Dust Child : representation, trauma, ethics and culture

Nguyen, Que Mai and Lambert, Zoe (2020) Dust Child : representation, trauma, ethics and culture. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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During the Việt Nam War, approximately 100,000 children were born into relationships between American soldiers and Vietnamese women. Tragic circumstances separated most of these Amerasian children from their fathers, and later, their mothers. Despite desperate efforts, many have not found each other again. Some research has been conducted into the experiences of Amerasians who have since migrated to the United States, yet little information is available about Amerasians who remain in Việt Nam. What has happened to them? Considered “the dust of life” and “children of the enemy” by the conservative Vietnamese society, how have Amerasians coped? Dust Child is a research and creative writing project. A research strategy was formulated at the start of the PhD program and encompassed the gathering of information about the experiences of Amerasians and their parents through personal interviews, scholarly articles, historical non-fiction and fiction as well as films and documentaries, in both English and Vietnamese languages. While interviews with research participants aimed to collect new insights into the Amerasian experiences who remain in Việt Nam, the reflective thesis sought to answer to the following research questions: 1. How have Amerasians and their mothers been represented in Việt Nam War fiction? What are the main issues of representations and how can I write beyond stereotypes and fill the gaps of representation? 2. How have trauma and PTSD been represented in Việt Nam War literature? How should I represent trauma in Dust Child? 3. What are the reasons for me to write in English and the ways to retain the Vietnameseness of my writing? 4. What is the ethical framework of my research and its impact on my novel? Built on the pillars of the research, the novel Dust Child is told from the viewpoints of four characters – an Amerasian (Phong), two Vietnamese mothers (Vy, Quỳnh), and an American father (Dan). Through these characters’ experiences, the novel highlights issues related to Amerasians in Việt Nam, as well as the postwar trauma suffered by Amerasians and their family members. A reflective thesis accompanying the novel reveals existing Việt Nam War fiction’s portrayals of Amerasians and their mothers and the need to write beyond stereotypes and fill in gaps of representation. The thesis also focuses on the fieldwork underpinning the research and the ethical tensions related to writing fictional accounts of real-life situations that remain unresolved. It also explores the conflicting needs to write between and beyond national contexts in a second language that is also the language of an invasive military power and culture.

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25 Sep 2020 10:05
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:52