News: Isabelle Thuy Pelaud on Vietnamese American literature

Uploaded by sanfranciscostate on 22.02.2011

>> Narrator: A new book by Asian American Studies Professor Isabelle Thuy
Pelaud, is the first to provide a psychological, historical, social
and cultural context for Vietnamese American writing.
Here she describes her early days of life
as a Vietnamese American and reads from her poem "Eurasian."
>> Isabelle Pelaud: I'm of mixed race decent.
My mother is Vietnamese and my father is French and I emigrated
by myself from France when I was 19 years old.
When I first came here I work as a manicurist
in a Vietnamese American community and eventually I went
to adult school and then community college
and then UC Berkeley.
I'm going to read from a poem of mine that was published recently
in "The Perfume River: Writing from Vietnam"
and also from the diaspora.
This book actually came out from Australia.
It's called "Eurasian."
I was born in a place when I was not supposed
to be born native, girl, other
My ancestor, I was taught, was Vercingetorix, a man with red hair
and a red mustache, brandishing a sword in his left hand.
I was alone without a land.
A people whose gaze defined my existence.
I now think of my mother and me standing back to back.
You looked toward Vietnam, your family, your home,
a time when you were free from husband and child.
This leaf floating down a river without strings, anchor,
intensely quiet, walking forward and away, trusting no one
but the dead and yet we are tied to each other
like two branches of a tree with the will
to sacrifice all for the other.
You do not think I see you, but I do.
You too stand alone.
You have been away for too long, having had no choice
but to take refuge among the enemy,
mimicking the woman child of his fantasy.
Your family looks at you sideways.
Our silence is our gift, this imperfect tool of survivor.
But with his words on the tips of my fingers I want to find you.