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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Run Away, Girl; Runaway Daughter: Refugees, Families, and Gender in Vietnamese American Contemporary Memoirs

  • Author(s): Trinh, Justine
  • Advisor(s): Wu, Judy
  • et al.
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

This thesis focuses on runaway daughters from Vietnamese American refugee immigrant nuclear families and asks, “Why do the daughters choose to leave the household?” I attempt to answer this question using a critical refugee studies framework in combination with intersectional feminist studies, specifically erin Ninh’s Ingratitude: The Debt Bound Daughter of Asian American Literature. I position the runaway parallel to the refugee as both figures try to escape institutions that produce that produces docile and subservient bodies, i.e., the family and nation. My thesis analyzes these themes through two contemporary memoirs, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui and The Gangster We Are All Looking For by lê thi diem thúy, both of which have a runaway daughter who attempts to escape the filial pressures of a Vietnamese refugee family. My thesis analyzes why these young women reject the forced gifts of life and obligation from their parents.

The title is a play on words. The first part is the imperative “Run away,” which is a command to the girl to run away from the nation as a refugee. It is only later that she runs away from her family, which makes her a “runaway daughter.”

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This item is under embargo until June 7, 2024.