Today, I will be reflecting on my our discussion about “true war stories”.
During the first week of class, one of the stories we were asked to read was, Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice by Nam Le. In the story, the narrator is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to “sell out” and write his father’s “ethnic story”. His ability to choose is ultimately taken away from him when his father burns the only copy of the story. While highlighting the dissonance between two different generations of Asians and Asian Americans, the story also touches upon the desire that many second generation Asian Americans have: to have a story.
Nam Le’s story made me reflect on my own desire to “have a story”. When I was growing up, my family made our country’s history very clear while simultaneously keeping their history silent. I used to make up different versions of how I thought my parents grew up and believe them to be true. “They crossed this river at this time,” etc., etc., just so I could build my own story from it.
Doing this was the only way I kept myself tied to my Tibetan identity growing up, but I have since learned that not every story has to be a devastating immigrant story to keep me tied to my identity. However, society places more values on those stories, which is why Le’s character so desperately wanted to tell his father’s story. He was not only hoping that it would make him money, but that the story would help him find himself as well.
Every child of war, displacement, and of genocide survivors have ties to trauma, that is inescapable. No matter what form our traumas take, they are all valid and they are worthy. Nam Le’s story reminded me that I don’t have to morph my or my parents’ experiences into something it is not. It also reminded me, that we don’t need to have “stories”, but we do need to validate each other without hidden agendas.