Vietnamese American Identity in Literature Analysis

Historical Background

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Asian American groups saw the emphasis on civil rights and ethnic awareness that developed in the 1970’s as an opportunity to explore their identities. This opportunity continued into the years after 1975, when Vietnamese refugees began expressing issues as exiles from their homeland. The war in Vietnam had changed much. Not only was it a civil war; it was also a conflict of two imported philosophies (Western liberal capitalism and communism) that crushed much of traditional Vietnamese culture and identity. Issues varied between the generation who fled Vietnam and the subsequent generations born in the United States, but common themes appear in English and in Vietnamese-language literature. Issues include struggles with Marxist ideology traditional beliefs in fate, different views on cultural survival in isolation, the loss of roots, and the conflict between assimilation and maintaining traditions. There are differing perspectives from men and women writers as well.

Since 1953, two distinct traditions influenced later refugee writers. Writers with a background from North Vietnam tended to carry a Communist emphasis on realism and political themes; the majority of Southern refugees, influenced by French and Chinese literatures, tended to have more romantic, individual voices of a personal bent, reflecting struggles with alienation and isolation.

Images typical of postwar literature reflect resettlement and symbols of success in America,...

(The entire section is 517 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Karlin, Wayne, Le Minh Khue, and Truong Vu, eds. The Other Side of Heaven: Postwar Fiction by Vietnamese and American Writers. Willimantic, Conn.: Curbstone, 1995.

Lim, Shirley Geok-lin, and Amy Ling, eds. Reading the Literatures of Asian America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

Pratt, John Clark. Vietnam Voices: Perspectives on the War Years, 1941-1982. New York: Viking Press, 1984.

Rottman, Larry. Voices from the Ho Chi Minh Trail: Poetry of America and Vietnam, 1965-1993. Desert Hot Springs, Calif.: Horizon Press, 1993.

Tran, Qui-Phiet. “Vietnamese Artists and Writers in America: 1975 to the Present.” Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas 20 (1989): 101-110.