How does The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen relate to immigration?
Immigration is a main theme in The Refugees. It is immigration that brings the refugees of the story to the United States. Most of the characters are either first- or second-generation immigrants, having left Vietnam because of the war. These characters learn that the journey to the United States is not easy, and many of them—like the narrator of “Black-Eyed Women”—arrive with little money and are forced to live in rough neighborhoods. Several characters, such as Phuong and Liem, must rely on others to help them meet the financial demands of immigrating. The immigration journey itself is often perilous or traumatic; the unnamed ghostwriter from the first story recalls how she watched pirates kill her brother just before they raped her. In addition to the difficult adjustments that come along with immigration to a new country, The Refugees also explores how immigration affects one’s concept of home at a generational level. Some of the second-generation immigrants feel more comfortable in the United States and, unlike their parents, identify primarily as Americans. By telling the stories of these refugees, Nguyen explores how the experience of immigration intersects with one’s personal identity.