This article analyzes the memories of traumatic experiences held by major characters in two contemporary Vietnamese American novels: Lan Caos Monkey Bridge and Le Thi Diem Thuys The Gangster We Are All Looking For. Because the parents who experienced trauma during the Vietnam War refuse to share their haunting pasts with the coming-of-age narrators who are maturing in the United States, both narrators feel suffocated by a very palpable conspiracy of silence, and eventually they must find release from their parents traumatic and haunting pasts in order to create a new subjectivity for themselves in a new homelanda subjectivity that characterizes the 1.5 generation Vietnamese American consciousness. Both narrators possess memories and experiences of childhood, very early in Vietnam and then later in the United States. This combination of influences significantly informs their self-perception and their on-going construction of personal identity. This personal identity must be forged out of a sense of uncertainty, disorientation, confusion, and alienation felt during childhood and adolescence spent with parents who themselves were making the painful transition from a heartbreaking war to its trying aftermath. The narrators new identity, achieved at the end of both novels, suggests optimism for the development of both personal, or individual, and collective, or community, identity, which is taking shape at the cultural crossroads between Vietnam and America and the historical crossroads between war and postwar eras.
Ha, Quan Manh
"Conspiracy of Silence and New Subjectivity in Monkey Bridge and The Gangster We Are All Looking For,"
Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement: Vol. 8
, Article 3.
Available at: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jsaaea/vol8/iss1/3