Many Vietnamese arrived in Australia after 1975 under a refugee resettlement plan. Today Vietnamese Australians account for nearly 1.5% of the country’s population. How does the Vietnamese Australian experience differ from other diasporas? Check out this reading guide to find out.
We are Vietnamese. I did not feel at home in my own skin, a banana: yellow on the outside, white on the inside. That is, until I met other Vietnamese Australian artists like Chi Vu who had Vietnamese ancestry and artistic sensibilities.
“Given the current debates about representation in literature, I find myself reflecting on how I have always preferred books to be windows rather than mirrors. I was a voracious reader from a young age but growing up I didn’t particularly yearn for stories about what it meant to be Vietnamese – especially in Australia – because I was already drowning in the experience of it.”
I was conscious that the readership would be much broader and unfamiliar with the historical and political context against which much of Cabramatta’s gangs emerged, became Australia’s heroin capital and infamously led to Australia’s first political assassination.
Chi Vu is a Vietnamese Australian writer and director, and her award-winning works span genres such as the postcolonial gothic, horror and magic-realism. Her most recent work, Coloured Aliens, is a critically acclaimed comedy about an interracial couple navigating their romance in the context of racism. Mai Nguyen, an Asian Australian playwright, soon discovers that ‘White Australia’ only wants her to write the ‘ethnic’ play. Her Anglo Australian boyfriend Kevin O’Sullivan is a security guard and ex-spoken word artist on hand to provide support – and advice.
To move to another suburb, for another school, because the pre-school teacher said there were too many Asians at this one, that you’d develop an Asian accent, that a new environment was the only way to cleanse the tongue.
An excerpt of Nam Le’s book, “On David Malouf: Writers on Writers.” Le’s latest book is part of a series where writers reflect on and respond to the legacy of noteworthy Australian authors who have preceded them.
- How do the experiences of Vietnamese Australians differ from the Vietnamese diaspora in other countries? How are they similar?
- What themes do you see in the narratives and art work of Vietnamese Australians?
- How does the history of colonization and white supremacy in Australia affect the experiences of Vietnamese Australians? And how do Vietnamese Australian artists address these?
- How have Vietnamese Australian artists addressed stereotypes about their community?
- How might the experiences, stories, and art of Vietnamese Australians add to or challenge our understanding of the Vietnamese diaspora?