorial Director of Oyster [Ed. note: Since this feature went to print, Oyster was acquired by Google; Nguyen is now the Editorial Director of Google Play Books]

Who would be your choice for a 30 Under 30?
Two people you picked last year: Jazmine Hughes and Hallie Bateman. I have never met anyone besides these two that do so much great work that feels honest with who they are. Probably not a coincidence: they’re the best people on Twitter.

Who are your role models in your industry?
I like people who’ve had unconventional career paths. Ed Park comes to mind.

What was a turning point for you, when you realized you could make a career out of something you love?
I used to write a book review column for Grantland that would go up at the beginning of each month. Once I filed a few days late, and a stranger emailed me asking when it was going up. That was really flattering, and I realized that at least one person out there cares what I think about books.

What’s some advice you’d have for people looking to get a foothold in your industry?
1. Read a lot. Try and read broadly.
2. Review books for what they are, not what you want them to be.
3. Remember that New York is not the world.
4. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t take an unpaid internship.

Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for young people to build a career?
When I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I told myself I would never one of those people that constantly espouses the virtues of New York City. But I am definitely one of those people now.

Have you ever felt like leaving your career path?
Constantly. Publishing likes to think of itself as exclusive. I often feel like an outsider. Usually, it’s because I’m on the only person of color at a publishing event. Other times, it’s a little less subtle. People will tell me that I “don’t look like a book person” and I know exactly what that means.

I’ll never leave though. Come at me with your most insidious microaggressions. I’m ready.

What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment?
Launching The Oyster Review. That and getting on Ed Champion’s shit list.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I wish I had a good answer, because that would mean I’d know what the publishing landscape looks like in a decade. But if all goes according to plan, Taylor Swift is going to bring me out on stage with Junot Diaz and Jesmyn Ward.

Follow Kevin Nguyen on twitter @knguyen

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