Archive for September, 2006

Between Two Fires: The Unheard Voices of Vietnam was published the year I was born. It’s a collection of stories written by “ordinary Vietnamese” for a contest. Of the the seventy-five that won and were published in the newspaper, Tieng Noi Dan Tock (Voice of the People), nine were chosen to be published in the book. The paper was closed shortly after.

I came across it by accident, hidden in the corner of the library. The book felt light in my hand consisting of little more than 120 pages. They were voices from the past that spoke more about the human tragedy of war rather than of war itself. I keep revisiting the past from one angle or another but find myself more interested in those “unheard voices” that speak of events beyond the politics and policy.

It was haunting to read about displaced lives, torn from their places of ancestry and of the withering of farms and spirits. Such are the realities of war and reading those personal accounts became painful. In one story, a grandfather refuses to leave the small patch of garden kept for his grandson and the graves of his ancestors who were all tied to the land through generations of birth and death, of cultivation and harvest. Many stories recounted tales of families forced to relocate after their farms were rendered useless by Agent Orange. Many were forced into the cities to work for “the Americans” who held no love for the people they claimed to protect.

Reading between the lines, one gets a sense of irony and it was through that irony and their subdued personal accounts of tragedy that I began to make a connection. I see a girl, cloaked in white after the death of her parents. White is the color of mourning. Fields that were once fertile and productive, now lay dead and abandoned. The savior destroyed more than he saved lacking appreciation for the land and its people. In the end, he abandoned his mission leaving Vietnam to rebuild itself.

“…Tomorrow, when the war ended, the survivors would set to work rebuilding everything, provided that our people knew how to love one another…The foreigners on the trucks looked down at the ruins of the burned houses with indifferent blue eyes. They were just strangers who could neither understand us nor love us…Among ourselves, we did not love one another and looked to one another as arch-foes. So who were we to blame outsiders for not loving us?”

What does it mean to be “saved” by a people who have no understanding or appreciation for your origins? How do you learn to love yourself if those who raised you have no love for the well from which you sprang? Have you really been saved at all or simply passed the burden of rebuilding all they’ve destroyed in the process?

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Blog Break

Will be on blog break for a few days or weeks while I catch up on some much needed chores, continue my job hunt and finish a few writing projects.  Have a great weekend!

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My daughter is proud of her multi-ethnic heritage. We celebrate Tet every year and go to the local Vietnamese restaurants to eat authentic cuisine. We wear ao dais and go to cultural camp every summer. Last year, we went on a motherland tour to Vietnam and visited orphanages. She’s very proud of her American heritage, too and can recite the names of Presidents.


Where have I seen this kind of thinking before?

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I Have A Thing For Asia

By Nathanial Morgenstern
September 13, 2006 | The Onion

Man, if I had to name one continent that really just does it for me, there’s no question which one I’d pick: Asia. It just drives me wild. I know that a lot of my friends still don’t get it, and I’ve gotten my share of glares from ex-girlfriends, but you know what? It’s their loss. They’re more than welcome to their Europes and North Americas. That just leaves more Asia for me.

It began in high school, when I was first exposed to different landforms. It was then that I realized my deep attraction to the remote, demure, but utterly entrancing continent of Asia. In college, I double-majored in geography and earth science, but only so I could get closer to Asia. Senior year, I had the privilege to study in Tokyo, and let me tell you—once you get a taste of the Asian continent, you can never go back. And I keep coming back for more, whether it’s South Korea, Hong Kong, or Thailand.

Especially Thailand.


I must be running on a quarter-tank today, it took me until the fourth paragraph before I actually got it.  More coffee!

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Lesson learned, I should never post part 1 of anything without having completed the entire post. There are always distractions in between. They’re good ones though, so you’ll get no complaints from me.

Thanks to Carlos and RBJ for quoting my post on the front page. Yayyy, another Viet adoptee stepped up with a shout-out. *waves at Ben

Ji-in and Jae Ran did stellar jobs on Mixed Media Watch’s roundtable podcast. HUGE thanks to Carmen and Jen for having such a thought-provoking, honest discussion on trans-racial/national adoption and race. They brought up some great points AND there were hints that there might be more discussions to follow. Whoohoo! Bring it on! I hope this marks the beginning of more serious and honest discussions not only on Mixed Media Watch but everywhere.

Poetry-side of which I’ve been more distracted from than by, Kevin has finally posted more of his poetry here and here. BTW, someone else and I were wondering about that blog title.

Bryan and Barbara are engaged in interesting discussions about Asian American literature. It’s totally over my head, but reading it sent me down a tangent just like Kevin’s “Rice Cracker” post. Luckily, there were others like D, Mel, Preya and the Juju dude who stayed on track turning it into a decent exchange of dialogue.

My line of thinking turns more toward the self-centered question of how do I write as an Asian American without feeling I have a sense of what that means? With my own humble poetry, I’ve found it difficult to put things in terms that would make it appealing to those outside my narrow focus of adoption. I guess my question would be what makes Asian American literature other than the fact that it was written by an Asian American? Does it matter? I can write about pho, rice and sampans but that feels fake. My experiences don’t really involve the iconic Asian “stuff” that I’ve come to feel is acceptable. Anyway, I’ll be keeping an eye on this one and hope others decide to contribute their opinions.

Currently, I’m re-reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Actually, I’m listening to it on audio-cd. Question, if everyone knows the secret, then why do we still keep falling for it? *sigh Will have to get back to you on that one.

Oh and as if all that isn’t enough, I’ve finally jumped onto MySpace. I’m still messing with my profile though, so not much there at the moment. *grin Will get to it eventually.

Correction: Sorry Mel, I just noticed that I’d gotten your name wrong.  Correction has been made.  

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“struggle” by sume
credits:Original by Fruitsalad

Pulled for revision…

Sorry everyone. After thinking about it, I’ve decided to pull this, revise it and try to submit it to a few places to see if there’s any takers. Some of you have convinced me to give it a try. 😉

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Binh Danh

Via Hyphen Blog:

Binh Danh was born in Vietnam in 1977 before his family immigrated to the United States that same year. He received his BFA in Photography from San Jose State University and completed the prestigious MFA program at Stanford University in 2004.

Danh has invented a technique for printing found photographs (digitally rendered into negatives) onto the surface of leaves by exploiting the natural process of photosynthesis. The leaves, still living, are pressed between glass plates with the negative and exposed to sunlight from a week to several months. Coined “chlorophyll prints” by the artist, the fragile works are encapsulated and made permanent through casting them in solid blocks of resin.

Is that cool or what?  Examples of his work can be seen here and here. The Haines Gallery in San Francisco is hosting an exhibition of his work September 7 through October 14, 2006.

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