As stated in our letter of intent, our proposal for a residency program exploring reconstructions of identity and place in the Vietnamese Diaspora since 1975 is the result of a close collaboration of several academic and research/outreach units of the University of Massachusetts Boston.  These include the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences which will have principal administrative responsibility over the project, together with the Asian American Studies Program, the east Asian Studies Program, the Institute for Asian American Studies, the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth, and the Graduate College of Education.  During the past year, representatives of these centers and units have been meeting together to discuss common interests in Vietnam Studies, Vietnamese American Studies, and programs in Vietnam.  The Rockefeller application process has created an opportunity for us to advance our own thinking, while developing a framework to support visiting scholars with similar interdisciplinary interests.  We have a unique set of resources to offer visiting scholars based on longstanding individual and institutional experience (and credibility) of faculty, staff, and students working with multiple networks of researchers, writers, policy-makers, service providers, and organizations both in Vietnam and in local Vietnamese communities.  This is an extremely fruitful time for visiting scholars to join in our goal to expand scholarship in this rich but largely unexplored field, and to create new models of interdisciplinary research, teaching, curriculum development, and community development that will synthesize learning from Vietnamese Studies, Asian American Studies, Diaspora Studies, and other relevant approaches.


Since the end of the Vietnam-American war in 1975, there have been no comprehensive efforts to study what it has meant for people living in Vietnam and the resulting Diaspora around the world to recast their identities in the wake of that war, and no serious analysis of the cultural and civic implications of (re)constructing histories and identities in relation to their homeland, new diasporic communities, and host societies. Few studies have examined how these various (re) constructions are enacted in daily life, how they speak to or comment upon each other, where they intersect or diverge, how they are taught or not taught, and how they are challenged or allowed to pass unexamined in daily interactions between young and old, women and men, as mediated by tradition, power, and authority.


We are uniquely poised to host visiting scholars who are interested in examining these kinds of questions, and to draw on their work as we continue to deepen our own commitments to these areas.  To that end, we propose a residency program titled, “(Re)Constructing Identity and Place in the Vietnamese Diaspora.”




Based on an extensive planning process, including reviews of the literature, dialogue with campus and community members, observations and surveys from community events, and much internal discussion and reflection, we propose a structure for visiting fellows based on the following three themes:


Year 1: Examining Constructions of Vietnamese History


            During this first year of residencies, visiting scholars are invited to explore issues in the construction and interpretation of Vietnamese history. How do regional perspectives (northern, southern, and central points of view), religious differences (e.g.Buddhism versus Catholicism), contradictory value systems (e.g. Confucianism vs. modernization) and conflicting ideologies (capitalism vs. socialism vs. nationalism) influence diasporic constructions of fact, myth, and meaning in Vietnamese history? What role(s) do these historical understandings play in she (re)constructions of Vietnamese identities in the Diaspora? How is the contestation over Vietnamese histories reflected in unresolved political and social conflicts that continue to surface in Vietnamese communities, work, and family life, both in the Diaspora and in Viet Nam today? How do “historical facts” and “collective myths” feature in the construction of histories? How does formal education about Vietnamese history in elementary and high schools, college courses, and texts influence the framing of Vietnamese identities in the Diaspora?


            Alternatively, how do oral histories from family members, community members and leaders (as evidenced in Vietnamese community newspapers and forums), who had direct experiences with colonial wars in Viet Nam, experiences in reeducation camps and resettlement in “New Economic Zones” and escape journeys after 1975 help shape Vietnamese diasporic identities? With the internet (mang luoi) and information technology, how do the increasingly transnational dynamics between Diaspora, homeland, and cyberspace influence the constructions and interpretations of Vietnamese histories and identities?  Are there strategies for curriculum design, pedagogy, and community organizing that can incorporate conflicting histories?


Year 2:  Emerging Diasporic Voices: Exploring Vietnamese Literature, Language, and Culture in the Diaspora.


            Contributions by fellows in the first year will lay groundwork for understanding the development of Vietnamese Diasporas voices and identities as expressed through literature, language, and culture. Recognizing that poetry and literature have historically played a critical role in shaping Vietnamese identities and movements of resistance, we ask Rockefeller fellows during the second year of residency to explore the work of established and emerging Vietnamese writers and artists (broadly defined) and their audiences in the Diaspora through the following interconnected questions: What are the particular issues that writers and artists face in the Diaspora and how do they address these issues and themes in their work? How do the contexts of language, culture, history, economics, and politics shape the production and interpretation of literature and art in the Diaspora and how does literary or artistic work, in turn, shape those contexts?  Who are the audiences for this literature and art and how are they evolving?  What roles do writers, artists, and their work play in (re)constructing home, family, and community identities in the diaspora?  What is the significance and impact of women's voices, in particular?  What are the resources for Vietnamese literature and culture in the diaspora and how are Vietnamese language and culture changing? How do diasporic writers and artists relate to their counterparts in Viet Nam?


Year 3: (Re)Constructions of Vietnamese identity and place in the Diaspora: A Long Term Perspective


            The third year of residency will continue building on years one and two, while inviting fellows to explore (re)constructions of Vietnamese identity and place in the diaspora through the following questions: What defines “home” for Vietnamese in the diaspora? How have definitions of home and identity been affected by various policy changes in Vietnam such as doi moi (renovation) in 1986, the US Embargo Lift in 1994, and the current transition to a more market oriented economy with its resulting access to increased information, travel, and investment from Vietnamese diasporic communities. With the increasing numbers of Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) visiting their homeland through travel and the Internet, how are images of “Viet Nam” changing, and how do Vietnamese perceive the diasporic “visitors”?  What are the impacts of the diaspora on the homeland and what are the impacts of opening the homeland to the diaspora?  What are the ways in which Vietnamese communities reflect and reproduce systems of identities, relationships, and values?  How are these systems changing?  How do problems, practices, and visions of Vietnamese community development compare and contrast in various settings across the diaspora as well as with other diasporic populations, including ethnic Chinese from Vietnam?  How are Vietnamese diasporic communities developing new notions of civic life and democratic practice as they struggle to claim voice, space, and tights in their host societies?  How are these lessons in civic life and democratic practice - and related changes in gender and generational roles and identities - relevant to the homeland?  What are the long-term challenges and prospects for the Vietnamese diaspora, and what should constitute a long-term agenda for relevant research and development?



          The Rockefeller fellowship program shall be administered by the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  Joiner Center director Kevin Bowen will act as principal investigator. Participating centers and units in the project include: the Asian American Studies Program, the East Asian Studies Program, the Institute for Asian American Studies, the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth, and the Graduate College of Education. The operations of the Residency Program will be directed by Nguyen Ba Chung, Research Associate at the Joiner Center and a noted poet, scholar, translator, and teacher. He will be the principal liaison working directly with the fellows, assisting them in working out their programs and relations to the university, the community, and organizations in Vietnam. With assistance from Joiner Center staff, he will oversee preparation of necessary bilingual outreach and publicity for the program, answer inquiries, notify applicants of the status of their applications, and work with appropriate university departments and community groups in arranging details for the residencies, such as the scheduling of public forums, lectures, and events.

A standing committee will meet with visiting fellows on a regular basis (at least twice during their residencies) for planning and evaluation purposes as well as scholarly exchange.  Members of the standing committee who will also operate as a selection committee for fellows will consist of the following representatives from each of the participating centers and units: Kevin Bowen (Joiner Center), Hiep Chu (Institute for Asian American Studies), Madhulika Khandelwal (Asian American Studies), Peter Kiang (Graduate College of Education), Michael LaFargue (East Asian Studies), Nguyen Ba Chung (Joiner Center). Trinh Thi Tuyet Nguyen (CAPAY), and Rajini Srikanth (English). Other scholars and community members outside of UMass Boston may also be invited to serve as appropriate.




            Fellowships shall be for a term of six to nine months (September through June). While in residence, fellows will have all the privileges of university faculty, including library borrowing, Internet access, and email accounts. Fellows will receive advice and consultation in finding housing and health insurance for the terms of their residence. Office space, a computer, telephone, fax, and mailing will be provided through the office of the Joiner Center. Some fellows, where appropriate, may have their residencies assigned to other participating units such as the Asian American Studies Program or the Institute for Asian American Studies. There will be orienting activities for all new fellows on campus where they will be introduced to university faculty, students, community leaders, and local visiting faculty from Vietnam in other programs.


As part of their residency, fellows will meet with the standing committee at least twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of their residencies to discuss their projects. The first meeting will focus on ways to match university or community resources with the needs of the research project: the last meeting will be a discussion of successes and failures and plans for continuing project work after the terms of the residency. Visiting fellows will make at least two presentations during the period of their fellowships: one on campus and one at an appropriate site in the community. These presentations should center on some aspect of the fellow’s research while in residence. 

In addition, fellows will also meet with a core group of individuals from the Vietnamese community that may include teachers, librarians, human service providers, scholars, members of student organizations, artists, writers, and journalists. This group will act as art informal advisory group for the center and the standing committee throughout the project and will make recommendations for continuation activities after the fellowship program has ended.




              Fellows will be selected on the basis of the soundness of their research plans, their engagement with the stated themes, and the strength of recommendations by scholars in the field. Final decisions are aimed not only at selecting qualified individuals, but also at assembling a group whose interests and expertise enhance the likelihood of significant impact for the program. All completed applications will receive preliminary review by the Project staff and then be passed forward for review by the standing committee. Outside evaluators may be asked to comment on applications as well. The standing committee may designate a selection subcommittee to recommend a final field of up to ten candidates for review and vote by the full standing committee. The standing committee will assess the viability of conducting interviews with the finalists before selection is made. In cases where an applicant’s work may seem better suited for another year’s themes the applicant may be asked to resubmit.




              The Fellowship program will be publicized widely through a variety of outlets including the newsletters of the respective organizations involved. The Joiner Center Newsletter and the Newsletter of the Institute for Asian American Studies have a combined circulation of 4,000 among scholars and activists, for example. Notices will be placed with appropriate professional organizations including The Vietnam Studies Bulletin, published by the Joiner Center, and other vehicles such as Indochina Digest Refugee News, Amerasia Journal, Journal of Asian American Studies, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, International Migration Review, Public Culture, Social Text, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique.


              Special efforts will be made to contact faculty colleagues and graduate students in Asian American Studies and Vietnam Studies departments and programs by mail and email. A brochure describing the program in detail as well as the application process will be designed and mailed to these programs as well as to existing lists of scholars in the field provided by networks such as the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), the National Association for the Educational Advancement of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian Americans (NAPEA), the Vietnamese Studies caucus of the Asian Studies Association, and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). Bilingual Vietnamese outreach materials will also be produced and disseminated to local and national Vietnamese community media outlets (newspapers, radio, cable television. websites) and to the Joiner Center’s extensive network of scholars, writers, universities, and professional organizations in Vietnam. Participants in previous Joiner Center exchange programs, including faculty currently teaching at the universities of HaNoi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh, and Can Tho as well as at the Nguyen Du Writing School and within various branches of the Writers Association and affiliated or independent journals are expected to act as helpful liaisons in disseminating information about the program in Vietnam.


              Finally, websites for the university, the Joiner Center, and other participating units will advertise the program and will welcome links to related web sites, bulletin boards, and email lists - especially those listing opportunities in fields of Asian American Studies and Vietnam Studies, and those which may be based in other countries such as Australia, France, Canada, Germany and Vietnam (a listing of over 400 websites relevant to the Vietnamese diaspora worldwide is included as an attachment).




           The residency program is intended to have cumulative impact during the three-year residency period and beyond. For example, fellows’ presentations on campus and in the community may be a first step in the convening of annual forums at the university and in the community where these issues are discussed and evaluated on a continuing basis. Furthermore, the University of Massachusetts Press has expressed interest and a commitment to publish materials that emerge from residencies; the Press has an outstanding portfolio of Vietnamese Studies titles published in cooperation with the Joiner Center (see attachment). We also expect the residencies to provide invaluable perspectives and substantive materials that will inform how we plan the longer-term development and institutionalization of Vietnamese and Vietnamese American Studies in our own curriculum. Finally, we intend the residency program to generate a sustainable network of scholars and communities in Vietnam and the diaspora who are committed to long-term dialogue, understanding, and development. To this end, we are committed to connecting our ongoing programs for visiting writers and scholars from Vietnam with the Rockefeller program as much as possible through the three years, and seek appropriate vehicles for publishing and disseminating scholars’ papers and reflections in journals and electronic formats throughout the diaspora and Vietnam long after the residencies themselves are completed.


The University and Participating Centers/Units

The University of Massachusetts Boston


           The University of Massachusetts Boston was established in 1964 and is the only urban public university in the Boston area. The university enrolls 12,000 students in 61 undergraduate programs, 25 master’s degree programs, and nine doctoral programs.  Located in Dorchester, a section of Boston that is home to the largest Vietnamese community in the Northeastern U.S., the university also enrolls the highest percentage of both Vietnamese refugees/ immigrants and U.S. Vietnam-Era veteran students of any university in the region. UMass Boston’s student body is motivated, mature, amid resilient; the average age of students is 26 and ninety percent work while attending the university. Over 20% of the entering undergraduate class in recent years has been Asian, principally among working class immigrant Chinese and Vietnamese students. The university’s nationally recognized centers and institutes, including the Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture, the Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, and the Haitian Studies Association - in addition to the Joiner Center and Institute for Asian American Studies - provide ethnic studies scholars, communities, and the urban environment of Boston with an unparalleled capacity (or applied multicultural research and development. 1




            The William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences was founded us 1982 to provide advocacy and educational services to veterans and to promote research and teaching on war, and particularly the Vietnam War. The Center has sponsored exchanges of writers, artists, scholars, and educators from Vietnam and the U.S. since 1987 - a time when few other U.S. institutions were reaching out to Vietnam - with the historic visits of Le Luu and Nguy Ngu, two prominent veteran writers from North and South, from PAVN and ARVN forces Writers Association of Vietnam sponsored the first Conference of Vietnamese and American respectively. This ongoing program of exchanges, with support from the Ford Foundation, has grown to be one of the center’s most successful undertakings.  In 1990, the Joiner Center and the Veteran Writers with over sixty of Vietnam’s most prominent writers attending together with a delegation from the U.S. To date, over twenty-five of Vietnam’s most prominent writers have spent from three months to three weeks visiting the Center, meeting with writers, editors, translators, and publishers from the U.S., Latin America, and Europe at the Center’s Writers’ Workshop held in June of each year. During these visits, writers have been hosted in the homes of U.S. writers and veterans, including Vietnamese Americans, who have offered intimate views of American life and traveled with them through the best and worst of our cities and countryside.


              Other recent efforts of the Joiner Center include its Vietnam Institute, a summer institute for high school teachers and its Vietnam Today Program, a three-week summer study program at Hue University. A most recent initiative in cooperation with the Harvard Yenching Institute involves English Department faculty members in Vietnam. Since 1993, close to a dozen faculty members from the Universities of Ha Noi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, and Can Tho have enrolled in UMass Boston’s M.A. Program in Bilingual/ ESL Studies. While enrolled in the program, participants work closely with the Joiner Center through seminars on literary translation as part of an ongoing project of the University of Massachusetts Press to introduce recent Vietnamese literature in translation to English-speaking audiences. These efforts add to a growing university press list which includes works such as Le Luu’s A Time Far Post, Nguyen Quang Thieu’s The Woman Carry River Water, Bruce Weigl and Thanh Nguyen’s Poems from Captured Documents, Kevin Bowen and Bruce Weigl’s Writing Between the Lines, and Nguyen Ba Chung, Kevin Bowen, and Bruce Weigl’s Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry from the Wars 1948-1993.




            The Asian American Studies academic program of the University of Massachusetts Boston offers opportunities to study the historical experiences, voices, contemporary issues, and contributions of diverse Asian communities the U.S. By drawing on shared commitments of faculty, staff, and students throughout the university in an evolving intercollegiate structure the program provides rich, interdisciplinary approaches in teaching and research with dynamic linkages to local communities and supportive learning environments for students of all backgrounds. Students may design a major or concentration in Asian American Studies. The program offers 4-6 courses each semester, often cross-listed with departments such as American Studies, Sociology, Political Science, English, and Women’s Studies. Comparative work with Asian Studies (including Vietnamese Studies), Latino Studies, and Africana Studies is encouraged. Course content and pedagogy are designed to be student-centered and to support community involvement, particularly with immigrant populations. Through its curriculum, the program enables students, faculty, and community practitioners to work together in examining issues such as:

·         The social, cultural, economic, political, religious, and environmental consequences of massive demographic shifts within the U.S. population during the past 30 years due to immigration and refugee resettlement — 40% of which has come from Asia.

·         The complex process of racialization of individuals and groups as well as the inter-relationships among and between various racial groups historically and currently, including Asian Americans who do not fit in a bipolar, white-black paradigm of race relations - whether in post-1992 Los Angeles or closer to home in Dorchester.

·         The economic, political, social, and cultural changes resulting from the globalization of capital, labor, information, and popular media as well as the ways in which transnational, diasporic populations - such as Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese communities in the U.S. - are products of and agents in that globalization process.

·         The social and psychological impacts of traumatic experiences and healing practices, and their relationships to dynamics of identity and culture, as exemplified by the situations of Cambodian and Vietnamese refugee survivors and their families.

·         The critical and commercial success of writers, designers, and musicians whose cultural works have incorporated Asian and Asian American forms, traditions aesthetics, and themes in original and powerful ways.

As a model of democratic educational practice, the Asian American Studies program is committed to.

·         enabling students of all backgrounds to develop essential critical thinking skills as well as sensibilities for community- building community service, and social responsibility;

·         preparing students to function fully and comfortably in a multiracial, multicultural society

·         Integrating instruction in the classroom with practices of mentoring and role modeling outside of the classroom to address the holistic, social and academic needs of students.




CAPAY is a statewide youth run organization that works with over 45 high schools in Massachusetts to eradicate racism by educating school communities about Asian Pacific American (APA) issues and providing support services and critical educational resources for high school youth. Its Steering Committee consists of fifteen youth aged 16-20 from high schools in Massachusetts’s predominately in the Greater Boston area. In addition to making decisions for the organization, the Steering Committee provides a network of activists and community resources to APA youth. CAPAY works in Greater Boston and with APA high school youth in Worcester (a city with a significantly growing Southeast Asian immigrant/refugee population), and Lowell (the second largest Cambodian community in the U.S.) through youth and community development leadership training.


Founded in 1994 by a grassroots movement of APA high school youth who responded to racial discrimination in local high schools. CAPAY aims at building bridges with other Asian and non-Asian youth and school communities through organizing and critical leadership education. Some of its projects include: Annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Education Project: The Community Youth Learn AmeriCorps Project: The Immigration and Welfare Reform Education Campaign: The Summer Leadership Program; and the Youth Leadership Development Project, all of which provide workshops in schools and communities focusing on developing skills in community organizing, cultural awareness, and leadership for Asian Pacific American youth.




The UMass Boston East Asian Studies Program (EAS) is currently an interdisciplinary “Program of Study” drawing on courses related to East Asia offered by the Departments of Modern Languages. History, Art, Religion, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology. Twenty to sixty students may be enrolled in this Program, which presently requires four semesters of either Chinese or Japanese language, plus three other courses related to East Asia. The East Asian Studies Program also organizes and sponsors events promoting greater understanding of East Asian history, culture, and current affairs. A lecture series on “Modernization vs. Westernization in East Asia,” so far has featured or scheduled presentations comparing Chinese to Western attitudes to crime and punishment, comparing labor-management relations in Japan and the US., comparing East Asian Studies, in order to better serve those preparing for graduate study or a career related to East Asia, and those who want to explore the differences between Asian and Western traditions-including growing numbers of Asian and Asian American students. This restructuring will extend efforts we have made in the last few years to expand offerings related to   Vietnam, including plans for Vietnamese language and literature courses. (See attached course listings and faculty bios).




The purpose of the Institute for Asian American Studies is to bring together resources from the campus and community in order to conduct applied research on Asian American issues, to expand Asian American Studies in the curriculum, and to support Asian American development initiatives in Massachusetts. Professor Paul Watanabe (Political Science) and Constance Chan (Human Services) were appointed Institute co-directors 1993 with Hiep Chu, former Executive Director of the Vietnamese American Civic Association hired as program director. The Institute plays a major role in developing closer relations with the Vietnamese American community. NetworkUs provides resources for a network for executive directors of Asian American community-based organizations to support leadership and organizational development. The Center for Community Economic Development (CCED) is a university-community collaboration comprised of the Institute for Asian American Studies, the Gaston Institute and the Trotter Institute, all at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and more than 25 community-based organizations in Boston including community development corporations, employment and training agencies, multi-service organizations, and advocacy groups linking academic institutions, community-based organizations, and the public and private sectors. The institute supports Community Forums including a recent forum on community economic development, human services, and political participation in the Vietnamese community, conducted in Vietnamese and held on October 24, 1998 at the University of Massachusetts Boston – the first gathering of it kind with over 200 members of the Vietnamese community attending. A Cultural Competence Project in collaboration with the Trotter and the Gaston Institutes and the McCormack Institute educate medical care providers in Massachusetts on issues pertinent to cultural competence in health care delivery. The Women of Color Research Group seeks to identify women of color from both academic and community-based settings interested in developing information and research on matters of concern to their communities. The Massachusetts Poll and The Asian American Political Handbook Project also support efforts of political education for the communities the Institute serves.



Kevin Bowen (Joiner Center)


Kevin Bowen is the director of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences. A former Danforth Fellow and Fulbright Fellow at New College, Oxford, he received his Ph.D. in English Literature from SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of three collections of poetry: Playing Basketball with the Vietcong, Forms of Prayer at the Hotel Edison, and in Search of Grace O’Malley. He is co-editor and translator of Le Luu’s A Time Far Past. With Bruce Weigl, he edited Writing Between the Lines: An Anthology on War and Its Social Consequences, and with Nguyen Ba Chung and Bruce Weigl, Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry from the Wars, 1948-1993. His essays, stories and poems have appeared in numerous books and journals.


Hiep Chu (Institute for Asian American Studies)


Hiep Chu joined the Institute for Asian American Studies as Program Coordinator in 1994, after serving for the National Asian Family/ School partnership Project of the National Coalition of Advocates for Students (NCAS), and serves on several community boards, including the Asian Pacific American Agenda Coalition (APAAC), the Massachusetts Association of Mental Health, and the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID) of which he is President. Hiep also has served on the Governor’s Advisory  Council on Massachusetts Refugees and Immigrants. Hiep has extensive experience as a consultant on refugee and immigrant issues for federal and state agencies and frequently speaks on these issues throughout the nation. He is completing an M.S. in community Economic Development from New Hampshire College and holds a B. S. in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University. He was a 1992-93 Community fellow in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.


Madhulika Khandelwal (Asian American Studies)

Dr. Madhulika S. Khandelwal is Assistant Professor in Asian American Studies for the College of Public & Community Service at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her book, Becoming Americans, Becoming Indians: Indian Immigrants in New York City, 1976-1997, will be published by Cornell University Press in 2000. Dr. Khandelwal formerly served as Acting Director of the Asian/American Center and the Women’s Studies program at Queens College (CUNY) and has been a visiting Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado. She has also taught Asian American Studies at Cornell and Columbia and urban studies at the New School for Social Research and Long Island University. Through her community-oriented research and teaching, she highlights the intercultural dynamics of immigrant groups in diverse, urban neighborhoods, with special attention to intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and culture as they shape the development of U.S.  communities and diasporic trends among Asian groups, An immigrant form India herself, she is internationally recognized for her research on the changing dynamics of South Asians in the United States and their global dispora. Dr. Khandelwal has served on the boards of the Association for Asian American Studies, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium and Citylore: The Center for Urban Folk Culture.


Peter Kiang (Graduate College of Education)

Dr. Peter Kiang is Associate Professor in the Graduate College of Education and American Studies Program at the Umass Boston where he teaches graduate courses in multicultural education and directs the undergraduate program in Asian American Studies. His written articles include “Where Do We Stand: Views of Racial Conflict by Vietnamese American High School Students in Black and White Context.” “Don’t Ignore It!: Documenting Racial Harassment in a Fourth-Grade Vietnamese Bilingual Classroom,” and “Southeast Asian Parent Empowerment: The Challenge of Changing Demographics,” which received first prize in the 1990 monograph competition of the Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education. He was also principal author of the 1992 Asian American Studies Curriculum Resource Guide, a publication of the UMass and the Massachusetts Asian American Educators Association. Peter has received honors form the National Academy of Education, the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the University and is a former Community Fellow in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.


Michael LaFargue (East Asian Studies)


Michael LaFargue attended graduate school at Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley) 1967-69 and received a doctorate in biblical studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1978. He has written three scholarly books (including a widely-used translation and commentary on the Chinese Taoist classic, Tao-To-Ching) and co-edited a fourth. His main academic interest is applying methodologies developed in biblical studies and theology to the study of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian writings.  Coming to the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1978, he has taught courses in Religious Studies, Philosophy, Law and Justice and English and has been director of the East Asian Studies Program since 1995.


Nguyen Ba Chung (Joiner Center)

Nguyen Ba Chung is a writer, poet and translator, He received a bachelor’s degree in American literature from the University of Saigon in 1970 and a master’s degree in American literature from Brandeis University in 1974. His essays and translations have appeared in Vietnam Forum, New Asia Review, Compost, The Nation, Manoa, Boston Review and other journals. He is co-translator of Thoi Xa Vang (A Time Far Past), the ground breaking novel by Vietnamese writer Le Luu, and the co-editor or Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry From The Wars, 1948-1993. He is the author of three poetry collections Co Noi (Field Grass) in 1995. Mua Ngan (Mountain Rain) in 1996, and Ngo Hanh (Gate of Kindness) in 1997. He manages the Vietnam Today program, a UMass Boston study/travel program organized every summer with Hue University in Vietnam. Nguyen Ba Chung in currently a Research Associate at the Joiner Center.


Trinh T. Tuyet Nguyen (CAPAY)

Trinh Nguyen is currently the Coordinator for the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth (CAPAY) at the UMass Boston. She works with Asian Pacific American (APA) high school youth form Massachusetts directing this organization by providing leadership training and resources. She is a member of the Boston Women’s Fund allocations committee and a member of the Haymarket People’s Fund program committee. She is also serving on the Massachusetts Governor’s Advisory council on Immigrants and Refugees.


Rajini Srikanth (English Department)

Rajini Srikanth teaches in the English Department at UMB. She has published in the fields of Asian American Studies, South Asian literature, literature of the American South, and diaspora studies. Her research interests lie in examining the lie in examining the literature of diasporic Asian communities, particularly among South Asians, the political participation of South Asian Americans, and the relationship between arts and activism.  She is co-editor of two anthologies, the award-winning Coatours of the heart: South Asians Map North America (which features fiction, poetry, essays and photography by first- and second-generation South Asian Americans and Canadians0, and A Part, Yet Apart: South Asians in Asia American (a collection of multidisciplinary essays that debate the ambiguous position Asians within Asian America).


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(Re)Constructing Identity and Place in the Vietnamese Diaspora


A Conceptual Essay for the 1999 Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship Program




The University of Massachusetts Boston proposes to serve as a residency site for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Humanities Fellowship Program. Our central theme focuses on (re)constructions of identity and place in the Vietnamese diaspora after 1975. Through a close collaboration between the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, the Asian American Studies Program, the East Asian Studies Program, the Institute for Asian American Studies, the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth, and the Graduate College of Education, our project offers unique opportunities for interdisciplinary, integrative scholarship with connections to Vietnamese, Vietnamese communities and innovative academic/ research units.


The fellowship program will support scholars researching how diverse constructions of Vietnamese identify and community as well as Vietnamese history, literature, and culture are being shaped and reshaped in the contemporary post-was and post-refugee eras across generations throughout the diaspora. Although themes of post-war reconciliation have emerged in recent years in literature and public policy between the U.S. and Vietnam, few scholars have had resources and opportunities to examine the parallel emergence of Vietnamese diasporic voices, perspectives, and communities, particularly in relation to changing social, cultural, political, and economic realities in Vietnam itself. The fellowship program will significantly advance interdisciplinary scholarship in these areas and facilitate the development of new conceptual and pedagogical approaches for teaching Vietnamese history, culture, and social issues as well as for reconfiguring local/global relationships between ethnic studies and area studies more broadly.


The University of Massachusetts Boston is uniquely situated to support scholars with these interests. Founded in 1982 by Vietnam veterans, the William Joiner Center has for over ten years facilitated direct humanitarian, educational, and literary exchange programs with Vietnam, while sponsoring courses, research, and public forums on issues related to Vietnam, Vietnam veterans, and Vietnamese refugee communities. The Joiner Center also serves as a nexus for 30-50 visiting scholars and graduate students fro Vietnam based at universities throughout the Boston area. Our Asian American Studies academic program – the first in the nation outside of California to offer courses specifically focusing on the Southeast Asian refugee experience – is working with faculty in East Asian Studies as well as Latino Studies and African Studies, to develop innovative new models of interdisciplinary collaboration between ethnic studies, immigrant community studies, and global studies on campus. Finally, the area adjoining the university is home to the largest Vietnamese American community in the Northeast. Asian Americans comprise of 14% of the student body (20% of the entering  class) of which the second largest ethnic group is Vietnamese. The lived experiences and daily realities of the students and communities served by the university, particularly through institutional relationships with the Institute for Asian American Studies and the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth, provide a rich source of grounding for the interdisciplinary research, analysis, and theory-building that we expect the fellowship program to generate.




My ten-year nephew (who was born in the U.S.) had to find out information about the Vietnamese flag for school, so he checked in an encyclopedia and found a picture of it. He was so excited, and brought it over to show his grandpa before copying it for the teacher. But then his grandfather got really angry and started yelling in Vietnamese, “That’s not our flag! Why don’t you know that’s not our flag!’ My nephew still doesn’t really understand why his grandpa was so upset. (Nguyen Ba Chung 1999)


In my education there (in Vietnam) we learned about the strength and spirit of our country, defeating the French and then the Americans to gain our independence. I felt so proud of our history, to be Vietnamese. But when I came here (to the U.S. in 1993), there were other stories, too. I don’t know if I feel differently, but I’m careful about what I say, and I try to listen more. (Nguyen Phuong Mai, 1999)


Last weekend I went to this conference for Vietnamese young people to talk about issues in Vietnam. The turn-out was great. A lot of youth wanted to know how to get involved. But instead, there were a lot of speeches about how you can’t trust the communist government and how we have to keep on fighting to take back the country. We wanted to be respectful to the elders there, but it was hard to stay. That’s not our agenda. There’s so much more we can do. (Nguyen Thi Tuyet Trinh, 1999)


These are a sampling of the complex, grounded insights offered by members of our own planning/writing team during discussions about this proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation. In the following essay, we review the intellectual context for our plans through an analysis of literature in English and Vietnamese relevant to the Vietnamese diaspora. In a second essay, we present our institutional context – the depth and breadth of our various commitments to this area of study as well as the resources, which we offer as a fellowship site. But, by opening with the voices and vignettes above, shared respectively by a faculty member/research associate, an undergraduate student, and a professional staff member who coordinates as Asia Pacific American youth program at UMass Boston, we foreground a third dimension of context - the realities of life experience that lie at the heart of what we are proposing to study. Through this proposal, we seek not only to strengthen scholarly inquiry and enhance our own institutional capacity, but also to recognize perspectives that are typically marginalized in educational institutions – like that of the Vietnamese refugee youth who, in research by another member of our proposal planning/writing team, describes the reality of his life in high school as follows:

I feel like I get stepped on every day in that school.... I mean every single day.... We have only a handful of us in the school and we don’t feel like our voice the authority would ever think of (Kiang & Kaplan 1994, 108, 116)




In a remarkable 1991 review of the book Voices from Southeast Asia: The Refugee Experience in the United States T. C. Huo writes:

No, this book doesn’t change my life. Rather it is the other way around: many lives like mine have been changed so that a book like this one ca come into existence; it becomes possible only at the cost of countless broken homes, broken lives, nameless, countless dead (1991, 64).


Huo’s words apply with particular relevance to the field of diaspora studies, a developing body of knowledge that documents, describes, explains, and theorizes about the dispersal of peoples from their original sites of residence to new and unfamiliar lands in which they attempt to recreate some semblance of the homes they left behind. While the Jewish and African diasporas have a long history of scholarship associated with them, only within the last ten years has diasporas studies begun to examine the movement of other groups of people for example, the mid-nineteenth century of Indian indentured laborers to the West Indies and Fiji and Chinese laborers to the West Indies; the twentieth-century movement of Turkish labor to Germany to Germany; Filipina maids to Hong Kong; Sri Lankan refugees to Canada; Iranians to the United States: South Asians manual labor to Kuwait: Dominicans to the United States, and the return migration of Japanese Brazilians to Japan.


Census figures in 1990 counted nearly 650,000 Vietnamese in the United States and roughly 350,000 Vietnamese distributed evenly between France, Australia, and Canada. Along with smaller numbers living in other western countries and those in refugee camps in Southeast Asia at that time (but not counting the ethnic Chinese who migrated from Vietnam to China. Hong Kong, and other parts of Southeast Asia after 1978), they compromise the Vietnamese diaspora which began roughly 25 years ago when the first wave of refugees fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in April 1975. The diaspora has steadily grown throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s as waves of refugees and immigrants continued to migrate for multiple reasons and as new generations of Vietnamese have been born outside of Vietnam 2.

Research and writing within the Vietnamese diaspora have been largely limited to personal narratives and descriptive community studies in the U.S. as well as in Canada and Australia (Huynh, 1993; Nguyen 1993; Freeman, 1992; Hayslip, 1991; Doris, Le & Nguyen 1987; Viviani 1984). With primary attention paid to the burdens of memory as refugees/exiles and issues of adjustment as immigrants/minorities, there has been little theorizing and no cohesive body of scholarship to emerge yet form within the diaspora. Indeed, as Chaliand and Regeau observe, diaspora are people or groups buffeted by history, living precariously and rarely having their chronicles (1994xxi). Until recently scholars in Vietnam also paid little attention to the diaspora – beyond assessing its economic potential – due to the all-consuming priority for the nation to rebuild its war-ravaged material base and because of the aggressively and government stance held by many refugees and exiles living in the diaspora. But, this is changing.


In his recent integrative essay, “Vietnamese American Studies: Notes Toward a New Paradigm.” Chung Hoang Chuong, the foremost researcher/ teacher in the Asian American Studies field working with Vietnamese diasporic populations, refers to the past decade as a time of ‘building the base” for Vietnamese American Studies, both intellectually and institutionally (1998). Given rapid social, economic, political, and cultural changes taking place currently within both the U. S. and Vietnamese society as well as in the diasporic communities themselves. Chung advocates (and demonstrates explicitly in his own work) the continuing importance of articulating Vietnamese American Studies with ethnic studies, while also building conceptual and institutional bridges with Vietnamese Studies, in order to construct flexible paradigms that can account for the complex realities of diasporic relationships and create possibilities for reconciliation, not only between migrants and their homeland, but also between the fields of ethnic studies and area studies. Similarly noting the need for increased paradigmatic permeability between the fields of Asian and Asian Americans Studies, Sau Ling Wong suggests that:

A diasporic perspective can provide the conceptual room needed to accommodate non-conforming cultural orientations as to expose the role of American foreign policy in shaping global patterns of population movement. A diasporic perspective also provides the only way to capture the complexities of multiple migrations and dispersed Asian-origin families (1995, 10).


The field of diaspora studies has drawn attention to the fundamental differences between immigration and diaspora: the immigrant intends to make a new home and new life in the new land, whereas the diasporic is always either hopeful that s/he will return to the original home and /or unable to replace the dominance of the old home in his /her psyche.  In the twentieth century, technology makes it increasingly possible for people to sustain a diasporic sensibility (travel is relatively easier than before; video recordings of movies from the homeland are readily available and are frequently the most important recreational past-time of the diasporic individual; the internet enables first and second generation individuals within the diaspora to learn about the ancestral homeland - homeland newspapers are online, homeland history and culture can be retrieved from appropriate websites, ad one can maintain email contact with others in the diaspora worldwide). Among Vietnamese, the diasporic sensibility can take an interesting turn, although there are many who wish to sustain their Vietnamese identity, they may have no desire to return to Vietnam because of their hostility to the communist government there. Other factors such as religion and class may affect the diasporic sensibility among Vietnamese: for instance, do Catholics and Buddhists manifest different levels of attachment to Vietnam? How does class impact the nature and intensity of one’s memory of the homeland, not to mention one’s access to resources of information technology?


A related area of study is transnationalism, which, in recent years, has frequently been used interchangeably with diaspora. The two phenomena intersect in that transnationalism, which is usually linked with the globalization of capital, gives rise to labor migration and resettlement, the areas of concern of diaspora studies. But there is a critical difference between the two.  As Silvio Torres-Sailant noted in a recent lecture at UMass Boston on the Dominican diaspora, transnational individuals are usually not interested in putting down roots in any one place, whereas the diasporics, however intense their longing for the original homeland, attempt to create some type of home and sense of rootedness, if only to survive psychologically, in the new destination. Transnational individuals, one could say, are frequently economic experts who traverse the globe in the service of capital; diaspora, as migrant laborers, may also serve” capital, but their socio-economic reality is far different from that of the transnationals. The relationship among immigration diaspora and transnationalism is complex and wide open with rich opportunities for research.


Huo’s words serve as a caution, however, against getting caught up in the intellectual and academic headiness of diaspora studies. He reminds us that human lives and human pain support the research and writing of academic scholars. Within the field, this tension is evident (a survey of articles in the journal Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies or the past 8 years is illuminating in this regard). with possibilities of renewal that journeying to a new land offers. For instance, Carmen Wickramagarmage sees “relocation as a positive act” (Diaspora 2.2: 171-200), an opportunity to cast off the cultural and social restrictions of the homeland and remake oneself. Hamid Naficy, on the other hand, describes the nostalgia of Iranians in Los Angeles, forced to live in the hyper-reality of their new lives and dreaming of their home country (Diaspora 1.3: 285-302)


The Vietnamese diaspora offers numerous entry points of compelling comparative research through various lenses about diasporic community development in Australia, the United States, Canada, and France – particularly given the multiple divisions (class, migration wave, generation, religion, regional, origin, ideology, etc.) that characterize those communities. What are the economic and psycho-social effects of these divisions within the Vietnamese diaspora (which are economically more successful than others in the new countries; which are better adjusted psychologically in the new environments)? How do generational and gender differences of perspective manifest themselves within the diaspora? Which elements of the home culture seem hardest to relinquish within the diaspora? To what extent does a diasporic mindset inhibit or inspire political participation in the new country? What themes are voiced in the poems, stories, plays, paintings, sculptures, and music of diasporic artists? How does the home country become altered, if at all, by the recent return of overseas Vietnamese to Vietnam? These are only some of the questions that demonstrate the complexity of the field and its importance across disciplines.


In light of the framework of diaspora studies, we turn in the next two sections, to examine the “canon” of Vietnamese literature published in English and the counterpoint of diasporic writing produced in Vietnamese. Here, we find developmental indications that fresh, critical reflections and integrative perspectives are beginning to assert themselves-inspired by significant cultural and political changes within the Vietnamese homeland and articulating the interests of a new generation of writers and researchers in the diaspora. Noting the potential of this current moment, we suggest ways that our proposed residency program can catalyze significant, interdisciplinary breakthroughs and establish a dynamic 3, new network of scholars for this rich field of study.




Historically, few Vietnamese works have been available in English. 4 Ironically, it was only with U.S. military involvement that a view of Vietnam and Vietnamese culture began to emerge in the U.S.5 That view, however, was problematic, since so much of it was filtered through the lens of the war and was written by white Americans. This literature at its best tried to explore the dilemma of the southern situation of the Vietnamese, but they present puzzling and troubling images, particularly for Vietnamese readers.5 When Vietnamese immigrant students seek authentic characters and images in history and literature courses about the Vietnam War era, for example, they are typically disappointed.

Genuine Vietnamese narratives coming from Vietnam were in short supply. Early twentieth century narratives such as Tam Lang’s “I Pulled a Rickshaw” Vu Trong Phung’s “household Servants,” and Nguyen Hong’s “Days of Childhood” were not available until recent translation by Greg and Monique Lockhart in their collection, The light of the Capital. A few voices were available in anti-war collections such as Jackie Chagnon and Don Luce’s or in the frail Vietnam Studies collections of short stories and novels from Vietnam (The Ivory Comb, Hoa Dat, The Village that Wouldn’t Die) or in many works of Thich Nhat Hanh. Lady Borton (Sensing the Enemy and After Sorrow) later provided access to important Vietnamese voices from both those who fled and those who remained in Vietnam after 1975, as did Wendy Larson and Tran Thi Nga in Shallow Graves. Yet, even as literature (and university courses) on Vietnam expanded in the 1980s-90s, the works of U.S. writers remained the sole basis for the growing “Vietnam” canon. Vietnamese voices were largely missing even though titles were beginning to make their way into print.6

Renny Christopher in The Viet Nam War/The American War: Images and Representations in Euro-American and Vietnamese Exile Narratives (1995) suggests that these works remained outside the “canon” for two main reasons: 1) a continued prejudice toward “eurocentic” and against Asian narratives of Vietnam: and 2) a tendency to read these works as “exile” narratives rather than “Vietnam” narratives. Christopher’s points are well-founded. Much of the “exile” literature is overly political, framed directly with a hard anticommunist line. Ironically, in 1986, the yea Banerian’s collection appeared. Doi Moi (Renovation) began in Vietnam. A dramatic party policy shift that thrust writers in Vietnam before the English speaking public for the first time Doi Moi enable “communist” writers to criticize the rigid lines of their own previous work as well as to meet increasingly with U.S. writers and journalists (many facilitated by the Joiner Center) as the U.S. embargo was lifted, followed by normalization of Vietnam-US diplomatic relations, Since then, several important English language translations have appeared.7

The appearance of a Doi Moi literature also opened up an exciting period of quiet dialogue between Vietnamese writers across the diaspora and the homeland. Meanwhile, memoirs, poetry collections, and anthologies by bilingual writers in the diaspora also appeared, describing their coming of age during times of war and resettlement. Nguyen Qui Duc’ s Where the Ashes Are: The Odyssy of a Vietnamese Family (1994), Jade Ngoc Quang Huynh’s South Wind Changing (1994) and Lan Cao’s Monkey Bridge (1997) staked out new ground, marked by “exile” literature, but integrated with Vietnamese American perspectives. Most recently, the works of Vietnamese American writers such as Andrew Lam, Christian Langworthy, Barbara Tran and Le Thi Diem Thuy open a third context for Vietnamese writing, as they seek and problematize relationships with their individual and collective pasts and futures as Vietnamese Americans. Important publications such as De Tran, Andrew Lam, and Hai Dai Nguyen’s Once Upon A Dream (1996). Vietnam Forum 16: American Vietnamese Fiction, Poetry, and Essays (1997): and most recently, Watermark (1998) explore the diversity of ways in which a new generation of Vietnamese American writers are constructing complex, post-war/ post-resettlement identities for themselves. Their work has parallels in Vietnam in the works of younger authors such as Nguyen Quang Thieu, Ly Lan, Phan Thi Vang Anh and others.

These three threads in Vietnamese literature-from the homeland, from exiles in the diaspora, and from the diaspora’s 1.5 and 2nd generations- offer vibrant possibilities for interaction, but attempts to reconcile these literatures and or their writers still face resistance. When The Other Side of Heaven was published, it faced criticism fro both writers in Vietnam and from “exile” writers abroad who each publicly claimed it was an affront to publish works of “patriots” and “traitors” side by side. In Vietnam, writers such as Nguyen Quang Thieu face criticism for being corrupted by western influences and not having proper respect for their elders, while in the U. S. many younger generation writers (and students) face the same critique. Just last year when Bao Ninh – perhaps the most prominent Vietnamese writer in the world whose first novel. The Sorrow of War has been translated into a dozen languages –visited the U.S. he was publicly greeted by protest from Vietnamese anti-communists groups. Ironically, he is currently working on a novel about the experiences of ARVN soldiers from the South which will trigger criticism in the homeland, if he portrays them too sympathetically. Even when various poets appear together under one title, as in the recent anthology, From Both Sides Now, there is no analytic framework for discussing the origins or contexts of the works cited and there is little grounding from writers in Vietnam.

Despite the emergence of many new voices and perspectives within both the homeland and diaspora during the past decade, there has bee no comprehensive attempt in print, in person, or on-line by writers, scholars, critics, or community members to examine these developments in conjunction with each other or in relation to the larger cultural, social, political, and economic contexts of (re)construction that have taken place both in Vietnam and throughout the diaspora. This is the challenge our proposal seeks to address. We argue, furthermore, that such an effort is not viable, unless the rich body of literature from the Vietnamese diaspora, produced and read in Vietnamese, is also made central. This is after all the primary body of literature that is accessible and meaningful to Vietnamese communities.




Alexander Woodside remarks in “Vietnam and the Chinese Model” that Vietnam has “one of the most intensely literary civilization on the face of the earth.8 In “South Vietnam’s Literature – An Overview”, Vo Phien lists the names of over two hundred top-flight South Vietnamese writers, poets and artists – the cream of South Vietnamese literary life, who fled the country as part of the first and second waves of refugees beginning in 1975.9 Most of tem eventually settled in the U.S. with the rest scattering to Australia, France, Japan, Holland, the Philippines, and other countries in Europe. It is, therefore, no wonder that they quickly became the core group that successfully created a vast treasure of Vietnamese literature abroad, serving the needs and aspirations of two million refugees forced from their homeland.

In a talk given at a writer’s conference at the Joiner Center in 1990, Nguyen Mong Giac described the development of this literature in the U.S. in three places.10


1) The Incubating Phase from 1975 to 1980  


Most recent arrivals were still preoccupied with problems of resettlement and readjustment in a completely strange environment. Literary output was limited, and captured the sense of loneliness and loss of identity form living in exile, aggravated by an intense homesickness and guilt for leaving loved ones behind. Major works in this period were Thanh Name’s Dat Khach (Foreign Land), Le Tat Dieu’s Ngung Ban Ngay Thu 492 (Ceasefire on the 492th Day), and Vo Phien’s Thu Gui Ban (Letters to Friends). For the newly exiled, the very happiness of escape paradoxically increased the sense of dislocation. This stress was so overwhelming that certain literary groupings like Quan Diem ceased to function at all while younger writers like Le Tat Dieu, Vien Linh, Tuy Hong, and Trung Duong only published intermittently.


2) The Development Phase from 1980 –1985


The sudden arrival of a massive number of “boat people” in the U.S. starting in 1979 dramatically changed the inward-looking state of the exile writers. From their fellow writers who had just escaped they learned of the terrible conditions at home. The brutality, hunger, and lack of freedom that drove second-wave refugees to brave the sea, survive pirates, and languish in refugee camps challenged the first-wave writers to transform their homesickness into a new mission. Of the Vietnam they had known and loved, they were the only ones left who could keep it alive, albeit in memory, and transmit it to the next generation. This awakened the drive to establish a diasporic literature – to defend and preserve the “true” Vietnamese cultural heritage. According to Giac, a number of literary magazines and reviews began to appear in this period, laying the foundation for the later blooming of exile literature.11


Mai Thao, the eminence grise of South Vietnamese literary society arrived in the US in 1978. He started the first prestigious emigre literary journal Van (Literature) in July 1982. His words on that occasion captured the missionary fervor of the time.

To me, the love of our great native land and the compassion towards her greatest tragedy should always be the lasting and glorious beacon for all literary activities. And there should exist no other guiding principle.12

Reaching back into the collective memory of a country that no longer existed, and a cultural ethos that was no longer tolerated at home. Mai Thao and his fellow writers set out with a passion to recreate it in the diaspora through the words of their imagination.

From that beginning, several prestigious literary journals have been added in the U.S.13 Also coming into existence in the period were a dozen major publishing houses, some with hundreds of titles of both reprints and new works.14 The reprinting of hundreds of pre-1975 south Vietnam titles banned by Hanoi as products of depraved neo-colonist literature served to reconstruct a sense of identity with the cultural past. Deepening this sense of continuity and outrage was a series of searing memoirs about life in reeducation camps such as Tran Huynh Chau’s Nhung Nam Cai Tao O Bac Viet (Years of Reeducation In The North). Ha Thuc Sinh’s Dai Hoc Mau (The University of Blood), Ta Ty’s Day Dia Nguc (The Abyss of Hell), and Pham Quang Khai’s Cai Tu Viet Cong (VC prison guards).


3) The Mature Phase 1986-1989


During this golden period of Vietnamese diasporic literature, the number of new titles reached 200 a year in the U.S. many with a run of 2000 copies. The sense of the exile community as the center of resistance and the only carrier of hope for the masses inside Vietnam reached its peak. Tho Cao Tan (Cao Tan’s Poems), a collection of poems expressing both the disdain for the regime left behind and the mock heroic attitude towards life in the bewildering new land became a hit, exhausting its third reprint in 1987. Major works included Dat Nuoc (The Land) by Chu Vuong Mien and Nuoc Duc (Muddy Water) by Nguyen Ngoc Ngan.15 Most ambitious, however, was Nguyen Mong Giac’s massive 1816-page, 5 volume series Mua Bien Dong (Season of Rough Sea) which, published from 1984 to 1989, recreated the life, mirage, and tragedy witnessed from 1963 to 1981. Taking a long view of history, he revealed the failures and illusions not only of the socialist revolution, but also of the former South Vietnam regime – a controversial stand years ahead of his time.

December 1986 marked the beginning of Doi Moi (Renovation) in Vietnam. The new policy of “coi troi” (untie) or culture relaxation helped introduce a series of ground-breaking works, creating literary sensations both at home and abroad, including Nguyen Huy Thiep’s Tuong Ve Huu (The General Retires), Duong Thu Huong’s Thien Duong Mu (Paradise of the Blind), Le Luu’s Thoi Xa Vang (A Time Far Past), and Boa Ninh’s Noi Buon Chien Tranh (The Sorrow of War).

The exile literary community split into two camps over Doi Moi. Believing that the whole thing was a ruse to hook the unwary, the conservative group, represented by Lang Van (Literary Circle) called for heightened vigilance. Vo Van Ai, editor of Que Me (Native Land) journal in France, initiated the “chuyen lua ve que huong” (“send the fire home”), mailing pro-democracy materials to notable figures in Vietnam. The moderate wing, however, welcomed the changes, and adopted a more curious, wait-and-see attitude. Do Quy Toan, in a letter to fellow writers in 1987, reflected the calling of the diasporic literature as “van hoc luu vong” (exile literature): he proposed calling it “chinh thong” (orthodox), as opposed to the deviant Marxist opposed to the Marxist “we” or “collective” type of literature”.16 This “historical I”, was differentiated from the 1930-45 period of the “emotional” (purely at the level of individual sensitivity), and the 1945-1954 period of the “citizen I” (where the joy and sorrow of the individual are felt but submerged in the joy and sorrow of the entire nation in its struggle for dignity and independence). In the mode of the “historical I’ the writer identifies himself or herself with history, both in the misfortune of being its victim and in the struggle to become its master. Either way, the identity of the exile psychodrama remained intact. The diasporic literature, in this cleverly-delineated schema, managed to claim instant legitimacy as the one and only genuine representative of the national culture.


4) The Re-examination Phase


             The current period of the 1990’s, however, has become problematic. There is no longer consensus or a dominant trend, but rather a combination of trends occurring simultaneously. For this reason, many have called it a re-examination phase – a period of consolidation, self reflection, new dialogues, and new voices, particularly from women writers, in preparation for the next stage of development, whatever it may turn out to be.

Journal Hop Luu (Confluence) under Khanh Truong, an ex – paratrooper, appeared in October 1991 with a proclaimed objective of publishing works from writers both inside and outside Vietnam. Its policy was to abandon the path of hatred and division in favor of a “confluence” approach – joining the forces of whatever represented the best of the culture and the people’s interests. In June 1992. Tram Con (A Hundred Children) from Montreal, Canada appeared under the editorship of Tran Sa with a similar stand. Both were denounced by the journal Lang Van as undercover products of Hanoi. Deep, unhealed wounds from the protracted war re – appeared through these many conflicting voices. For some, Doi Moi called for a redefinition of the diaspora’s militant anticommunist stand against the homeland; for others, it necessitated a further hardening of that stand.

Nevertheless, the indisputable quality of the works resulting from Doi Moi in Vietnam caused a fundamental self-questioning in the exile community.  The certainty of Do Quy Toan’s orthodoxy could no longer be taken for granted. Literary output dropped precipitously from about 200 titles per year in 1985-1987 to 60 titles in 1992, of which the majority were memoirs rather than fiction. The number of copies per run similarly declined from 2000 to 1000, and sales room bookstores were cut by half. It became clear that the popularity of anti-communists literature had run its course. Being away for more than 15 years, the exile writers’ construction of “Vietnam” now existed only in their imaginations. The best works critical of socialist life were now being written by those living it.17 This unexpected phenomenon forced the exile writers to regroup and reconsider their commitments and roles. Only collections of poetry still abounded, mostly self-published with little expectation of sales. In 1993, however, the number of new titles revived to 120 and steadily rose to 400 in 1996.18

Interestingly, as if to confirm Nazli Kibria’s sociological analysis presented in Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans (1993) which revealed the dramatic gender and generational role changes taking place in Vietnamese American families and the complex ways in which women were constructing new identities and relationships, a number of promising refugee/immigrant woman writers also emerged by the mid 1990’s.19 Beginning with the 1988 release of Trang Dat Khach (Moon In the New Land), an anthology of 18 Vietnamese woman writers which received rave reviews, these new voices captured the attention of audiences throughout the diaspora, including the noted literary scholar Tran Qui Phiet (1993; 1992; 1991) who initiated his remarkable translation/analysis projects with immigrant women writers such as Tran Dieu Hang and Tran Thi Kim Lan during this period. In sharp contrast to their male counterparts, many of the women’s works focused on the struggle of refugees to adapt and make sense of their world here and now, rather than lament what they had left behind. Tran Thi Kim Lan’s Gio Dera (Night Wind) collection of short stories, for example, portrayed the life of Vietnamese refugee/immigrant children in school, facing misunderstanding, language difficulties, racism, conflicting cultural pressures – all through a patient and kind–hearted eye.

In an excellent discussion of several moving stories by Tran Dieu Hang. Tran Qui Phiet points out the hidden scars and unspoken tragic realities lying just beneath the stereotypic image of refugee success portrayed by mainstream media.20 Nevertheless, women’s undeniable capacity, not only to adapt economically and socioculturally, but also to produce compelling literature of the here and now, prompted Mai Thao to acknowledge that “the exile literature is mainly, if not solely, the work of woman writers”.21 For many men, their adjustments to new languages, cultures, and economies were far less fluent – leaving their high status and sense of agency in the haunted past. Unable yet to construct new identities, their raison d’ere depended on recreating identities from imagined former lives. What outwardly seemed a noble mission, served internally as a strategy for survival.  22

Also by the mid-1990’s, as described previously, a new generation of Vietnamese immigrant writers began to publish in English, including Andrew Lam (co-editor of Once Upon A Dream...), Nguyen Quy Duc (Where the Ashes Are). Huynh Ngoc Quang (South Wind Changing), Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai (The rubber Tree). Tran Thi Nga (Shallow Graves), and Lan coa (Monkey Bridge) as well as Linh Dinh, Nguyen Quy Duc, Nguyen Ba Chung, etc., who were writing in both English and Vietnamese.23

In late 1997 Tap Chi Tho (Poetry Journal) was launched in the U.S. as the only the Vietnamese journal of its kind in the world dedicated solely to poetry. Its intention to review and renovate Vietnamese poetry has been well received, although no one can yet predict its impact.24

Finally, in another kind of renovation, Nhat Tien returned to Vietnam – the first exile writer to do so - and published a joint collection of short stories with Nhat Tuan, his homeland younger brother. Considering it a betrayal of the “nationalist” cause, the conservative wing labeled him a turncoat. But many others followed, returning to visit their (home) country and finding it spectacularly transformed since the time they left. In 1998, Nguyen Mong Giac’s historical trilogy: Song Con Mua Lu (Con River In The Flood Season) was re-published in Hanoi with critical acclaim. In recent issues of Van Hoc, Do Minh Tuan, a noted Hanoi critic, and Nguyen Hung Quoc, one of the premier exile literary historians, carried on a heated debate about the meaning of the poetic text, or any text.25 With the more polarizing groups becoming increasingly less relevant both inside and outside the country themes of dialogue, shared interests, and genuine critique are beginning to appear more central. Though preliminary and tentative, the Van Hoc debates herald a process, if not promise, to reconstruct relationships through dialogue and reconciliation, beginning with agreement on the meanings of words.

Whether agreements on meaning are indeed possible to achieve during this period of re-examination remains an open question for scholars and practitioners to explore. Furthermore, whether shared meaning and dialogue can also be facilitated between those working in Vietnamese and those whose voices, perspectives, and experienced are expressed in English is an equally challenging question with profound implications that should be engaged as well.




From 1975 to 1998, the worldwide body of literature produced in the Vietnamese diasporas consists, conservatively, of between 3500 and 4000 titles of all types – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, etc. Nguyen Tan Hung, Dinh Phung Tien, and many others believed that the literary output of the two million “overseas” Vietnamese surpasses that of the pre-1975 30 million South Vietnam.26 In addition, local newspaper27 and regional journals of all flavors – community, religious (Catholic and Buddhist), special commemorative issues, and organized student publications as well as the products of artists/designers, photographers, songwriters, film/video-makers, karaoke video producers, playwrights, and webmasters should also be recognized. Beyond the variety of media used, the diasporic communities themselves are also diverse. In the US, Australia, Canada, and Japan, we encounter mostly post-1975 refugees: France is home to post-1975 refugees as well as veterans/migrants from World War I; Germany and Eastern Europe include former North Vietnamese workers and small numbers of refugees.

The entire massive corpus of the Vietnamese diaspora – official and private, historical and literary, written and oral – calls for intensive interdisciplinary study. The realities of Vietnam as a battleground for most of the major issues of the twentieth century – colonialism, nationalism, East-West conflict, evangelicalism, religious conflicts, imperialism new-colonialism, modernization of communism – have left scars and discontinuities which find their way into literature, consciously and subconsciously, throughout the diaspora. Like the forced fragmentation28 of their country, the identities and dreams of refugees are also fragmented – from burdens of memory and yearnings for freedom to desires for historical justification and ambivalent, albeit resilient, efforts to claim voice and space in new environments.29

The Vietnamese diaspora is a study in transition. Can such a fragmented community develop and sustain a sense of collective identity and common purpose? Is possible to construct a shared history – to craft a story that resonates for its diverse members?30 Is there a set of facts, a body of literature, an educational curriculum, a model of community organizing etc. that can act as a catalyst for further dialogue and deeper exploration of the fragmentation itself, thereby making possible (re) constructions of identity? How do past precedents and current possibilities for (re) constructing history and identity shape various scenarios of cultural expression, community development and empowerment, homeland reconciliation, and local/global integration over time by the Vietnamese diaspora? What new theoretical framework or innovative or interdisciplinary study can be designed to make sense of these complex and pressing realities?

These questions are neither rhetorical nor restricted to the privilege domain of writers and scholars. In November 1998, the Institute for Asian American Studies as UMass Boston hosted an historic, agenda- setting forum attended by over 200 individuals from the Vietnamese communities in Massachusetts, including representative of nearly every organized sector. The critical issues, interests, and needs articulated throughout day-long discussions at the forum echo those questions highlighted above, particularly with regard to the urgent challenges of constructing a shared history, recognizing gendered and generational shifts in leadership, and envisioning strategies for community development and civic participation locally and globally.


Indeed, these are also underlying challenges presented by the voices that introduce this essay on page 2. In the opening vignette from Nguyen Ba Chung, the traumatic conflict that erupts between grandfather and grandson is not inherent to their relationship with each other. Rather, it follows from the child’s miseducation in school about the context and meaning of “Vietnam”. The vignette described by Nguyen Phuong Mai shows how constructions of history learned in school and society are linked to the development of one’s own identity. In confronting contradictory constructions of history, she highlights a commitment to “listen more” and possibly to change after engaging in dialogue with those alternative voices. Finally, the vignette offered by Nguyen Thi Trinh exemplifies the complexities internalized constructing agendas and mobilizing energies for the future to do so much more – whether in the local community, in the homeland, or anywhere else in between or beyond.




In developing this proposal collaboratively, we are the first to admit our own lack of answers to all the questions we pose. Our planning group includes scholars and practitioners from the fields of religion, literature, history, political science, and education as well as East Asian Studies, Vietnamese Studies, Asian American Studies, and Diaspora Studies. The excitement and difficulty with which we have struggled to gain a shared understanding and common language for this proposal, despite our own many differences, are genuine.


Like Warner and Wittner (1998) who, in their volume Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration, describe the value of creating space for their contributions to discuss differing methodologies and theoretical frames related to transnationlism, immigrant community development, racialization, and ethnic identity development, we are similarly committed to facilitating substantive dialogue across various boundaries of discipline, ideology, and identity.


This is an historic moment in both the Vietnamese diaspora and in Vietnam when writers and artists are articulating fresh voices and perspectives for which their audiences hunger. Organizers are similarly crafting new visions and practices for democratic community development and civic life, while at the same time, an emerging generation has come of age in the diaspora and is now entering graduate school in the humanities and social sciences with passionate interests focused on both the theory and practice of (re) constructing Vietnamese identities and places.31


We are drawn to the possibilities of this moment. Our proposed fellowship residency program will provide a unique structure to facilitate innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship and appropriate applied research relevant to the Vietnamese diaspora, as well as to establish new conceptual foundations for teaching, learning, and community development. While we are interested in supporting the specific scholarly directions of individual scholars through the program, we are equally interested in catalyzing a new network of scholars with collective commitments to generate and sustain genuine dialogue, thoughtful critique, and shared research agendas. In the following second essay, we outline details of the residency program and our institutional capacity to support it.







Chung C.H. (1988) “Vietnamese American Studies: Notes Toward a New Paradigm,” in Hirabayashi, L.R. (ed) Teaching Asian America, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998. 175-185

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Freeman, J. Hearts of Sorrow, Palo Alto: Standford University Press, 1992.

Hayslip, L.L.  When Heaven and Earth Change Places.  NY: Doubleday, 1991.

Hu-DeHart, E., “From Area Studies to Ethnic Studies: The Study of the Chinese Diaspora in Latin America,” in Hune, S., Kim, H.C. Fugita, S.S., & Ling A. (eds), Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives, Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1991. 5-16

Huo, T.C. (1991) Review of Voices from Southeast Asia: The Refugee Experience in the United States in Amerasia Journal, 17(3) 64-66.

Kiang, P.N. & J. Kaplan, “Where Do We Stand: Views of Racial Conflict by Vietnamese American High School Students in a Black-and-White Context,” The Urban Review, 26(2) 1994.  95-119.

Kibria, N., Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Mazumdar, L. “Asian American Studies and Asian Studies: Rethinking Roots,” in Hune, L., Kim, H.C., Fugita, S.S., & Ling A. (eds).  Asian American: Comparative and Global Perspectives, Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1991.  29-44.

Nguyen, D.Q. Where the Ashes Are, Boston: Addison Wesley, 1993.

Tran, B., Truong, M.T.D., & K.T. Luu (eds), Waterwark: Vietnamese American Poety & Prose, NY: Asian American Writers Workshop, 1998.

Tran, D., Lam, A., & H.D. Nguyen (eds), Once Upon A Dream: The Vietnamese American Experience, San Jose: San Jose Mercury News, 1995.

Tran, Q.P. “Contemporary Vietnamese American Feminine Writing: Exile and Home,” Amerasia Journal 19(3) 1993.

--“From Isolation to Integration: Vietnamese Americans in Tran Dieu Hang’s Fiction,” in Lim, S.G.L. & A. Ling (eds) Reading the Literatures of Asian Amrica, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.  271-284.

--“The Dream of Grass: The Image of Vietnamese Americans in Tran Dieu Hang’s Fiction,” unpublished paper, 1991.

Viviani, N. The Long Journey, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1984.

West, P., Levine, S.I. & J. Hitz, America’s Wars in Asia, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998.

Wong, S.L.C. “Denationalization Reconsidered: Asian American Cultural Criticism at a Theoretical Crossroads, Amerasia Journal 21(1&2) 1995.  1-27.





                1In addition to the faculty serving on our proposed Standing Committee, individual faculty affiliated with Umass Boston institutes who have relevant expertise in diaspora studies include: Ramona Hernandez (Gaston Institute and Latino Studies), author of The Dominican Americans, Westport: Greenwood, 1998; Nancy j. Smith-Hefner (World Language Institute and B/ESL Studies), author of Khmer American: Identity and Moral Development in a Diasporic Community, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999; and Paul Watanabe (Institute for Asian American Studies and Political Science), author of Ethnicity and Foreign Policy: Greek-American Activism and the Turkish Arms Ban.” in Dimitri Constas and Athanassios Plains (eds) Diasporas in World Politics. London: Macmillan. 1993.

2We assume reader familiarity with the specific, successive post-1975 refugee migration flows from Vietnam and the various resettlement policies of third countries that mediated those flows, such as the Refugee Act of 1980, the Orderly Departure Program, the Amerasian Homecoming Act, and the Humanitarian Operation Program of the U.S. We also recognize the historic presence of a small but vibrant pre-1975 Vietnamese community in France dating back to the 1920’s as a legacy of both accommodation and resistance to French colonial rule.

3The most comprehensive reference is John Shafer’s Vietnamese Perspectives: An annotated Bibliography of Works in English (1997).  Also, see: Nguyen Dinh Tham's Studies of Vietnamese Language and Literature: A Preliminary Bibliography (1992) and Maurice Durand and Nguyen Tran Huan's An Introduction to Vietnamese Literature (1985).

                4U.S. government efforts to launch Vietnam Area Studies order to strengthen American military effectiveness in an otherwise unstudied country and culture can be similarly traced the origins of Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies thanks to the generous sponsorship of social science research in Latin America by the U.S. Defense Department during the 1960s (Hu-Dehart, 1991).

                5For example, see Michael Casey’s Obscenities (1972) John Balaban’s After Our War (1973); Francis Fitzgerald's Fire in the Lake, Gloria Emerson's Winners and Losers.  Phillip Caputo’s A Rumor of War, Yusef Komunyakaa's Dien Cai Dau, or Bruce Weigl's Song of Napalm.

6See: Nguyen Ngoc Bich, W.S. Merwin, and Burton Raffells’s A Thousand Years of Vietnamese Poetry (1975); Huynh Sanh Thong’s Anthology of Vietnamese Poetry (1985) and the Vietnam Forum and Lac Viet Series:  Tran Van Dinh’s Blue Dragon, White Tiger (1985).  Truong Nhu Tang’s A VietCong Memoir (1985), Nguyen Ngoc Ngan’s The Will of Heaven, Le Ly Hayslip’s When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (1989), Nguyen Thi Thu-Lam’s Fallen Leaves (1989), Nguyen Ngoc Bich’s War and Exile (1989), and James Banerian’s Vietnamese Short Stories (1986).

7See, for example: Nguyen Huy Thiep’s The General Retires (1992); Duong Thu Huong’s Pradise of the Blind (1994) and Novel Without a Name (1995); Bao Ninh’s The Sarrow of War (1991); Le Luu’s A Time Far Past (1997); Le Minh Khue’s The Stars, The Moon, The River (1997), short story collections such as Linh Dinh’s Night Again (1996); John Balaban and Nguyen Quy Duc’s Vietnam: A traveller’s Companion (1996); and anthologies such as Wayne Karlin, Le Minh Khue, and Truong Vu’s The Other Side of Heaven; Dan Duffy’s Vietnam Forum 15: North Vietnam Now: Fiction and Essays from  Hanoi (1996); Bruce Weigl and Kevin Bowen’s Writing Between the Lines and Nguyen Ba Chung, Bowen and Weigl’s recent poetry anthology Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry from the Wars 1948-1993 (1998).

8Woodside, Alexander, “Preface to the Paperback Edition” in Vietnam and the Chinese Model (Cambridge, Harvad University press: 1988).

9Vo Phien, Hai Muoi Nam Van Hoc Mien Nam, 1954-1975, Tong Quan (South Vietnam Literature-An Overview), (Westminister, CA: Van Nghe, 1986). English version: Literature in South Vietnam, 1954-1975, (Melbourne: Vietnamese language and Culture Publications, 992).

10These trends hold worldwide for the Vietnamese diaspora, except for the case of France because of its historic Vietnamese community which maintained ties to the North. See: Nguyen Mong Giac, “Reflections on Fifteen Tears of Vietnamese Literature" private paper delivered at the Joiner Center’s Writers’ Conference, 1990, pp. 1-4.

11They included Dat Moi (New Land) published by Thanh Nam, Van Hoc Nghe Thuat (Arts and Literature) directed by Vo Phien and Le Tat Dieu, Viet Chien (Vietnamese Struggle), issued by Giang Huu Tuyen, Hoang Xuan Son and Ngo Vuong Toai, Nhan Chung (Witness) edited by Du Tu Le, and Thoi Tap (Time) published by Vien Linh.  See: Nguyen Mong Giac, pp. 3.

12Nguyen Mong Giac, pp. 3-4. Note: Responsibility for Van was assumed by Nguyen Xuan Hoang when Mai Thao’s health began to fail in 1997.

13For example, Van Hoc (Literary Study), formerly Van Hoc Nghe Thuat, edited by Vo Phien from 1977-79 and by Nguyen Mong Giac in 1985: Lang Van (Literary Circle) published by Nguyen Huong and Nguyen Huu Nghia: and The Ky 21 (Twenty First Century) issued by Le Dinh Dieu and Do Quy Toan.  Other, included Phu Nu Dien Dan (Women’sForum), Tan Van (New Literature), and Tim Phong (Vanguard).

14For example, Van Nghe (editor-in-chief Vo Thang Tiet), An Tiem (To Ngoc The), Hong Linh (Khanh Truong), Nguoi Viet (Nguoi Viet company). Nha Viet (Nguyen Huu Nghia), Xuan Thu (commercial). Doi Nam (commercial). etc.

15Others included: Doi Bong Dung Thua (Life Suddenly Superfluous) by Ha Huyen Chi, Mien Yeu Dau Phuong Dong (TheLovely East) by Thai Tu Hap, Hop Luu (Confluence) by Ho Truong An, Mo Ho Cua Da (The Sweat of Stone) by Nhat Tien, Co Biec (Green Crass) by Cung Vu, and Phuong Oi Dung Do Nua (Be Red No More, Phuong Flower) by Nha Ca.

16Nguyen Hung Quoc, “Muoi Lam Nam Van Hoc Luu Vong, Ban Chat va Dac Diem” (The Essence and Characteristics of the Fifteen Years of Exile Literature), Van Hoc, #47-48, Spring 1990, 23-25.

            17For Example: Thang Nguoi Co Duoi (Man with Tail) by The Giang or Khong Co Vua (No King) by Nguyen Huy Thiep.

18Ngyen Huu Nghia, “Sinh Hoat Van Nghe Viet-Nam Hai-Ngoai 365 Ngay Qua” (Overseas Art and Literature Activities During The Last 365 Days), Lang Van, #149 Jan 1997, p. 29.

19These include: Tran Dieu Hang, Nguyen Thi Hoang Bac, Vi Khue, Tran Thi Kim Lan, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Nhung, Le Thi Hue, Duong Nhu Nguyet, Tran Sa, Nhu Chi, Thuy Vi, Phan Thi Trong Tuyet, Tran Mong Tu, and Nguyen Thi Thanh Binh.

20Tran Qui Phiet, “From Isolation to Integration: Vietnamese American in Tran Dieu Hang’s Fiction”, in Reading the Literature of Asian America, edited by Shirley Lim and Amy ling (Temple:1992), 271-284.

21Quoted in Nguyen Mong Giac, “Thoughts on Some Overseas Woman Writers”, Van Hoc, #18, 3-5.

22Nhat Tien, Nguyen Mong Giac, Ho Troung An, Nguyen Ngoc Ngan, are exceptions.

23Others wrote with collaboration of native English writers/editors: Nguyen Ngoc Ngan’s The will of Heaven, with E.E. Richchey (Dutton: 1982, Lang Van:1988); Lely Hayslip’s When Heaven and Earth Changed Place, with Jay Wurts (Doubleday, 1989) and Child of War, Woman of Peace, with James Hayslip (Doubleday, 1993).

24There is a consensus that Vietnamese poetry, both in Vietnam and US, has been in a state of crisis.  In a post-war and post-refugee period, what subject can call forth great passion?  Without great passion how can there be great poets.  During war, there is only one path -  death or survival, victory or defeat; in peace, there are many roads, none of which offers any certainty.  To emphasize the urgent need to invent a new path for poetry, Tap Chi Tho’s motto is “Rather write new poems badly than write the old poetry well.”  Among these new-styled poets, Do Khe and Ngu Yern are noticed for their innovations in forms.

25The debate was joined with Nguyen Hung Quoc’s response to Do Anh Tuan’s essay on Van Hoc issue #13 (June 1997) and continued into early 1998 with the participation of Dang Tien and Pham Thi Hoai (9/97), Bui Vinh Phuc, Tran Van Tich, and Thuy Khe (10/97).  The arguments and couter-arguments by DMT and NHQ in issues #136 (8/97), 137(9/97), and 141-142 (Jan-Feb 98) were especially interesting.

26“Nhin Lai mot nam qua… Phong van cac van thi huu” (looking a year back… interviewing our fellow writers). Van Hoc, #141 &142 Jan-Feb 1998, p.41.  “Van Hoc Viet Nam Nam 1997 Va Nhung Nam Sap Toi Qua Hoat Dong, Nhan Dinh Cua Nhieu Tac Gia” (Vietnamese Literature in 1997 and Beyond: Authors’ Plans and Evaluations), Hop Luu, #38 Jan 1998, 35.

27Two weekly Vietnamese language newspapers are published consistently in Boston, for example.  Several others appear sporadically.

28This sense of fragmentation is similarly suggested as a theme in Leslie Kennedy Adams’(1998) reading of American and Vietnamese war fiction presented in America’s Wars in Asia; A Cultural Approach at History and Memory, edited Philip West, Steven I. Levine, and Jackie Hiltz.

29For further discussion of these concepts of claiming voice and space, see: William V. Flores & Rina Benmayor, Latino Cultural Citizenship: Claiming Identity, Space, and Rights, Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.

30We note Keith Taylor’s most recent, careful analysis of the historic regional diversity of identities in Vietnam and share his admonition for historians to be accountable to their own time and place, rather than imposing their contemporary meanings and desire for coherence of their interpretations of the past (“Surface Orientations in Vietnam: Beyond Histories of Nation and Region,” Journal of Asian Studies, 57:4, November 1998, 949-978).

31For example, four of the five papers on Vietnamese diasporic topics at the 1998 national conference of the Association of Asian American Studies were presented by graduate students.


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