Vietnamese American Literature

One of the most infamous works of Vietnamese American literature comes from Ocean Vuong’s novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”. The work highlights the experiences of being a Vietnamese American in the United States and discusses themes of intergenerational trauma, the nuances that arise with immigrant life, the struggles with identity as well as family, love, and human existence. The novel is critically acclaimed and uses lyrical prose to emphasize its emotional depth which resonates with its readers. Vuong was born in Saigon, Vietnam and left for the United States during the Vietnam War. His grandmother is Vietnamese and had his mother with a white American soldier during the war. Vuong’s depiction of his life experiences also through the lens of a queer person adds nuance to Vietnamese American life in the United States. His work along with many others helps illustrate the additional levels of adversity many individuals currently go through as a result of a devastating war that leaves lingering traumas.

Other individuals in the Vietnamese American literary space include Aimee Phan, whose book, “We Should Never Meet” details the personal anecdotes of individuals involved in Operation Babylift through the telling of eight interconnected stories. Andrew Lam’s work, “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora” also discusses about the war on identity that came about after the Vietnam War in generating a diaspora that generated an intolerance for Vietnamese nationals living abroad. Author of, “The Sympathizer”, Viet Thanh Nguyen highlights the lasting shadow of the Vietnam War on identity through a story on espionage and love. Nguyen’s work earned him the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, becoming the first Vietnamese-American writer to win such an award.¬† As more Vietnamese-Americans enter the field of literature, there will be more methods of capturing the journey of Vietnamese-Americans in a way that beautifully but also tragically portrays their lives.

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