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Growing Up American

Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States

Min Zhou
Carl L. Bankston
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Growing Up American
    Book Description:

    Vietnamese Americans form a unique segment of the new U.S. immigrant population. Uprooted from their homeland and often thrust into poor urban neighborhoods, these newcomers have nevertheless managed to establish strong communities in a short space of time. Most remarkably, their children often perform at high academic levels despite difficult circumstances.Growing Up Americantells the story of Vietnamese children and sheds light on how they are negotiating the difficult passage into American society.

    Min Zhou and Carl Bankston draw on research and insights from many sources, including the U.S. census, survey data, and their own observations and in-depth interviews. Focusing on the Versailles Village enclave in New Orleans, one of many newly established Vietnamese communities in the United States, the authors examine the complex skein of family, community, and school influences that shape these children's lives. With no ties to existing ethnic communities, Vietnamese refugees had little control over where they were settled and no economic or social networks to plug into.Growing Up Americandescribes the process of building communities that were not simply transplants but distinctive outgrowths of the environment in which the Vietnamese found themselves. Family and social organizations re-formed in new ways, blending economic necessity with cultural tradition. These reconstructed communities create a particular form of social capital that helps disadvantaged families overcome the problems associated with poverty and ghettoization.

    Outside these enclaves, Vietnamese children faced a daunting school experience due to language difficulties, racial inequality, deteriorating educational services, and exposure to an often adversarial youth subculture. How have the children of Vietnamese refugees managed to overcome these challenges?Growing Up Americanoffers important evidence that community solidarity, cultural values, and a refugee sensibility have provided them with the resources needed to get ahead in American society. Zhou and Bankston also document the price exacted by the process of adaptation, as the struggle to define a personal identity and to decide what it means to be American sometimes leads children into conflict with their tight-knit communities.

    Growing Up Americanis the first comprehensive study of the unique experiences of Vietnamese immigrant children. It sets the agenda for future research on second generation immigrants and their entry into American society.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-568-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Min Zhou and Carl L. Bankston III
  4. Introduction The Children of Vietnamese Refugees
    (pp. 1-23)

    For the children of immigrants in the United States, the passage to adulthood involves growing up American. That’s no easy thing; it adds the conflicting pressures of assimilation and the demands of familial or ethnic loyalty to the common problems of adolescence. The children of refugees have it harder still, carrying the additional burdens associated with sudden flight from the homeland and all the losses that the search for safe haven entails.

    This book tells the story of America’s single largest group of refugee children—the children of Vietnamese refugees—as they have experienced growing up American. The Vietnamese are...

  5. Chapter 1 The Scatterings of War
    (pp. 24-41)

    Unlike their nostalgic parents, many of the children of Vietnamese refugees either were born in the United States or were too young at the time of flight from Vietnam to remember their native land. For them, the weeks in leaky boats and months in crowded refugee camps are only stories they have heard from their parents, relatives, and family friends. Yet they all carry the burden of war and exile. To understand the present-day experiences of the younger generation, it is important to look back to the recent past.

    In April 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to...

  6. Chapter 2 Resettlement
    (pp. 42-70)

    On a mild spring day in 1994, in the heart of Little Saigon, a thriving Vietnamese community in Orange County, California, a press briefing on “Project 20—Vietnamese Americans Twenty Years After (1975 to 1995)” was held in a library room full of media representatives. The project’s administrator, also the editor-in-chief and publisher of a Vietnamese newspaper,Nguoi Viet Daily News,announced a series of forthcoming events to celebrate the identity of Vietnamese Americans, their leadership, their lives here in freedom, and their gratitude to the United States. Project 20 also included special programs for the children of refugees, born...

  7. Chapter 3 The Reconstruction of the Ethnic Community and the Refugee Family
    (pp. 71-92)

    For many immigrants, adaptation is as much a function of social groups as it is of individuals, and for the Vietnamese refugees, the ethnic community is central to the process (Haines 1985). When asked about ways in which refugees help each other within the family context, one Vietnamese refugee woman responded, “Not just the family, but the whole Vietnamese community.” As a Vietnamese social worker explained, “The community is the major, or the most desired, source of practical and emotional support for the refugees” (Rose 1981,314–15). This chapter examines how Vietnamese refugees have rebuilt their communities and how these...

  8. Chapter 4 Networks of Social Relations: Support and Control
    (pp. 93-107)

    For most American children, families and the social relations built around them within a community are the means of transmitting cultural norms and values and shaping social contacts and future opportunities. For immigrant and refugee children, however, families alone are not enough. As illustrated in chapter 3, one reason is that the traditional bonds and practices and values that hold families and communities together have been disrupted. Another reason is that the social environments in which many immigrant or refugee families live are socially isolated and lack meaningful connections to mainstream institutions. A third reason is that many immigrant or...

  9. Chapter 5 Language and Adaptation
    (pp. 108-129)

    In the eyes of the American public, proficiency in English is the first step to successful immigrant adaptation to American society and an important part of “becoming American.” House speaker Newt Gingrich made it clear, “If we want to ensure that all our children have the same opportunity in life, alternative language education should stop and English should be acknowledged once and for all as the official language in the United States” (Los Angeles Times,October 31, 1995). In order to understand fully the process of adaptation of Vietnamese refugees and their children, it is necessary to consider the role...

  10. Chapter 6 Experiences in Adaptation to American Schools
    (pp. 130-159)

    The preceding chapters have shown that Vietnamese children in the United States suffer from a lack of proficiency in English and from straitened socioeconomic circumstances. For both these reasons, we might expect Vietnamese children to lag behind their American peers in academic achievement. On the contrary, Vietnamese children have adapted surprisingly well to the American educational system in a relatively short period of time. Over the past ten years or so, Vietnamese children have come to excel academically not only by the standards expected of a new refugee group but also by comparison with segments of the established population. They...

  11. Chapter 7 Straddling the Gap: Bicultural Conflicts and Gender Role Change
    (pp. 160-184)

    Tran’s use of corporal punishment on his child exemplifies the clash of two cultures in Vietnamese families as well as in other immigrant families. Like other immigrant children, Vietnamese children confront cultural differences in their families that often put them at odds with their parents and widen the generation gap. This chapter first looks at the bicultural conflicts that Vietnamese children encounter on an everyday basis and explores some of the main sources of these conflicts. It then considers the changes and complications in gender roles that have occurred as Vietnamese families have modified their original cultural patterns to fit...

  12. Chapter 8 Delinquency: Insiders and Outsiders
    (pp. 185-215)

    Stories such as Tinh’s appear regularly in the American press. One day we read about Vietnamese youths who consistently make good grades, win academic prizes, and gain entrance into the nation’s elite colleges; the next day, there are stories of ruthless youth gangs committing the worst sorts of crimes. These real-life stories reflect two contradictory images of Vietnamese young people: valedictorians and delinquents (Kibria 1993). How have these antithetical images come about? Previous chapters have discussed the factors that promote behavior and accomplishments likely to lead to upward mobility among Vietnamese adolescents, focusing on school adaptation. School, however, is only...

  13. Chapter 9 Conclusion: Contexts of Reception, Selective Americanization, and the Implications for the New Second Generation
    (pp. 216-242)

    The bitter experiences since the fall of Saigon and memories of war and exile have become a matter of the past. For American-born or American-reared children of Vietnamese refugees, Vietnam is far away. These children may understand their parental native language, remember a few ancient proverbs, and eat Vietnamese foods, but they may not fully appreciate these Vietnamese ways or consciously practice them, much less pass them on to their own children. They have been on their way to becoming American; many have moved up in status, but some have been trapped at the bottom of the society and may...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 243-246)
  15. References
    (pp. 247-260)
  16. Index
    (pp. 261-270)