front cover of The American Dream in Vietnamese
The American Dream in Vietnamese
Nhi T. Lieu
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
In her research on popular culture of the Vietnamese diaspora, Nhi T. Lieu explores how people displaced by war reconstruct cultural identity in the aftermath of migration. Embracing American democratic ideals and consumer capitalism prior to arriving in the United States, postwar Vietnamese refugees endeavored to assimilate and live the American Dream. In The American Dream in Vietnamese, she claims that nowhere are these fantasies played out more vividly than in the Vietnamese American entertainment industry.

Lieu examines how live music variety shows and videos, beauty pageants, and Web sites created by and for Vietnamese Americans contributed to the shaping of their cultural identity. She shows how popular culture forms repositories for conflicting expectations of assimilation, cultural preservation, and invention, alongside gendered and classed dimensions of ethnic and diasporic identity.

The American Dream in Vietnamese demonstrates how the circulation of images manufactured by both Americans and Vietnamese immigrants serves to produce these immigrants’ paradoxical desires. Within these desires and their representations, Lieu finds the dramatization of the community’s struggle to define itself against the legacy of the refugee label, a classification that continues to pathologize their experiences in American society.

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Becoming Refugee American
The Politics of Rescue in Little Saigon
Phuong Nguyen
University of Illinois Press, 2017
Vietnamese refugees fleeing the fall of South Vietnam faced a paradox. The same guilt-ridden America that only reluctantly accepted them expected, and rewarded, expressions of gratitude for their rescue. Meanwhile, their status as refugees—as opposed to willing immigrants—profoundly influenced their cultural identity.

Phuong Tran Nguyen examines the phenomenon of refugee nationalism among Vietnamese Americans in Southern California. Here, the residents of Little Saigon keep alive nostalgia for the old regime and, by extension, their claim to a lost statehood. Their refugee nationalism is less a refusal to assimilate than a mode of becoming, in essence, a distinct group of refugee Americans. Nguyen examines the factors that encouraged them to adopt this identity. His analysis also moves beyond the familiar rescue narrative to chart the intimate yet contentious relationship these Vietnamese Americans have with their adopted homeland. Nguyen sets their plight within the context of the Cold War, an era when Americans sought to atone for broken promises but also saw themselves as providing a sanctuary for people everywhere fleeing communism.


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Building Little Saigon
Refugee Urbanism in American Cities and Suburbs
Erica Allen-Kim
University of Texas Press, 2024

An in-depth look at the diverging paths of Vietnamese American communities, or “Little Saigons,” in America’s built environment.

In the final days before the fall of Saigon in 1975, 125,000 Vietnamese who were evacuated or who made their own way out of the country resettled in the United States. Finding themselves in unfamiliar places yet still connected in exile, these refugees began building their own communities as memorials to a lost homeland. Known both officially and unofficially as Little Saigons, these built landscapes offer space for everyday activities as well as the staging of cultural heritage and political events.

Building Little Saigon examines nearly fifty years of city building by Vietnamese Americans—who number over 2.2 million today. Author Erica Allen-Kim highlights architecture and planning ideas adapted by the Vietnamese communities who, in turn, have influenced planning policies and mainstream practices. Allen-Kim traveled to ten Little Saigons in the United States to visit archives, buildings, and public art and to converse with developers, community planners, artists, business owners, and Vietnam veterans. By examining everyday buildings—who made them and what they mean for those who know them—Building Little Saigon shows us the complexities of migration unfolding across lifetimes and generations.


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Displacing Kinship
The Intimacies of Intergenerational Trauma in Vietnamese American Cultural Production
Linh Thuy Nguyen
Temple University Press, 2024
Nearly fifty years after the end of the war in Vietnam, American children of Vietnamese refugees continue to process the meanings of the war and its consequences through creative work. Displacing Kinship examines how Vietnamese American cultural productions register lived experiences of racism in their depictions of family life and marginalization.

Second-generation texts illustrate how the children of refugees from Vietnam are haunted by trauma and a violent, ever-present, but mostly unarticulated past. Linh Thủy Nguyễn's analysis reveals that present experiences of economic insecurity and racism also shape these narratives of familial loss.

Developing a theory of intergenerational trauma, Nguyễn rethinks how U.S. imperialism, the discourse of communism, and assimilation impacted families across generations. Through ethnic studies and feminist and queer-of-color critique, Displacing Kinship offers a critical approach for reading family tensions and interpersonal conflict as affective investments informed by the material, structural conditions of white supremacy and racial capitalism.

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Little Saigons
Staying Vietnamese in America
Karin Aguilar–San Juan
University of Minnesota Press, 2009

Karin Aguilar-San Juan examines the contradictions of Vietnamese American community and identity in two emblematic yet different locales: Little Saigon in suburban Orange County, California (widely described as the capital of Vietnamese America) and the urban "Vietnamese town" of Fields Corner in Boston, Massachusetts. Their distinctive qualities challenge assumptions about identity and space, growth amid globalization, and processes of Americanization.

With a comparative and race-cognizant approach, Aguilar-San Juan shows how places like Little Saigon and Fields Corner are sites for the simultaneous preservation and redefinition of Vietnamese identity. Intervening in debates about race, ethnicity, multiculturalism, and suburbanization as a form of assimilation, this work elaborates on the significance of place as an integral element of community building and its role in defining Vietnamese American-ness.

Staying Vietnamese, according to Aguilar-San Juan, is not about replicating life in Viet Nam. Rather, it involves moving toward a state of equilibrium that, though always in flux, allows refugees, immigrants, and their U.S.-born offspring to recalibrate their sense of self in order to become Vietnamese anew in places far from their presumed geographic home.


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Nuevo South
Latinas/os, Asians, and the Remaking of Place
By Perla M. Guerrero
University of Texas Press, 2017

Latinas/os and Asians are rewriting the meaning and history of race in the American South by complicating the black/white binary that has frequently defined the region since before the Civil War. Arriving in southern communities as migrants or refugees, Latinas/os and Asians have experienced both begrudging acceptance and prejudice as their presence confronts and troubles local understandings of race and difference—understandings that have deep roots in each community’s particular racial history, as well as in national fears and anxieties about race.

Nuevo South offers the first comparative study showing how Latinas/os and Asians are transforming race and place in the contemporary South. Integrating political, economic, and social analysis, Perla M. Guerrero examines the reception of Vietnamese, Cubans, and Mexicans in northwestern Arkansas communities that were almost completely white until the mid-1970s. She shows how reactions to these refugees and immigrants ranged from reluctant acceptance of Vietnamese as former US allies to rejection of Cubans as communists, criminals, and homosexuals and Mexicans as “illegal aliens” who were perceived as invaders when they began to establish roots and became more visible in public spaces. Guerrero’s research clarifies how social relations are constituted in the labor sphere, particularly the poultry industry, and reveals the legacies of regional history, especially anti-Black violence and racial cleansing. Nuevo South thus helps us to better understand what constitutes the so-called Nuevo South and how historical legacies shape the reception of new people in the region.


front cover of Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free
Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free
Music and the Vietnamese Refugee Experience
Adelaida Reyes
Temple University Press, 1999
Sad songs and love songs. For Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam after the 1975 takeover by the Viet Cong, the predominant music of choice falls into these two general categories rather than any particular musical genre. In fact, Adelaida Reyes discovers, music that exiles call "Vietnamese music" -- that is, music sung in Vietnamese and almost exclusively written before 1975 -- includes such varied influences as Western rock, French-derived valse, Latin chacha, tango, bolero, an d paso doble.

The Vietnamese refugee experience calls attention to issues commonly raised by migration: the redefinition of group relations, the reformulation of identity, and the reconstruction of social and musical life in resettlement. Fifteen years ago, Adelaida Reyes began doing fieldwork on the musical activities of Vietnamese refugees. She entered the emotion-driven world of forced migrants through expressive culture; learned to see the lives of refugee-resettlers through the music they made and enjoyed; and, in turn, gained a deeper understanding of their music through knowledge of their lives.

In Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free, Reyes brings history, politics, and decades of research to her study of four resettlement communities, including refugee centers in Palawan and Bataan; the early refugee community in New Jersey; and the largest of all Vietnamese communities -- Little Saigon, in southern California's Orange County.

Looking closely at diasporic Vietnamese in each location, Reyes demonstrates that expressive culture provides a valuable window into the refugee experience. Showing that Vietnamese immigrants deal with more than simply a new country and culture in these communities, Reyes considers such issues as ethnicity, socio-economic class, and differing generations. She considers in her study music of all kinds -- performed and recorded, public and private -- and looks at music as listened to and performed by all age groups, including church music, club music, and music used in cultural festivals. Moving from traditional folk music to elite and modern music and from the recording industry to pirated tapes. Reyes looks at how Vietnamese in exile struggled, in different ways, to hold onto a part of their home culture and to assimilate into their  new, most frequently American, culture.

Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free will attract the attention of readers in Asian American studies, Asian studies, music, and ethnomusicology.

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This Is All I Choose to Tell
History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature
Authored by Isabelle T. Pelaud
Temple University Press, 2010

In the first book-length study of Vietnamese American literature, Isabelle Thuy Pelaud probes the complexities of Vietnamese American identity and politics. She provides an analytical introduction to the literature, showing how generational differences play out in genre and text. In addition, she asks, can the term Vietnamese American be disassociated from representations of the war without erasing its legacy?

Pelaud delineates the historical, social, and cultural terrains of the writing as well as the critical receptions and responses to them. She moves beyond the common focus on the Vietnam war to develop an interpretive framework that integrates post-colonialism with the multi-generational refugee, immigrant, and transnational experiences at the center of Vietnamese American narratives.

Her readings of key works, such as Andrew Pham's Catfish and Mandala and Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge show how trauma, racism, class and gender play a role in shaping the identities of Vietnamese American characters and narrators.


front cover of Toward a Framework for Vietnamese American Studies
Toward a Framework for Vietnamese American Studies
History, Community, and Memory
Edited by Linda Ho Peché, Alex-Thai Dinh Vo, and Tuong Vu
Temple University Press, 2023

The large number of Vietnamese refugees that resettled in the United States since the fall of Saigon have become America’s fastest growing immigrant group. Toward a Framework for Vietnamese American Studies traces the ideologies, networks, and cultural sensibilities that have long influenced and continue to transform social, political, and economic developments in Vietnam and the U.S.

Moving beyond existing approaches, the editors and contributors to this volume—the first to craft a working framework for researching, teaching, and learning about this dynamic community—present a new Vietnamese American historiography that began in South Vietnam. They provide deep-dive explorations into community development, political activism, civic participation and engagement, as well as entrepreneurial endeavors. Chapters offer new concepts and epistemological approaches to how legacy and memory is nurtured, produced and circulated in the Vietnamese diaspora.

Toward a Framework for Vietnamese American Studies seeks to better understand the rapidly changing landscape of Vietnamese American diaspora.

Contributors: Duyen Bui, Christian Collet, Wynn Gadkar-Wilcox, Elwing Suong Gonzalez, Tuan Hoang, Jennifer A. Huynh, Y Thien Nguyen, Nguyen Vu Hoang, Van Nguyen-Marshall, Thien-Huong Ninh, Hai-Dang Phan, Ivan V. Small, Quan Tue Tran, Thuy Vo Dang, and the editors


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Transnationalizing Viet Nam
Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora
Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde
Temple University Press, 2013

Vietnamese diasporic relations affect—and are directly affected by—events in Viet Nam. In Transnationalizing Viet Nam, Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde explores these connections, providing a nuanced understanding of this globalized community. Valverde draws on 250 interviews and almost two decades of research to show the complex relationship between Vietnamese in the diaspora and those back at the homeland.

Arguing that Vietnamese immigrant lives are inherently transnational, she shows how their acts form virtual communities via the Internet, organize social movements, exchange music and create art, find political representation, and even dissent. Valverde also exposes how generational, gender, class, and political tensions threaten to divide the ethnic community. 

Transnationalizing Viet Nam paints a vivid picture of the complex political and personal allegiances that exist within Vietnamese America and shape the relations between this heterogeneous community and its country of origin. 

In the series Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Võ


front cover of The Viet Nam War/The American War
The Viet Nam War/The American War
Images and Representations in Euro-American and Vietnamese Exile Narratives
Renny Christopher
University of Massachusetts Press, 1996
This book seeks to reformulate the canon of writings on what is called "the Viet Nam War" in America and "the American War" in Viet Nam. Until recently, the accepted canon has consisted almost exclusively of American white male combat narratives, which often reflect and perpetuate Asian stereotypes. Renny Christopher introduces material that displays a bicultural perspective, including works by Vietnamese exile writers and by lesser-known Euro-Americans who attempt to bridge the cultural gap.

Christopher traces the history of American stereotyping of Asians and shows how Euro-American ethnocentricity has limited most American authors' ability to represent fairly the Vietnamese in their stories. By giving us access to Vietnamese representations of the war, she creates a context for understanding the way the war was experienced from the "other" side, and she offers perceptive, well-documented analyses of how and why Americans have so emphatically excised the Vietnamese from narratives about a war fought in their own country.

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The Vietnamese American 1.5 Generation
Stories of War, Revolution, Flight and New Beginnings
edited by Sucheng Chan
Temple University Press, 2006
The conflict that Americans call the "Vietnam War" was only one of many incursions into Vietnam by foreign powers. However, it has had a profound effect on the Vietnamese people who left their homeland in the years following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Collected here are fifteen first-person narratives written by refugees who left Vietnam as children and later enrolled as students at the University of California, where they studied with the well-known scholar and teacher Sucheng Chan. She has provided a comprehensive introduction to their autobiographical accounts, which succinctly encompasses more than a thousand years of Vietnamese history. The volume concludes with a thorough bibliography and videography compiled by the editor.While the volume is designed specifically for today's college students, its compelling stories and useful history will appeal to all readers who want to know more about Vietnam and especially about the fates of children who emigrated to the U.S.

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Weathering Katrina
Culture and Recovery among Vietnamese Americans
Mark J. VanLandingham
Russell Sage Foundation, 2017

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The principal Vietnamese-American enclave was a remote, low-income area that flooded badly. Many residents arrived decades earlier as refugees from the Vietnam War and were marginally fluent in English. Yet, despite these poor odds of success, the Vietnamese made a surprisingly strong comeback in the wake of the flood. In Weathering Katrina, public health scholar Mark VanLandingham analyzes their path to recovery, and examines the extent to which culture helped them cope during this crisis.

Contrasting his longitudinal survey data and qualitative interviews of Vietnamese residents with the work of other research teams, VanLandingham finds that on the principal measures of disaster recovery—housing stability, economic stability, health, and social adaptation—the Vietnamese community fared better than other communities. By Katrina’s one-year anniversary, almost 90 percent of the Vietnamese had returned to their neighborhood, higher than the rate of return for either blacks or whites. They also showed much lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than other groups. And by the second year after the flood, the employment rate for the Vietnamese had returned to its pre-Katrina level.

While some commentators initially attributed this resilience to fairly simple explanations such as strong leadership or to a set of vague cultural strengths characteristic of the Vietnamese and other “model minorities”, VanLandingham shows that in fact it was a broad set of factors that fostered their rapid recovery. Many of these factors had little to do with culture. First, these immigrants were highly selected—those who settled in New Orleans enjoyed higher human capital than those who stayed in Vietnam. Also, as a small, tightly knit community, the New Orleans Vietnamese could efficiently pass on information about job leads, business prospects, and other opportunities to one another. Finally, they had access to a number of special programs that were intended to facilitate recovery among immigrants, and enjoyed a positive social image both in New Orleans and across the U.S., which motivated many people and charities to offer the community additional resources. But culture—which VanLandingham is careful to define and delimit—was important, too. A shared history of overcoming previous challenges—and a powerful set of narratives that describe these successes; a shared set of perspectives or frames for interpreting events; and a shared sense of symbolic boundaries that distinguish them from broader society are important elements of culture that provided the Vietnamese with some strong advantages in the post-Katrina environment.

By carefully defining and disentangling the elements that enabled the swift recovery of the Vietnamese in New Orleans, Weathering Katrina enriches our understanding of this understudied immigrant community and of why some groups fare better than others after a major catastrophe like Katrina.


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