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Domestic Violence in Lac Su’s I Love Yous Are for White People: A Sociological Criticism Approach By Quan Manh Ha In the post-Vietnam War era, Vietnamese American non-fiction often focuses most specifically on themes or issues related to the Vietnam War, communist reeducation camps, the “boat people” experience, and adjustment to life in exile in the United States—all of which, understandably, portray the Vietnamese Americans as displaced anticommunist refugees, but which also help to rationalize the necessity of the resettlement of refugees in the United States. In 2009, within the cultural context of the period’s prevailing positive and negative stereotypes of Asian Americans, Lac Su, a new voice in Vietnamese American literature, published I Love Yous Are for White People, in which he narrates his traumatic childhood experiences under his Vietnamese austere father in the United States, who alternately runs the household either like an affectionate pater familias or an unrelenting tyrant. His father’s behavioral dichotomy in personality and manners confuses Su’s developing perception of familial love and parental sacrifice, on the one hand, and paternal child abuse and domestic violence, on the other. Su’s memoir can be considered a pioneer statement in addressing the problem of Asian American domestic tensions because, “[f]or various reasons, domestic violence within Asian communities tends to shy away from the view of the mainstream society” (Xu and Anderson 27). From the perspective of sociological criticism, Su’s memoir debunks the seemingly positive myth of Asian Americans as a model minority, substantiates certain negative stereotypes of Asian men, and challenges some of the classic Asian values that apparently have shaped the Asian American identity. Su’s memoir is a critique of structural inequalities, urban poverty, chronic unemployment, inaccessibility to a support network, and the intersection between class, gender, and race in the contexts of war and its aftermath. Within U.S. culture, Asian American men often are cast as the embodiment of one of two types: the first is of the sexually impotent, effeminate, and submissive figure who often is implied in the model-

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Abstract

This article employs sociological criticism to examine domestic violence, parenting, and communication behavior in Lac Su’s Vietnamese American memoir. The book debunks the seemingly positive myth of Asian Americans as a model minority, substantiates certain negative stereotypes of Asian men, and challenges some of the classic Asian values that apparently have shaped the Asian American identity. I argue that Su’s memoir is a critique of structural inequalities, urban poverty, unemployment, inaccessibility to a support network, and the intersection between class, gender, and race in the contexts of war and its aftermath.

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