“Speak of the Dead, Speak of Viet Nam: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Minority Discourse” was originally published in CR: The Centennial Review, volume 6, issue no. 2, pages 7 – 37 (Fall 2006).
“[Y]ou must not tell anyone what I am about to tell you.”
-Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
As a child, I was always aware of the presence of the dead. Although my Catholic father and mother did not practice ancestor worship, they kept photographs of their fathers and their mothers on the mantel, as was the custom, and prayed to God before them every evening. In the eighties, news of my grandparents’ passing into another world arrived one after the other, accompanied by more black-and-white photographs of rural funeral processions marching through a bleak northern landscape, of mourners dressed in simple country clothes and white headbands, of wooden coffins lowered into narrow graves. We mourned their deaths from a distance of both space and time. The space was one of an ocean. The time was a separation of twenty years for my mother, and forty years for my father, before they were reunited with their families in Viet Nam.
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