Eurasian/Amerasian perspectives: Kim Lefèvre’s Métisse Blanche (White Métisse) and Kien Nguyen’s The Unwanted

Eurasian/Amerasian perspectives: Kim Lefèvre’s Métisse Blanche (White Métisse) and Kien Nguyen’s The Unwanted

Asian Studies Review
Volume 29, Issue 2 (2005)
pages 107-122
DOI: 10.1080/10357820500221162

Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen, Associate Professor of Historical and Philosophical Studies
University of Melbourne

This article examines the articulation of Kim Lefèvre’s and Kien Nguyen’s difficult and traumatic childhoods in wartime Vietnam through their respective works Métisse blanche, first published in France in 1989, and The Unwanted, first published in the United States in 2001. Both Lefèvre and Nguyen had Vietnamese mothers and Western fathers—Lefevre’s was French. Nguyen’s was American. Their experiences are separated by a gap of thirty years, but their accounts reveal significant commonalities as well as differences. Their personal stories reflect those of the many children born of Vietnamese and European or American parents who were caught up in the maelstrom of colonialism, war, social prejudice and politics, and suffered rejection from both sides. Lefèvre grew up in colonial and postcolonial Vietnam while Nguyen was a child of the Vietnam War and relates the treatment meted out to so-called “half-breed” children in post-1975 communist Vietnam. Both bore the stigma of their mixed blood against a background of Vietnamese xenophobia and nationalism. Their looks signalled their heritage and were an unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of Vietnam’s fraught interaction with the West.

Eurasian/Amerasian métissage

Métissage as a positive site of cross-cultural mediation and negotiation has only recently been valorised in literary and critical discourse. Interpreted as cultural hybridisation, “cultural creolisation”, “cultural cross-breeding”, or, in Srilata Ravi’s aptly-chosen words “cultural cross-braiding” (Ravi. 2004. p. 300). métissage highlights the enriching effects of cultural pluralisation. The term “cross-braiding” beautifully illustrates the concept of entwined lives and cultures. As Ravi notes in ‘Métis, Métisse and Métissage’, …

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