Kien Nguyen, dentist and writer Kien Nguyen, dentist and writer ( May 12, 1967, Nhatrang, South Vietnam ) ( May 12, 1967, Nhatrang, South Vietnam ) The Unwanted (2001, memoir) The Unwanted (2001, memoir) The Tapestries (2002, novel) The Tapestries (2002, novel) Le Colonial (2004, novel) Le Colonial (2004, novel)
Plot: Book begins with a prelude that describes Kien’s 5-year-old-birthday party in 1972 at the Nguyen Mansion. Fast forward to the fall of Saigon in 1975 and back to his childhood of being ridiculed and insulted (school parade marshal, Luu, three potatoes, half-breed, burnt-rice, little muck, trash), and then the years of hardship, including being raped by Lam, failed attempt to flee by boat, being jailed, and the desperate preparation to flee. Mother’s Relationships Mother’s Relationships An American civil engineer/Kien’s father, left money, enabling the mother to join a bank partnership enabling the mother to join a bank partnership An American officer/Jimmy’s father, left money, enabling the mother to build Nguyen Mansion the mother to build Nguyen Mansion Nguyen Mansion: 3 stories, 24 rooms, at least 8 bedrooms, Western furniture, Sears catalog clothes, with gardener Mr. Tran, one cook, Loan, plus two other maids catalog clothes, with gardener Mr. Tran, one cook, Loan, plus two other maids A Vietnamese guy/Be Ti’s father, called Lam; raped and impregnated the family’s maid and nanny, Loan; also raped Kien Cui Ba, the community commander, Kim’s father, imposed himself on Kien’s mother
capitalist; corrupt counterrevoluntary half-breed/burnt-rice/little/muck/trash victim of war and communists rescued by America freedom-loving grateful to USA model minority SYMPATHY
“The memory of Kim flooded my mind…Now I understood the price that I had to pay for my revenge. Whether Kim forgave me or not, I had broken her physically and emotionally. I was no better than Lam, or her father, or any other loathsome creature that ever crossed my path. Worst of all, I had to live with that knowledge.” The Unwanted, page 322 The Unwanted, page 322
RIGHT AFTER THE VIETNAM WAR RIGHT AFTER THE VIETNAM WAR Many Americans shunned the veterans upon their return from the battlefield, treating them as visible symbols of Many Americans shunned the veterans upon their return from the battlefield, treating them as visible symbols of the Unites States’ humiliating defeat in Vietnam. Refugees were unwelcome. 25 th ANNIVERSARY/YEAR 2000 25 th ANNIVERSARY/YEAR 2000 Los Angeles TimesThe Orange County RegisterTime The New York TimesThe San Diego Union TribuneNewsweek The Washington PostThe San Jose Mercury News American veteransVietnamese refugees the innocent and the might heroesthe liberated and grateful refugees the loving family guysthe anticommunist Model Minorities the friends and the rescuersin “the Land of the Free”
Directing attention away from the geopolitical, military, and economic causes and the ongoing devastation of the Vietnam War for the majority of Vietnamese people. Underrepresenting many Vietnamese Americans whose life is characterized by unstable, minimum-wage employment, welfare dependency, and participation in the informal economy. Naturalizing the great economic disparity between the two countries, depicting the two economies as unconnected rather than mutually constituted. Confirming the superiority of a white American middle-class way of life and the righteousness of “rescuing” projects. Making Vietnamese refugees become the featured evidence of the appropriateness and even necessity of U.S. world hegemony.
If you want to ever achieve happiness, don’t dwell on the past. Instead, start living. What is the point of obsessing over something that has already happened, and that you cannot change? Live! And be merry. Epilogue & Page 312
personal healing healing for 50,000 Amerasian children healing for friends as well as “enemies” healing for all or humanity how and when the personal becomes the public how and when the singular can represent the collective War produces no winner. “I am the enemy you killed, my friend.” by Wilfred Owen develop views that are deeply rooted in the past as well as the present, there and here, us and you enabled to deliver not only sympathy but also EMPATHY