Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis examines how America's cultural and historical memory forgets or problematically remembers Vietnam and the Vietnamese people(s) through the most prominent Vietnamese American texts, Le Ly Hayslip's When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace, and Oliver Stone's filmic adaptation of Hayslip's memoirs, Heaven and Earth. In the U.S., thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War, there is a vast archive of history books, memoirs, films and other cultural products about the War, yet the Vietnamese people(s) are conspicuously absent in these discourses. In the American context of historical amnesia, Vietnam (the country) is forgotten and the Vietnamese people(s) are denied subjectivity, their numerous losses remaining disavowed and un-moumed.
I argue that Hayslip's books represent acts of mouming. She achieves this mouming by engaging with her losses and those of the Vietnamese people(s) in a productive way, using them as means to attain voice / Subjectivity and to counter the American forgetting of Vietnamese causalities and losses. I explore a form of melancholic remembrance tied to the traditional Vietnamese practice of ancestor worship at work in Hayslip's memoirs, one that allows Hayslip to offer alternative, minority stories of the War. However, the mainstream reception of Hayslip's books, especially the embrace of her message of healing and reconciliation, appropriates and co-opts her voice/ story to support U.S. national objectives. I analyze stone's film as an ultimate example of Hayslip's appropriation by the American dominant. The thesis considers the complexities in and around Hayslip's texts in order to better understand America's amnesiac memory in relation to Vietnam and the Vietnamese people(s).
Nguyen, Vinh, "Amnesiac Memory, Melancholic Remembrance: The Work of Le Ly Hayslip" (2009). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4538.
McMaster University Library