Back in my mother's ancestral village, however, as I sat and watched my kinfolk gather their crops and sing, I found enviable their sense of communal love and insularity. It's back-breaking work, but you live and die by the land, and you are never left alone someone is guaranteed to take care of you, for such is the collective ethos of that world.
A cliché to the native-born, the American Dream nevertheless seduces the sedentary Vietnamese to travel halfway around the world. America kisses her hard, and in the morning she awakes to find, to her own amazement, that she can readily pronounce mortgage, escrow, aerobic, tax shelter, GPA, MBA, MD, BMW, Porsche, overtime, and stock options. Gone is the cyclical nature of her provincial thinking, and lost is her land-bound mentality. She can envision the future.
There is a price to pay for having ambition, however. Already, second-generation Vietnamese in America are feeling that deterioration of clanship, the loss of the insularity that their parents' generation valued and upheld. Indeed, somewhere along our highly mobile and cosmopolitan lifestyles, that close network that held the first generation together is thinning out a generation later. So much so that, increasingly, we take our identity from what we do and less from who we know or who we are related to.