Saigon America, a photo essay series on Vietnamese American life

Earlier last year, diaCRITICS featured Eric Nguyen’s review on the up and coming Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong’s chapbook of poetry, Burnings.  Vuong was born in Saigon in 1988, grew up in Connecticut, and was later educated Brookyn College, CUNY. Vuong’s work has been honored with various awards and has been translated into Hindi, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese.  For today’s post, we hear from Ocean Vuong himself about his new project, the photographing the lives of Vietnamese Americans. 

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For the past two years I have been taking photos of various scenes in Vietnamese American life and I thought I’d share them with you on my blog. This specific series is titled ” Happy Nails”, a selection of shots taken at a nail salon. As you might already know, the nail salon is the unofficial hub of all Vietnamese culture in America. I remember when I was younger, my family would go on road trips, and being illiterate and not able to speak English, we always looked for nail salons whenever we were lost. The little shops, often garishly decorated with charmingly simply names like “Top Nails”, “Paris Nails” and “#1 Beauty Nails”, are the life line of Vietnamese life in America, often in more ways than one.
If you feel compelled to, please feel free to share this essay with others, on your blogs, tumblrs, facebook, etc… It would mean a lot to me and I appreciate it very much.

I will add to this series as more photos accumulate.

love and light,


*Editor’s Note: diaCRITICS is featuring selected photographs from the series.  See the entire series and follow Ocean Vuong at his blog.

"pick you color!"

hot, cold, and nails

morning offerings

in luck we trust...

getting ready for work


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  1. This is beautiful work! I can’t wait to see more from this series. Ocean is such a powerful voice on the Viet Am diaspora and it’s exciting to see him expand beyond poetry.


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