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8.30.2010

the education of a vietnamese writer

Here's a nice piece by Andrew Lam in New American Media about his fateful decision, many years ago, to choose a creative writing program and embark on his path to becoming a writer -- a decision that rocked his traditional Vietnamese family's plans for his life: The Education of a Vietnamese-American Writer.
My mom didn't kill me; she wept. It was my father who vented his fury. "I wanted to write, too, you know, when I was young. I studied French poetry and philosophy. But do you think I could feed our family on poems? Can you name one Vietnamese who's making a living as an American writer? What makes you think you can do it?"

This was the late ‘80s, and the vast majority in our community were first-generation refugees, many of them boat people who had subsisted for years in refugee camps in Southeast Asia.

"I can't name one,' I said. "There may not be anyone right now. So, I'll be the first."

Father looked at me and with that look I knew he was not expecting an answer; it was not how I talked in the family, which was to say respectfully and with vague compliance. Perhaps for the first time, he was assessing me anew.

I matched his gaze, which both thrilled and terrified me. And crossing that invisible line, failure was no longer an option.
Now, I know there are a lot of Asian kids out there who do follow the typical, traditional and -- let's face it -- safe path to success. And more power to them. But for those who followed their passions, or are thinking about exploring a path to something different, something dangerously breaking from tradition... this is for you.