Nhi T. Lieu’s The American Dream in Vietnamese

Another new book on Vietnamese American culture! Check out Nhi T. Lieu’s groundbreaking book, available now. 

[before we begin: have you heard about our subscriber drive? win an iPod and other prizes!]

I can’t actually review this book, since I wrote the blurb that appears on the back. So instead, I’ll just quote myself: “Nhi T. Lieu insightfully demonstrates how important popular culture is to the self-fashioning of Vietnamese Americans. Her ground-breaking book validates what many Vietnamese Americans demonstrate in their everyday lives: that the pursuit of leisure and the rituals of entertainment are as crucial to community formation as political advancement and economic empowerment.” And I mean it!

The book is an enjoyable read and covers topics of interest to both academics and non-academics–Little Saigon, beauty contests, Paris by Night, the idea of diaspora, the influence of war on Vietnamese American culture. I highly recommend it.

What’s more, the book comes out an opportune moment, only months after Isabelle Pelaud’s this is all i choose to tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature. A new generation of Vietnamese American scholars is beginning to make its mark.

–Viet Thanh Nguyen

In her research on popular culture of the Vietnamese diaspora, Nhi T. Lieu explores how people displaced by war reconstruct cultural identity in the aftermath of migration. Embracing American democratic ideals and consumer capitalism prior to arriving in the United States, postwar Vietnamese refugees endeavored to assimilate and live the American Dream. In The American Dream in Vietnamese, she claims that nowhere are these fantasies played out more vividly than in the Vietnamese American entertainment industry.

Lieu examines how live music variety shows and videos, beauty pageants, and Web sites created by and for Vietnamese Americans contributed to the shaping of their cultural identity. She shows how popular culture forms repositories for conflicting expectations of assimilation, cultural preservation, and invention, alongside gendered and classed dimensions of ethnic and diasporic identity.

The American Dream in Vietnamese demonstrates how the circulation of images manufactured by both Americans and Vietnamese immigrants serves to produce these immigrants’ paradoxical desires. Within these desires and their representations, Lieu finds the dramatization of the community’s struggle to define itself against the legacy of the refugee label, a classification that continues to pathologize their experiences in American society.

Nhi T. Lieu is assistant professor of American studies, Asian American studies, and women’s and gender studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

256 pages | 20 b&w photos | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 2011

Table of Contents

Introduction: Private Desires on Public Display

1. Assimilation and Ambivalence: Legacies of U.S. Military Intervention

2. Vietnamese by Other Means: The Overlapping Diasporas of Little Saigon

3. Pageantry and Nostalgia: Beauty Contests and the Gendered Homeland

4. Consuming Transcendent Media: Videos, Variety Shows, and the New Middle Class

Conclusion: Transnational Flows between the Diaspora and the Homeland



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