"An Outsider with Inside Information:" The 1.5 Generation in Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge

Bunkong Tuon


In Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory, Marianne Hirsch uses the term "postmemory" to describe the transmission of traumatic memory from Holocaust survivors to their second-generation children, but with the exception of the work of Susan Rubin Suleiman, little work has been done on the perspective of the 1.5 generation Holocaust survivors. In response to this discursive gap, I want to turn our critical lens to another part of the world, Southeast Asia, and examine the 1.5 generation's experience of the Viet Nam conflict by analyzing the mother-daughter relationship in Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge. In this paper, I argue that Cao presents us with two types of post-traumatic memory: the traumatic adult memory of the mother Thanh and the traumatic child memory of her 1.5 generation daughter Mai. As someone who experienced the Viet Nam Conflict as an adult, Thanh has the knowledge and understanding to explain the historical and familial forces behind her family's separation, but desires nothing more than to protect her daughter from her family's painful past. Mai, as someone who survived the war at a young age, is unaware of the potentially damaging truth about her family's history. As a 1.5 generation survivor whose identity is not yet fully formed, Mai needs guidance from her mother to make sense of her fragmented memory, inherit what Thanh calls "the family's karma," (229) and incorporate this past into her Vietnamese-American identity.


Trauma, Haunting, the 1.5 Generation, Postmemory, Vietnamese American Identity, Mother-Daughter Relationship, Homeland, Transnational Violence

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