Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review #1 - Transnationalizing Vietnam - Jimmy Tran

Jimmy Tran
Professor Valverde
ASA 150E
27 February 2016
Book Review #1 – Transnationalizing Viet nam
       First and foremost, I just want to say that as a student to have the opportunity to take a class such as ASA 150E, I am privileged to be able to take professors who dedicated their time to write a book based on their research. This type of work ethic shows a lot of passion and love in the work they do. Additionally, it also shows that these type of professors take their work seriously and that they do what it takes to share their knowledge among their students and their readers who have interest in their topic and agenda. I am not writing this to kiss ass or to try to get a get good grade out of this book report but to show that I truly appreciate the book and that professors like Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde and Darrell Hamamoto should be recognized as prestigious professors who do not teach recycled Asian American Studies topics. Rather than doing that, they innovate, research and educate others on facts that people might not have known in the first place. As a Vietnamese American student growing up mixed with French and Chinese, I can relate to the issues that goes on in the book. Even though I was not born in Vietnam personally, my ancestry and history goes way back and I have the respect for the roots on where I come from as a person. I did not grow up as an ignorant kid just because I was born in America. I took the time to understand the hardships and struggles my parents had to go through to come too an industrialized country such as the United States. Even though, I have never been to Vietnam yet physically, I have heard a lot of beautiful things about it and when I have the opportunity to be able to go there one day, I will make sure that I pick up the most recent copy of Paris By Night and watch it for nostalgic purposes since I also grew up watching it as a kid. The preface of the book is very heartwarming due to the shout outs Professor Valverde makes and it does a good job of introducing the book as a whole. The introduction on the very first page stood out to me which stated “This study also reflects my journey as a Vietnamese American—having lost my country, the former South Viet Nam to North Viet Nam, having participated in the historic 1975 exodus of Vietnamese to the United States, and having eventually reconnected with my “homeland.” I have been witness to some astonishing worldwide transformations in the making and the resulting adaptation to these changes on the part of the Vietnamese diasporic community (Preface). The Vietnamese community and its transformation did not transformed by itself, it was transformed to always being on the move due to immigration, escape and constantly going from place to place. The Vietnamese diaspora is not just about reconnecting to the homeland but appreciating and questioning the population dispersion through its politics, reasoning and situations that occurred throughout history that caused the Vietnamese community to disperse to the United States and around the world.  I like the fact that Professor Valverde agrees that it is important for a person to reconnect with their homeland because a person cannot know where they are going unless they first understand where they come from. Additionally, the key to the present is the past. Since we live in such an individualistic culture where we are constantly bombarded with unnecessary bullshit, we tend to forget about our family and friends. As Americans, we do not take the time to appreciate our past and what it took for our parents to bring us here. We are too focused on our personal needs, materialism and stepping over others to be in this superficial rat race we are in. We are not put in this world to be selfish and sour, we are put in this world to care and love for others such as our family and friends. The idea of filial piety is something I appreciate and that I will make sure to fulfill as a child of God. The first chapter “Transnationalizing Viet Nam” does a good job of explaining the reasons on how Vietnam is transnationalized and it is still an ongoing process until this day. The reasons are in the book which states “This book explores transnational connections between Viet Nam and its overseas population in the United States from 1975 to 2012 in four areas of activity: (1) exchanges and interchanges of Vietnamese and Vietnamese American popular music; (2) sociopolitical transformations in information and communication developments in Viet Nam from an influential transnational virtual community, Vietnam Forum (VNForum); (3) (re)negotiations of political and cultural identities of overseas Vietnamese communities through ethnic news media, looking at the controversial art works of Vietnamese American artist as a focal point for this debate; and (4) an overseas Vietnamese battle over defining community and representation as seen through a business-district-naming controversy involving the first Vietnamese city councilwoman in the United States, the city of San Jose’s vice-mayor, Madison Nguyen” (2). For number one, my parents watch the Vietnamese channel all the time since they are very into keeping in touch with their culture. From time to time, I hear them sing karaoke with each other and them gossiping about issues that are going on in Vietnam. The ethnic news media is something that is always on in my home. If its anything I learn from this is that even though many more parents are becoming bicultural, many just likes to stay traditional and keep in contact with their culture such as mines. I can also relate to number 2 because when I first used the 56k dial-up internet where you could not talk on the phone at the time, I felt high tech and privileged to have such a resource. Now these days, we have DSL, Comcast and AT&T high speed internet to keep us occupied. This type of transformation shows that globalization has really shifted the way we live in the world. We are slowly becoming dependent on certain tools such as the internet. Additionally, we are also letting go of outdated technologies such as the flip phone and dial up internet.  Chapter 2 goes into depth about how the Vietnam Forum was an example of linking two nations - between Viet Nam and the Vietnamese in diaspora - in setting a stage to create sociopolitical changes in both lands.  The Viet Nam Forum was the first virtual community that was dedicated to issues related to Viet Nam.  The Forum facilitated transpacific exchanges and built a virtual community space with its online posts, networking projects, and encouraging real world social and political changes in Vietnam.  Communication was difficult in the early years after resettlement in the United States post war.  When Viet Nam was finally introduced into the information age, the government blocked websites that they thought were dangerous to the state of Viet Nam, including Viet Nam anti-communist groups and humanitarian organizations.  The Vietnamese government considered links with the overseas population to be dangerous to the point of prohibiting Vietnamese groups in Sai GoN, fearing that overseas Vietnamese would send information through the Internet to undermine their governments.  Despite the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam's attempts to stifle the development and control the rise of the ICT (Information and Communication Technology), scholars and programmers worked together to connect Viet Nam with the rest of the world via internet. Tin and Hoanh, the original webmasters and founders of the Vietnam Forum believed that the Internet can be used as a vehicle to promote healthy dialogue for social change; "...through careful moderation Hoanh and Tin brought together people from diverse and extreme political points of view for discussion." (pg. 65).  Most notably, the No-Nike labor rights campaign was a grassroots action that was organized through the Internet on the Vietnam Forum with collaborations with the Vietnamese governments and overseas Vietnamese for labor rights.  The No-Nike labor campaign was the first time a Vietnamese American group sparked political action from an internet forum that received international attention.  Amidst conflicting political ideologies and power forces in Viet Nam and the United States, many participating in virtual communities like posting on the Viet Nam forum transcended these barriers and empowered people in Vietnam and abroad in bringing them together to express concerns and talk about ways to create social change.  Fear is prevalent
in the Vietnamese community here in the diaspora, and it is disappointing to live in a society where artists and community members who have alternate ideologies are silenced as they see their own communities monitor each other for fear of not adhering to the anti-Communist values instead of acknowledging that there is more than one truth and more than one voice.  Currently, Facebook and Tumblr are two social media platforms that people use (at least in my friend circles) to quickly circulate information.  It is so much easier to make topics, events, and even just random news stories go "viral" because our society is so dependent on social media and our generation's constant need to keep up with the latest trends.  But, social media, especially the emergence of chat and messenging apps on cellphones have been popular with Chinese folks who have immigrated to the United States who want to stay connected with their families in China since western social media platforms are prohibited.  For my final anthology, I am doing research on the Operation Babylift exhibit, which is a special exhibit in the SF Presidio that seeks to give another perspective to the Operation in regards to the Vietnamese adoptee themselves.  Politicizing art and media like Chau Huynh, and her pedicure basin installation,  to tell another story is important and adds to the on-going conversations that we must all partake in to ensure that all peoples, no matter the physical and political barriers and obstacles, are living and thriving healthily and succesfully in their respective communities.  
I never knew that there was a Vietnamese person in politics such as Madison since it took up almost 200 to 300 years for a first black president in the United States such as Barack Obama. The fact that Madison Nguyen is Vietnamese and a women is something that I found shocking since I still have this narrow mindset that could not believe a nonwhite person gets to be the vice-mayor of San Jose. I hope in my lifetime, I get to see an Asian president. However, Dr. Hamamoto insisted that Barack Obama is Asian due to his ASA 113 class but as a scholar, I feel that is it important to not believe in everything you are being taught in school. It is good to do your own research and to really investigate information on your own rather than being spoon fed. 
 Question - During your time researching, what was the scariest experience you had to go through? Was being red baited one of them? If so, what do you recommend for future researchers and tourists to be cautious about?

                                                                  Work Cited

Valverde, Kieu Linh Caroline. 2012. Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

 "Vietnam Hotels and Travel Guide - Vietnam Hotels And Tourist Information." N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2016. 


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