Cultural Crossroads: The Formation of Vietnamese American Consciousness for the 1.5 Generation

Pham, Vu Hong

University of California
Irvine, Calif.



The initial waves of Asian immigrants in the United States underwent many diverse Asian American experiences, as did their American born children. Many of these children reached a level of awareness in their identities in which they actively acknowledged that they were Asian American of a particular type (Chinese American, Korean American, etc..). This signified the beginning of Asian American consciousness, in which these persons distinguished themselves from their respective Asian cultures, as well as from mainstream American culture. These first groups of American born Asians, however, did not have the opportunity to learn from existing models of Asian American consciousness, since they themselves were the first Asians to arrive in America. They struggled to define and construct their identities as Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Korean Americans, Filipino Americans, or Asian Indian Americans. In contrast, Asian immigrants from these same Asian countries who arrived after the late 1960's Asian American movements possessed the opportunity to witness the existence and interactions of their respective Asian American groups. For example, a Chinese immigrant arriving after 1970 could view various perspectives of Chinese American identity as models of adaptation to accept, alter or reject. In addition, the opportunity to study the existence of Asian American panethnicity, a collective individual Asian American identities, also becomes available to this second group.


In contrast to either of these cases, the first waves of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian refugees arrived in the U.S. during a historical context when the existence of Asian American panethnic consciousness precedes that of Vietnamese American consciousness. This differs from the first waves of Asian immigrants, who came at a time when this panethnic consciousness did not exist. However, unlike the other Asian immigrant groups arriving from these same Asian countries, these post-late 1960's refugee groups do not have the opportunity to examine the existence of any Asian American consciousness relating to their own Asian culture. For example, the Vietnamese refugee, who arrived after 1975, could not study Vietnamese American consciousness as a model of adaptation simply because it did not exist. This transitions into one major focus of this project, which is to examine the interaction of Asian American panethnicity with the development of Vietnamese American consciousness for 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans. However, I do not address the older generation of Vietnamese in America, because they continue to identify themselves as Vietnamese, not Vietnamese American. Therefore, Asian American panethnicity does not pose a very crucial impact on the development of their identities.

I have chosen to focus on Vietnamese Americans within the Vietnamese American Coalition (VAC) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) over other post-late 1960's Asian immigrant waves. Although Asian American panethnicity can

potentially play a role in identity development for other initial waves of post-late 1960's Asian immigrants and refugees, the members of VAC represent one of those Asian American groups who have actively incorporated Asian American panethnicity into the construction of Vietnamese American consciousness.

In terms of identity and consciousness development, this project argues several major points. First, it defines the 1.5 generation of Vietnamese Americans and argues that while the experiences of the individual members were diverse, the group as a whole shared a common feeling of disorientation during their migration. Second, VAC demonstrates the existence of a visible and organized movement to construct, develop and promote Vietnamese American consciousness. In addition, Asian Americans who formed their individual Asian American consciousness prior to the existence of Asian American panethnicity reconciled aspects of their individual Asian cultures with mainstream culture. In contrast, Vietnamese Americans arrived at a moment when this panethnic consciousness already existed. This leads to the third point, which argues that whereas these earlier initial waves of Asian Americans experienced a bi-level cultural influence, 1.5 generation Vietnamese American members of VAC experienced a tri-level cultural influence. These three levels of cultural components come from Vietnamese culture, mainstream American culture and Asian American panethnicity. The third component serves as a tool to awaken Vietnamese American consciousness for these VAC members, as well as to reconcile Vietnamese and

mainstream American cultures. Finally, through the intersection of these three cultural influences, which create a “cultural crossroad,” I argue that Vietnamese American consciousness comes into being. This new consciousness is diverse and in its early stages of development. However, before directly engaging in these arguments, an overview of American immigration, Asian American experiences and the development of Asian American consciousness will be discussed in order to provide a historical context.

A Brief Overview of American Immigration

The history of American immigration consists of an large and intricate patchwork of events and experiences which have shaped our country as we know it today. In his book, Strangers in the Land, John Higham provides a detailed study of American immigration history through patterns of nativism. According to Higham, “nativism, therefore, should be defined as intense opposition to an internal minority on the ground of its foreign (i.e., “un-American”) connections”

1. Higham, John, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925. Altheneum, New York, 1972, pg 4

. This anti-immigrant attitude characterizes the social, economic and political climate of late nineteenth and early twentieth century American history. Various forms of nativism pervade throughout the course of American history, such as anti-catholic nativism, nativism which seeks to define a positive model of what an American should be, and anti-racial nativism against non-Anglo-Saxons

2. Ibid., chpt. 1

. Economic
motivations lured immigrants into the United States in order to serve as laborers who could increase the industry and economy of this nation, or as Higham states, “to people their vacant lands and develop their economies”

3. Ibid., chpt. 1, pg 17

. However, as economic conditions declined for the working class, nativism arose to combat the perceived economic, social and political threats posed by immigrants. The nativists accused immigrants of stealing their jobs and taking from the American economy without contributing to it. In addition, non-Protestants and non-Anglo-Saxons became scapegoats for tarnishing the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant society that dominated America during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Those immigrants most distinguishable and distant, both culturally and racially, suffered most at the hands of nativists. With specific regard to Asians in America, Higham states that nativists most fiercely targeted Chinese Americans legally, as well as illegally. On the latter level, Chinese Americans experienced violence through such acts as lynching or mass scale anti-Chinese riots

4. Ibid., pp. 24-26

. In addition, this minority group was viewed as a threat to “white civilization.” As well as economic factors, EuroAmericans feared the potential subversion of the white race through the “impurities” produced through miscegenation and the spread of the sordid Chinese culture. These beliefs formed a central factor roots of this anti-Chinese hysteria

5. Ibid., pg 170

. The nativist belief against the perceived “yellow peril” escalated in intensity after the arrival of the Japanese to America. The myth of the “yellow
peril” was the irrational paranoia that the peoples of Asia were attempting to invade and conquer white America

6. Ibid., pp. 166=167

. American immigration from the perspective of the immigrants themselves differed greatly from nativist views. Oscar Handlin's book, The Uprooted, focuses heavily upon the alienation of the immigrant experience. This includes the factors which forced immigrants to move from their homelands and the general disruption of their lives during this movement from one place to another. In addition, Handlin chronicles the feeling of foreignness that they had while attempting to adjust to life in America. For these former rural dwelling immigrants, the struggle to adapt to urban lifestyles proved the greatest challenge. The change from nature to the hard and artificially constructed surroundings of the city created a sense of disorientation for these immigrants. The overwhelming nature of the tall and unnatural buildings in the city imposed a feeling of smallness on these immigrants and further reinforced their alienation and loneliness. The shift from working on the farm to inhabiting the role of factory laborers added to the harsh obstacles of adjustment. In addition, these jobs paid very little and were the ones which no native would take because they were viewed to be the undesirable and lowly jobs of American society

7. Handlin, Oscar, The Uprooted Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 1973, chpts. 3,4


The children of these immigrants also experienced the rigors of city life. Because their parents were forced to work during the day, many children roamed the streets. The parents could not attend to rearing their children and teaching them the values

that they themselves had been taught by their parents. To further exacerbate this problem, parents could barely provide enough food, clothing and other necessities to smooth their children's transition from their home villages to life in the city. With specific regard to education, many children suffered an identity crisis as a result of cultural conflicts between the teachings in schools and the lessons learned from the immigrant parents at home. These immigrant children learned lessons about such ideas as family life from both their teachers and their books, yet what was taught to them did not reflect their own immigrant experiences. According to Handlin, the books taught in schools often did not pertain to the lives of immigrant children. He states, “The whole {school} book is false because nothing in it touches on the experience of its readers and no element in their experience creeps into its pages”

8. Ibid., chpt. 9, pg 220


This lack of representation in their curriculum created a sharp divide between their lives in school and at home. Each of these places were like separate realms of existence for these immigrant children. Each possessed their own modes of behavior and the children learned to abide by the modes relevant to each particular sphere. This resulted in a cultural tension between-school and home because these children received mixed lessons from both places. As a result, the children needed to somehow reconcile these differences. In many cases, what ensued was a generational and cultural gap between immigrant parents and their children. The former gap emerged through differences in values

and beliefs between generations which existed because of the different historical contexts in which the two groups lived. However, the cultural gap became another major factor because the parents and children both had to confront the cultural tensions between their home culture and that of this new foreign country

9. Ibid., chpt. 9


Asian American Experiences

Although Handlin's book provides an insightful perspective on American immigration in the nineteenth century and raises issues such as the lack of immigrant representation in school curriculums, the book itself ignores the experiences of certain immigrant groups. Handlin's study focuses on European immigrants, especially southern and eastern Europeans, yet purports to chronicle the experiences of immigrants in general. We must break from this constrictive eurocentric historical study by supplementing and revisioning history to represent the experiences of immigrant groups typically excluded. Asian immigrants suffer from this exclusion problem and in the few cases in which they have been represented, little mention has been given about them.

`Only recently have scholars attempted to thoroughly research the experiences of Asian immigrants to America and provide the attention and academic study that this body of history deserves. This recent interest in the study of Asian American experiences has brought about a growing amount of studies on this topic. In

order to better understand the experiences of Vietnamese in America, a general overview of major aspects of Asian American history must be provided.

First, we need to define what comprises these Asian American experiences. No one experience can characterize the broad and diverse range of Asian American experiences. Any Asian in America undergoes some type of Asian American experience, which consists of many types of interactions, from the cultural tensions and similarities which can arise between Asian and non-Asian cultures, to the racism and discrimination experienced by Asians in America. In addition, the personal changes experienced by these Asians or the people with whom they interact, also contribute to the definition of Asian American experiences. In other words, the numerous manners and degrees in which Asians in America affect and are affected by the society around them defines Asian American experiences. The term “the Asian American experience” projects the notion of a singular Asian American experience and can potentially lead one to search for or place a certain Asian American experience over others. To avoid this confusion, I have opted to employ the term “Asian American experiences” in my study to represent the diversity of experiences which characterize the lives of Asians in America.

As part of the context of Asian American experiences, Asian immigration to the United States plays a vital role. Scholars often apply the model of “push-pull” factors toward Asian immigration. This model consists of “push” factors, which are

generally harsh conditions forcing the immigrants out of their countries of origin from which they came. The “pull” factors attract immigrants to the host country, America in this case, for various economic, political, social or religious reasons. For most Asian immigrants to America, the search for better economic opportunities and images of a better lifestyle drew them toward this new land. This migration occurred as part of the larger context of the spread of capitalism and technology, which created a need for more laborers to promote economic growth

10. Chan, Sucheng, Asian Americans: An Interpretive History. Twayne Publishers Boston, Massachusetts, 1989. chpts. 1,2,8 Takaki, Ronald, Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Penguin Books, New York, 1989, chpts. 1,2


For the early wave of Chinese immigrants entering America, economic, political and social “push” factors influenced their immigration. Great Britain's domination over much of China's market and government during the nineteenth century caused many Chinese to lose their jobs. This occurred because the Chinese businesses and industries could not compete with the import market influenced by Great Britain. In addition, the large influx of opium to China created more addicts and impeded progress on many levels. Internal rebellions also forced many Chinese out of their homelands. The “pull” factors of America included the potential economic opportunities and the idealized images of freedom for the Chinese. These images include references to America as “Gold Mountain” because it seemed to offer vast quantities of gold and wealth to be attained by the Chinese

11. Chan, chpts. 1,2 Daniels, Roger and Kitano, Harry, Asian Americans: Emerging Minorities. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1988, chpt.3


For the Japanese, the Meiji Restoration of 1868 created “push” factors. The Japanese government heavily taxed farmers

based on their land value, rather than how much they produced each harvest season. This had a great negative impact on Japanese farmers, because they were often driven to poverty. Eventually, the farmers left Japan for America in search of better opportunities. In addition, the Japanese government also exempted students and those emigrating abroad from serving in the military in order to encourage relations with the United States and to learn more about the western way of life. The “pull” factor of American capitalists in search of cheap labor also induced recruiters to look toward Japan to satisfy these economic needs. This further stimulated the desire of many Japanese to seek labor in America in order to hopefully benefit from this economic opportunity

12. Chan, chpts. 1,2 Daniels and Kitano, chpt. 5


For Koreans and Filipinos, similar “pull” factors existed, many of which were economic in nature. Like the Japanese, the Hawaiian sugar plantation owners sent many recruiters over to Korea and the Philippines to attract workers from these lands as another source of cheap labor. Americans were sent to Korea to teach Koreans the culture and Christian religion of the west in order to assimilate them into EuroAmerican culture and potentially bring some over to America for labor. Filipino laborers were also seen as attractive to American capitalists because their status as U.S. nationals helped both the capitalists and the Filipinos themselves to circumvent many immigration laws and barriers

13. Chan, chpts. 1,2 Daniels and Kitano, chpts. 7,9


The movement of Asian Indians was in a much smaller number

and unlike other immigrant groups, many did not come to the same places in United States. They did not enter the U.S. through Hawaii, but instead went through Canada and also toward the west coast regions of the U.S. In addition, many were not recruited as laborers, but sought labor in the U.S. on their own and even paid their way in order to enter the U.S. as an investment toward a better life

14. Chan, chpts. 1,2 Daniels and Kitano, chpt. 8


As discussed in the nativist movements, the large influx of Asian immigrants into the U.S. created an anti-Asian sentiment stemming primarily from economics. Anglo laborers felt that Asians were stealing their jobs and the rising notions of race during the nineteenth century also greatly contributed to this Asian American scapegoating on the part of nativists. One of the most visible impacts of these nativist attitudes arose in the form of anti-Asian legislation, particularly in the area of immigration. This began with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned the entry of Chinese immigrants solely on the fact that they were nationally and ethnically Chinese. Although Chinese students, teachers, merchants and diplomats still possessed the right to enter the U.S., the majority of Chinese immigrants, which were the laborers, were denied entry

15. Chan, pg 54 Daniels and Kitano, pp. 11-12 Takaki, pp. 14,40

. However, resistance on the part of Chinese Americans was enacted through organizations such as the Chinese Six Companies, which hired white lawyers to fight against this piece of discriminatory legislature

16. Chan, pg 65


Similarly, the Gentleman's Agreement of 1907-1908 halted

Japanese labor immigration to the United States when the Japanese government agreed to cease issuing passports to Japanese laborers. However, both the Japanese and American governments agreed to this act and acted jointly to ensure its enactment

17. Chan, pp. 16,18,55 Daniels and Kitano, pg 12

. In 1917, the passage of the Barred Zone Act denied potential immigrants living in a particular zone the right to immigrate to the U.S. This zone included China, South and Southeast Asia, yet exempted Japan, Samoa and the Philippines from the denial of entrance

18. Chan, pg 55 Daniels and Kitano, pg 12

. Another major piece of legislation was the 1924 Immigration Act, which expanded the range of Asian immigrant exclusion to the Japanese. Although European immigrants received quotas limiting their numbers, they still had fairly sizable limits, with ceilings as high as 65,000 in some areas. In contrast to this large number of European immigrants, this law limited the immigration quota on Asian countries to a mere 100 immigrants per year. Basically, this act based its criteria on race, with anti-Asian tones as its central focus

19. Chan, pp. 55,106 Daniels and Kitano, pg 12 Takaki, pp. 209-210


Not until 1943 did these anti-Asian immigration laws loosen their grip, with the repeal of all the Chinese Exclusion Acts. In addition, this repeal allowed the Chinese in America the opportunity to naturalize and included a small annual immigration quota of 105 for the Chinese

20. Chan, pg 122 Daniels and Kitano, pp. 16-17

. In 1952, the McCarran-Walter Act proved a large step toward reversing the racially discriminatory laws previously passed. This act removed ethnicity and race as criteria preventing naturalization and
barring immigration and sought to unify families separated during the immigration process and immigration restrictions. This greatly increased the influx of Asian immigrants, with over 60,000 Japanese and 30,000 Chinese immigrants entering the U.S. between the years of 1952 and 1965

21. Chan, pg 142 Daniels and Kitano, pg 15

. The largest piece of U.S. immigration legislation to follow the McCarran-Walter Act was the 1965 Immigration Act, which removed national origins as the criteria barring immigration and highly emphasized family reunification. Since the passage of this act, Asian immigration has tremendously increased, from an annual rate of approximately 17,000 in 1965, to over 250,000 per year after 1981

22. Arnold, Fred, Urmil Minocha, and James T. Fawcett, “The Changing Face of Asian Immigration to the United States,” in Pacific Bridges: The New Immigration From Asia and the Pacific Islands, 1987, pp. 111, 119 Chan, pp. 145-147 Daniels and Kitano, pp. 16-17


Although one can examine Asian American experiences through the context of migration and legislation, we must also acknowledge the fact that Asians in America were not only affected by their surroundings during their experiences, but that they also greatly impacted American society. One of the most noteworthy Asian American contributions to America is their labor toward construction of the railroads by Chinese workers, which stimulated growth in the American economy. This also precipitated social changes, such as the increase in westward migration and the growth of large urban centers as a result of these large transportation networks. In addition, the labor provided by Asian Americans toward agriculture also proves to have increased the economic success of the United States in terms of agriculture as well as industry

23. Chan, chpts. 2,4 Nee, Brett de Bary and Victor Nee, Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown. chpt. 1

. The emergence of many Asian American communities also serves as visible evidence that
these immigrant populations have rooted themselves into the intricate patchwork of American society. Despite these emergences, many Asian groups in America continued to identify themselves on the basis of their individual Asian identities and not as a collective of Asians. For example, the Chinese considered themselves to be distinct from the Japanese and other Asian groups. Therefore, when I refer to these Asian American accomplishments, I use this term to represent the diversity of individual Asian groups and not Asian Americans as a collective. This ethnic “disidentification” often prevented unity among Asian groups in America.

On a political level, Asian Americans have increasingly become involved by either directly occupying official positions on various levels of government or participate in advocacy groups which influence politics. Another major accomplishment lies in the arts in which many Asian American writers, poets and filmmakers have contributed to the diversity of American art

24. Chan, chpt. 9

. The various aspects of Asian American experiences which I have discussed only represent a small portion of the vast range and diversity of this groups' experiences, but should serve as an adequate context toward establishing the notion of an Asian American consciousness.

The Context of Vietnamese Influx into the United States

The immigration context for the Vietnamese differs from

other Asian groups to arrive to the U.S. because the former are refugees who were forced to flee from Vietnam, rather than immigrants in search of better opportunities abroad. Following the fall of Saigon, the Vietnamese were forced from their homelands by the northern Vietnamese communists, or the Viet Cong, in 1975. This signified the first wave of Vietnamese to flee from Vietnam. Most of these refugees left their country of origin with no possessions, and in many cases, with absolutely no food or water. They often journeyed for days, even weeks, without provisions or any idea of their potential destinations. Fleeing from communist persecution was the most dominant and pervasive thought on their minds. Forced to seek asylum, many were sent to the United States and Europe. Between May 1975 and December 1977, approximately 203,000 Indochinese refugees, the majority of them Vietnamese, were resettled in various countries around the world. A large number of Indochina's first refugee wave were sent to either the United States or France, with numbers consisting of 148,355 and 37,353, respectively. Of the refugee population in America between these years, over 130,000 were Vietnamese. Lesser numbers of refugees were allowed to enter countries such as Canada, Australia, Malaysia, West Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom

25. Montero, Daniel, Vietnamese Americans: Patterns of Resettlement and Socioeconomic Adaptation in the United States. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1979, pp. 3-4

Whereas immigration characterizes the pre-1965 Asian migration to the U.S., the post-1965 period comprises of a mixture of immigrants and refugees. On a legal level, the acts which accompanied the 1965 Immigration Act greatly aided

refugees, specifically Southeast Asians, in need of assistance to flee their countries and resettle in the U.S. Thus, unlike pre-1965 immigration conditions, Southeast Asians arrived to the U.S. during a climate in which the American government had not only lifted many immigration restrictions against Asians, but actually supported these refugees' plight. This included plans of evacuation to help the “Indochinese who had supported U.S. policy,” which encompassed “50,000 `high risk' Vietnamese, including past and present government employees, officials who cooperated in the evacuation, those with knowledge of U.S. government intelligence operations, vulnerable political and intellectual figures, Communist defectors, employees of U.S. firms and participants in U.S. government sponsored programs”

26. Jones, Jr., Woodrow and Paul J. Strand, Indochinese Refugees in America: Problems of Adaptation and Assimilation. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 1985, pg 32

. In addition, the 1975 Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act reimbursed state governments with federal funds in exchange for medical and social service assistance toward Southeast Asian refugees. Voluntary agencies, or “volags,” also aided these refugees with resettlement in the U.S. and received federal grants of $500 for each refugee that they helped

27. Chan, pg 156

. Another major act passed was the Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980, which defines who qualifies for entrance into the U.S. as a refugee and created several agencies to aid these refugees in their adjustment to life in the U.S., as well as providing the social services necessary for this process. In general, Southeast Asians entered America at a time in which, at least legally, they were welcomed by the U.S.

28. Article by Arnold, Minocha and James Chan, chpt. 8 Daniels and Kitano, chpt. 11 Gordon, Linda, “Southeast Asian Refugee Migration to the United States,” in Pacific Bridges: The New Immigration from Asia and the Pacific Islands. 1987, Jones and Strand, chpt. 3 Rutledge, Paul, The Vietnamese Experience in America. Indiana University Press, Indiana, 1992, pp. 36-40



Despite this open U.S. attitude toward Vietnamese refugees, the latter felt and continue to feel displaced in America and many longed to return to their homes. However, this climate of legal assistance for Vietnamese refugees allowed them to form ethnic enclaves within the U.S. These enclaves grew most quickly in terms of economics, which is surprising when one considers that this group entered as refugees and often without money. Although many still rely on welfare or occupy low paying jobs, the Vietnamese community as a whole has prospered at an unexpectedly quick rate. One example lies within “Little Saigon,” or the Vietnamese community in Orange County, where the overseas Vietnamese take pride in their ability to establish strong roots in America:

If you look from the perspective that this is a group of people who came from '75 with nothing on their backs, basically, they lost everything. They lost their country, they left their possessions, they left in panic… they have nothing. They are in a very, very desperate situation. And then, barely ten years after that, they succeeded to come back from the brink. They succeeded to establish a good, vibrant business community. They succeeded to make a decent living for their family. So the two biggest successes of the Vietnamese community is the business community, a very vibrant business community, and the academic successes of the younger Vietnamese.

29. Interview with Nguyen Trong Loc, July 29, 1993

Another community leader expresses similar economic and community sentiments as he discusses the visible accomplishments of the Vietnamese in Orange County:

There are almost 1000 shops and offices in Little Saigon. I think that's wonderful. That's the most significant of our accomplishments, that's the strongest one and that's concrete proof we can see.

30. Interview #1 with Luu Trung Khao, July 9, 1993

From the perspective of these two community leaders, as well as

researchers, the Vietnamese have formed affluent communities in the United States

31. Baldwin, Beth C., Patterns of Adjustment: A Second Look at Indochinese Resettlement in Orange County. Immigrant and Refugee Planning Center, Orange, California, 1984.

. The largest community lies in Orange County, California, with a 1990 estimate of 120,000 Vietnamese

32. Los Angeles Times Newspaper, January 23, 1990, B-10

. However, this should not prevent one from acknowledging that the Vietnamese community in Orange County remains immune to social, economic and political problems. For example, the gang problem persists in this area and crime continues to exist as a major issue. In addition, many businesses fail in this area and many still suffer from low incomes. Despite these problems, the emergence of the Vietnamese community in Orange County compels scholars to study its people. This project, in particular, focuses on the 1.5 generation of activists who work within this community.

Defining and Tracing the Development of Asian American Consciousness

Although I have examined major portions of Asian American experiences, we must draw a distinction between this term and the term Asian American consciousness. Again, when I refer to Asian Americans, the intent is not to portray them as a collective, but this term signifies the diversity among individual Asian American groups. The definition of Asian American experiences encompasses all Asians in America, because any Asian who interacts within American society undergoes some type of Asian American experience. In contrast, the latter term only applies to select

persons and/or groups of Asians in America. The term Asian American consciousness means an ideology which actively emphasizes that a person of Asian descent in America exists as a person with a unique identity and culture different from any of the Asian cultures of Asia, yet also distinguishable from other non-Asian portions of American society. In addition, these individual Asian American consciousness combines varying degrees of their particular Asian culture and EuroAmerican culture toward a unique identity and culture. For example, some Chinese in America have merged aspects of Chinese culture with EuroAmerican culture to form a distinct Chinese American culture. As part of this definition, we must note that a diverse range of Asian American consciousness exists, as opposed to any single definitive one.

In order to more thoroughly comprehend this concept of Asian American consciousness, a discussion of the general notions of its formation and development becomes necessary. For most Asian American groups, the ethnic enclave represents the means by which most first generation members of these groups tend to adjust to American society. The ethnic enclave serves as a means of social and emotional support for these immigrants in order to aid in their adjustment to the foreign American society. In addition, the hostility, racism and discrimination from the host society also contributes as a factor which compels many individual Asian American groups to turn inward toward forming a self-sufficient ethnic enclave, nearly independent from the mainstream. Economic

self-sufficiency occupies a central focus for these enclaves, because they depend upon at least a certain level of economic affluence to exist within American society. This enclave also preserves many aspects of these immigrants' original culture, both as a resistance toward mainstream American culture and to act as a haven for an Asian American immigrant who feels a stranger within the American mainstream

33. Chan, chpt. 4 Daniels and Kitano, chpts. 3-6,9 Jones and Strand, chpt. 9 Wong, Bernard, Chinatown: Economic Adaptation and Ethnic Identity of The Chinese. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., chpt. 4


The initial wave of Chinese and Japanese immigrants to the U.S. and the communities which they formed serve as evidence demonstrating the history of this ethnic enclave model. For example, the Chinese constructed many organizations, such as the Chinese Six Companies and the Consolidated Chinese Benevolent Associations, which were dominated by merchants. These organizations proved a means of economic support, community leadership and even legal representation for those Chinese dwelling in these ethnic enclaves. Like most Asian American groups, the Chinese often organized on the grounds of kinship bonds, shared dialect, common location from their original provinces, common economic and political interests, or religious reasons. The Japanese also formed similar groups, such as the Japanese Association of America and the Kenjinkai (prefectural association) in order to provide mutual assistance and social support for the members of the Japanese American ethnic enclaves and to also protect these communities from outside hostility. Korean associations often formed with a strong religious background and were often organized by churches, reflecting the

Christian values already embedded in the lives of these Korean American immigrants.

The first generation of Vietnamese refugees currently follow the historical pattern of the ethnic enclaves for similar primary reasons as many Asian American groups before them

34. Chan, chpt. 4 Daniels and Kitano, chpts. 3-6,9 Jones and Strand, chpt. 9 Wong, chpt. 4

. This is evident in the aforementioned ethnic enclave of Little Saigon, whose leaders stressed economic self-sufficiency and cultural preservation.

These ethnic enclaves indicate that the initial waves of these immigrants and refugees from each individual Asian group identify strongly with their countries of origin, because they already possess the language, culture and traditions from their homelands. In addition, because they either have difficulty adapting to American society or feel more comfortable with their own culture, most of these first generation Asian groups living in America choose to preserve their cultural backgrounds and tend to consider themselves Asians, rather than Asian Americans. For example, the Vietnamese activists do not identify with American culture, but because of the many factors discussed, insist that they are Vietnamese and not Vietnamese American

35. Pham, Vu, “Chim Viet Dau Canh Nam, Ngua Ho Hi Gio Bac,” project at University of California, Irvine, 1993


However, for second generation Asian Americans, the issue of identity emerges as a new struggle much different and more complex than that experienced by the first generation. For the second generation, birth, growth and development within the multiple realms of the culturally Asian home, the ethnic enclave and the American mainstream proved an intense identity dilemma.

This at times even grew into a crisis concerning identity construction. The Japanese especially concerned themselves with this situation between the first generation (Issei) and the second generation (Nisei) in America, because the former had to decide whether or not to rear the latter group in a more traditional Japanese manner or to prepare them toward their adaptation within American society as permanent residents. According to Sucheng Chan, “The debate over the status of the Nisei focused on two issues – their education and their citizenship”

36. Chan, pg 111


To resolve the first issue, Japanese immigrants decided to educate their children with an emphasis on preparing the Nisei for a permanent life in America, while also teaching them, the Japanese culture in order to preserve and celebrate it. As for the second issue, Japanese law stipulates that any child born of a Japanese father was a Japanese citizen, whereas American law dictated that any person born on American land was an American citizen; the Nisei existed as a case of dual citizenship inclusive of both the Japanese and American components. However, “a 1924 amendment to the Japanese Nationality Act finally abolished Japanese citizenship based on paternal descent for all Nisei”

37. Chan, pg 112

. Despite the resolution of these two primary issues, racism continued to exist as a contributing factor which created more confusion concerning the identity of second generation Asian Americans. The racism persisted and Chan states that “what pained them (second generation Asian Americans) was
that having been educated in public schools where they learned the American creed, they thought they would enjoy all the rights, privileges, and duties of citizenship. Instead, they found themselves no better off than their parents”

38. Chan, pg 115

. These children were trapped within the harsh reality that they could not enjoy the rights and privileges of white Americans, yet they lacked the connection necessary to return to and dwell in their parents' homeland

39. Chan, pp. 115-116


For most second generation Asian Americans, the emergence of Asian American organizations demonstrated a move toward establishing the rights of Asian Americans. Unlike their first generation foreign born parents, these younger Asian Americans considered themselves Americans, rather than Asians living in America. For example, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) attempted to prove that they were “200 percent American” and that they were completely loyal to America. According to Chan, “As loyal Americans, they never criticized racism, although they worked hard to challenge discriminatory laws”

40. Chan, pg 117

. This emphasis on proving that they were Americans demonstrated that these Asian Americans acknowledged that they were a group distinct from their parents, because the second generation were born and raised in America with values different from those of traditional Asian cultures. However, the second generation also realized that they did not dwell in America on an equal basis as EuroAmericans for racial reasons and that they were also distinct from this group as well. This example demonstrates the emergence
of a Japanese American consciousness for the Nisei.

Another major shift in the identity issue for second generation Asian Americans occurred during World War II, which according to Ronald Takaki, “would require immigrants and their offspring to determine more sharply than ever before their identities as Asians and as Americans. They had been viewed and treated as `strangers from a different shore,' but now they would be asked to support their country in crisis and serve as Americans in the armed forces”

41. Takaki, pg 357

. For many second generation Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean and Asian Indian, the war provided an opportunity to demonstrate that they were Americans. Fighting in the war on the side of the U.S. showed to its government that these American born Asians were also loyal Americans who exhibited strong patriotism for their home country of America

42. Takaki, chpt. 10


However, not all second generation Asian Americans chose to demonstrate their loyalty and status as American citizens through military means, but instead through legal channels. With Executive Order 9066, the Japanese internment forced many Nisei to carefully weigh their options of whether or not to fight in the U.S. military to prove their loyalty. The other option was to fight this ruling through legal means as an issue of principle to prove that they were American citizens who were unjustly placed into these internment camps. John Okada's novel, No-No Boy, illustrates an example of a Nisei who refused to fight in the war because he believed that he should not have to in order

to prove that he was a loyal American. However, the novel primarily focuses upon his experiences after his release from the camp and the problems in readjusting to American society

43. Okada, John, No-No Boy. University of Washington Press, Washington, 1992

. However, not all Japanese in America chose to identify themselves as Japanese Americans, because thousands returned to Japan and many also denounced their American citizenship as a reaction to internment

44. Chan, pg 130

. However, those fighting for their rights as Americans demonstrated a move toward the formation of their individual Asian American consciousness.

The experiences, organizations and attitudes of second generation Asian Americans demonstrates an awareness that some were in fact Asian Americans, unique from Asians and from EuroAmericans. In other words, this awareness, through their experiences, provides evidence that many second generation Asian Americans did attain a level of Asian American consciousness, in which they realized that they were unique in identity and culture from Asian or EuroAmerican groups. Thus, the emergence of a Chinese American, Japanese American, Filipino American, Korean American and Asian Indian American consciousness appeared primarily with the second generation.

The Development of an Asian American Panethnic Consciousness

Despite the rise of this Asian American consciousness, individual Asian American groups often did not unite before the 1960's. Typically, ethnic groups in America organize on the

basis of either culture and ethnicity and cultural preservation, which reflects the primordial view of community cohesion; the second explanation for community organization occurs for practical reasons and the advantages which result from organizing, such as for political or economic concerns

45. Chan, chpt. 4 Espiritu, Yen Le, Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities. Temple University Press, 1992, pp. 4-5

. According to Yen Le Espiritu,

Whatever their differences, primordialists and instrumentalists both assume that ethnic groups are largely voluntary collectives defined by national origin, whose members share a distinctive, integrated culture. The phenomenon of panethnicity challenges these assumptions, calling attention instead to the coercively imposed nature of ethnicity, its multiple layers, and the continual creation and re-creation of culture

46. Espiritu, pg 5


She argues that while EuroAmericans enjoy the privilege of choosing whether or not to exercise their ethnicity, non-white groups do not have this option and the imposition of ethnicity as a criteria of judgement against minority groups is often enacted. Espiritu defines panethnicity as “the generalization of solidarity among ethnic subgroups” and argues that it occurs largely as a result of an oversimplified categorization of minority groups on the part of EuroAmericans. This categorization does not take into account the various ethnic boundaries within these ethnic minority subgroups and thus EuroAmericans tend to lump minorities into larger groups which collapse these boundaries

47. Ibid., pg 6

. For Asian Americans, the term itself “arose out of the racist discourse that constructs Asians as a homogeneous group”

48. Ibid., pg 6


Through this, notion, panethnicity arises as a protective mechanism which develops out of racial lumping, and also

attributes its origins to the need for practical reasons as well. The mobilization of the many groups within the larger minority subgroup leads to a “conscious group identity” which could be used to effect change and is more political and economic than it is cultural

49. Ibid., pp. 7-13

. Thus with the construction of an Asian American panethnicity in the 1960's, an Asian American could engage in “ethnic switching,” which means that a person could either identify themselves within their own specific Asian American group or as part of the larger Asian American collective. Espiritu states, “That is, a person is a Japanese American or an Asian American depending on the ethnic identities available to him or her in a particular situation. Sometimes the individual has a choice, and sometimes not”

50. Ibid., pg 15

. The construction of pan-Asian organizations for any number of reasons leads to the formation of a pan-Asian consciousness and because of this, pan-Asian organizations can be examined as a means of tracing pan-Asian consciousness

51. Ibid., pg 16


Before the 1960's, individual Asian American groups often “practiced ethnic disidentification,” which means that they typically distinguished themselves from other Asian American groups when dealing with the American mainstream for a number of reasons. These included language barriers, because this difference prevented many Asian groups from interacting with one another. In addition, individual Asian American groups distanced themselves from one another in order to avoid racial oppression and persecution from ethnic lumping. For example, during World

War II, many Chinese Americans took the active effort to assert their identities as Chinese Americans, and not Japanese Americans, in order to avoid internment and other forms of racism. However, with the rise of more American born Asians, the language barrier and the tensions between Asian groups left over from Asia began to collapse, paving the way for a meaningful Asian American panethnic movement

52. Ibid., pp. 19-26


Asian American panethnicity originated in the 1960's primarily with the pan-Asian organizations on college campuses which began because many Asian Americans realized that they could not enjoy all of the rights and privileges of American society that whites could. This pan-Asian student collective, founded on the common awareness of their oppression as minorities in America, formed a movement toward the establishment of Asian American Studies on college campuses

53. Ibid., pp. 31, 35 Murase, Mike “Ethnic Studies and Higher Education for Asian Americans,” in Counterpoint, ed. by Emma Gee, 1976 Unemoto, Karen, “On Strike!: San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-69: The Role of Asian American Students,” i Amerasia Journal, vol. 15, no. 1., 1989

. According to Karen Unemoto, students participating in the movement for Asian American Studies desired to determine and define themselves and to form a “new consciousness,” and “for Asian American students in particular, this also marked a 'shedding of silence' and an affirmation of identity

54. Unemoto, pp. 3-4

. This “affirmation of identity” could be interpreted as and directly connected with the notion of a move toward an Asian American panethnic consciousness. In addition, Unemoto argues that this strike for Asian American Studies helped to address these Asian American students' concerns in a manner which promotes pan-Asian organization

55. Unemoto, pp. 17


In addition to the pan-Asian organization toward Asian

American Studies, the former can develop in order to address issues of anti-Asian violence. This occurred during the Vincent Chin case, in which individual Asian American organizations combined into this larger panethnic collective identity. This act can also lead to the formation of an Asian American panethnic consciousness. According to Espiritu, “ethnic organizations do not merely reflect existing ethnic consciousness, they can also generate it. At the same time, pan-Asian consciousness, such as that which emerged in the Chin case, can survive and, in some cases, materialize into pan-Asian organizations”

56. Espiritu, pg 160

. Espiritu discusses the notion that individual Asian American consciousness and Asian American panethnic consciousness mutually influence and can potentially transform each other. Yet for the 1.5 generation of activists in VAC, we must examine a new dimension of the influence of pan-Asian consciousness by using it as a foundation toward a new perspective. Rather than looking at the formation of Asian American panethnicity, this new viewpoint will examine the role that panethnicity plays in the actual construction of an individual Asian American consciousness, specifically that of Vietnamese Americans.

The 1.5 Generation: Toward a New Perspective

Before one can examine the influence of Asian American panethnicity on 1.5 generation Vietnamese American consciousness, one must establish a detailed definition and discussion of the

1.5 generation. Because the 1.5 generation is a colloquial term spoken and applied primarily within Asian American communities, no formal or scholarly definition exists to accompany it. Charles Ryu, a Korean American minister interviewed by Joann Faung Jean Lee in her book, Asian Americans: Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam and Cambodia, presents us with a definition for Korean Americans of the 1.5 generation which serves as a firm basis toward a formal definition. However, Ryu chooses to call the 1.5 generation by a different name; he states:

we call it, trans-generation – TG. I'm a TG. TGs are those born in Korea, who stayed there until their teens, then came to America. By the time they come to the United States, they have already acquired the Korean language, and cultural behavior that is uniquely Korean. But they came to America at such an age where they were still very easily influenced by the new culture, so the latter part of their teenage life was formed by American culture. Somehow they developed this mixed identity. They are functionally fluent in both languages, but only functionally.

57. Lee, Joann Faung, pg 50

By applying Ryu's definition for the 1.5 generation of Korean Americans to other Asian American groups, a preliminary definition for this group can be established. The dilemma of how to categorize immigrant and refugee children remains an issue of discussion. These children possess experiences in their individual Asian countries, and thus differ from second generation Asian Americans who are completely alienated from their parents' particular Asian countries of origin. However, these children arrived in America at a moment prior to the

formation of a more stable adult identity and cannot truly be considered first generation. Therefore, I argue that the creation of the 1.5 generation reconciles this identity dilemma by placing these children into a separate generational category.

Although Ryu provides a solid definition of the 1.5 generation, it requires modification. We should expand the age range to even younger ages, when these Asian children experienced their specific culture of origin in their countries of birth at least to some degree. These children who leave their countries of origin at even this early of an age still have experiences within their birth countries to have a significant impact on their identity development. The 1.5 generation should encompass a wider range of experiences to reflect the diverse experiences of immigrant and refugee children. Through this, a definition for 1.5 generation immigrants and refugees in America emerges. This group comprises immigrant and refugee children who have had a combination of influences, memories and experiences growing up within both their countries of origin and in the U.S. which significantly impact the construction and development of their identities. No one specific age or experience characterizes this group, because they possess a wide spectrum of experiences from both cultures and countries and also came to America at a wide range of ages, from the age in which they recall their first memories to their mid-teen years.

Despite this definition, I came across one vague area concerning the age minimum of the 1.5 generation. Although I

argue that children of the 1.5 generation possess experiences from their countries of origins, the term “experiences” requires further definition and attributes its construction to a diverse range of factors. Although the validity of some of these factors remains open to critique, they reflect this diverse range of possibilities. Among the notions that this term can encompass are conscious experiences, in which the 1.5 generation are at an age when they can actually recollect moments from the time in their Asian countries of origin. However, we should also note that subconscious experiences may also nonetheless be considered as valid “experiences.” This factors may somehow affect the lives of the 1.5 generation through acts such as decision making or the subconscious experiences may simply alter their perspectives. Regardless, one should not discount the subconscious as part of the 1.5 generation's “experiences.” Lastly, vicarious experiences through the eyes of their parents, or other relatives, may also be considered “experiences.” One could reconstruct their experiences based on oral or written memories from their relatives. Possibilities such as these problematize this definition of “experiences” for the 1.5 generation because it leaves an unresolved open-endedness in the definition. In order to more thoroughly define the term “experiences,” further research needs to be conducted in the more psychological fields, such as child development. Regardless of this dilemma, the total experiences of the 1.5 generation of Vietnamese Americans, whether in Vietnam or America, remain

The oral histories within this project represent this diversity of experiences within Vietnam and the wide range of ages when 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans left their homelands. For the 1.5 generation who left Vietnam at an older age, the increased length of time in this country exposed them to a large body of Vietnamese culture and political issues. One interviewee, Huy Tran, recalls the post-war tension between communist and anti-communist ideologies in the Saigon school he attended. Huy received mixed teachings from the government monitored school which attempted to indoctrinate him and the other students with Vietnamese communist beliefs and from his parents at home who conveyed their negative experiences with communist oppression. Huy spent many years internalizing his school teachings about the strengths of Vietnamese communist ideologies. In addition, he engaged in this process while struggling to reconcile these teachings with the horror stories of the corruption within Vietnam's officials and the atrocities committed by the Vietnamese communist government. He recalls memories of the fact that both he and his parents had to keep their anti-communist rhetoric silent in public while confining these discussions within the home. Huy represents one perspective of 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans who came at a later age and possesses a large body of memories and experiences in Vietnam; he did not leave Vietnam until the age of thirteen

58. Interview #1 with Tran, Huy



For Hoai-Thi Nguyen, a refugee who also left Vietnam at the age of thirteen, fonder memories of Vietnam pervade her thoughts. However, these suffered from the obstruction as well as the confusion of fleeing from the security of her surroundings:

When I was in Vietnam, I still had it pretty good. I didn't worry about where the next meal was coming from. We were living off our savings and I guess my parents were still doing okay.

59. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pg 1

Hoai-Thi's recollection of a routine and content lifestyle as a child in Vietnam reflects the lives of many Vietnamese children prior to the recent war in Vietnam. However, the juxtaposition of post-war terror, chaos and destruction with the innocence and security of a child's world only produces more turmoil and confusion in their experiences. Instead of retaining images of school yards, classrooms or even life within the safety of home, Hoai-Thi's post-war memories of Vietnam come from behind the walls of a prison camp:

My dad was not allowed to live with us. He had to spend five years in re-education camps and political detainees' camps. So they {my parents} could see more politics involved. Me, I thought it was senseless and I thought it was unnecessary and I turned resentful at the fact that I had to leave because I had it pretty good anyway. I couldn't see the bigger picture like my parents did... they just wanted to get over here {to the U.S.} and have political freedom to start over again. So that's just the price they have to pay. Whereas I thought that was unnecessary, because I didn't see the worst in Vietnam. I thought we could still live a good live in Vietnam, so there was no sense... it wasn't like there was no sense, but I wish I didn't have to be uprooted. I wish I didn't have to be put through six months of transferring from one place to another, living in rat infested and polluted camps... all those subhuman conditions. I didn't think it was necessary.

60. Ibid., pp. 1-2

The fact that she was not old enough to truly understand the

potential personal impacts of politics on her life merely exacerbated Hoai-Thi's situation by intensifying the experience of a sudden and drastic shift in living conditions. In addition, alienation from the harsh realities of the war also left her susceptible to the shattering of peaceful childhood images as she possessed little awareness of her potentially precarious position. This culminated during the moments when she was severed from her original lifestyle and stability of her surroundings, as well as from her parents. Hoai-Thi's thoughts at the time of her final months in Vietnam reflect the questions that almost any older child at her age would pose, the most important one probably being “why?” However, not all Vietnamese Americans of the 1.5 generation possess such rich memories of their lives in Vietnam because they left at a younger age. Bao Nguyen remembers only a small segment of her life in Vietnam:

The only memories that I have are of Catholic school, nuns, getting locked in the closet because I talked too much! I don't remember much at all, really, just catholic school.

61. Interview #1 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 1

Even Bao's memories of leaving Vietnam consist of scattered images painted by the stories told by her mother and father. This reflects the third aspect of my definition for 1.5 generation “experiences,” because it reflects a vicarious one through the eyes of a child's parents. However, Bao's memories remain blurred, because perhaps the age at which she left Vietnam was one in which she was too young to recall much of her experiences. The chaos of fleeing Vietnam under such quick and

confusing conditions could also have blurred these memories. In either, or both, cases, Bao fits into the category of the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation, because she possesses certain experiences from Vietnam.

Disorientation became a banal reality for many 1.5 generation children who had no choice but to endure the refugee experience directly before and after leaving Vietnam. A s mentioned earlier, this notion of disorientation also existed for late nineteenth century European immigrants. However, the chaos and confusion for Vietnamese refugees differs because this group faced imminent dangers and often fled their home country without any possessions or knowledge of their destinations. This intensified their disorientation and left more questions to be answered once they settled within their new and unknown destinations. For the 1.5 generation, disorientation was worse than that of their parents, because they often followed their disoriented parents without the knowledge of the latter's plans or intentions. This sense of certainty, which often depended on parental assurances, did not exist in as strong a manner as it did prior to the Vietnamese evacuations. This, in turn, created an added and increased sense of disorientation for these refugee children. As well as affecting younger children, disorientation even pervaded throughout the experiences of the older refugee 1.5 children, as illustrated in Huy's case. For Huy, the first months of arriving to and adjusting to life in the U.S. posed a circumstance of such confusion that they obscured this segment of

his life. “Disorientation” was even the specific word with which Huy used to convey the general context of his initial resettlement in America. Aside from this, with the exception of paternal support, alienation from his peers and relatives reinforced this feeling of disorientation for Huy, because nothing around him appeared familiar

62. Interview #1 with Tran, Huy

. Although many factors may have contributed to this confusion, this results in the fact that these 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans often fail to recollect or reconstruct their experiences. On a historiographical level, this can severely limit the range of evidence derived from oral histories.

Some general distinctions between the older, or first generation Vietnamese Americans, and 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans. First, as stated before, the latter group arrived at a young age during their childhood, whereas the older generation came at an age in their adulthood. Growing up in America, many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans are alienated from issues and life in Vietnam:

The younger generation, a lot of us grow up here, so we don't have a very concrete or realistic perception of Vietnam as a country, generally. What we've heard about Vietnam is maybe through our parents and relatives and Vietnam is a world removed from America and unless you're constantly exposed to things in Vietnam, you wouldn't know about the situation in Vietnam, unless you're a person who reads the {Vietnamese} newspaper everyday... So chances are, the younger generation of activists would not be overly concerned with Vietnam related issues as compared with the older generation.

63. Ibid., pg 7

While this perspective contextualizes and typifies the lack of knowledge of issues in Vietnam and Vietnamese culture in Vietnam

which for the 1.5 generation of Vietnamese Americans, another interviewee presents a reaction to this situation from her 1.5 generation viewpoint:

When it comes to issues in Vietnam, I really don't know about them and I really don't care about them, because I'm living here, I'm not living in Vietnam. And things that happen in Vietnam may affect me later, but we're here now, we have to do something about the people that are here now... Talk about our people here, because most of us aren't going to go back to Vietnam for any reason.

64. Interview #1 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 10

This statement represents one perspective toward dealing with the alienation of the 1.5 generation from Vietnam. Many have already decided that America is their home and that they will not return to Vietnam. However, others attempt to discover the issues which relate to Vietnam, if not with the motivation to return to even visit, then at least for the sake of better understanding the Vietnamese community in America. Another interviewee reflects this notion, because in working with the Vietnamese community, she must understand the issues which concern the older generation; one of these issues, as stated in the previous chapter, largely centers around the circumstances in Vietnam

65. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pp. 8-12


Another major distinction between first and 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans lies in the fact that the latter tend to more easily adapt to mainstream American society and its culture, whereas the older generation continue to place there sense of home in Vietnam and view themselves as temporary denizens of the U.S.

66. Project by Pham

. one example of this feeling of “foreignness” for the older generation comes from the perspective of an activist and
leader within “Little Saigon”:

I think the older generation still think themselves as citizens of Vietnam. So their concern is how to solve problems in Vietnam more than the problems here. I think it's understandable, because more than half of their life has been in Vietnam, so they love the place where they were born, where they grew up and it's very hard for them in their midage to live a different life...a totally different life.

67. Interview with Le Dinh Dieu, July 14, 1993, pp. 4-5

The older generation of Vietnamese in America often continue to identify themselves as peoples of Vietnam and merely consider America as a temporary haven until they can return to their homeland. For the younger generation, home lies within America, regardless of their backgrounds. The lack of attachment and alienation from Vietnam serve as a basis for this attitude, because they do not possess experiences which tie them strongly to their country of origin.

The diversity of the collective experiences of 1.5 generation Vietnamese reflect the patchwork of American immigration and refugee history, yet in addition to this, a large number of highly discussed and unresolved issues also characterize the lives of this particular group of Vietnamese Americans. The question of identity remains one of the issues at the forefront for this groups. Because the cultural boundaries which exist in America often intersect at a moment when many persons of this group tend to be young adults, they must reconcile the tensions in this “cultural crossroad.” For Hoai-Thi, this issue currently occupies a central position:

I'm probably speaking from an elitist point of view, because not all 1.5 generation are in college and my peers are

pretty much my cohorts, people who graduated from college and from professional schools, graduates and such. We have less problems to deal with than other people do. So I would say within my peers and myself, the biggest problem is the identity question, the identity problem and how do you walk that fine line between being Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans? And how you can avoid losing your heritage without embracing it to the point that you can't see it's false. So if you can't see it's false, you can't build the community... the biggest problem for me is how to work for the community yet pull them out of their situations, make them more mainstream, because the people that I work with desperately need the help, but they don't do anything about it. You have to go to them, you have to drag them on their feet to pull them out of their situation. And I have to be feet to pull them out of their situation. And I have to be careful that I don't fall in with them. I have to be careful that once I pull them out, they don't go on the other side of the spectrum and be totally white and reject everything that is Vietnamese about them. It is difficult me myself because it is a question that I have to ask all the time. Is this particular action Vietnamese? Would a Vietnamese person do this or am I doing this to appease my guilt? Am I doing this to make myself look good for my white peers?

68. Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pp. 5-6

Hoai-Thi's statement raises a number of significant issues within the large identity question. The most evident one concerns the dilemma how a 1.5 generation Vietnamese in America proceeds to address the problem of balancing the extremes between mainstream and dominant EuroAmerican and the Vietnamese culture. The delicate and subtle decisions to either discard or retain certain aspects of Vietnamese culture pose intense personal and community choices which require some form of compromise and serious action to partake of one extreme or the other. In addition, these Vietnamese Americans must make a choice to accept or reject various components of mainstream American values. Even when one determines methods to resove these specific predicaments, the larger issue of how to merge aspects of these cultures into a holistic and coherent identity.


Before attempting to address the issue of moving toward the notion of forming this Vietnamese American identity, one must discuss the aforementioned extremes of identity for the 1.5 generation. These extremes lie in either the attempt to completely reject the Vietnamese culture by assimilating into mainstream EuroAmerican culture, or conversely, the attempt to reject mainstream culture through isolating oneself from that mainstream. One of the subjects of the oral histories in this project, James Chung Lam, engages in a discussion of these identity extremes:

Well, there can be the typical “whitewashed,” very Americanized person... and there's the other extreme where although it is obvious that he or she is influenced by American society, they would try to reject and believe in totally Vietnamese {culture}, which is problematic anyway, because what is Vietnamese when you're living in America? I think you have to understand that everything we do is influenced by the society that we live in. So I think those are the two extremes. It's obvious that you can see those extremes, because other people call you names. There are terms that we use to poke fun at those two extremes, like “FOB” or “whiteboy” or “twinkie.” So it's obvious there's a problem in terms of identity.

“FOB” literally means “Fresh Off the Boat,” which means someone who has just come over to the United States... who looks like a foreigner... who can't speak English. The “whiteboy” or “twinkie” is someone who basically is yellow on the outside and white inside, meaning someone who acts like a white person, tries to change his hair, speaks perfect English, wears clothes that typify a white person.

69. Interview #1 with Lam, James Chung, pg 4

James' definitions of each extreme provides a context for toward what it means to accept either one or to somehow balance these in order to form a unique and different identity. According to James, the rejection of Vietnamese culture indicates a move toward creating a cultural hierarchy which emphasizes the

importance of one whole culture over the other and could lead to the lesser culture's decline:

When you see that white is more beautiful than other colors, then you're not appreciating your cultural background. Not only are you not appreciating it, but you're looking down on it. So you're using standards of mainstream American society to judge who you are and what you're community's about and not looking within your own community. And so as more and more kids emulate this whiteness, then the Vietnamese culture begins to deteriorate.

70. Ibid., pg 5

This raises a vital notion concerning the implications of this identity extreme in terms of both personal and collective community identity. The fact that many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans partially grew up in America directly influences their identity development and how they perceive the Vietnamese culture in relation to mainstream American culture. On a personal level, this in turn affects the role of the Vietnamese culture in their lives. As James suggests, the choice by these Vietnamese Americans to reject the Vietnamese culture may demonstrate that to these individuals, the Vietnamese culture plays no role at all. This may then affect the community, because this would halt the transmission of Vietnamese cultural traditions and values.

For the particular 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans in this project, the denial of Vietnamese cultural values existed as moments in their lives, not permanent decisions. For example, Bao felt alienated from the Vietnamese culture because she felt lacking in Vietnamese language skills. In addition, she believed that she had internalized too much of mainstream America's cultural values to integrate these with the Vietnamese culture. However, through her work with the Vietnamese community in Orange

County, she has overcome this denial:

I really didn't expect to be in the Vietnamese community, because there was a time in my life where I never felt like I fit in, where I didn't feel that I speak the language well enough to communicate at all and now that I'm actually doing something within the Vietnamese community, I feel a lot better… these are my people and I feel such a strong connection {with them} when I'm doing whatever it is that I'm doing with them or for them.

71. Interview #1 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 4

Bao's situation reflects that of many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans, because their Vietnamese language deficiencies prevent or deter them from exercising or experiencing aspects of the Vietnamese culture. In addition, directly linked with the language problem is the cultural problem regarding Vietnamese culture. Since many from this group left at such a young age, they may only possess a rudimentary understanding of the culture. This lack of cultural understanding plays a factor into the Vietnamese component of 1.5 generation Vietnamese American identity, because it could also cause them to deny or avoid attempting to understand, let alone incorporate, it into their own identity.

As stated earlier, James believes that one can escape their ties from Vietnamese culture by rejecting its practices and adopting those of the American mainstream. Race, as a factor, must be discussed in order to complicate this extreme. Given the idea that Vietnamese Americans can potentially sever their connections with the Vietnamese culture, their physical features prevent them from fully escaping the fact that they are Vietnamese in America. This inability to totally assimilate because of physical characteristics occurs as a result of racism,

racial discrimination or racial distinctions inherent in American society. This would always cause a Vietnamese in America to link themselves to at least a small degree with the fact that they are somehow Vietnamese.

For example, when Bao lived in Hacienda Heights, her initial residence after coming to America, she encountered many forms of overt racism. She recounts white students following her and her sister home on many occasions while insulting her with the term “nips.” These same students also often waited for Bao to arrive to school in the morning with the similar greetings. In addition, these students often enforced their insults by threatening to physically assault her and sometimes even carried baseball bats as visual threats. At one point, she states that her house was shot at and she attributes this to racism

72. Ibid., pp. 2-4

. Experiences such as these serve to raise Bao's awareness that she is a minority in America and contributes to her attempts to look within her own Vietnamese community to trace a part of her roots and her identity:

After a while, you get strong, you make yourself stand up to it. And you learn to be a lot more tolerant of people, but then at the same time, you learn to hate too. You learn there's certain types of people who will not like you and you will not like them. But at that time, it made you scared of going out and talking to white people.

73. Ibid., pp. 2-3

Bao's awareness led her to realize the reality that, although she was in a new country which projected the images of freedom and equality, she was still a Vietnamese in America. This reality, at times, subjects one to blatant racism, and in her case, pushed her

toward rediscovering the Vietnamese culture and community in America.

In contrast to this lack of understanding for and attempt to better understand the Vietnamese culture, many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans also struggled to understand American culture and society. For Huy, the disorientation mentioned earlier primarily comes from the attempt to adapt to life in America. The most major element he mentions in his initial years in the U.S. consists of his efforts to try to understand mainstream American culture. He recalls many American students assisting him in his adjustment to and understanding of American culture. These students served as models representing various aspects of this culture and actively taught him based on their understanding and experiences of the culture

74. Interview #1 with Tran, Huy

. Hoai-Thi's initial experience with American culture and society differs from Huy's, because she endured greater hardships and obstacles toward her goal of better understanding her new surroundings:

I would come home and cry all day from going to school and having kids taunt me with racial slurs and at night, doing your homework, getting frustrated because you have to look up every single word in the dictionary. In Fayetteville, North Carolina {where Hoai-Thi first lived in the U.S.}, it wasn't like it is here, where you have ESL {English as a Second Language} programs set up and you don't have a period of acculturation that a kid can adapt to. He didn't have to take the harder subjects in English and he or she didn't have to struggle as I did in North Carolina. They just threw me in with the rest of the kids and you just sink or swim. So night after night, you get so frustrated with having to start over and each homework assignment would take me three or four times as long to do as a native.

75. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pg 2


The difficulty that 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans had, and still have, in adapting to their new environment exist primarily

within the contexts of their foreignness to American society. In addition, the problems stemming from their different cultural backgrounds as children in Vietnam also contribute to this problem of adaptation. However, in many cases, racism exacerbated, and continues to exacerbate, the hardships toward understanding American society and culture. This could then lead to the other identity extreme, which is to reject the values of the mainstream:

When someone tries to totally reject mainstream culture, he or she is not looking at the bigger picture. I think that it's impossible to do such a thing when you're a minority living in America. You just can't do it. Especially for the 1.5 generation who had practically grown up in America, that rejection mentality was not with him or her during those years when he or she was growing up, so they've been influenced by it {mainstream culture}. You can't really reject everything because you need to know how this society works in order to survive... And you have to look at the bigger picture, because there's always positive aspects of mainstream society that you can take in.

76. Interview #1 with Lam, James Chung, pgs 5-6

James raises the point that one cannot completely reject mainstream American culture, because they live in and have some type of interaction with it. This may range from direct economic, social or political dealings with the mainstream outside of one's ethnic enclave to simply watching the television programs produced by this mainstream. In addition, even the indirect effects, such as economic changes or shifts in public policy, also contribute to this American cultural exposure. Regardless of the degree of interaction with the mainstream, the fact that Vietnamese Americans live in America indicates that they cannot fully isolate themselves from it.

This discussion of 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans raises

the recurring themes of transformation and transition for both these particular individuals, as well as for the Vietnamese community. On the individual level, their experiences in both Vietnam and America have undoubtedly impacted their lives in very significant ways. This, in turn, has led to the issue of identity establishment for these individuals and how to reconcile these disorienting, intense and diverse experiences from their pre-adult pasts. Now that they have reached the initial stages of maturity as adults, the question of identity becomes all the more crucial. In addition, they currently reside within the crossroads which exist directly before and directly after their careers as university students. This further reinforces the identity dilemma as they must decide upon what future course to take in this regard. This also complicates the identity question and serves as an additional factor which only strengthens the need to establish a more firm identity. Through these issues and experiences, 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans must learn to deal with and are learning to construct and develop their identities as Vietnamese Americans.

On a community level, as the older generation begins to gray and the 1.5 generation reach adulthood, the Vietnamese community in Orange County finds itself in a moment of massive transition. Whereas the former group remains secure in their identities as Vietnamese, the latter group itself continues to deal with the “cultural crossroads” in which they now occupy. To complicate matters further, this younger group must resolve the problems of

identity with which any other American at this age of young adulthood must consider. This community situation further reinforces the notions of transition and transformation for both 1.5 generation Vietnamese American individuals and the community surrounding them.

The Vietnamese American Coalition: The Beginnings of an Organized Movement Toward Establishing Vietnamese American Identity and Consciousness for the 1.5 Generation

Typically, Vietnamese American college students of the 1.5 generation form organizations on the basis of preserving, celebrating and promoting the Vietnamese culture. Equally important, they congregate in order to provide a means of social support for one another. For example, the Vietnamese Students Association (VSA) at UCI often organizes Vietnamese cultural celebrations to acknowledge their cultural roots, as well as conducts regular meetings and other social functions. Similar groups exist at other colleges throughout California. In addition to these groups, Project Ngoc also exists at UCI, yet rather than emphasizing social and cultural focuses, it concerns issues of helping to bring Vietnamese refugees to the U.S. and their resettlement. Although questions of Vietnamese American identity and consciousness occasionally arise within these organizations, this issue remains on the fringes of their primary focuses. This occurs because groups like VSA have tended to subordinate identity issues to having mostly conducted social events or joint

celebrations with the Vietnamese community to promote the Vietnamese culture. In contrast, Project Ngoc emphasizes refugee resettlement and issues dealing with recent or potential Vietnamese refugees.

However, in the spring of 1993, the Vietnamese American Coalition formed with the intent of directly addressing and resolving the issues of constructing, developing and promoting Vietnamese American identity and consciousness as one of its central purposes. VAC formed at a moment parallel to the movement for Asian American Studies at UCI. The Vietnamese American students who formed VAC applied the political and academic aspects of the larger Asian American Studies movement toward their own identity issues. This historical context for VAC proves crucial as it demonstrates the conditions which influenced them to incorporate Asian American Panethnic consciousness into Vietnamese American consciousness. Like the other Vietnamese student organizations, this group also involves themselves with the surrounding Vietnamese community in order to broaden students' awareness beyond the campus; yet, in contrast, VAC also seeks to bridge the gap between the Vietnamese community in Orange County and mainstream American society. According to James, the founder and chair of VAC:

We formed it (VAC) because we felt that there was a lack of concern among Vietnamese American students on campus about their community. So what we wanted to do was form the organization to raise the people's awareness and understanding. And by raising awareness, we hope that we can get people involved in the community. And it's not that the {community} leaders are the ones who are teaching these students or trying to raise their awareness, but they're learning about themselves too. I think that by interaction... you begin to learn more about the Vietnamese American

experience, or the different types of Vietnamese American experiences... There needs to be an awareness, an understanding of who you are, so by understanding and being aware, you create a sense of pride with the community, about your identity, about who you are.

77. Ibid., pgs 6-7

This statement conveys the notion that personal identity exists as the center for activism and understanding the Vietnamese community in America. VAC seeks to discover what it means to be Vietnamese American, as well as the many Vietnamese American experiences which lead to the formation and growth of this identity. James also mentions the notion of raising awareness as a method of achieving this goal. Awareness of one's cultural influences and identity serves as a strategy toward self-reflection and construction of consciousness.

Bao, a core member of VAC, also shares a similar opinion, which advocates the need to establish a conscious identification as a Vietnamese American:

What we try to do in VAC is to make students more conscious of their identity to make them more open-minded about finding this identity and making issues more relevant to them, opening their minds beyond school and the school culture. I think VAC's purpose is to make you realize that you have a role in this society and that you have to look beyond yourself, beyond your identity as a Vietnamese.

78. Interview #2 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 1

Bao asserts that the 1.5 generation needs to move “beyond your identity as a Vietnamese” in order to establish a conscious awareness that one cannot be completely Vietnamese in America, but that the 1.5 generation needs to move toward constructing a Vietnamese American identity for themselves

79. Ibid.


Huy, another active core member of VAC, also shares this sentiment, yet he also mentions the methods by which VAC proposes

to reconcile these cultural tensions in order to form a new and unique Vietnamese American consciousness:

On the one hand, VAC is an organization that tries to promote Vietnamese culture, Vietnamese values, Vietnamese customs and activities and also in bringing Vietnamese students together. But on the other hand, VAC also as an organization, realizes that we are part of the American society and I think for the best, we have to learn to work and live within this larger society; we cannot exclude ourselves from everything else that is around us. What I mean by this is that we try to do community work, not only with Vietnamese people, but also with agencies that are run by and controlled by Caucasians. We don't ignore non-Vietnamese agencies, so to speak, in our community based work. On the one hand, we try to push for and also preserve Vietnamese culture, Vietnamese values, but on the other hand, we also realize that we are part of the larger American society, so in our activities, our interactions, we try to bring the two sides together.

80. Interview #2 with Tran, Huy, pgs 1-2

VAC attempts to bring the Vietnamese culture and the cultures of American society together in order to form this conscious Vietnamese American identity. This cultural reconciliation arises from the awareness that as members of American society, one cannot isolate oneself from it and rather than simply accepting this realization, VAC members incorporate it into their organization as a central issue around which to organize, as well as a means to raise awareness toward the need of constructing a Vietnamese American consciousness.

In order to more thoroughly understand the adaptation of Vietnamese cultural values with those of mainstream EuroAmerican ones, a discussion of what constitutes Vietnamese culture becomes necessary. Scholars find it difficult to precisely establish a firm definition of the Vietnamese culture. They often emphasize the notion that this culture consists of a long history and

tradition of adapting, borrowing and appropriating cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices from other cultures. Although the exact nature of Vietnamese culture continues as a topic of debate, scholars agree that many foreign cultural elements combine to form Vietnamese culture. According to John Whitmore, the “cultural core” of Vietnamese culture remains buried and transformed within the numerous layers of cultural appropriations:

The Vietnamese cultural core would be a constant though shifting entity. What would count within it would be that which was considered essential and integral to the culture at any given time. Foreign elements and ideologies would become grafted onto it, and the “core” of the twentieth century would differ greatly from that of two millennia before. The important fact is the Vietnamese ability to make any such “foreign-ness” Vietnamese.

81. Whitmore, John, “Foreign Influences and the Vietnamese Culture Core: A Discussion of the Premodern Period.” in “Borrowings and Adaptations in Vietnamese Culture.” Southeast Asian Studies Program Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1987, pp. 1-21 Nguyen, Dang Liem, “Cross-Cultural Adjustment of the Vietnamese in the United States.” in “Borrowings and Adaptation in Vietnamese Culture.” pp. 100-114

Whitmore argues that the assessing present Vietnamese culture should be the primary focus in defining it, because one cannot truly access the original “cultural core” which has evolved over the centuries.

Although this scholars cannot discover the essence of this “cultural core,” one cannot doubt that Vietnamese culture is composed of strong aspects from Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist religion and philosophy

82. Rutledge, Paul James, The Role of Religion in Ethnic Self-Identity: A Vietnamese Community. University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland, 1985 Whitmore, pp. 1-21 Interviews with Le Dinh Dieu, Luu Trung Khao Interview #1, Nguyen Trong Loc

. According to Nguyen Dang Liem and Paul Rutledge, the basic concepts of Buddhism practiced by the Vietnamese stress the need to pursue personal perfection. This process includes attempting to overcome desire, possess a pure heart and perform deeds beneficial to others. The Confucian ethic adopted by the Vietnamese concerns social structure. This includes the maintenance of strong family ties, respect for social order and
hierarchy, the belief in the inherent goodness of man, and the need for self-perfection through learning and education. The Taoist idea practices the harmonious existence with one's general surroundings, nature, fellow men and the universe. In addition, harmony with oneself also accompanies this ideology

83. Nguyen, pp. 105-108

Rutledge, pp. 24-32

. In addition to these elements, Nguyen also argues that Vietnamese culture also incorporates the notion that family and personal relationships precede individualism and competition in importance. He also argues that wariness toward strangers and foreigners and inwardness also characterize the Vietnamese culture

84. Nguyen, pp. 104-105


The interaction between the high regard for family and this notion of a suspect attitude toward strangers and foreigners is illustrated in an interview with one “Little Saigon” community leader the older generation:

The Vietnamese community are not, well, they do not like the police {in America}. It is easy to understand, because for a long time in the past, they were abused or brutalized by police from the French domination in the late nineteenth century until the French left Vietnam. And then war after war, we had to live under some domination of dictatorship and then twenty years, from '75 until now, under the communist regime. People are afraid of the police and they never think of cooperating with police... And the old way of thinking of Vietnamese people, because we are influenced by the Confucian teaching, we consider highly the family ties. We never turn over a relative to the police. So if a young person has a relationship with this family or that family, when they {the youths} commit a crime, they get refuge from such and such a family. And the police cannot find them because we consider the relation of the family very important.

85. Interview with Le Dinh Dieu, pg 9

This example demonstrates that not only do the Vietnamese place high regard on maintaining family ties, they also distrust foreign elements in America, such as the police. This example illustrates one complexity of the Vietnamese community in Orange County and

factors such as this impede the interaction between the American mainstream and “Little Saigon.” In addition, for the Vietnamese 1.5 generation in America, the lack of cultural understanding of the Vietnamese culture and community has often alienated them from interactions within this ethnic enclave.

The formation of VAC exhibits an example of attempts to bridge the gap between the Vietnamese culture and ethnic enclave with the 1.5 generation who have been alienated from it. The emphasis to engage in and understand the Vietnamese community exists as a primary motive of VAC and this understanding is an essential component toward establishing a conscious Vietnamese American identity. This serves to build a greater understanding of the Vietnamese culture and how it operates within the environment of American society. The necessity of this lies in the notion that an extensive knowledge of the Vietnamese community and its culture helps toward forming a Vietnamese American consciousness and contextualizes the construction of this identity within a community environment. To VAC, the Vietnamese culture and community are inexplicably linked. This organization espouses the belief that Vietnamese Americans of the 1.5 generation should incorporate both a personal understanding of the Vietnamese culture and the manner in which it functions within American society in order to form a Vietnamese American identity

86. Interview #2 with Lam, James Chung Interview #2 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi Interview #2 with Tran, Huy


Based on previous examinations of Vietnamese American interaction with the mainstream and the aforementioned VAC perspectives an equally detailed understanding of the American

mainstream must also be achieved. VAC demonstrates this belief through its attempts to bridge the concerns of the Vietnamese community with that of the American mainstream. The best and most visible example of this lies in the VAC's forum on February 18, 1994, which addressed concerns of the Vietnamese community and how it interacts with both the UCI campus and the American mainstream. This move toward bridging these communities demonstrates a moment for Vietnamese American 1.5 generation students, because not only have they expanded beyond the campus and into the Vietnamese community or mainstream American communities, but they exhibited a step toward linking all of these communities.

The existence of VAC indicates a new movement for 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans toward an organized, visible and active attempt to construct, develop and promote a Vietnamese American consciousness and identity. Unlike other 1.5 student organizations at UCI, VAC seeks not only to preserve and celebrate Vietnamese culture, but also tries to build a new Vietnamese American identity, unique from Vietnamese and other American identities. In addition, the attempts to bridge several communities at once also reflects this step toward constructing this Vietnamese American identity because in order to realize its formation, one needs to understand the various cultural components which comprise this new consciousness

87. Vietnamese American Coalition Forum, 2-18-93 at the University of California, Irvine

. The members of VAC are the primary subjects of study of this project. I will utilize their experiences in order to prove that they represent a moment in which an active merging of Vietnamese, EuroAmerican and Asian
American Panethnic cultures has occurred toward the construction of Vietnamese American consciousness.

The Cultural Crossroads: Multiple Influences Toward Vietnamese American Consciousness

The processes and preliminary stages of Vietnamese American consciousness development occur during an extremely fascinating moment in the history of consciousness for Asian Americans, because the cultural influences in this “cultural crossroad” originate from three distinct and unique cultural consciousness: mainstream, predominantly EuroAmerican, Vietnamese and Asian American. This poses a novel juncture in identity and consciousness construction in which the tensions created by each of the three major influences require close examination as well as the manners in which each cultural influence affects the growth of Vietnamese American identity. This section will proceed with a detailed study of the latter issue in order to assess the circumstance of the tensions created from these multiple influences.

Although not all 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans actively exercise the union of these three cultural influences, the potential to engage in this process of cultural blending exists. The members of VAC represent an example of 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans who have consciously managed to merge aspects of all three cultural components toward a Vietnamese American identity. Their experiences and perspectives are not necessarily representative of the whole Vietnamese American 1.5 generation, but

serve as evidence toward the existence of this notion of a tricultural influence.

The Vietnamese cultural influence is the first of the three I will examine, simply because the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation are initially exposed to this culture. This is not to imply that the development of Vietnamese American consciousness is by any means linear, because these Vietnamese Americans concurrently receive experiences from all three cultural consciousness. The area of strongest influence from the Vietnamese culture lies within the family. Two primary reasons exist behind this argument: first, the Confucian component of the Vietnamese culture proves ubiquitous and highly imbedded within the Vietnamese family and general social structure. This ideology, to a large degree, even continues to exist for Vietnamese families in America. Second, the parents of the 1.5 generation spent the majority of their lives in Vietnam and primarily developed their identities there. Thus, they often arrive to America adhering to the Confucian ethic.

Although the first waves of Asian immigrants to the United States retained strong overseas family ties, many of them were separated from their families. For example, the Chinese “Bachelor's Society” existed in the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century because many male Chinese immigrants came without their families. The 1890 census indicates that the ratio of males to females was as high as 26.8 male Chinese immigrants for every female Chinese immigrant

88. Daniels and Kitano, pg 24

. The reason males dominated the sex ratios was because Asian immigrants arrived under the
aforementioned context of capitalism. This demand for labor was filled by men, because American recruiters desired male workers because they believed that these workers were more physically capable than females. In addition, in most Asian cultures, the woman was supposed to remain at home as guardians of the home and caretakers of the children. The Filipino immigrants also reflect this experience, because many could not afford accumulate adequate funds to either return home or have their families sent to America. Victor Merina, a first generation Filipino immigrant, reflects upon this reality with his own experience:

What happened in the twenties and thirties was that many Filipinos came over to work as farm laborers and in canneries. A lot of men thought they could make money, and be able to bring family members over and resettle here. And there were many others who felt they could make enough to retire in the Philippines. For the most part, many just stayed, without doing either one.

89. Lee, Joann Faung, Asian Americans: Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam and Cambodia. The New Press, New York, New York, 1992, pg 145

Although many initial waves of Asian immigrants kept in contact with their families in their particular Asian countries of origin, the family structure in their lives was subverted. For those Asian immigrants practicing Confucian ethics, like the Chinese, separation from family members made it increasingly difficult to retain strong kinship ties. In addition, families of these immigrants who were still in Asian countries fared without the father as the traditional household head. This high male to female sex ratio was not necessarily the case for nineteenth century European immigrants, as many were allowed to bring their families over to America.

Unlike first waves of Asian immigrants, many Vietnamese

refugees of the first wave were able to flee Vietnam with their families intact. According to the Darrel Montero, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service reported that approximately sixty-two percent of first wave Vietnamese refugees arrived in family groups of five or more

90. Montero, pg 24

. This family cohesion during the migration process allowed and continues to allow for the transmission of Confucian family values. This occurs because the father is not separated from the family and more importantly, the family structure as a whole remains intact, making family traditions much easier to transmit. In addition, the fact that Vietnamese are foreigners in America typically compels them to rely more upon their families as a means of support.

For the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation, the Confucian value of retaining firm family cohesion remains one strongly impressed upon them, especially through parents. The teaching of maintaining kinship ties results from both parental lessons and the reliance upon one's family as a support group. This latter point is especially important in a foreign country, such as America. Through factors such as these, the retention of the Confucian family ethic, for the 1.5 generation, exists as a continuity and an influence from the Vietnamese culture. Bao's family and her personal beliefs represent an ideal example of the Confucian influence from Vietnamese culture:

My parents believe that your family is number one and that you have to look out for your family, and I truly agree with that. So that's one major similarity. You have to build your family first before you can do anything else. You could say that I'm pretty loyal to my family in certain ways. I can't really totally leave, whereas some caucasian kids might be able to

just walk away. With Vietnamese families, you don't do that.

91. Interview #1 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 13

Bao attributes much of her family values to teachings from her parents and argues that even the Vietnamese in America uphold these values. However, unlike children who strictly follow the Confucian family ethic by unquestioningly obeying their parents, many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans actually question their parents at times. Although questioning parents' wishes is not unique to the 1.5 generation, there does seem to be an increasing number of cases in which this occurs for Vietnamese of this age

92. Rutledge Tenhula, John, Voices From Southeast Asia. Holmes and Meier Publishers, New York, 1991


On a larger social level, Confucianism demands that youths respect their elders. This respect in turn has served as a medium toward transmitting Vietnamese culture to the 1.5 generation, because the younger group learns to interact and respect the traditions of the older generation. In addition to learning, these young Vietnamese Americans have also re-acquainted themselves with the Vietnamese culture through interaction with their elders. For Hoai-Thi, working in a program designed to meet the needs of Vietnamese seniors allowed her to accomplish the goal of aiding this group, while it also benefitted Hoai-Thi through the customs that she learned from the seniors:

They (the elders) are the ones who put on holiday festivities, like traditional holidays. They will conduct ceremonies and such to honor that. So coming back to work for the community has been a real treat for me to be removed from all of that and now I am re-learning all these holidays and all these ceremonies that are involved... When those times come around, they really put on a show and they're teaching us... they're (the festivals) put on for everybody from some of the staff here down to me and down to some of their grandchildren that they take just so they can witness it, so they can feel proud that they're coming from a background where there's a long

line of history and a long line of traditions.

93. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pgs 7-8

For Hoai-Thi, the transmission of traditions and customs not only shaped Vietnamese American consciousness by integrating the component of Vietnamese culture, but it also signifies a preservation of Vietnamese history and culture. The older generation of Vietnamese in America have both physically and orally handed down their cultural knowledge to the 1.5 generation. This older group has also acted as mediums for maintaining the Vietnamese culture, as well as people who teach and re-teach the culture to the younger generation.

In addition to family, customs and traditions, language has also acted as a mode in which the 1.5 generation received influence from the Vietnamese culture toward the formation of Vietnamese American consciousness. The Vietnamese language is vital because it directly links the 1.5 generation to their culture of origin. The Vietnamese language is essential toward learning about Vietnamese culture, because it allows one to learn about the culture in its own language. This permits one to learn about Vietnamese culture without the distortion of utilizing a different language. In addition, Vietnamese culture can be transmitted on its own terms through Vietnamese language. This prevents Vietnamese culture from being defined by a language not compatible with it and incapable of transmitting accurate definitions of this culture. one example of this lies in digesting the history of Vietnam through the Vietnamese language, rather than receiving it in another language:

I retained the language, I retained the history, I still know a little about the history and whatever I could get my hands on I hang on... I read more about it and I hang on to it.

94. Ibid., pg 4

Although literature exists as a means of learning about the Vietnamese culture, many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans lack literacy in their language of origin and cannot access the Vietnamese culture through written works. They must often rely upon oral transmission. This language dilemma reflects those experienced by second generation children from the first waves of Asian Immigrants. As Chan states, these earlier children suffered similar problems:

In reality, second generation Asian Americans could not work easily in Asia or America. Though they had attended Asian-language schools, not all of them had learned an Asian language sufficiently well or had absorbed enough of the subtleties of Asian culture to interact smoothly with people or to obtain good jobs in their parents' homelands.

95. Chan, pg 115

Like these second generation Asian Americans, although some 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans are fluent in Vietnamese, many lack the language skills necessary to do more than simply communicate.

In contrast to these Asian Americans, 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans often left at an age late enough to have at least been exposed to the Vietnamese language. This exposure is different from learning it in America, because the Vietnamese language exists as a dominant medium of communication in its own country, rather than a secondary one. Thus many 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans were initially reared with the Vietnamese language as a primary one, while second generations from other Asian American groups attained their Asian language in a country

which treated it as one subordinate to English. However, for these 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans, language retention was extremely difficult. Because many of these refugees' parents had to work multiple jobs or excessive hours, the latter often could not spend time to teach their children Vietnamese. For other Asian American groups, however, the second generation did not emerge until their parents had had time to establish more firm economic and community foundations in America. As part of this foundation, Asian language schools were created as part of a larger effort to preserve individual Asian cultures in America. This permitted these children to develop their Asian language skills under more formal conditions. Thus, whereas these second generation Asian Americans were at a point where they had to acquire their individual Asian languages, 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans were placed in a predicament of language retention.

Interaction within the Vietnamese community, whether social, economic or political also served and continues to serve as a means of grounding oneself in the Vietnamese culture and many of the 1.5 generation seek this method as a means of retaining or acquiring aspects of the Vietnamese culture. However, although they may speak the Vietnamese language, the degree of proficiency in this language varies as many even lack the skills to effectively communicate with other Vietnamese speaking peoples in America. This has led and continues to lead to the problem of alienating some of the 1.5 generation from engaging in activities within the Vietnamese community in America

96. Interview #1 with Lam, James Chung, pp. 3-4



Although for some, the difficulty lies in their attempts to learn more about the Vietnamese culture, others face an additional obstacle, which is to reach a level of awareness in which they even want to learn about the Vietnamese culture. This allows them to begin to question their position in society as a Vietnamese in America. For second generation Asian Americans, racism awakened them to an awareness of how their ties to their being Asian, both physically and culturally, played into their identities. Chan states, “As for the children reared in America, the identity crisis they experienced was exacerbated by a racism that permeated many areas of public life”

97. Chan, pg 113

. They were denied access to public recreational facilities and the second generation college graduates were barred from jobs which reflected their qualification levels. For Bao, similar experiences of racism during her childhood years in America signified differences between herself and Caucasian children. This led her to subvert her identity to an ambiguous level during her high school years as the race question never arose again:

When I was younger, it {the identity issue} was a pretty big deal, with the racism that I experienced when I first came here. But when I was in high school, race was never an issue, we never talked about it. If you're Asian, you're Asian; if you're white, you're white. There really wasn't an issue. But at that time, I felt like I didn't like being Vietnamese, because I didn't know what it meant to be Vietnamese. I didn't know that I had an identity.

98. Interview #1 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 6

The neglect concerning the identity question stranded Bao in a situation where she uses the word “neutral” to describe her attitude toward self-perception of her own identity within a racial context. Beyond color differences, she found it difficult to apply

much thought toward the race and ethnicity issues regarding one's identity in America. For many 1.5 generation Vietnamese, this identity crisis pervades throughout their lives and for others, no issue exists as it remains subsided. These young Vietnamese' attempts to adjust to American society and their lack of exposure to questions of their identities, as peoples of Vietnamese descent, at times left them in a state in which they could abandon the Vietnamese culture or disregard how their ethnicity played a factor in their lives and their interactions with others. When one compares the racial experiences of the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation to other second generation Asian Americans, the continuity of racism occupies a significant aspect in these groups' identity development.

However, for some, particularly the 1.5 generation who came to the U.S. at an older age, the retention or awareness of their Vietnamese cultural backgrounds is higher, because they have had a longer stay in Vietnam in order to consolidate and reinforce their culture:

I didn't come here when I was two or three, or I wasn't born here. There's a part of me that has learned, that has grown up Vietnamese, certain Vietnamese values and cultural norms were instilled in me because I was born and raised in Vietnam.

99. Interview #2 with Tran, Huy pg 2


Huy's statement reflects the fact that he arrived in the U.S. at the later age of thirteen and although he was not an adult, he had less problems retaining the Vietnamese component of his identity. He represents the other extreme of the Vietnamese 1.5 generation, who arrived at a later age and in which the Vietnamese culture

remains strong in his identity. As stated earlier, those of the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation who left at a later age were possessed a more firm identity and awareness of the Vietnamese culture. This allowed them to more strongly retain the Vietnamese culture and left them less susceptible to this urge to deny this culture in order to assimilate. For this older group, even this notion of the cultural neutrality, experienced by those such as Bao, was not as much a problem, because they already possessed a solid foundation and identification with the Vietnamese culture

However, for all of these interviewees, their involvement in VAC proved crucial to their retention of Vietnamese culture. This occurred because they possess strong and active ties with the Vietnamese community in Orange County, and this activism helped to preserve and expand their knowledge of the Vietnamese culture. For example, Hoai-Thi's work with Vietnamese elders served as a means of cultural transmission from this older group to those of the younger generation, such as Hoai-Thi. VAC'S work mentoring and tutoring English to Amerasians and other recently arrived Vietnamese also grounded these 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans more closely with the Vietnamese culture. Because the VAC members needed to successfully communicate with these current arrivals, they were forced to more actively exercise their Vietnamese cultural knowledge. In addition, these newly arrived Vietnamese also passed on their knowledge of the Vietnamese culture to the 1.5 generation VAC members and this also helped to familiarize the latter group with the Vietnamese culture.


The influence of the Vietnamese culture on 1.5 generation. Vietnamese Americans contributed one vital component to the formation of the Vietnamese American consciousness, yet equally important is the integration of mainstream American values toward this identity construction. I am referring to mainstream American culture in the context of all those which are non-Asian American, which includes other minority groups and primarily emphasizes EuroAmerican culture. The two cultures often differ and at times even come to a point of conflict. This conflict arose during a transitional moment for these young Vietnamese Americans, primarily because they arrived at an age in which they have appropriated a substantial knowledge of the Vietnamese culture, yet they were also impressionable enough to adopt aspects of mainstream American culture. For these particular interviewees, their current status as recent or near-graduated university students also places them at a moment in which they must reconcile the various influences on their identities in order to prepare themselves for their diverse futures. We must examine the impact of the mainstream American culture on their lives and how this has altered or shaped their identities as Vietnamese Americans.

For the first waves of Asian Americans, adapting to American society often meant a need to appropriate ideologies of American thoughts and systems in order to create equality. This appropriation resulted from the racial discrimination directed against these Asian Americans. In reaction to this, Asian

Americans appropriated aspects of the American culture, such as the need to question authority to effect equality and the ability to openly challenge oppression. This reflects mainstream American culture, because it advocates equality and individual rights. This appropriation of American cultural thought often took shape in the forms of strikes and legal action. As Takaki states:

But {Asian American} plantation workers did not concentrate their discontent against each other, rather, they usually directed their rage outward against their bosses and the system, seeking to gain greater control over the conditions of their labor and a greater share of the profits they had produced. Not passive and docile as the managers wanted them to be, they actively struggled to improve the quality of their lives on the plantation in many different ways.

100. Takaki, pg 142

These Asian Americans engaged in non-violent, and at times even violent, forms of strikes in order to attain better conditions for themselves. In addition, they also relied on legal means of challenging their oppressors, as seen in such cases as Wong Kim Ark v. United States. in 1898, which ruled that anyone born in the U.S. could not be stripped of citizenship

101. Chan, chpt. 5 Takaki, chpt. 4

. This was merely one example of Asian American resistance to oppression. More importantly, however, these acts indicate that these Asian immigrants had, to certain degrees, adopted American methods and ideologies of challenging hierarchies. However, this also added struggles for these first generation Asian Americans, because their children began to rely upon these empowering American values to challenge parental authority.

Like other younger Asian Americans, 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans have appropriated aspects of American culture toward

increasing their role within their families and the larger society. The transformation, and in some cases, subversion, of the Confucian and Taoist ideologies in the Vietnamese culture is the most significant result of American influence on Vietnamese American identity. As mentioned before, the retention of strong family values and respect for elders remains an important aspect of influence from Confucianism. However, the American influence on the hierarchical structure and gender roles espoused by Confucianism emerges as the subject of critique and change for the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation. Questioning authority is one value adopted by the 1.5 generation's interaction with mainstream America. This demonstrates a shift away from the Confucian ideal of maintaining order within the social hierarchy and exhibiting complete obedience toward one's superior. On the one hand, the 1.5 generation have managed to integrate the notion of defending what they believe is just and verbally expressing their opinions, even toward authority figures, into their ideologies. This notion has been adopted from their interactions with the American mainstream, the latter of which advocates democracy, equality and the right to defend individual rights and beliefs:

We could call a spade a spade and we could see it as it is. And we don't have this upbringing of smoothing over things or valuing harmony over self-sacrifice. We're not ingrained with that Confucius thought that says `let bygones be bygones.' If we see ourselves being trampled upon... I don't think we're as likely to sit there and take it. We come from the mainstream society and just recently came back to the community, so we know how they the mainstream operate... and we're not intimidated by them... and we learn from American and EuroAmerican culture that speaking up for yourself and standing up for yourself is valued.

102. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pp. 10-11


Unlike the Confucian and Taoist aspects of the Vietnamese culture, both of which stress order and harmony over individual gain, the American ideology of expressiveness and individual rights have been appropriated by the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation. This signifies a move toward the construction of a Vietnamese American consciousness, which incorporates this transformed Vietnamese Confucian ethic. We must also realize that much of this philosophy to defend one's beliefs, as espoused in Hoai-Thi's statement, is a necessary part of succeeding in American society, which stresses the notion that one must actively assert their opinions in order to attain affluence. 1.5 generation VAC activists have place this value over the Confucian or Taoist principles, both as a means of surviving in American society and establishing their personal beliefs and identities without having to sacrifice them in the name of order or harmony.

Another aspect of this breaking away from traditional Vietnamese culture is the fact that the 1.5 generation practice American notions of independence and individualism, which stresses the importance of achieving individual needs and goals, and placing group concerns in a subordinate position. Although Vietnamese Confucian and Buddhist teachings strongly urge self-perfection, this goal must lead toward the greater good of society and the individual must seek to improve the larger masses. According to James, the Vietnamese 1.5 generation often adopt mainstream American values of independence where parents and family are concerned and even rely upon these American standards to critique

the structure of their families:

They're (the 1.5 generation) more willing to argue (with their parents), maybe, more willing to object. Maybe because there's less reverence there... when they get their jobs, they might not be expected to contribute any of their success to the family. I think they become more independent, or at least they've ingrained this sense of independence or individualism. They're judging their parents from a mainstream criterion and they're judging their family from the mainstream perspective.

103. Interview #1 with Lam, James Chung, pg 13

This statement suggests that the 1.5 generation adopt American values of independence and individualism which can potentially undermine the Confucian family structure by breaking the extremely ordered hierarchical and kin structures. However, this notion also applies to the critical perspectives from the viewpoint of the 1.5 generation because they have not only adopted and practiced these mainstream American ideologies, but these young Vietnamese Americans also have utilized them as the standard by which they view themselves in relation to their family. Thus, this not only represents a skepticism toward traditional Vietnamese family and individual norms, but also demonstrates that the 1.5 generation have actually acquired and asserte the perspectives of American independence and individualism.

Despite these breaks from Confucian beliefs, Hoai-Thi does admit to practicing parts of this Vietnamese philosophy through her respect 'for elders and desire to help support her family. However, she conveys that her methods differ from traditional Confucianism, because of her intrepidity toward interacting within mainstream society, even in personal relationships:

I believed in helping them {my parents} out, I believed in filial piety and all of that good Confucius stuff, but not

necessarily doing it as they {my parents} think it is the only way its should be done. Like they want me to live at home and I would move out... they probably prefer it if I was with a Vietnamese man.

104. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pg 3

Although Hoai-Thi does believe in supporting her family, she also believes that this can be done without her actual presence within the confines of her parents' home. Thus we see a modification of traditional Confucianism, which usually stresses that children remain in the home for a long period of time or at least live with and take care of their parents in their own home. Although these 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans still exercise the preservation and practice of these traditional Vietnamese values, there still remains at least a skepticism, if not an outright rejection of the Confucian family ethic.

In addition to shifting away from traditional Confucianism, Hoai-Thi shows skepticism toward Vietnamese males, because she detests the fact that many adhere to the patriarchal system of Confucianism. This reflects her adoption of western forms of feminist thought:

I was with a white boyfriend for years and I just wouldn't date Vietnamese guys, because I think that they're patriarchal and misogynists.

105. Ibid., pg 4

The notion of outmarriage for Asian American women can serve as an expression of strong opposition against the traditional patriarchal structure and the oppressive confines of the customary role of an Asian woman

106. Mazumdar, Sucheta, “General Introduction: A Woman-Centered Perspective on Asian American History,” in Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian American Women. Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, pg 16

. Like other Asian American women, Hoai-Thi believes that outmarriage allows her to exhibit her dissatisfaction for the traditional Confucian hierarchy, which places the male at the head of the household and in control of a relationship.


In addition to resistance to patriarchal systems, Asian American women have benefitted from the feminist and civil rights movements in America. Esther Ngan-Ling Chow states, “They {feminist and civil rights movements} help them to become aware of their doubly disadvantaged positions as members of a racial minority and as females, to learn about the structural sources of their deprivation and social inequalities, and to acknowledge the need to resolve their unique problems”

107. Chow, Ester Ngan-Ling, “The Feminist Movement: Where Are All the Asian American Women?” in Making Waves, pg 364

. Many Asian American women are beginning to adopt these new social ideologies and even join various movements to end gender and racial oppression. However, these women have increasingly discovered that many of these organizations marginalize or ignore their needs as doubly oppressed minorities. For example, feminist movements have typically subordinated issues specific to Asian American women, while Asian American groups have often ignore women's issues. These problems have caused Asian American women to form their own coalitions in order to deal with their own particular issues

108. Ibid.


Similarly, Vietnamese American women activists have also sought out new avenues in order to confront issues pertaining particularly to Vietnamese American women. For example, despite a resistance to male domination through the patriarchal Confucian system 'and a feeling of empowerment from the women's movement, Hoai-Thi felt partially alienated from true feminism. She believed that minority women were not adequately represented and helped. In response to this, she learned to appropriate her knowledge of women's issues within the context of Vietnamese women in order to

redefine and use feminism for her own needs:

And being so involved in women's issues , the issues that women's studies presented were issues of women, but not specifically focused upon women of color, even though I would continually bring that up in any discussions, any activities and any programs, that I was involved with. When I was in rape crisis, I came in to work with a rape crisis center, because I wanted to focus on the plight of Vietnamese women who have been victims of rape during their passage over here... but I wouldn't press the issues, I wouldn't go to all ends to pursue a grant, to pursue a program specifically targeting Vietnamese women, like I would now.

109. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pp. 4-5

Although her consciousness of women's issues led her to resist male domination, Hoai-Thi did not actively work toward pushing for issues concerning Vietnamese women, but instead worked in a rape crisis center which she believes targets white women. However, she does acknowledge a difference between then and now, because she currently struggles for the representation of Vietnamese women when women's issues arise. Through this example, we witness a moment in which a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American woman has weaved her mainstream knowledge of women's issues and speaking out for one's individual rights, with issues pertaining to Vietnamese women in order to attempt to resolve a dilemma concerning Vietnamese women in America. This moment reflect's Hoai-Thi's familiarity and reconciliation of both Vietnamese and American cultural values, which in turn reflects the struggle of constructing a Vietnamese American identity.

In addition to expressive ideals and women's issues appropriated from American culture, Bao states that consistent and frequent interaction with the American mainstream also helped to reinforce these acquired beliefs, as well as open her mind toward

learning from other groups:

The younger generation, we're more willing to work within the system because we do have the language ability and all that and the social skills to work within the system.

110. Interview #1 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 8

In addition, the 1.5 generation's knowledge of and proficiency with the English language places them in a unique position to both utilize these skills with the Vietnamese community, as well as engage in active dialogue with mainstream America. As mentioned earlier, language is essential in acquiring Vietnamese culture without distorting meanings, customs and traditions through translation. Likewise, the transmission of American culture is more easily accomplished with less distortion through an understanding of the English language. Since the 1.5 generation also commands strong fluency in English, they can more easily gain extensive knowledge of American ideologies and values than their older counterparts.

The interaction with the American mainstream allows 1.5 generation Vietnamese the opportunity to appropriate American culture toward the construction of a Vietnamese American identity, whether for personal reasons or in order to engage in community activism within the Vietnamese community. However, many from this group choose not to become active in or conscious about the Vietnamese community and instead decide to solely identify with the American mainstream. The members of VAC represent a small minority of young Vietnamese Americans who actually have brought their knowledge of the American mainstream for the purpose of bridging the cultural gap between larger American society and the Vietnamese

community in America, as well as form a Vietnamese American consciousness. Hoai-Thi stresses the danger of adopting mainstream perspectives without the retention of Vietnamese cultural values:

Unfortunately, I think they (the 1.5 generation) have mainstreamed and forgotten... it might not be any faults of their own. If all through your development, you don't see your own community, you don't see your people reflected in the curriculum, you don't see the opportunities to go back to the community and give back. Opportunities to service others {non-Vietnamese}, to mainstream, to go to the Peace Corps and do this and that, to join Christian fellowships and whatever, are all ways around {the issue of interaction in the Vietnamese communities in America}. But to go back to the community, you really have to seek it out, so it might not be their faults. We just need to make sure that generations growing up in this community are not forgetting their heritage.

111. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pg 13

The younger generation of Vietnamese Americans seem not to engage in activism within the Vietnamese community. In addition, for whatever reasons, they instead move toward the American mainstream while simultaneously abandoning Vietnamese culture and the issues of the Vietnamese in America. This shift toward the mainstream undermines attempts toward reconciling one's identity as a Vietnamese American, because it potentially demonstrates assimilation into the dominant culture, with disregard for one's culture of origin. For VAC, community activism has directly linked Vietnamese American youths with the Vietnamese culture and how it interacts as a transplanted culture in the larger setting of American society. This examination potentially leads toward the exploration of one's identity as a Vietnamese American.

In addition to the appropriation of culture and values from the American mainstream, primarily EuroAmerican culture, the Vietnamese American 1.5 generation from VAC have also acquired a

level of awareness from the mainstream which allows them to critically view themselves from racial perspectives of a minority in a EuroAmerican dominated society. James' discourse on racial and class related issues serves as an example of an active consciousness toward issues of minority roles in the social hierarchy in America and how it relates to the Vietnamese in America:

One thing that directly affects our {the Vietnamese} community is in terms of economic inequality in terms of labor, especially in the large institutions like the garment industry, in which I'm doing research. The garment industry is based on a hierarchy and when it comes down to the bottom of the workers, it's usually ethnic minorities. They're the one's who are willing to work for these low wages and it's {the hierarchy} is always maintained, it's hard to change that. And specifically in Orange County, the Vietnamese are involved in the bottom of that ladder. And so it hasn't changed, I mean since we've been here in '75, the industry has remained the same and it's been there before Vietnamese have been involved in it. And even then, it's been reserved for ethnic groups, so the Vietnamese, when they came over, they're just filling in.

112. Interview #1 with Lam, James Chung, pg 3

The acquisition of knowledge concerning American social institutions also originates from ideologies and teachings from the American mainstream itself, as well as from research that resulted from movements such as the Civil Rights movements of the 1960's. This awareness of Vietnamese as minorities in the American social hierarchy helped to form and define Vietnamese American identity in relation to other groups in the U.S. Through this, one can better understand this new identity not only in and of itself, but also as a part of the larger network of ethnic groups in society. This reinforces the notion that the construction of Vietnamese American identity relies upon various components, such as Vietnamese and

American culture. Yet this should also be taken one step further, because this awareness of the relationship between the many groups within our pluralistic society serves to more clearly define Vietnamese American identity by illustrating its role within this large cultural patchwork.

In addition to the importance of group relationships toward the definition of Vietnamese American identity, we must examine the major source of the 1.5 generation's knowledge of American culture: the school system. In James' discussion of racial and economic hierarchies, he mentions that his views on the garment industry and American social institutions derives from his research in this area. This exhibits the importance of formal education toward the shaping of Vietnamese American identity. According to Huy, the American mainstream culture exists strongly in the school system and acts as the strongest and most primary means of transmitting American culture to Vietnamese Americans of the 1.5 generation:

Issues that the younger wave of activists choose to deal with are pretty much drawn from mainstream concerns, just because we go to school here and we hear about these facts from school here from the Caucasian population.

113. Interview #1 with Tran, Huy, pg 6

Whereas the transmission of Vietnamese cultural values occurs primarily within the home and Vietnamese community in America, the these 1.5 generation of Vietnamese American activists experienced and continue to experience exposure to mainstream issues through their schools and college campuses. For example, Hoai-Thi's involvement with rape crisis reflects the mainstream concerns of American society, rather than that of Vietnamese society and culture. However, the schools often ignore or marginalize issues

which pertain to Asian Americans and this lack of representation in the curriculum limits this minority group mostly to learning about the concerns of EuroAmerican mainstream issues. For Vietnamese American refugee children, this alienates them from their culture of origin and sometimes leaves them believing that they should adopt EuroAmerican cultural norms, rather than attempt to reconcile the two cultures. For example, one interviewee mentions that her school lacked ESL programs to aid in her adjustment to life in America, nor did she learn about Vietnamese in America. This led her to embrace mainstream EuroAmerican values and ignore Vietnamese American issues for most of her teenage years

114. Interview with Nguyen, Hoai-Thi Phu, pg 2

. This example reflects the situation and experiences of these other 1.5 generation Vietnamese American activists at UCI.

Although the lack of representation of Vietnamese Americans remains a problem in school curriculums, this problem is not unique to this particular group, as other minorities also failed to see themselves depicted in their formal educations. In the late 1960's, students at San Francisco state College and the University of California at Berkeley organized to ensure ethnic studies programs to educate both minority and non-minority groups. The National Liberation Front served as the umbrella organization to unite these minority groups under a larger coalition toward implementing these ethnic studies programs

115. Bagasao, Paula, “Student Voices: Breaking the Silence: The Asian and Pacific American Experience,” in Change. Nov/Dec 1989 Article by Murase Article by Unemoto

. With particular regard to Asian Americans, this movement demonstrated the beginnings of an Asian American Panethnic consciousness which
consisted of a collective effort of various Asian American groups toward this common academic goal. As a result of these efforts, the establishment of Asian American studies programs ensued. Equally important, the formation of Asian American Panethnic movements on numerous issues, both within and outside of college campuses, occurred.

This panethnic consciousness existed prior to the arrival of Vietnamese refugees to America and continues to have profound impacts on the construction of Vietnamese American consciousness. Typically, various individual Asian American groups combine their efforts, and this collective of Asian American consciousness precipitates the existence of this panethnic consciousness. However, we must keep in mind that this larger identity relies upon the interactions of groups which have already developed Asian American consciousness. Thus individual Asian American consciousness are necessary components toward the panethnic one. Since the Vietnamese arrived in the United States after the formation of Asian American Panethnicity, the existence of this panethnic consciousness precedes that of Vietnamese American consciousness. Thus, we must examine the influence of this panethnic consciousness on the construction and development of Vietnamese American consciousness. For 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans in VAC, this panethnic influence contributes to Vietnamese American identity in the two primary areas of activism and academics within the Asian American Studies movement. Through this panethnic influence, I argue that these 1.5 generation VAC

activists have been able to both awaken their consciousness toward that of a Vietnamese American consciousness and reconcile the tensions created by Vietnamese and mainstream American cultures.

The resurgence of the Asian American Studies movement occurred at UCI in the 1992-93 academic year, when Asian American Panethnicity prospered as the various Asian American organizations united under the common goal of establishing an Asian American Studies program on this campus. Students held numberous meetings with faculty, staff and administrators in order to discuss the means in which this program would be implemented. Without much success, frustrated Asian American students took a more active stance through a demonstration in which over two hundred students occupied administration and presented UCI's Acting Executive Vice Chancellor, L. Dennis Smith, with a list of demands and petitions with thousands of signatures in support of Asian American Studies. In addition, a thirty-five day hunger strike, in which students camped out in front of the administration building, ensued. These actions eventually led to an agreement toward the establishment of an Asian American Studies program at UCI, which is currently in the process of development

116. Lindgren, Kristina, “An Unfulfilled Promise Spurs Protest at UCI,” in The Los Angeles Times. April 23, 1993

. This movement demonstrated a strong pan-Asian alliance which signifies the existence of an Asian American Panethnic consciousness at UCI.

A considerable number of Vietnamese American students, including this particular group of 1.5 generation from VAC, assisted in this movement for Asian American Studies at UCI. For these VAC students, their involvement with the Asian American

panethnic consciousness allowed them to awaken their Vietnamese American consciousness. For James, involvement with this larger movement began with his participation in the RicePaper, which is UCI's Asian/Pacific Newsmagazine and this quarterly deals with Asian American issues. This participation served as a medium for the need to develop his Vietnamese American consciousness. He states, “I think that before that {my work with the RicePaper}, I was just claiming to describe myself as a Vietnamese... {and identified myself as a Vietnamese American} around the time when I started getting involved in the RicePaper and understanding why it's important to identify myself as a Vietnamese American as opposed to being Vietnamese.”

117. Interview #2 with Lam, James Chung, pg 2

For James, activism concerning Asian American issues raised his level of awareness toward the notion that he is a Vietnamese American and led him to attempt to discover more about this new identity.

Through this Asian American Panethnic consciousness, James perceived connections and relationships between his experiences as a Vietnamese 1.5 generation in America with those of other Asian Americans. Although primarily learning about issues involving other Asian American groups, James eventually identified with them and their concerns and applied his awareness toward his own situation as a Vietnamese in America. Realizing that major differences existed between Asian American groups, James drew upon the similarities among these groups, especially their common experiences with the EuroAmerican mainstream and the panethnic consciousness that arose from these experiences:


In terms of this panethnic identity, I think at the University level, people who are involved in Asian American Studies do sense that type of identity somewhat and that's the reason I joined such a movement. You identify with this Asian American thing and you feel that it is personal to you. And from learning from Asian American issues, although it does focus on certain groups, like Japanese and Chinese Americans, you still feel that it's personal to you, because you're perceived as Asian basically (by the mainstream) and you feel that your experience is very similar to other Asian groups in America. So in that sense, you feel like that's the connection and you identify with what's going on.

118. Ibid., pg 1

James' experience represents a crucial example that the Asian American panethnic consciousness exerts a strong influence on identity construction for 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans. In his particular case, this panethnicity served as a point of origin for the construction of James' Vietnamese American consciousness. This not only demonstrates that Asian American Panethnicity aids in the development of identity for Vietnamese Americans, but that this panethnicity can also generate consciousness for Vietnamese Americans.

Bao's involvement with Asian American Studies at UCI illustrates another example of Vietnamese American consciousness construction through Asian American Panethnicity. However, in her case, this movement not only raised her awareness toward the level of Vietnamese American consciousness, but also asked her to raise the question of identity in general:

From my own personal experience at UCI here, if I didn't get involved in the Asian American Studies movement, which I guess mainly centers around or mainly focuses on Chinese and Japanese Americans Studies, I really wouldn't question my own identity. When I got involved with that, I really began to realize that you have to look deeper within your identity. I think that you really have to look at other Asian cultures to start trying to find your own identity.

119. Interview #2 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 1


In this particular case, Asian American Panethnicity served as a source in which Bao could draw from the experiences of other Asian American groups in order to both develop her identity in general and as a Vietnamese American. In addition, she was able to reconcile the tensions between the Vietnamese and mainstream EuroAmerican cultures. The examination of the roles and interactions of other Asian Americans with mainstream America illustrates models and examples of rich experiences which provide a point of comparison for Vietnamese Americans and other Asian Americans. For Bao, the first step toward developing one's own identity, in this case Vietnamese American identity, is to actively voice the need for representation of Vietnamese Americans within this larger Asian American Panethnic coalition. This, in turn, not only raises the issue of the role of Vietnamese Americans in this panethnic movement, but more significantly, the question of what aspects constitute Vietnamese American identity.

Although the UCI pan-Asian alliance immersed these Vietnamese American 1.5 generation students into the larger panethnic consciousness, the academic perspectives from Asian American Studies courses also served as a medium through which these particular Vietnamese Americans could learn about the history, experiences and issues of Asian Americans. This allowed these Vietnamese American students to relate the history and experiences of other Asian Americans to their own. They could also place themselves in the larger mosaic of Asian American and American history:


We read about these things and we find out more about Asian American history and it's personal, because you feel that you… that I could have gone through the same experiences and also see the similarities between the experiences of other Asian groups with Vietnamese experiences, treatments and resettlement.

120. interview #2 with Lam, James Chung, pg 2

Another crucial aspect of the impact of Asian American Studies on Vietnamese American identity concerns the issue of reconciling one's identity as a person who has influences from Vietnamese, mainstream EuroAmerican and Asian American cultures. According to Huy, Asian American Studies helped him to better understand his interaction with the American mainstream, yet he believes that some Vietnamese Americans of the 1.5 generation also benefitted because it reawakened them to their Vietnamese cultural roots in order to weave this cultural component into their identities:

For most of the students, I'm assuming here, but I think for a lot of Vietnamese American students, these classes help to qualify the Vietnamese side more than the American side, because these students grew up here. For me, these classes help in coming to terms with acculturation with the larger American society, so to speak, like finding out the problems that Vietnamese Americans and other Asian Americans have to go through, things that I may not have realized on my own that were brought up in these classes.

121. Interview #2 with Tran, Huy, pg 2

Huy raises the idea that Vietnamese American students benefit from Asian American Studies courses, not only in terms of identity reconciliation, but also as a means of either learning about the role of Vietnamese culture in America or the influences of American culture on Vietnamese Americans. In addition, Huy's statement also reinforces the notion that the experiences of Asian Americans proves essential for Vietnamese American 1.5 generation students because it influences them to assess their positions and roles in American society, in relation to the mainstream, as well as to

other individual Asian American groups.

We must stress that Huy's reflection on his experiences are merely in relation to other individual Asian American groups, not so much with the larger panethnic movement. Although Asian American Panethnicity contributes to the construction of Vietnamese American identity for James and Bao, Huy asserts that he considered himself a Vietnamese American even prior to his exposure to Asian American Studies. According to Huy, Asian American Studies helped to reinforce his identity as a Vietnamese American, but served as merely an minor influence, rather than a large contributing factor toward Vietnamese American consciousness. We could support this claim with the fact that Huy admitted to having a superficial and lacking knowledge of the relationship between Vietnamese Americans and other Asian Americans:

To tell you the truth, I haven't thought much about where I stand in relation with other Asian American populations. I guess I've chosen, in one way or another, intentionally or unintentionally, to focus on Vietnamese American related or specific issues. In a certain way, all Asian Americans are in the same boat, so to speak. It really doesn't matter if you're Japanese American, Chinese American or Vietnamese American, although the other two groups might have established a longer presence here in the United States, however they still face the same problems that we do in terms of discrimination in the work place, at the university, or whatever. However, right now, I don't have enough time or my attention is not quite wide enough to even think about other Asian Americans, my relations with them, just because I can only concentrate on Vietnamese American issues for the time being.

122. Ibid., pg 3

As with other Asian American groups, panethnicity for these Vietnamese American students did not serve as a strong influence on construction of Asian American consciousness. Whereas the former had formed their consciousness prior to the existence of Asian

American panethnicity, the latter simply chose not to consider his role within this larger identity. This demonstrates that although some of the 1.5 generation VAC members exist as a unique historical moment in the history of Asian American consciousness in terms of this tri-level influence, other Vietnamese Americans reflect the continuity of a more bi-level influence. This latter form of influence is also experienced by other Asian Americans who first formed these identities for their own ethnic group in America, prior to the existence of a panethnic consciousness. This is not to say that Huy did not at all benefit from Asian American Studies in the development of his consciousness as a Vietnamese American, but his identity was not strongly influenced by Asian American Panethnicity.

For those strongly influenced by Asian American Panethnicity in Vietnamese American consciousness construction, on the one hand, this larger movement sparked a need to form Vietnamese American identity. However, on the other hand, these 1.5 generation Vietnamese American activists eventually shifted toward “ethnic disidentification,” in which they disengaged themselves from this panethnic movement. This occurred for two primary reasons: first, these Vietnamese Americans felt marginalized and subordinated in the hierarchy of the Asian American Panethnic movement. Second, because Vietnamese American consciousness merely exists in its formative stage, it could not effectively interact, let alone intermingle, with the other well defined consciousness of other Asian Americans in this larger panethnic identity.


As emphasized by these Vietnamese American activists in some of their earlier statements, Chinese and Japanese Americans dominate Asian American Studies, as both a movement and an academic area of study. For example, Bao attributes her disidentification with this panethnicity because she felt marginalized within it:

I think that because we haven't been here as long as the Japanese and Chinese Americans or Korean Americans, we're overlooked sometimes. When we talk about Asian American Studies, in my mind I know that they're talking about Japanese and Chinese American Studies and I think it's partially our fault, but partially it's not, because of the history of the Southeast Asian community {in America}. There may be many of us {in the U.S. and at UCI}, but we haven't been here long enough to be at the same level as the other cultures. And sometimes I get the sense that they look down upon us or pity us because our community isn't as developed as theirs. We realize that differences do exist between us and sometimes that makes one group look down on the other.

123. Interview #2 with Nguyen, Bao Chau Thi, pg 2

Although Bao acknowledges that the differences in length of time in America and amount of research done on Asian Americans differ from one specific group to another, she asserts that the hierarchy within this panethnic identity marginalizes Vietnamese Americans. She believes that the larger identity limits the role and representation of Vietnamese Americans in this larger movement. She provides an example of this with a friend and colleague of hers within this movement who is a second generation Chinese American. Bao states that this friend often subordinated the importance of Vietnamese American representation in the panethnic movement and Asian American Studies. In addition, her friend often implied the notion that the length of time an Asian American group spends in the U.S. contributes to the legitimation of their overrepresentation.


James also expresses the opinion that lack of representation of certain Asian American groups perpetuates ethnic exclusion and the hierarchy within this panethnic alliance benefits some groups more than others:

One of the reasons why I did VAC was because of the disappointment of the whole Asian American movement, because it lacked representation of other, more marginalized groups, like Vietnamese groups, like Southeast Asian groups. It mainly focuses on Chinese and Japanese Americans and you feel like you're left out.

124. Interview #2 with Lam, James Chung, pg 3

The marginalization of Vietnamese Americans within this larger movement led to “ethnic disidentification” for these particular 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans. This eventually resulted in the formation of VAC and the move toward the construction of Vietnamese American consciousness within this organization which focuses on Vietnamese American issues.

For these Vietnamese Americans, their participation within the larger Asian American Panethnic movement parallels the moment when they are engaging in the search for their own identities as Vietnamese Americans. This context of consciousness poses a unique situation, because as previously stated, the existence of Asian American Panethnicity precedes that of Vietnamese American consciousness. Whereas other Asian American groups possess more developed ethnic identities and cultural similarities as Asian Americans, allowing them to more easily unite, these VAC 1.5 generation members engage in “ethnic disidentification” because their Vietnamese American consciousness requires further growth. The difference in degrees and types of ethnic consciousness formation created a cleavage between the more recently arrived

Vietnamese Americans and the mostly American born Asian Americans within the panethnic movement:

I think it was difficult to work with this whole Asian American identity thing, getting grouped together... it really wasn't grouped together. People who worked with Asian American Studies, they were a certain group of students who had the same idea, but I think the rest of the students didn't have that consciousness yet.

125. Ibid., pg 3

Because much of this Asian American panethnic identity primarily centers around American born Asians, these Vietnamese Americans expressed the sentiment that they could not identify with this panethnic movement. They felt alienation from this particular emphasis and believe that the movement actually favors American born Asians. This reflects Espiritu's notion that more newly arrived immigrants and refugees tend to disengage themselves from Asian American Panethnicity because they cannot identify with these American born Asians. However, James' statement suggests that part of this relates with the fact that Vietnamese American consciousness still exists in a developmental stage. This differs from that of other Asian Americans, who established more firm Asian American identities before forming this panethnic identity. This difference led 1.5 generation VAC members to exert their efforts toward the construction of Vietnamese American consciousness rather than concerning themselves with Asian American Panethnicity as a major issue.

However, one should not underestimate the importance of Asian American Panethnicity as a factor in generating and reinforcing ethnic identity for these 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans. This panethnic consciousness played a significant role, along with

Vietnamese and EuroAmerican cultures, toward the formation of Vietnamese American consciousness. Although this panethnic component helped to form Vietnamese American identity, it also served as a means of indicating to Vietnamese Americans that they must establish their own niche within both Asian American and mainstream American communities. In addition, as Asian American Panethnicity aids in the reconciliation of multiple cultural influences for Vietnamese Americans, this larger identity also contributes to the difficulty of cultural reconciliation, because it adds to the complexity of the “cultural crossroads” for this newly arrived refugee group.

Direction in the Midst of the “Cultural Crossroads:” The Formation of Vietnamese American Consciousness

Although I am not seeking to establish a definitive Vietnamese American consciousness, I would like to demonstrate that it does exist in its early stages. The 1.5 generation of VAC members represents the beginnings of an attempt to reconcile these multiple cultural influences. Vietnamese American consciousness begins to exist for any individual who acknowledges the possibility of its existence or that they themselves possess this consciousness. Of course, this newly formed identity exists in a unique manner for each and every Vietnamese American. Although Vietnamese American identity encompasses a wide variety of different factors, concrete evidence of some components have

already emerged in the discussion of its formation. For example, the feminizing of Confucianism by Vietnamese American women such as Hoai-Thi or Bao represents an appropriation of Vietnamese, EuroAmerican and Asian American consciousness toward the construction of Vietnamese American identity. Another example is the application of Asian American Studies as a model and means of envisioning one's identity, as a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American, in relation to other Asian Americans, as well as to mainstream America. For James, this factor relates to the notion of one's home and role in his community as a mode of ethnic identification and vice versa:

Identity is a tool of location, how you locate yourself... I think anywhere you live, you need to find a sense of home and identity traces that sense of home, locates it. In terms of consciousness, I think you're talking in terms of community consciousness, that being Vietnamese American, it recognizes that I belong to the Vietnamese American community.

126. Ibid., pg 1

One's community shapes his or her identity and ideologies and this cannot be separated from one's cultural consciousness. However, ethnic identity comprises many intricate features, and for Vietnamese Americans, the integration of these diverse cultural aspects into a unique identity exists in many different combinations and variations. For example, Huy provides examples of this through his religious identification, as well as his interactions:

I would consider myself to be a Vietnamese American, if there is such a thing... it depends on the individual. I am one of those individuals who believes that there is such a thing as a Vietnamese American in as much as I'm Vietnamese as I was born and raised in Vietnam. I could remember a lot about it, the people, the country, the culture and even though I'm living in the United States, being part of my family, I'm

observing and practicing values, culture, specific things. I classify myself as being a bonified Vietnamese... like going to Chua (Buddhist temple) or observing holidays that the Vietnamese people observe. In that sense, I think I've retained most, if not all, of my Vietnamese values... You are American in some way, because you live in the United States. I go to school here, work here. You live here, you can't say that you're not American in any way. If you live here, if you go to school here, interact with people and the mainstream society, whether you want to admit it or not, these things affect you, they affect the way you think, the way you interact with other people. In that sense, I can't help but be a little bit American as well. I would classify myself on that continuum as being a Vietnamese American and I do believe that there is such a thing as a Vietnamese American identity. You sort of identify yourself with various aspects of both sides, not exclusively one or the other.

127. Interview #2 with Tran, Huy, pg 1

Huy's detailed description of his identity as a Vietnamese American merely presents a superficial aspect of this consciousness, because of the many factors which comprise it. Regardless of how one integrates the numerous cultural aspects, the 1.5 generation VAC members in this study acknowledge the existence of Vietnamese American consciousness and they themselves represent examples of the process and attempt to construct and develop this unique identity.

Although this identity does exist, its development, within a context which follows the construction of Asian American Panethnicity, places Vietnamese American consciousness in the midst of a “cultural crossroad.” This intersection of cultures allows these 1.5 generation Vietnamese Americans to draw from the influences of Vietnamese, mainstream American and Asian American Panethnic identities in order to formulate a new and distinct consciousness.



Oral Histories Conducted:

Luu Trung Khao, Interview #1 on July 9, 1993

Le Dinh Dieu, July 14, 1993

Vu Duc Thang, July 18, 1993

Luu Trung Khao, Interview #2 on July 22, 1993

Nguyen Trong Loc, July 29, 1993

“James” Chung Hong Lam, Interview #1, October 25, 1993

Nguyen Phu Hoai-Thi, October 28, 1993

Nguyen Thi Bao Chau, Interview #1 on November 24, 1993 and November 29, 1993

Tran, Huy, Interview #1 on January 6, 1993

Tran, Huy, Interview #2 on March 2, 1994

Nguyen Thi Bao Chau, Interview #2 on March 3, 1994

“James” Chung Hong Lam, Interview #2 on March 4, 1994

Arnold, Fred, Urmil Minocha, and James T. Fawcett, “The Changing Face of Asian Immigration to the United States,” in Pacific Bridges: The New Immigration From Asia and the Pacific Islands. 1987

Bagasao, Paula, “Student Voices: Breaking the Silence: The Asian and Pacific American Experience,” in Change. Nov/Dec, 1989

Baldwin, Beth C., Patterns of Adjustment: A Second Look at Indochinese Resettlement in Orange County. Orange, California, Immigrant and Refugee Planning Center, 1984.

Baum, Willa K., ed., and David Dunaway, ed., Oral History: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. Nashville, Tennessee, American Association for State and Local History, 1984

Chan, Sucheng, Asian Americans: An Interpretive History. Boston, Massachusetts, Twain Publishers, 1991

Chow, Esther Ngan-Ling, “The Feminist Movement: Where Are All the

Asian American Women?” in Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian American Women. Boston, Massachusetts, Beacon Press, 1989.

Daniels, Roger and Harry H.L. Kitano, Asian Americans: Emerging Minorities. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, Inc., 1988

Espiritu, Yen Le, Asian American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1992.

Frakt, David, “The Vietnamese American College Student: Five Lives in Historical Perspective.” Senior Honors Thesis, University of California, Irvine, 1990

Freeman, James A., Hearts of Sorrow: Vietnamese-American Lives. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 1989

Gordon, Linda, “Southeast Asian Refugee Migration to the United States,” in Pacific Bridges: The New Immigration from Asia and the Pacific Islands. 1987

Grele, Ronald J., Envelopes of Sound: The Art of oral History. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, Chicago, Illinois, Precedent Publishing, Inc., 1975, second edition, 1985.

Handlin, Oscar, The Uprooted. Boston, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1973

Higham, John, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925. New York, Altheneum, 1972.

Jones, Jr., Woodrow and Paul J. Strand, Indochinese Refugees in America: Problems of Adaptation and Assimilation. Durham, North Carolina, Duke University Press, 1985

Lam, Truong Buu, ed., “Borrowings and Adaptations in Vietnamese Culture.” Honolulu, Hawaii, Southeast Asian Studies Program Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii, 1987

Lee, Joann Faung, Asian Americans: Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam and Cambodia. New York, New York, The New Press, 1992

Lindgren, Kristina, “An Unfulfilled Promise Spurs Protest at UCI,” in The Los Angeles Times. April 23, 1993

Manzumdar, Sucheta, “General Introduction: A Woman-Centered Perspective on Asian American History,” in Making Waves: An Anthology of Writing By and About Asian American Women.

Boston, Massachusetts, Beacon Press, 1989

Montero, Daniel, Vietnamese Americans: Patterns of Resettlement and Socioeconomic Adaptation in the United States. Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1979

Murase, Mike, “Ethnic Studies and Higher Education for Asian Americans,” in Counterpoint., ed. by Emma Gee, 1976

Nee, Brett de Bary and Victor Nee, Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown. Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 1986.

Office of Refugee and Resettlement, Report to Congress: Refugee Resettlement Program. Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1992

Okada, John, No-No Boy. Washington, University of Washington Press, 1992

Rutledge, Paul James, The Role of Religion in Ethnic Self-Identity: A Vietnamese Community. Lanham, MD, University Press of America, 1985

Rutledge, Paul James, The Vietnamese Experience in America. Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1992.

SarDesai, D.R., Vietnam: Trials and Tribulations of a Nation. Long Beach, California, Long Beach Publications, 1988.

Stephenson, Shirley E., Editing and Indexing: Guidelines for Oral History. Fullerton, California, Oral History Program, 1983.

Takaki, Ronald, Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. New York, Penguin Books, 1989.

Tenhula, John, Voices From Southeast Asia. New York, New York, Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc., 1991.

Thompson, Paul, The Voice From the Past: Oral History. Second Edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1978, second edition, 1988.

Unemoto, Karen, “On Strike! San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-69: The Role of Asian American Students,” in Amerasia Journal, vol. 15, no. 1. 1989.

Wong, Bernard, Chinatown: Economic Adaptation and Ethnic Identity of the Chinese. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

About this text
Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives. The UC Irvine Libraries, Main Library 5th Floor, PO Box 19557, Irvine, CA 92623-9557;
Title: Cultural crossroads : the formation of Vietnamese American consciousness for the 1.5 generation
By:  Pham, Vu Hong, Author, Vietnamese American Coalition, Author
Date: 1994
Contributing Institution: Special Collections and Archives. The UC Irvine Libraries, Main Library 5th Floor, PO Box 19557, Irvine, CA 92623-9557;
Copyright Note:

Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Pham, Vu Hong