Write a 5 page (double spaced) responding to 2-3 of following prompts, with specific, detailed references to the graphic novel (i.e., must demonstrate that read the entire graphic novel, and thought critically about it), and placing the graphic novel within the historical context we discussed this semester:
- Thi’s memoir weaves together several big themes—the complicated natures of family and especially parent-child relationships, experiences of immigration and racial/ethnic prejudice, and Vietnamese history (both personal and national). Do you think Thi’s memoir speaks just to the experience of post-Vietnam War southeast Asian immigrants? To 20th century immigrant families overall? All families with complicated interpersonal dynamics?
- Thi’s relationship with her parents evolved as she learned more about their history, and their families’ history, in college and as an adult. How and why did their relationships change? Is this something you can relate to (seeing your parents in a new light as you get older, and/or learn more about their childhood)?
- How did the fact that Thi experienced the aftermath of the Vietnam War, escaped to Malaysia, and immigrated to the United States as a young child effect how she experienced those events? What about how she remembered them? How was her parent’s memories of those events different, since they experienced them as adults?
- Thi’s narrative (along with many graphic novels) jumps back and forth between different time periods (usually one historical timeline that moves through roughly chronologically, and then one or more later, more present, timelines). How do these time jumps impact the narrative and your reading of it? How does it enhance the narrative?
- At one point in the graphic novel (page 40-41), Thi said she was looking for an origin story to “set everything right,” to better understand and contextualize her family. This is often a more difficult task for immigrants, if that origin lies in countries and /or people left behind. How did Thi try to “place her family in context”—historical, personal, geographic? How did the Vietnamese history Thi and her parents lived through impact their personal relationships? Their immigrant experience? And how did their immigrant experience impact Thi’s family relationships?
- There are lots of different perspectives on the Vietnam War (and a century of colonialism that preceded it). For example, the United States’ anti-communist stance is often framed as “the good guys” and “bringing democracy” to Vietnam (see page 206-209). After the fall of South Vietnam, the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam created a narrative about how “the people” had won the war, and how it was a national victory for all of Vietnam. Who were the “heroes” and “villains” in Vietnamese history, according to Thi’s memoir? Why? How did Thi’s memoir change how you think about the Vietnam War?
- Pick a page or a couple-page-long scene that you found particularly powerful and discuss it in more detail. How do the illustrations, framing, dialogue, narration, and visual effects meld together to immerse you in the story and/or provoke a strong response from the reader? What did you learn from this scene? How did it make you feel? How did it help you grapple with the heavy subject of the graphic novel?