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Book Review: Fragmented Bi-National Identities in Le’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For Name Instructor Class 7 November 2013 Vietnam War refugees are different from other immigrants who did not migrate to the United States due to war because the former deeply suffer from memories of exile, nostalgia, familial loss, and violence…
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Book review 3
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Download file to see previous pages The author has written a riveting book about the fragmentation of memories that also fragment the psychology and identities of bi-national individuals from traumatic histories, although the fragmentation of stories and identities in the novel may be difficult to understand or to relate to for people who do not straddle two worlds and do not have traumatic war/refugee memories. Le presents an interesting approach to describing the impacts of war on people’s identities through irony. Ba cannot discuss his war experiences with his wife and daughter, as if he has moved on from it completely. In reality, Le shows that Ba is trapped in the past precisely because he cannot fully talk about it, until he meets a Vietnamese man who has the same age as he is. When Le says, “And now the war was in the past” (14), the verbal irony is that the war never becomes a true part of the past. Le portrays Ba screaming at night, for war is a nightmare that never ends for those who survive it. One more image that shows incongruity is the dramatic irony of the arrival of the picture of the narrator’s Vietnamese grandparents. For the narrator, the picture is “anything” but “pointless” (Le 198). ...
For the narrator’s mother, her past is about one loss after another. The loss of her eldest child who died from an accident, and then her parents, whom she felt she betrayed by leaving them behind. Since she arrived in the U.S. to be reunited with the narrator and the narrator’s father, she has never had peace of mind. She feels guilty for all the family members and memories she has left behind in Vietnam. The photo is not pointless. It shows one of the strongest points or messages of the novel: no one can escape their past because the past shapes the present and the future in varying ways and degrees. Another remarkable approach that Le uses to make her argument about fractured identities more credible is her psychological way of depicting broken identities. The image of water is a poignant psychological image. For some people, the ocean is peaceful, but for Vietnamese refugees during the war, it is a terrifying means for their journey, a troubling transition to more troubling transitions. Le narrates the memories of Ba, who remembers the voice of Vietnamese in panic. These voices include the memories of those who died during transit and those who are left in Vietnam. These are the Vietnamese who are also lost in the war because of death, or lost because those who left Vietnam cannot return anymore for various reasons. The water signifies a moving vehicle of loss and pain. It symbolizes the flow of memories that flow with anguish and unresolved issues. One more example of the novel’s psychological symbols is the narrator’s perception of a butterfly in the set of Mrs. Russell’s glass animals. The narrator talks to the imaginary butterfly because she relates to it. The narrator thinks that the butterfly has the “sound” of her ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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