The Child of Two Worlds is a captivating story where the author, Lam, provides a description of what was “inside” and “outside” for him as a child. He presents two contrasting worlds, each of which has its own characteristics. The American world is, not only more advanced technologically, but also rich in distinct cultural affiliations, as compared to others.
Old-functioned cultural beliefs and superstitions dominate the Vietnam world. Although, they morally helped in shaping its residents, Lam believes they are responsible for the evident technological backwardness of his native home. As a way of example, he presents the vitality of unearthing of the umbilical cords, which according to Vietnam cultural practices, were buried amid an atmosphere of celebrations to mark a life-long attachment to the Vietnam land (Lam 13).
He proposes artistic and or language endeavors to unearth those umbilical cords to weave them to confer the modern tapestry. It is thus evident that both his mind coupled with his way of thinking have suffered a significant alteration. They have aligned themselves with the American styles of life and culture. In my opinion, the vivid description of the geographical and physical traits of the two worlds provides subtle grounds that indicate the boy’s inability to articulate well and or equally in the two worlds.
Even though he believes that, Vietnam is part and parcel of what he is today, subjectivity to the norms and cultural believes of the land is not something that Lam is up to seize, leave alone grabbing and using it to define him.
As he writes, Lam has a strong academic base, having gone through the American system of education. He is an emigrant living in Silicon Valley, where most Vietnamese had been turned from possibilities of being merchant rice farmers in the “S-shaped” Vietnam land into presidents of computer manufacturing companies (Lam 15).
For instance, he cannot contemplate her mother’s cultural practices entangling offering prayers and sacrifices to the ancestors amid the modern American world of sophisticated communication systems. In fact, he wonders whether her prayers in honor of her ancestors would penetrate through the space filled with communication signals.
Lam’s mind is a rigid one and provides no room for any unpractical perspective of looking at issues. How then could one anticipate him to accept the Vietnam world, a world that he possesses so much contempt about its cultural affiliation and practices that he refers to as inappropriate?
According to Lam, a mention of the name ‘Vietnam’ triggers his childhood memoirs that tend to create reminiscence of childhood miseries. He claims that home may only be portable if fixed within an individual’s soul. He adds that his identity is open-ended (Lam 13). The most conspicuous thing before his eyes, he says, is a haphazard crisscross of cultures: some cultures being not development-oriented.
What culture should one then choose to identify one self with, especially for those exposed to multicultural societies like him? Considering this argument, it comes out clearly, that the highest probability would amount to adopting those cultural norms that would ensure that one advances both technologically in terms of personal wellbeing- congruent with the demands of globalization. Lam has a fair deal of knowledge of these facts, which further arises doubts of whether he shall ever live up to the calls of the two worlds.
He appreciates the criticisms of Edward, a cultural critic, who claims that if an individual shows interest towards the advancement of his limits, both provincially and nationally, he or she needs not denounce his or her past cultural attachments, but rather deploy ardent strategies to explore them (Lam 13).
This is what Lam seems to be doing, though with a predetermined and hence prejudiced mind. More importantly, Lam is not exploring his native home cultures to know how they deserve to have come from an independent ground. He is actually drawing comparisons with cultural practices that he thinks are appropriate. They can work as they have worked for him and other Vietnamese living in Silicon Valley.
As an adult, he has accustomed himself to the American way of life and practices. All he has is the contempt of the Vietnamese ways of life, which according to him, only produce more of Mrs. Laus in relation to the others (Lam 1). Consequently, it seems that he will never be able, as an adult, to move between these two cultures.
Lam has not considered even a single example of any successful Vietnam resident who has made it without inferring an attachment of success to the Americanism. For the case of his mother, he believes, that the Americans have inculcated a decidedly different approach to issues that have seen her change her Vietnamese dreams (Lam 9).
According to him, living in Vietnam is tantamount to living in a world of imagination, a world characterized by rigid traditions, where people view ancestors as able to talk to living in the form of dreams prompting them (the living) to answer their prayers (Lam 12). A Vietnamese farmer manages to establish a chain of shops upon having a glimpse of the high-tech American industries.
Trung’s son, escaped to America instead of giving his father a hand in planting the following season’s rice, returned being a house designer. This was the beginning of his fortunes in life. Considering all the praiseworthy things that Lam considers America to offer to him, his mother and the rest of Viet-Kieus (Lam 10), it becomes apparently clear that he will never exist in or move between these two worlds as an adult.
Lam, Andrew. Child of two worlds. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.