Reverse Exoduses

Returning to Vietnam as a trope of Vietnamese-American Literature

  • Giacomo Traina Università di Roma La Sapienza
Keywords: Vietnamese-American Literature, Vietnamese Diaspora, Ocean Vuong, Aimee Phan, Lan Cao Viet Thanh Nguyen


In 1995, the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam restored diplomatic relations. After twenty years of embargo, the two former enemies reestablished trade links and removed the restrictions imposed on travels. As a result, members of the Vietnamese diaspora had the chance to return freely to their ancestral land, in many cases after a painful and prolonged absence. Most notably, the détente enabled many second-generation Vietnamese-American to visit their fatherland for the first time, with all the emotional consequences and intergenerational trauma that such a visit implies. In the following years, several Vietnamese-American authors and artists portrayed this intense experience in their works, either as a narrative plot point or as an autobiographical moment. This article analyzes three remarkable instances of this trope through contemporary Vietnamese-American literature. The aim is to prove how the nuances and the contradictions of the Vietnamese-American perspective on postwar reconciliation are still fertile ground for narratives and stories.