(Re)Collecting the Vietnam War: An Asian American Literary Review Special Issue

>>Welcome to the Institute it’s a little warm in here we have the windows open and
we’re trying to turn the air conditioner on so hopefully it’ll get a little more comfortable
but thanks for coming out it’s been a really strong response really just celebrate this
amazing publication I just kind of collapse through it very quickly it’s really remarkable
So this is a celebration but it’s also that time of year when you know today’s Veterans
Day and then Thanksgiving Christmas and New Year’s and you know for those of us who are
not kind of Christian who are not necessarily. [00:00:58]
Kind of immersed in this kind of culture Veteran’s Day for me for example is a really very ambivalent
experience so I cut my teeth. Universe of the University of Wisconsin thinking I was
going to go into genetics and then as the anti-war movement ramped up I started shifting
dramatically because all of a sudden I was used to being calling called a **** but I
wasn’t used to be caught being called a kook right you know son something started happening
and even though I was brought up thinking that we should not buy any Japanese products
my mother had lived through the Japanese invasion of China etc etc You know we had big arguments
about buying a Panasonic radio you know but I also realized that I had so much in common
with the Japanese Americans whose families had been in the camps and I started realizing
that the exclusion of what happened and all the sort of things but it was really the Vietnam
War that really got me to thing. [00:02:00]
For more critically about what racialization in this country has really meant so these
holidays are a tough time. Whose point of view are we looking at it from so I think
it’s actually especially appropriate we have the support on Veterans Day to certainly remind
ourselves to remember despite the kind of overwhelming kind of national an area to which
oftentimes be very critical to be thinking about the larger impacts globally and how
racialization has always been a part of wars in Asia and the Middle East. [00:02:37]
So. So it’s it’s something that repeats itself of course after nine eleven there’s another
round of racialization for those who appeared to be in the American imaginary Muslim or
Arab and certainly the great majority of Muslims in the world or actually in Asia. So these
rounds of racialization kind of constantly challenge and open up what it means to be
Asian. [00:03:13]
Or Pacific in in this country and it’s a constant spending category and cousin exchanging and
morphing category so it’s really I think in some ways really amazing that this volume
has come together in a way that both challenges what that definition means opens it up even
more but also looks back at a moment in which so many of the people who are contributors
to this were really not necessarily in this country of families might not have been in
this country depending on when they came and the ways in which war and refugee status impacted
them. [00:03:59]
So let. We just say if you express a few Thanks. First of all. I wanted to express our appreciation
to the N.Y.U. Vietnamese student association. Who whose. Students actually they just were
the kind of give you a shout out so thank you so much for your support the and where
you Creative Writing Program thank you and also the N.Y.U. bookstore and we’re selling
books at a twenty percent discount just out there at the table. [00:04:33]
So thank you very much and congratulations. So my name is Kathy Flynn files and it is
such an honor to be here at N.Y.U. A.P.A. and thank you so much to Jack for really supporting
this volume and I think that you know I know that Lawrence and I want to really have as
much time for the people who contributed to this volume as possible so I just wanted to
give some introductory remarks and Lawrence can back me up for our smile we’ve we’ve tried
to go either but one of the the frames for this volume recollecting the Vietnam War actually
involves something that Chris Hedges famously wrote about war as a force that you know brings
us meaning and was things for Southeast Asia it’s in the diaspora it’s certainly a force
that also brings us into being and so one of the things that really motivated my initial
thinking about this volume was the fact that we were looking at a fortieth anniversary
and much of the discussion that I was having on my campus and you know kind of with other
people involved US veterans and absolutely no discussion involved the refugees myself
included that were created by this war so that was actually the very simple impetus
behind this collection we strategic. [00:06:00]
Chose to do it as an interdisciplinary collection and one of the things we really wanted to
emphasize was the expansiveness of this conflict so it’s not just limited to Vietnam as a bounce
site but also inclusive of the other locations that were part of that conflict. But we also
wanted to really kind of bring together what we fell I think like just kind of a multiple
generations of Southeast Asian American writers and artists. [00:06:31]
Tippi dialogic So when you look at the collection it we hope that we curated it accordingly
so that the pieces speak to one another and we chose topics like collateral plus damage
to be intentionally quite provocative. By other coeditor Sylvia child deserves so much
credit because she gets home much in terms of envisioning what this would look like on
the page so and it’s such a shame she’s not here. [00:07:03]
I don’t know what to say about that outside of she’s not here but but she and I worked
very closely with Lawrence who really had the capacious notes to see this volume through
and I just want to turn it to him quickly and then will turn it to the archives Thank
you Kathy and I’m so glad to be here thank you for having us thank you Jack and then
Q. [00:07:24]
to institute. I guess what I would do is a wonderful experience working with the contributors
to this issue and working with Kathy in particular. One of things I want to mention that might
not come up in the course of the evening is we devised this name from the beginning as
an intervention not only into public discourse about the legacies of the war but thinking
of it as an educational tool an opportunity to intervene in classrooms and so I think
there’s a few folks here tonight and both Kathy and I have used it in our classrooms
the idea said that we wanted this to appear in classrooms and so it’s been taught it’s
being taught in university classrooms across. [00:08:00]
The country as an opportunity not only to reframe how we think about in the remember
and learn about the Vietnam War and Southeast Asian diocese work experience but a means
to connect classrooms as well so if you’re interested I would encourage you to take a
look not only at the issue but the teaching program that we’ve built around it that’s
online that operators offers opportunities for students and teachers to connect so that
kind of making meaning and making memory of the war as a kind of ongoing process not only
in the hands of artists and writers but in teachers and students so with that I’d like
to turn it over to some of the issue contributors to read from the issue and talk about there
were. [00:08:40]
Well I think want to acknowledge of the American literary review which is a really great publication
and which is really endured and if you know anything about Asian American literary publications
you know how large it is to sustain them so Lawrence and Gerald’s work in editing this
and biology and the whole series of issues that they’ve done is really really incredible
and so my contribution to the special issue is a piece called untrue war stories which
I’m not going to read but I’ll talk about and then I’ll read a bit from my novel which
relates both to our untrue war stories and to the theme of recollecting the Vietnam War
but untrue war stories begins with my reaction against Brian’s piece in The Things They Carried
where he talks about what constitutes a true war story you know it’s a very well known
proclamation that the features of the true war story and what I really thought about
when I read that was well I I identify with that because when I was growing up as a an
American boy in the one nine hundred seventy S. [00:09:39]
In one thousand nine hundred I loved watching troop war stories like Rambo and Apocalypse
Now up until that point where they killed the Vietnamese people and then I thought wait
a minute this is not sustainable because I happen to be it means and so the whole idea
of the true war story I wanted to think about through that because obviously we as Americans
love our two war stories as a stay. [00:10:00]
All of American storytelling still is but as someone who has grown up as a refugee in
a refugee community what I realized very intuitively was that we had many true war stories among
Vietnamese refugees everybody I knew who had to be Timmy’s refugee had a tube or story
but it wasn’t recognized as a war story by the rest of the United States because oftentimes
they want about soldiers they were about people who lost their homes and lost their property
and lost their relatives and lost their country and lost her mental health and had to flee
to the United States where they were conceived of not as people who had true war stories
but as people who were refugees or who were immigrants and so what I wanted to do in the
piece was the challenges the idea of what constituted a true war story because I think
one of the reasons why Americans think of true war stories as stories involving men
and soldiers and combat is that allows them to forget that war stories are actually much
more pervasive and the much more problematic kind of war story that we don’t like to confront
is the fact that we’re all implicated in the war machine in the United States we pay our
taxes we vote for certain leaders were complicit with the military and foreign policies of
this country that involve us in the fact that this entire country is at war has been at
war for at least a decade has been at war on and off for at least a century that’s the
true war story that I wanted to talk about the military industrial complex that the novelist
Apostol calls a psychological complex that we as Americans are addicted to war but we
don’t want to confront it and finally what I talk about in this piece is the fact that
maybe it would be really important to recognize the fact that immigrant stories many immigrant
stories are actually more stories but we in the United States like to segregate these
kinds of stories and pretend that immigrants many immigrants are not here because of wars
or of policies that the United States has carried out over the last century at least. [00:12:00]
So. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote the sympathizer of this novel it’s a novel
about a common a spy in the south beating his army in April nine hundred seventy five
whose mission it is to flee with the remnants of that army to the United States where he’s
going to spy in their efforts to take their country back so it is a war story there is
a lot of war and combat involved but it also brings up the stories of refugees and immigrants
and it’s a critique of American culture as a military industrial complex but the section
that I’m going to read from you read to you is actually about a nightclub and about sexual
fantasy but as you’ll see it also collect connects to recollecting the Vietnam War as
well so what happens is that our narrator fleece the United States as a refugee and
if you know anything about the refugees you know that we love to drink and smoke and drink
and dance and so one of the very first things that we do these refugees did in California
was to found a night club and this is what this is going to refer to as our narrators
a night club and he’s going to look at this young woman who is. [00:13:07]
Quite infatuated with. Now known by just one name like John Paul George Ringo and Mary
Lana stepped on stage clad in a red velvet boost today a leopard print mini skirt black
lace gloves and five high leather boots with stiletto heels my heart would have paused
at the boots the heels or the flat smooth slice of her belly naked in between mini skirt
and Bruce DA but the combination of all three arrested my heart all together and beat it
with the bigger of a Los Angeles police squad. [00:13:52]
Horn cognac over my heart fried it but thus drenched it was easily flame bait by her torch
song she turn. On the heat with her first number the unexpected I’d love you to want
me which I had heard before sun only by men I Love You To Want Me was the theme song of
the bachelors and unhappily married males of my generation whether in the English original
or the equally Sioux purred French and Vietnamese renditions what the song expressed so perfectly
from lyric to Melody was unrequited love and we men of the South love nothing more than
unrequited love cracked hearts our primary weakness after cigarettes coffee and cognac. [00:14:42]
Listening to Linus sing all I wanted was to immolate myself in a night with her to remember
forever and ever every man in the room shared my emotion as we watched do no more than sway
at the microphone her voice enough to move the audience or rather to still **** nobody
talked and nobody stirred except to raise a cigarette or a glass and other concentration
not broken for her next slightly more upbeat number bang bang my baby shot me down. [00:15:18]
Long as version of Bang Bang layered English with French in Vietnamese the last line of
the French version echoed fattens always Vietnamese version we will never forget. In the pantheon
of classic pop songs from Saigon this tricolor rendition was one of the most memorable masterfully
weaving together love and violence in the magic story of two lovers who regardless of
having known each other since childhood or because of knowing each other since childhood
childhood shoot each other down bang bang with the sound of memories pistol firing into
our heads for read. [00:16:00]
Cannot forget love we cannot forget war we cannot forget lovers we cannot forget enemies
we cannot forget home and we cannot forget Saigon we cannot forget the caramel flavor
of iced coffee with coarse sugar the bowls of noodle soup eaten while squatting on the
sidewalk the strumming of a friend’s guitar while we sway on hammocks under coconut trees
the whisper of a do we love or sing the most seductive words in our language and. [00:16:34]
The working men who slept in their C. clothes on the street kept warm only by the memories
of their families the refugees who slept on every sidewalk of every city the sweetness
and firmness of a mango plucked fresh from its tree the girls who refused to talk to
us and who we only pined for more the men who had died or disappeared the streets and
homes blown away by bombshells the streams where we swung naked and laughing the secret
grove where we spied on the nips who bathed and splashed with the innocence of the birds
the shadows cast by candlelight on the walls of what hurts the barking of a hungry dark
in an abandoned village the appetizing reek of the fresh durian one wept to eat the sight
and sound of orphans howling by the dead bodies of their mothers and fathers the stickiness
of one’s shirt by the afternoon the stickiness of one’s lover by the end of lovemaking the
stickiness of our situations. [00:17:38]
And while the list could go on and on the point was simply this the most important thing
we can never forget was that we can never forget thank you thank you. OK. I’m going
to turn Hello I’m going to talk about a project that I worked on a visual arts project with. [00:18:11]
No end who’s based in which human city and we do. And I’ll show it to you. Well first
let’s let’s deal with the little introduction so you can read it even though it’s up there
and says more than my memories define me. The first ten words that you see or what you
desire most in your present future and past all three exists at once elbowing and bruising
each other like siblings we are not the first to tell you this are we if you see more than
ten words we suggest you forget simplify and move on in fact you may be suffering from
peripheral vision hindsight farsightedness twenty twenty vision historical memory obsession
and a style. [00:19:07]
Thanks for playing our words search our typographical worship test our lo fi divine our our cut
rate cycle analyzer. There it is. Well so I wrote up some. Explanation which is probably
the last thing you should do for a work of art. Ok well as some of you know there’s a
meme that involves a block of text resembling a word search game and usually there are instructions
like the one that I gave which usually says something like the first ten or words that
you see is what you want most. [00:19:59]
Or is the most important to you are is what you need most now so I want to play with this
mean because. Like many Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans besides morning to our liking to
drink and dance and smoke I also we also love fortune telling and predictive games and so
I like the fact. [00:20:27]
That the person who is sort of the player of this game would be cast as a searcher first
and foremost and then serve the convention of a word search game is of course it’s a
block of mostly nonsensical letters right all the same type opera fi and size and scattered
hidden within the blocks or words I wired it instead to present a plot that is entirely
composed of phrases and words a block of text that is chock full of meaning that is meaning
rich and depending on where the searchers is’ big begins to look depending on where
one begins to search different words and phrases emerge I wanted to include specifically Vietnamese
as well as English words and I wanted the Vietnamese words to be with. [00:21:24]
Out there tie critic marks so that they are. More difficult to identify to read. That they
are. You can say lost within the Sea of English. Here are some other thoughts about this. History
is an inheritance of No the facts in this instance are meaning rich block of letters
is the stand in for history for a set of prescribe terms now we cannot escape history we can
only choose to read it differently search for the lost the forgotten the suppressed
history is subjective Thus each searcher will see something different depending on how their
eyes scar that block of text. [00:22:25]
I also want to say look a bit about the contribution which is to use color to do the letters in
hand written so the manner in varying sizes with different looks and feel each. Individual
sheet of paper some slips as you may or may not be able see up there are a bit wrinkled
their corners are lifted up a bit. [00:22:54]
To me it all contributes to. Immediately injecting a human element to this work. Or are as I
like to think about it a human hand in the construction of the work there is to me also
the suggestion of obsessiveness and the wording of the letters and the slips that they are
on as if each had been moved around quite a bit shuffle. [00:23:26]
And that their position in this grid is not permanent and can be shuffled around again
at any moment so. I also think about his we don’t use of color colors to me are inherently
I’m. Motional And so if not saturated with meaning now who can see the color red without
seeing blood who among Vietnamese Americans can see yellow and red without seeing the
flag past and present. [00:24:03]
And so now I want to close by just showing you what I gave. So this is just one of the
sheets of phrases and then within the phrase you can see it harbors all the words underneath
so know that this is not part of the journal. So this is my working document I thought you
would like to see it so here’s the next page. [00:24:43]
That last phrase on the bottom is. It says move. Want to go back to the old home. You
know so moving it’s want. Means to want to go yeah I want to go home yeah is House. The
old house or the past. So is old pass so. Is another page. [00:25:22]
Well OK it’s not disappeared by or journal take a look. At our contribution on wins in
my. Search. The last thing I want to say before Sit down is that I think part of the reason
why I wanted to my contribution to the journal not to be a straight forward piece of prose. [00:25:49]
Was that in a way it was my way of saying. The words are there the history is there you
you can write it for yourself you can search it on your own you don’t need me to do what
and this is why this journal so exciting because when I first started out I didn’t know I had
so many colleagues to come writers and visual artists and poets and I’m so glad that they’re
here thank you. [00:26:23]
Thank you hi everyone I am truly and I want to start by chorus thanking Kathy for inviting
me to be a part of the collection. Especially because I am neither are a writer or an artist
I am a teacher and sometimes ethnography her and the piece that I contributed to this collection
is really based on some research that I’ve been doing in Vietnam or had been touring
in Vietnam and. [00:26:51]
Looking at the global cosmetics industry. In particularly in Saigon but I was what I
realized in writing this piece and actually in my sort of research in Vietnam is that
even as a researcher or my sort of confrontation with Vietnam or so informed by my memories
or my sort of proxy memories of the plays. [00:27:15]
Through my mother I was actually born in Vietnam and I came here after the war in eighty one
I was seven and please don’t do the math. And you know my family in my family my parents
were really the only. Among their siblings who left Vietnam right so we were very very
much connected to the country always even before normalization and of course after normalization
we actually came to visit Vietnam but it’s a very different experience coming there as
a research your and part of this piece is my thinking about the experience of being
someone with this past and also now in the contemporary moment encountering that place
as a researcher so this piece and Kathy told me just to read the piece which I’m going
to do because I’ve got nothing else I have no other art projects and no not all that
was just reviewed by The New York Times So this is it Fox. [00:28:11]
And it’s called What’s to wear in Vietnam. And in Vietnam now there are restaurants so
nice that they serve you food on real plates My mother told me just before I left my my
research trip she had heard this from my on to was told by a neighbor whose own niece
had dined there the story turned out to be apocryphal but her wistfulness thing Your
And but the but the West losing your earning my mother’s recounting was very real in one
thousand nine hundred six a decade after the end of the American War Vietnam began its
courtship with the so-called free market by instituting a series of policy changes announced
as the or renovation which opened the country up to an influx of foreign goods and money
by the time I arrived in two thousand and twelve the effects of this new socialist market
economy were very visible new restaurants coffee shops hotels boutiques and malls filled
the city center and was transforming its guy in line resorts by high Hilton in the like
Elbow to each other for a space on. [00:29:14]
Countries’ coastline roadways jammed with taxi carrying Japanese Korean American Australian
and tie tourists for and to crush the sea of Mocha’s not surprisingly development was
in one form or another in everyone’s mind talk of a new airport a bullet train from
Hanoi even a subway line and speculation about a new high rises and stopping centers and
avidly sprung up in everyday conversation this was not just chatter among the rich many
people I encountered I’d welcome new restaurants into their neighborhoods and some had seen
changes in their own homes an additional four here an expanded kitchen there this is the
new Vietnam I was constantly reminded of those structures left half built by last half built
by lost investments dotted city streets and social conflicts seen in a spate of public
demonstrations were becoming widespread the narrative of progress was rarely rarely went
challenged talk of building certainly eclipsed any talk of war for a country whose name had
become synonymous with war there was very little mention of this we in the past had
the tractors clearing all that land also raise the country’s memory wasn’t even possible
to remember sitting on the silky sands of the higher Regency done that but this was
the same beach where U.S. Marines first came ashore I had not come to Vietnam looking for
answers to these questions I came to study at the booming cosmetics market and to observe
its effect on women’s beauty practices but listening to women talk about beauty it was
impossible to ignore how central the logic of development had become to an understanding
of their bodies a new look for a new time I often heard my friend now tell her clients
I was a nest as to Titian she gave facials at a local spa but her real work as she saw
I was teaching women how to take care of their bodies how to become modern when she struck
two women on their skin she stressed the same principles that city. [00:31:14]
Planners had also been pushing on recalcitrant recalcitrant residents you want your skin
to be some such sheets a bright clean beautiful planet or two urged residents especially those
farmers unwilling to vacate desired land to move for the sake of a new Saigon one that
we won with that would be clean and organized sunset green clean beautiful was their slogan
one that was alternately irresistible post I might add the beautiful city and the beautiful
body both became crucial to Vietnam’s practice of liberalisation and its assertion of modernity
beauty became a new border a dividing line between inside and outside past and future
women in particular were encouraged to see beauty as a personal responsibility and a
building block of social life they were encouraged to understand their bodily maintenance as
a practice of good citizenship akin to the maintenance of their home streets and cities
indeed women came to see the possibility of their bodily transformation as key to the
transformation of their own fates and that of their family and nation under this regime
where beauty marks certain bodies and places as potentially more valuable they understood
its pursuit as a rational calculation renovation was the right word for this new orientation
the terms of just a restoration or perhaps more appropriately make over a genre very
familiar to most Americans believe me the popular culture is less dominated by Mike
over shows but the enemies of women are not unfamiliar with the practice bar hostess says
an urban elite alike have all had noses eyes and chin surgically remade school girls and
young professionals change their clothes with the trends they have all learned the magic
of a make over perhaps make over is the best way to think about development in Vietnam
which has not been evenly dispersed or equally enjoyed scholars have to use the term on even
development to describe this kind of economic cultural political and spatial. [00:33:14]
Inequality made visible by the charming proximity of touch to Marble swimming pools a make over
suggest an even more intimate relationship one in which the new sits on top of the old
gentleman nearest faceless and foundation which can cover more than they can transform
the cracks of war are still there there is no longer any sign of the U.S. military campaign
to nag or really anywhere in the country but even the high it can raise this history then
that was a major storage site for dioxin a toxic chemical found in Agent Orange the defoliant
the US sprayed on Vietnam about twenty million gallon in total not far from the high is a
dioxin hotspot cordoned off because of extensive leakage into the ground cleanup efforts have
been slow as unexploded on exploded organs have still not been fully cleared seepage
continues because dioxin is to nations when it contaminate soil even soil remade by the
glass and steel of a new Vietnam now became minister to shoot in this landscape where
toxin seethed under cement or plumbing fails and poor star estates were surface sheen only
had sins and Soros like many women of her generation not had attended primary school
but had little additional education a friend told her about the certification course it
sounded like a chance for a new life she said now told me that over the last decade she
had lost her mother and three brothers to cancer as well as first cousins the slow violence
of Agent Orange she had repeated nightmares about dying herself and was constantly afraid
of leaving her two girls without a mother she enrolled in the chorus hoping not just
for a new job but a whole new life when we spoke I heard the same wistfulness in your
inning and you know as well as that was in my mother’s the possibility of eating off
gold plates and beautiful restaurants made my brother my mother proud of a place she
still considered home she loved all those new buildings she had known. [00:35:14]
Stouter for war would have locked her with three young children and her husband cation
camp but the new Vietnam hardly contained her ambitions for this place like not she
was as hopeful for the future as she was worried about and liking are her past clung to her
like a form fitting dress and like me are she wanted far more than a make over. [00:35:42]
In terms of. G.E.. This. Be. Shy. This. Shy. Man Ron G.. Business. He. This is for Cambodia
the names of dreamers and builders sorrow and strain this is for those who keep our
culture a. For the hidden upset in all of us beauty beneath Brown flesh for the fingers
arched towards God this is for all the children of Cambodia for those who left and for those
who never chose the leaving this is for those who are still hunting for a home and those
who made new homes in far away places this is everything that we are and everything that
we are becoming We are the ones who keep our culture alive. [00:37:35]
We arrived at the camps with nothing but the clothes on our backs I remember my five year
old fingers gripping the back of my father’s wet neck arms lapped like strands of rope
a noose at times tightening and loosening to the noises in the jungle my legs wrapped
around his back bending and branching like fresh jungle twigs he told me it was a game
and at times we’d have to run sometimes running so fast my legs swung loosely news needs beating
against his back and how he sweated all those miles away shirt so in trembling heartbeat
even the thick for alleged couldn’t garters from the sense of fear that Lloyd around us
couldn’t shield us from the torch in the sky that followed us everywhere until the new. [00:38:30]
To the moon swallowed us into the night we couldn’t silence the way the darkness teased
us with the imagined limbs of lost children the illusions cracking as we stepped on bread
or branches there was no time for hesitations only slivers of moments when we waited for
the night to slip faster into the day. [00:38:53]
And how my father speak screamed a silent din which never quite rose above the jungle
canopy his legs like iron pegs burning at the stump with each step walking running always
running and how he would do me on his back all those miles make believing it was just
another father daughter game a pig. [00:39:16]
He told me. A long piggyback ride he whispered the last piggyback ride he said. And when
it was over he promised me we never have to run again. Thirty years later. Returned to
a country I have never known the burns a hole inside my heart the size of home when I arrive
will I recognize loss and she came to greet me at the airport wishing to help me with
my bags ushered me through customs wishing to take me to my birth village point me to
the graves of ancestors which share her silence with me which she embraced me while I ask
the same questions or will I be asked to prove my belongings do I begin by pulling out the
remnants of a broken tongue Harper similarities in a sea of strangers spark the same cheekbones
and a little girl she smiles selling trinkets than a boy with that thick unmanageable wave
of hair that Kingsley his ears close in an old man with a nose broad and brown and rounded
sought catch of the mill your skull from an acid haired woman who sees me first or will
I need to look even deeper. [00:40:48]
Scanned for eyes gouged with the same Obsidian tints of regret as mine considered textures
and dry flash that easily flinches in a forest of touch watch for veins beneath wrists that
have stared down the teeth of razors trace cracked lines on open colors poems do I stitch
a patchwork of borrowed resemblances to justify my birthright or will I be at a loss for words
I wonder once I have visited Los will she stamp my exit visa. [00:41:32]
I often think about her leaving. All we left behind imagined our lives without this exit
a strength of days when I could speak to loss to tell her we didn’t choose to leave. The
leaving chose us. Believing. Chose us. He was in. A lie he. Was in. I. [00:42:33]
See. Those are just excerpts from the piece that’s in the book which is part of a larger
one woman show and I have the piece usually memorized but I was trying to stick to the
text so I started stumbling a little bit because the performative version of that is a bit
different than the one that’s on the page These are the only images that remain from
my childhood they are four images in the refugee camp in one nine hundred seventy nine. [00:43:15]
And that is the camp that. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians walked to. From. Nearby cities
especially from bottom bunk where my family is from and this was a camp in Thailand it
is not how we dung it is one that is near there and we were one of the first. [00:43:37]
Few thousands of people that came to the camp and these are my childhood photos. I made
it into this multimedia piece that is part of the one woman show called Living Memory
and living absence. It’s one of my early collaboration’s with my partner has been a hero Sudan who
did the animation of the barbed wires for me that’s me next to the care package near
my grandmother and you’ll see it kind of reposition similar to. [00:44:14]
The target. Yeah I mean we These It’s when I think about this period a lot because I
was five years old when we left when we were forced to leave Cambodia when the leaving
chose us and I would not return there for the first time until I was thirty years old
so that would be. [00:44:41]
You know twenty five years later for. The first time and then I would actually get the
chance to live there finally which was really. Eight of mine when I was awarded the U.S.
for bright fellowship to do some research there and it’s really interesting because
you know I was supposed to stay for ten months but it ended up being a last five years which
is a really magical number because. [00:45:06]
You know I lost I feel like I lost those memories as a child or because of whatever trauma that
happened during those years so instead you know I revisited that time in Cambodia and
spent five years as an adult raising my own child who then has five years of her life
and her memories so I find that really poetic and a kind of poetic justice so I’ll leave
you with that. [00:45:42]
Who everyone. My name’s motion form. Thank you to the editors and to my fellow artists
and historians for putting this together and thank you all for your presence. Of the reading
three poems. During the fall of Saigon in one nine hundred seventy five. The American
radio station played a coded message for American personnel and the song was played with Irving
Berlin’s White Christmas. [00:46:22]
And. I this poem is a meditation on the fall with the lyrics threaded through. With burning
city milk flower petals into street. Like pieces of a girl’s dress. May your days be
merry and bright he fills a teacup with champagne brings it to her lips open he says. [00:47:02]
She opens. Out of soldier spits out his cigarette as footsteps fill the square like stones fall
from the sky may you Christmases be white as the traffic God One struck his hopes to
his fingers running the hem of her white dress a single candle there shadows two with its
own military truck speeds through the intersection children shrieking inside a bicycle hurled
through a store window when the dust rises a black dog lies panting in the road its hind
legs crushed into the shine of a wife Christmas on the bed stand a sprig of Magnolia expands
like a secret her for the first time the tree tops Goodson and children listen the chief
of police face down in a pool of Coca-Cola a palm sized photo of his father soaking beside
his left ear the song moving to the city like a weirdo or white or white I’m dreaming of
a curtain of snow falling from her shoulders snow scraping against the window snow shredded
with gun fire red sky snow on the tanks rolling over the city walls a helicopter lifting the
living just out of reach the city so white it is ready for. [00:48:52]
The radio. Saying run run run. Milk flower petals on a black dog. Like pieces of a ground
stress. May your days be merry and bright she is saying something neither of them can
hear the hotel rocks beneath them the bed a field of ice Don’t worry he says as the
first shell flashes their face says My brothers have won the war and tomorrow the lights go
out. [00:49:42]
I’m training. I’m dreaming to hear slowly in the snow. In the square below. A nun on
fire run silently towards her God open he says she opens. I I came to America I was
born. In a rural village outside of Saigon. And I came to America via. A refugee camp
in the Philippines and my family are socially rice farmers so they have been literate for
centuries but they have not been emptier of sort of songs and stories and so they’ve always
told me stories and made up their own songs and poems and. [00:50:45]
As a poet I try tend to imagine what they would say or what they would write have had
they been able to write. So this is a poem in the voice of my mother that starts with
an epigraph a Vietnamese proverb in a sense calm going to be. [00:51:07]
Calm go even magical. Which roughly translates to there’s nothing like fish and rice as there
is nothing like mother and son. It’s our version of to peace in the past. Had first don’t you
know. A mother’s love. Neglects pride. The way fire neglects the cries of what it burns
my son. [00:51:52]
Even to morrow. You will have today don’t you know. There are men who touch the brass
as they would the tops of Scott. Men who carry Trimix over mountains. The dead on their backs
but only a mother can walk with the weight of a second beating heart stupid boy. [00:52:32]
You can get lost in every book. But you’ll never forget yourself the way God For guess
his hands when they ask you where you’re from. Tell them your name was flashed from the two
first mile of a war. That you were not born. But crawl out head. Headfirst. [00:53:08]
Into the hunger of darks my son. Tell them the body is a blade that sharpened. By cutting
and wrathfully. I don’t I don’t often write about the war in Vietnam but but I write with
the faith that regardless of what my subject is the war and its history will be a part
of me as it is a part of my flesh. [00:53:48]
Even if I would write about Mars I think. Come up in its own way. And. So this poem
borrows a phrase from a New York Power named Franco her in which she says. In one of the
slides success someday I. Love Frank O’Hara. Because such a wonderful. And. [00:54:14]
Tender thing to say to yourself so I wrote this call. I wrote this poem to myself titled.
Someday I will have ocean by the. Ocean Don’t be afraid the end of the road is so far had.
It is already behind us don’t worry your father is only your father. [00:54:53]
Until one of you forget like how the spine won’t remember it when. No matter how many
times or a nice kiss the pavement ocean. When you listen. The most beautiful part of your
body. Is wherever your mother’s shadow for here is the house with childhood whittled
down to a single red tree why don’t worry. [00:55:38]
Just call it horizon. And you’ll never reach it here is today. Joe. I promise it’s not
a life but. Here is the man whose arms or wide enough to gather you want the thing and
hear the moment just after the lights go out when you can still see the faint torch between
his legs how do you use it again and again to find your own hand you asked for a second
chance. [00:56:27]
And you’re given a mouth to empty out don’t be afraid. The gun fire is only the sound
of people trying to the a little longer and fair. Ocean. Ocean get up. The move beautiful
part of your body is where it’s headed and remember loneliness is still time spent with
the we’re here still. [00:57:13]
With everyone in. Your dead friends passing through you like when through what we know.
Here’s the desk with the gimp lay. In a brick to make it last. Yes here’s a room so warm
in blood clothes I swear you will wear and mistake this war. For skin. Thank you. [00:57:50]
A and. So quickly go wrong but I think that all of these. Works are from the one point
five generation and I’m wondering if you guys didn’t speak about like the differences between
the first iteration one point five and two and what we see in the differences. I mean
I can kind of stepping back and I mean I’d love to hear from folks contributors on the
panel but stepping back from an editorial perspective it’s really important to have
a range and so the collection does have work by one point five It has by our visual art
and we’re writing by folks living like really quickly we don’t know who’s in. [00:58:39]
Saigon or even city folks living and working in. In Cambodia and Laos so it was a it was
important kind of have a geographic range to have generational range to have second
generation to have one point five to have. Kind of a spectrum of response but in terms
of like your question about specific folks thinking about how that response can modulators
for them personally. [00:59:06]
I believe that the contributors. Well. I had. One point five over one point five year and
a lot of my work deals with that and I also work with a community of deportees in Cambodia.
That are also one way fibers who have had the unfortunate predicament of being deported
from the U.S. to Cambodia a place that they had never been because most of them were born
in refugee camps so it’s a very complicated identity and I think. [00:59:46]
Thematic Lee what. Is perhaps important to consider is that I feel that for one point
five years the memory and the trauma is embodied it’s still in us. Like the it’s it’s in my
body because I was born there and I went through the genocide even if I can’t remember it so
the residue the residual effects and that stain of the trauma is something that is carried
with me and. [01:00:23]
Is constant and then there is the issue of returning. When you return as. One of the
diaspora to a place that’s supposed to be your home and your motherland and all the
complexities that come around that you’re you have this. Constant insider outsider fluctuation
and that’s constant and you go in and out of it depending on the moment. [01:00:59]
If I could just add to that. And this project in some ways came out of research that I one
point five generation Cambodian American artists you know. As we know and one of the things
that was quite striking to me is I began that project thinking that one point five generation
subjects were able to break silences right so it’s very difficult for a first generation
and are like the parents of one point five generation and subjects to really narrate
that trauma for a variety of reasons and I think that that’s something that really resonates
you know in the work that was presenting what was really quite striking is like how intimate
and how focused on family this was for. [01:01:44]
But I also think that in terms of one point five generation this is just you know because
of the circumstance of who could come here you know today because if you actually look
at the collection there’s first generation one point five second generation spork artists
people who are living in Southeast Asia people who are kind of living in other locations
outside of the United States such as France and Australia but I but I do think that you’re
hitting on something that was like kind of curated for the purpose of the panel. [01:02:19]
Hi Thank you so much for your art and your readings I really appreciate this a lot. I
have a question for and maybe some of you can also jump into but I’m really interested
in the relationship between Vietnam and Cambodia and especially after. The Vietnam war how
either country. [01:02:42]
Recollects this inheritance and I was wondering how can bodie and Cambodia. Since you’ve been
living there in the past recent recently I was wondering how they reflect on this war
or even if there are some who don’t even acknowledge you know the histories that connect them.
OK that’s a very loaded question. [01:03:09]
Have you been to Cambodia. When did you go. To our. New. Users. Yeah. The history. Especially
with. The choir Rishon related history is not really taught in the curriculum in the
schools and that’s actually a recent development as a result of the E.C.C. see the tribunals
that happened with. [01:03:44]
Lots of money. It’s complicated because. People know about it because their grandmothers talk
about it and their parents mention it but the newer generation of people don’t want
to be known for it and don’t want to be trapped by it and they’re also a generation. Or so
far removed from from. [01:04:15]
The trauma and also because there’s not a collective healing that happened or a reconciliation
that happened and so. I feel that you know the trauma is just present and non present
I don’t know how else to say it. And. It’s complicated because of globalization in the
global imagination and perception of Cambodia. [01:04:42]
While people inside Cambodia are resisting that. Narrative of trauma and you know it’s
either trauma or temples you know so there’s a resistance to that as well so. I think that’s
all I can say about it it’s complicated and you don’t need to go back and like research
it you know you can go back and just talk to folks like that’s the research you talk
to your family members that are here that’s the research and then you know you carry that
knowledge with you when you go back and you talk to folks that are connected to you talk
to the driver the multitude of people you know that’s that’s where the stories are. [01:05:24]
That’s where at least to me that’s that the everyday lives of people which is something
that is persistent in my work that’s what is of interest to me. It’s not what’s. You
know what’s become of it in the history books which. People have very few of them in again
as a result of the E.C.C. in the Documentation Center of Cambodia has a textbook that’s being
distributed for free but again it’s not mass produced enough to give to everybody but it’s
a starting point. [01:05:58]
You know we. Think of US wars of the Vietnam war here and if you go to Vietnam they call
it the American War and liberal Americans like to say yes we should call it the American
war because we’re responsible for that but both of those terms are actually really inaccurate
because they allowed. [01:06:14]
Both Americans and Vietnamese to pretend to forget that the war happened in Cambodia to
an obvious about allows Americans off the hook for having to remember you know that
Americans bombed this country tremendously but it you know it also allows me to meet
people to forget that the war was not simply a warped existence against American aggression
but it was a war of the music rushing against other countries Laos and Cambodia and that
is something that’s really crucial to remember that the news don’t want to remember and obviously
the events that the enemy has also invaded Cambodia for a few years after the war in
the second in the China war that’s something they didn’t use don’t want to remember either
so if you go to Vietnam They’re all kinds of monuments memorials a museum to the heroic
resistance against Americans and I can’t think of anything about with the music in Cambodia
so it just goes to show that the Vietnamese just like the Americans are just as capable
of remembering and forgetting according to their own agendas but also you know Cambodians
don’t like these people either so there’s still quite a bit of. [01:07:19]
Racism that goes both ways around that border. And the last thing that I’ll say is that.
There was mention of the East cease trouble see the Extraordinary Chambers in the courts
of Cambodia and right now that tribunals is hearing arguments for the first charges of
genocide to ever be in a kind of promulgated in this tribunals and genocide piece of the
of the Cambodian cases of that faxed because many historians previously characterized it
as an auto genocide right because it was allegedly a classically based genocide and the crux
of the genocide. [01:07:58]
Right now for a case series or two slash zero two pivots on the extermination of Vietnamese
Cambodians right or those living in Borderlands area so you know this you know complet this
creates even a greater complication with regard to genocide politics and country. I guess
I just want to say thank you to all the contributing writer for be able to be here at the palace. [01:08:29]
And as my question is for the country writers what kind of advice would you have for aspiring
Asian American writers. You know having with a fresh in their Asian parents pushing us
toward you know being successful in medicine and everything else and then for their you
know children to go toward writing what is your advice for them I guess. [01:08:56]
I. Think it’s you know. I think I’m going to answer this one but I. Was. You know I
went to law school. And I practiced law in New York for three and a half years before
I became so miserable and suicidal that I became a writer and. Really you know how bad
it must have been to write. [01:09:30]
So I want you to know this that. I went to law school because my parents were terrified
of the fact that I would have an unstable future this is why they thought we came here
and yes. I understand that but I think ultimately what I was able finally to communicate to
the. [01:09:58]
It was that we came here also for. The simple. Desire to live as human beings and part of
that is happiness. And if you can be happy as a doctor yeah if you can be happy as a
lawyer great but some of us can be. Close to happy. [01:10:26]
By pursuing creative endeavors and if this is really it requires you to sit with your
parents and explain to them really what is at the core of you and it’s not just imposing
You know their desires or their their fears you have to meet that and you have to explain
what it’s like for you in this world and what will allow you to continue on as a human being
in the pursuit of happiness simple response but really that’s all I could ever say to
you know Immigrant and Refugee. [01:11:14]
Artists aspiring artists aspiring writers. Well. I think maybe I’m a bad example because.
My family when they got to America. They were never part of the city structure and in Saigon
and so they never dreamed of in fact there was a lot of suspicion with being a city slicker
writer and so when they arrived here going through so much trauma there their farm was. [01:11:53]
And so they fled to eventually they fled to Saigon. And so. Their life in America is often
quite precarious and. You know they’re all in debt they spend all their money it’s like
there’s a word there’s a phrase that my grandma like to say is just the lands on yourself
which is spend all your money party all night and go home early in the morning and that’s
kind of how they treated their life in America said Every day was not promised to them in
Vietnam and so when they got here they are they DID YOU KNOW WHAT ONE weeks I was so
touching because. [01:12:33]
My family was kind of like I was there it was like as long as you’re happy do it and
they saw everything as a bonus everything as you know they said Just go just to high
school and then work in the US are like us you know and I thought I was pretty good because
when I was little I would. [01:12:52]
Do the phones appointments for them and I said why you can work and watch Oprah and
I you know where where in the world can you can you work like that so I was sad. I was
I thought it was the greatest job. And so I kind of stumbled into literature and they
supported that because for them they didn’t read it. [01:13:14]
So to them it was sort of like a mystical thing right. I would sit at the kitchen table
and read you know the local newspaper or else some rag and and my mother and my family would
say everybody ocean is reading everyone clear out. And they don’t understand. [01:13:35]
Why you don’t they just look like dead ants you know. The word syllable and so I was just
sort of encouraged to do whatever and that was a great blessing because they did feel
that sense that I think you know Mo’Nique is talking about when they get here. [01:13:56]
It’s. We shouldn’t be here we almost couldn’t have could have made it. So as long as you
can have joy because it’s been so rare you don’t question or meditate on that possibility
you just live it as fully as you can and I think ultimately the immigrant story A be
an amazing American whatever generation it is is one of insistence and preservation of
job and. [01:14:31]
I just have a comment I just took that. Is very very interesting. And I was just as I
was close my eyes and listen to a lot of the stories and poems you know I began to see.
In a small way parallels. I guess some of my own ancestors who came from. [01:14:54]
The invasion and go in one thousand nine and just some of the things. Some of my family
had told me about you know after coming here and I guess the fifty’s and what that was
like just being you know and having to work or stop. What are some of the powers that
you see other peoples who come from war situations or just other situations with the parallels
relationships to use in. [01:15:28]
Syria to give the hardest question to me man. You know I mean I think I think it started
us off thinking about the parallels right about the story of the immigrant or the refugee
is not the story only of the economy’s not as or. That there are many different immigrants
and many different refugees right and that in some ways there is a kind of collective
experience or a. [01:15:54]
You know that there’s there are these stories that you know when you start to hear from
different communities they start to sound very similar not the details not in the specific
story but maybe in the feeling. Maybe in the sun’s ability maybe in the imagery that you
actually start to see a lot of these patterns. [01:16:16]
And you know I don’t I don’t have much more to say the right way but I think that one
of the interesting things for me. You know I don’t I don’t really consider myself a Vietnam
scholar or of you can raise studies scholar. You know but I carry some of this with me
as I do all kinds of war crazy and I think one of the interesting things for me is that. [01:16:40]
There’s there’s always a kind of tension between thinking about this experience right in the
kind of I can his city of the Vietnam War right so the Vietnam War becomes this kind
of metaphor for all sort of protracted in Gage lands Ray you know the joke is don’t
don’t get yourself in a land war in Southeast Asia right you know Afghanistan is the new
Vietnam or Iraq is the new me because those kind of recurring motif right now has a kind
of I Can a city to it but actually you know when we start to think about the relationship
between this and say the Philippine American war we can actually see very long historical
continuity and we start to see a kind of global continuity when we start to make the comparisons
and to make the connecting the connections and to me you know. [01:17:30]
When I start to think about these kind of historical and global power and it’s really
impossible to think of this as unique. Right well OK so when you want to talk about the
American response to the Syrian refugee crisis and it’s one of the it’s one response to the
question that was asked which is. [01:17:51]
For some you know I think when the Syrian refugee crisis happened is still happening
now many of us felt that we could see our own experiences in what was taking place and
that it was necessary for us to speak out in to make those connections explicit that
what happened to us as refugees and turned some of us into boat people and some of us
in the land refugees and so on was this something that the United States was willing to address
because it had no choice everybody knew the U.S. was responsible for for what had happened
in the U.S. was forced to take some kind of action but with the Syrian refugee crisis
there was a distinct sense that most people didn’t feel that the U.S. had anything to
do with this therefore the best didn’t need to respond and so it was necessary for Americans
who were refugees to step forth and say no we actually see a similarity here between
what happened to us what happens what’s happening to these other people and that it’s our obligation
as Americans but also as people who benefited from these American policies to force or to
encourage Americans and others to see the similarities between these kinds of situations
so that’s not that not all these people feel that way either some of it Mr Bush they were
different refugees were better refugees the Syrians are Muslims we’re not we’re not like
that so it’s a divided community but it’s it’s necessary for for those of us who see
these connections to make those connections because we benefit from those. [01:19:19]
Feelings and sentiments ourselves. So we’re living in the country that did this to the
end harm in a lot of different ways and not only that but. You know Merican stem cells
have a very distorted view of what happened in Vietnam to this day Vietnam is a big part
of of the. [01:19:40]
Of course about foreign policy and yet most Americans have very little idea what happened
you guys. The contributing writers among you do you see your work as as challenging the
dominant narrative in America about what happened in Vietnam or do you see your work as something
separate something that is kind of complementing. [01:20:00]
Or or intervening in a different way. Well I mean a lot of people have told told me Americans
are not getting use of told me why did we didn’t know anything about refugees or we
didn’t know about this aspect of the Vietnam War And you know the perspective that you
bring that is me to this is something that Americans haven’t seen before and that was
for me something that I wanted to do but what I don’t want to do with this book and in response
to your question is to to reaffirm the sense that it was only Americans who did this to
the Vietnamese people because that contributes to the sense of guilt that Americans have
and it contributes to this this whole issue that the Vietnamese in Vietnam would certainly
want Americans to keep on feeling guilty because it deflects any guilt that the Vietnamese
people might have and part of the point of the novel and part of the what I really believe
is that yes the Americans and the French and the Chinese and the Soviets all of that stuff
to the Vietnamese people and the Chinese can’t get the Chinese. [01:20:56]
But ultimately the Vietnamese people did it to themselves too and that is a sort of a
moral ethical political problem that video these people have a really hard time confronting
or acknowledging and it’s absolutely necessary for artists to speak about this one community
to to to be able to foreground that because I don’t know what the rest of the panels experiences
are but when I go back to Vietnam the discourse is not like the Americans did this us this
courses You overseas Vietnamese person give me some money because you know we’re all part
of this history and we’re bound together and that’s that’s one aspect of how it is that
Vietnamese people this is really our. [01:21:40]
History not necessarily just a history of what Americans did to us a for me I would
say that there was a there was a decision that I made with my first novel to set it
in Paris in the one nine hundred twenty S. in the one nine hundred thirty S. [01:21:58]
with a Vietnamese character there it was one way to remind Americans that Vietnamese people
existed prior to their involvement in our country so I’m not the French were way ahead
in terms of oppression. And the desire to broadcast so and before that of course the
Chinese and so on so it was you know. [01:22:25]
I so that decision was very purposeful You know it was really intentional that I wrote
that it was in a novel my first novel in Paris you know that was set in Paris so that was
one way that I tried to sort of expand the discussion. Of. What it means to be or what
the history of Vietnam. [01:22:55]
Yeah I’ll just add that. You know by way of a kind of a sideway answer you know when I
was in Vietnam during my research you know I kind of approaching it thinking like you
know that there is this kind of shadow cast by America on Vietnam right and you know following
with and what I needed was saying you know you start to talk to all these people and
no one’s talking about America no one’s talking about the U.S. or they’re talking in very
sort of distant and kind of you know abstract ways about a right they’re really concerned
about you know Chinese trying to claim land on the South China Sea right they’re really
concerned about Korean cultural imperialism in Korean economic development in contemporary
Vietnam they’re really concerned about what is happening in the. [01:23:40]
Right and to me that was a very sort of revealing in the ways in which you know we ourselves
have an investment in thinking of this is a story about Vietnam’s relation to the United
States and will always be that story and in the contemporary moment it really is not the
story. [01:23:59]
The I just want to quickly throw out if I may. As talking about her work and and there
was talking about his novel not only providing a kind of alternate or counter history but
I think in the kind of the work of Gertrude Stein that she’s taking up and then in the
kind of the hamlet of the Apocalypse Now is like pointing to the how the very fact of
what you’re asking is like how representation in the grand narratives have been controlled
by American media forms and one of the one of the things we’re trying to do in the collection
overtly we have a whole section devoted to thinking about the non war film as John or
and as a control of the of the narrative and trying to subvert that actively and like work
through and around and what are the stories behind that what does that include and how
can we think how those of operated. [01:24:51]
I just want to say that. I hold America Kambal for a lot of the issues that. Have to do with
the fallout of what’s happening specially with the deportations of Cambodian Americans
and that has everything to do with US geopolitics and the bombing and destabilization of Cambodia
which led way to for the Khmer Rouge to really take power which led to the genocide and the
refugee situation in which the US Open doors to these very refugees that they brought but
they didn’t have a plan in place so they put them in the inner cities where they faced
more violence. [01:25:34]
Racial issues poverty you know the economic violence and so many of these young men and
women went into. You know gang life and. Committed crimes and as a result of many things. Immigration
law was the the Patriot Act the war on terror all of these. Really heavy things that are
related to the U.S. policies that don’t consider. [01:26:10]
Like the real follow through on on accepting refugees so I mean all this is to say that
there are some really. Disturbing policies that continue to affect people of my generation
that have been unfairly deported from the US and have to live their lives in exile away
from the culture that they know and the families that they have come up upon and the communities
that they have existed all their lives in the for being put in jail and then. [01:26:47]
You know deported. My families for most of the work and in reviewing. The fighters I
found that a lot of them went to train in Vietnam before going back to resist and also
the door and in my community there’s a lot of pride that these presidents and students
were able to organize and resist the super of the super power and bring them to the negotiating
table. [01:27:15]
I wonder So when I go to write I have an interesting relationship when I’m trying to depict violence
resistance violent resistance and I wonder what kind of what kind of feelings do you
have what kind of things complicate when you try to engage with the violent resistance
of the Viet Cong in your writings Well I mean part of the first the response of the first
part of your question about about Salvadorans who were inspired by the Vietcong that was
part of the history right that the for a while the revolution was seen as. [01:27:48]
A noble thing and sort of sad that in the twenty or thirty years after the triumph of
that revolution the Vietnamese revolutionaries really squandered that goodwill and simply
became another state that oppressed its people right but in the question of depiction of
violence is really. A hard one because you know I mean in my case my book has a lot of
violence you know a lot of violence and a lot of violence you know and I was I was troubled
by that because how do you ethically depict this without enjoying it. [01:28:21]
Because you know again referring to American movies of the Vietnam War a lot of it is very
violent but you get the sense that you’re you’re supposed to enjoy watching these people
get killed and everything like that so the way that I sort of dealt with that is to acknowledge
that this kind of violence is happening that they’re going to be pleasure undertaken in
doing the violence and watching the violence or reading about the violence but also you
know to give away something about what happens in the book I subject my own narrator to a
lot of violence. [01:28:50]
So that he himself is held responsible for some of the forced forces that he unleashed.
In the book is also very self-conscious about what it means to talk about violence so there’s
quite a bit of discussion about you know why are we watching this movie why are we what
does it mean to to look at representations of violence so I think that’s also one way
to deal with it too is to to be aware in if you’re writing about violence or torture or
trauma to be aware of what it means to to write or about that or to depict out and try
to figure out you know as an artist how you’re going to signal to the reader that you’re
not simply doing it. [01:29:27]
For the sake of doing it right but some of it that’s not a great response but the best
I got. OK I don’t write about. Violence in terms of war in my work and I’ll tell you
why and I say this from just a very personal point of view it’s not to discourage you from. [01:29:54]
Approaching it as a writer to me war is the in of creativity war is the end of human imagination
it’s it’s when there’s nothing left and. As I say that what I’m of course knowledge is
that the aftermath of war is where art exists again where creativity and imagination begins
again and that’s when if you apply that to violence I would say it’s the survival of
violence. [01:30:34]
That interests me personally and I say this and I can see your faces you know so shaking
like hey lady that’s not how I’m going to do it but good I’m glad because there should
be multiple voices multiple approaches and this is why. Personally I mean I’m I mentioned
when I was standing up there I’m so glad that Viet book is out there that he and so many
other Vietnamese American novelists are out there now because Very have a different point
of view and so I don’t have to be that the point of view so for your I hope there’s a
lot of the summer during and Americans out there writing as well so that you won’t have
to be the point of view either so good luck. [01:31:22]
I think of that question a lot because there’s so much at the Go weight that has to be put
on the game. When I first started writing it I didn’t know Vietnam was a subject I couldn’t
even write about you know do you enter the tradition of the poetics and all you have. [01:31:41]
Is all the white men named Robert getting lost in the world. And so I thought in order
to have a seat at the table you had to enter through there and so I. Drew myself education
of the. History even before the Vietnam War I realised that violence is part of our human
history and I didn’t want to deny myself. [01:32:12]
That gays and it also had sort of deals with has to do with ideas of beauty I think I’m
very wary of making violence beautiful. And I think I echo what Monique says where it
is not necessarily the violence that interests me but the survival out of it because there’s
an opportunity for me as an artist to redefine what beauty means and for me in beauty is
the living despite violence. [01:32:53]
And in order to do that one has to acknowledge the facts of where we’ve come from. I think
a there’s a sea foam the sort of sea sponge It’s a beautiful creature to me it’s statically
quite hideous but if you were to cut it up. And you threw it into this bath tub within
a couple hours it really attaches itself seamlessly to me that’s what poetry and art can do. [01:33:27]
And it does so for me by beginning to acknowledge that violence as part of ourselves. But also
celebrating in fight trying to redefine what it means to move forward despite the ugliness
of our histories Atlanta and.

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