Masters Thesis

From Street Gangs to School Clubs: The Vietnamese American Youth Since 1975

Since the influx of Vietnamese immigrants to the United States at the formal end of the Vietnam War in 1975, dominant narratives have portrayed Vietnamese Americans as the benefactors of a war fought at the cost of American lives. This thesis argues that throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, 1.5 and second-generation Vietnamese American youth contested this narrative by challenging racial stereotypes, forming social groups, engaging in political activism, and creating films and literature to interject their own voices. The youth rejected inherently racist expectations of being “model minorities” by joining gangs or sometimes straddling both the gang life in secret and the ideal student image in public. Sociopolitical groups like the Vietnamese Student Associations attested to the fact the younger generations wanted to maintain traditions and values of their parents. Their literature and films focused on the realities and challenges of life in America, complexities of growing up in between two cultures, and the true impact of United States intervention in Vietnam. through their writing and filmmaking, the youth revealed issues with racism and challenged the notion that life in the United States was great and beautiful because of American benevolence after the Vietnam War.

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