In his essay, child of two worlds, Andrew Lam describes the events of the Vietnam War, which subsequently forced him to experience two opposite worlds. Lam is unable to understand why precious things like gold and silver lie deep underground. His family laments the suffering, sorrows, and loss of relatives, friends, home, and property because of the war.
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The war not only changes the course of his life, but also forces him to live as a refugee in a new world, the US. However, in the US, his life is beyond what physical eyes can see. The place he calls home/house is different from other institutions like school or the US as a country. Descriptively, Lam observes the two environments in two different ways. However, his description seems to attract him in a single better world as expounded next.
As a child in Diaspora, the world splits carelessly into two extreme parts, but Lam seems to like the outside world more than the inside world. From Lam’s description, he dislikes the inside world, which is his new home in the US because of a number of reasons. First, two families lived in the same apartment a fact that made the place not only crowded but also inhabitable.
Secondly, the people in the apartment forever clung on their memories. While his father memorized the events of the war, the exemplary life he has experienced in the past, his mother continually remembered her dead or sick relatives lamenting on the loss of her home. The past treasured memories were long gone, but nobody in the house realized that.
Therefore, the house was not only congested but also the people inside it compelled him to remain dumb. Lam silently complains about the inside world when he says “i felt the collected weight of history on my shoulders, and fell silent “(6). Lam’s silence in the inside world means he is not happy. Therefore, in the future, he is like to live in the outside world rather than in the inside one.
Furthermore, the urge to forget his memories especially in Vietnam and embrace a new world proves that in future Lam will not likely associate himself with the inside world. He confesses his strive to forget the inside world when he says the “child who grew up in that terrible war and who saw many strange, tragic and marvelous things was someone else, not me “(Lam 7).
Moreover, he cites his childhood experiences as non-existence in his lifetime when he says, “It had happened in another age, centuries ago” (Lam 7). Therefore, Lam wants to start a new life in the US and forgets his roots, which is the inside world. Although he is young, he readily accepts the way of life in the US especially in molding his future. Therefore, Lam’s comments imply that he will stay in one world, the outside world, which is the US.
Happiness prevails in the inside world. Due to his efficiency in English and flexibility to learn the American lifestyles, the outside world quickly assimilates Lam, which he brags about as an achievement. Besides flirting with other American girls, he made friends whom he joked and laughed while at school.
While at school, he enjoyed his presence because he says, “I bantered and cavorted with teachers and made myself their pet” (Lam 7). Thus, Lam’s easy assimilation and subsequent love of the US (outside world) means that, in his adulthood, he will prefer to remain in the outside world. Consequently, he will never trade in-between those two environments.
Besides learning how to speak English faster, he also always put on a brighter, happy and non-sorrowful look. He looked forward to living in the new world without struggle.
Lam describes himself as “a wild river full of possibilities flowed effortlessly from my tongue, connecting me to the New World” (7). Surprisingly, he adopts a new name “Andy”, which is both easier and quicker to pronounce. The new name identifies him as an American, which shows his urge to forget the inside world.
On the other hand, he volunteers to each his friends, teachers and other people he encounters on how to pronounce his Vietnamese name. Lam struggles to adopt the new way of life that he quickly wants to erase his grave memories especially as a Vietnamese. Subsequently, the urge to change his world shows that, in the future, he might forget anything connected to Vietnam including his parent.
In summary, the breakdown of Vietnamese war throws Lam into two diverse worlds. However, the sorrow, suffering and painful memories of the inside world motivate him to adopt a new world.
The happiness and love for the US (outside world) means that in adulthood Lam will never trade between the two worlds but rather live in only one of them, the outside world. The silence that prevails while he is at home, (the inside world), shows that he is not happy with it. Finally, he will follow where his heart is happy, the outside world.
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Lam, Andrew. “Child of two worlds.” In Perfume dreams: reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora (pp. 3-19). USA: Heyday Books, 2005.