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Reports, Recollection, and Refugees: The Early Vietnamese American Experience through Periodicals and Oral Histories


The formation of a unique identity, the obstacles to retaining culture in a new country, and the American government’s role in these issues during and after the Vietnam War are topics that have been widely examined by scholars of Vietnamese American history. However, these works have often overlooked the early and essential concerns of the community upon their entrance into the United States, as well as taken the differences between the first and second waves of refugees for granted. This paper will seek to discuss the Vietnamese American experience in the 1970s and 1980s with a specific focus on a few concerns Vietnamese refugees had in these years. Specifically, I will be looking at Vietnamese American periodicals published in this time period in order to show these concerns through their coverage in printed material. I will also use several oral history interviews with Vietnamese refugees of the second wave to help corroborate their prevalence. I argue that Vietnamese Americans were primarily interested in three points, adaptation, immigration, and politics, during their initial settlement in the United States, and that these concerns were more apparent with the second wave of immigrants that arrived from 1978 to 1980 than their previous counterparts. In conclusion, this paper, by examining select periodicals published by the Vietnamese American community and oral histories, highlights the often undervalued aspects of early Vietnamese American history that were crucial to the diaspora’s survival and assimilation into American society.

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