The Longue Durée of U.S. Literature and EmpireMarguerite Nguyen
America’s Vietnam challenges the prevailing genealogy of Vietnam’s emergence in the American imagination—one that presupposes the Vietnam War as the starting point of meaningful Vietnamese-U.S. political and cultural involvements. Examining literature from as early as the 1820s, Marguerite Nguyen takes a comparative, long historical approach to interpreting constructions of Vietnam in American literature. She analyzes works in various genres published in English and Vietnamese by Monique Truong and Michael Herr as well as lesser-known writers such as John White, Harry Hervey, and Võ Phiến. The book’s cross-cultural prism spans Paris, Saigon, New York, and multiple oceans, and its departure from Cold War frames reveals rich cross-period connections.
America’s Vietnam recounts a mostly unexamined story of Southeast Asia’s lasting and varied influence on U.S. aesthetic and political concerns. Tracking Vietnam’s transition from an emergent nation in the nineteenth century to a French colony to a Vietnamese-American war zone, Nguyen demonstrates that how authors represent Vietnam is deeply entwined with the United States’ shifting role in the world. As America’s longstanding presence in Vietnam evolves, the literature it generates significantly revises our perceptions of war, race, and empire over time.
“America’s Vietnam undertakes what no literary critical study has undertaken before: to trace the long history of literary and cultural relations between the United States and Vietnam (previously known as part of Indochina) and to place that history in the thick context of the political relations between the two. The boldness of this highly original study cannot be overstated: Nguyen succeeds admirably at bringing major new material into the purview of Asian American and Asian diaspora literary and cultural studies, thus changing the configuration of the field in truly positive ways. This outstanding book needs to be read widely. ”
—Donald Goellnicht, Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University and co-editor of Asian North American Identities: Beyond the Hyphen
“Offering a genealogy of ‘Vietnam’ within Vietnamese and American letters—starting with the founding of the U.S. republic and continuing through the post–Vietnam War period—America’s Vietnam corrects a highly U.S.-centric view of Vietnam and U.S.-Vietnam relations. This book is unique within the field of Asian American studies precisely because it argues that writers from both countries have shaped Vietnam as a discursive field. The mixture of new and canonical texts is exciting, and Nguyen’s close readings and analyses are absolutely stunning.”
—Julia H. Lee, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Interracial Encounters: Reciprocal Representations in African and Asian American Literatures, 1896–1937
"(A) beautifully written and carefully argued book that furthers our understanding of how Vietnam has been and continues to be a shaping force for the American imagination.... (T)he book offers not just a crucial historiography of the Vietnam War, but also a novel genealogy for American literary history.... There is much to praise about Nguyen’s book, but foremost is its dedication to close textual analysis.... Nguyen’s book takes us on an important journey through different historical periods that have been formative in the formation of modern Vietnam and its diaspora, and shows us through the cultural productions that have shaped them, the various 'Vietnams' that have been imagined and enacted.... Nguyen’s book...represents some of the highest quality of scholarship."
"For scholars of the Vietnamese diaspora and diaspora studies in general, Nguyen’s book offers an innovative analysis of ‘Vietnamese-U.S. political and cultural involvements’ that helps complicate such traditional paradigms for assessing the ties between print culture, empire, dispersion, identity, and trauma....
This is generative work. It establishes a model for reading diasporic cultures as overlapping publics whose forms and platforms exceed narratives (cultural, political, and scholarly) relying on wartime periodization."
— English Journal of the English Association
" One of the most exciting aspects of America’s Vietnam is its introduction of new primary sources in conjunction with fresh reinterpretations of familiar ones."
— ASAP Journal
Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.