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I used to dream of a simpler time, a Vietnam of thatch roof huts and banana leaves and lotus flowers. But this Vietnam only exists in my imagination. We must not romanticise a past that never was, or choose only to remember the innocence of our history. Spoiler alert: Nobody’s history is innocent. We must be brave enough to claim it all. People like me, who by today’s standards are referred to as 'people of colour' or 'minority groups', belong to histories which are not only as tremendous, as grand, and as civilised as the Europeans, but as brutal.
diaCRITICS editor Viet Thanh Nguyen writes on the rigidity of defined borders and recognizing the importance of immigrants in America's history: "I am an immigrant. I am also a human being, an American, a Vietnamese, an Asian and a refugee. I do not have to choose among these identities, despite those who would insist that I do."
diaCRITICS editor Viet Thanh Nguyen writes on the many Vietnamese-American works ignored by both the American and Vietnamese mainstream. This article was originally published by the New York Times.
I last saw Vietnam in 2001. Back then, Saigon had no American fast food joints save a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Long-term foreign residents were few, and mostly confined to the Phạm Ngũ Lão area. Now in Saigon, there are 20 KFCs, eight Burger Kings and six McDonald’s, with one across the street from where I used to lived, five miles from downtown.