Thursday, August 9, 2012

Birth of Book: Transnationalizing Viet Nam

You may have noticed that my blog entries have been sparse in the last few years. Aside from having two babies, I've also birthed a BOOK! Though I have worked on various projects and written on diverse topics for more than two decades, my first book, Transnationalizing Viet Nam, represents my life's work up to date. 

Transnationalizing Viet Nam offers an in-depth look at the dynamic and long-standing connections between Viet nam and its diaspora in the united States. These links are especially astounding considering the many decidedly antidiasporic elements in not only the home and host countries but also the ethnic community itself. This rich transnational history—which has gone largely undetected, or at least unrecognized—is revealed through nearly two decades of careful longitudinal, multisite research, punctuated by the voices of 250 interviewees.

Professor Emily Noelle Ignacio, author of Building Diaspora had this to say, "Transnationalizing Viet Nam greatly broadens our understanding of diasporic networks, transnationalism, and the Vietnamese diaspora. Valverde uniquely documents, over two decades, the tentative relationship between Vietnamese in the diaspora and those located in the homeland. She paints a vivid picture of the complex political landscape that influences diasporic members’ personal decisions and convincingly demonstrates that scholarship on ‘the immigrant experience’ and racial and/or ethnic identity must always take into account both the immigrants’ memories and present conceptions of both their ‘homeland’ and their homeland’s culture in relation to their perceptions of and actual experiences in the ‘host’ country."

Premier scholar of Ethnic Studies, Professor Yen Le Espiritu observed, Bridging Asian Studies and Asian American Studies, Transnationalizing Viet Nam is a rich and nuanced study of transnational linkages between Viet Nam and its diaspora in the United States. Through fascinating case studies of Vietnamese popular music productions, Internet virtual communities, diasporic art and community politics, Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde provides a rare glimpse into how Vietnamese have connected their worlds and made meanings for themselves.

Senior Asian American Studies scholar, Linda Vo, remarked about the book, [Valverde] delves into the most controversial and complex issues facing the community and her selection of examples for each chapter is deliberate and well chosen. A major strength...[is] that also connects the chapters, is the analysis of the political identity of the community, namely the debates over nationalism, homeland, and communism within the community and how it manifests itself in various venues.

My book comes out October 5, 2012. It's already available for pre-order in places like Temple University Press is also offering the book at a discounted price until October 1, 2012. Type T20P to get the discount before checkout! Please also LIKE at the book's Facebook page. 

Look forward to hearing your impressions of the book!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Virtually Real

While virtually chatting with a friend today, he pronounced that he's eating an incredible Vietnamese lunch. I answered that I can share the meal with him virtually. Then BOOM, it dawned on my puny brain what the hell the meaning of virtual really is. Virtual means, almost but not quite real. The essence of the experience exists but the real time face-to-face does not. Why then would a scholar, like myself, that write extensively about virtual communities, not make the simple connection to the origin of the word virtual (predating the Internet).

The answer is that I don't think virtual is almost as good as real. I think virtual in some ways is better than real. Virtual spaces has allowed for connections where none existed before, and really would have taken a very long time, if ever, to materialize. I'm talking about how a newslist in the mid 1990s, Vietnam Women's Forum, for example, brought together Vietnamese women scattered throughout the globe to connect virtually and discuss their experiences, hopes, dreams, aspirations,...On the other side of the screen were women very similar to them, and that were willing and able to listen, share, and assist.

In another example, Vietnam Forum, also a newslist from the 1990s, brought together like minded people globally. Most members were overseas Vietnamese interested in the development of Viet Nam. This was quite provocative considering this took place in a time when certain Vietnamese Americans with strong anti-communist points of view, not only forbid connections to Viet Nam, they attacked those that did. This included assassinating Vietnamese American dissident journalists and committing arsen in establishments that were selling cultural products from Viet Nam. The virtual community of Vietnam Forum not only avoided the gaze of anti-communist groups and a repressive Vietnamese state, they successfully organized to make positive change in Viet Nam.

So, about my friend's lunch, I had to say, BS, I could not virtually taste anything. I'm not even close to sharing the meal in real life. His photos of the meal didn't help the matter either; in fact it heightened my desire to rush to a Vietnamese restaurant. So, that part of it blows. What doesn't blow is the fact that this friend and I have been able to collaborate on important projects all summer. We do it via video chat, sometimes even video conferencing with others. Organizing in-person meetings with each other and the rest of the folks would have meant much fewer meetings and less opportunity to share our ideas. Virtual is good and will never play second fiddle to the real.