TLDR: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel about being in greater L.A. with Vietnamese heritage
So said a professor at Occidental College’s Department of Oriental Studies to his new assistant, a refugee from the recent war...
“Ah, the Amerasian, forever caught between worlds and never knowing where he belongs! Imagine if you did not suffer from the confusion you must constantly experience, feeling the constant tug-of-war inside you and over you, between Orient and Occidental. ‘East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,’ as Kipling so accurately diagnosed. This was one of his favorite themes, and he had even concluded one of our meetings by giving me a homework assignment to test Kipling’s point. I was to take a sheet of paper and folded in half vertically. On the top, I was to write Orient on the left and Occident on the right. Then I was to write down my Oriental and Occidental qualities. Imagine this exercise as an indexing of yourself, the Chair had said. My students of Oriental ancestry inevitably find this beneficial. At first I thought he was playing a joke on me, since the day he gave me the task was the first of April, the occasion for that funny Western custom called April Fools’ Day...”
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