When I started out writing I thought I was after a singular narrative,
telling the Vietnamese Diaspora story, but a decade later, I ended up
recording a much larger narrative, that of globalization and how it
changes everyone in its path, myself included.
Yet the experience of the Vietnamese refugee abroad is not an esoteric
one. In fact, it's germane to the pattern of globalization. If the
Vietnamese refugee left Vietnam under the shadow of history, he also, in
the blink of an eye, became the first global villager by default. The
trauma of his leaving, the effort of his remake, his ability to marry two
or three different spheres in an age of open systems makes him a modern-day
Odysseus, the primary character in the contemporary global novel.
As someone who straddles both sides of the Pacific, my ambition then is
to describe the marriage of East and West, their growing interdependence
and, in the footsteps of V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie and Edward Said,
convey a world of human flux and shifting borders and, ultimately, redraw
the map of America, one based on a trans-Pacific sensibility.
Yet, my cosmopolitan sheen cannot possibly protect me from this new
journey: the journey to the past. As I prepare myself to return to
Vietnam, not as a journalist going after a story, but as a Vietnamese
American looking to unearth long buried memories, I am full of anxiety.
Will I have enough courage to enter the house I used to live in, abandoned
now on a lonesome hill? Will I have anything in common with relatives with
whom I hadn't kept in touch for decades? Will I learn to reconcile my
childhood memories of a war-torn Vietnam with the modernizing, vibrant
country one that has gone on without me? And, finally, where is home?
Copyright © 2004 Andrew Lam.