From the displaced: A reader response
Hong Anh Nguyen AUHS,
General Education ENG101: English College Composition I
Dr. Brent M. Davis
October 20, 2022
From the displaced: A reader response Hong Anh NguyenThis reader response will discuss the structure and effectiveness of the article “from the displaced” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. The article is well-organized, even though it does not follow the standard structure of an essay. Nguyen’s story is entirely based on his personal experience and feelings when sharing the pain and hardship of refugees, who suffered loss when leaving their homeland and trying to adjust to a new life. Clearly, Nguyen’s evaluation is considered to be subjective, but his heartfelt and emotional story is undeniably inspiring. To analyze the article’s structure, we will discuss the main idea, the organization and the supporting evidence that help deliver the author’s message. As in the main idea, the article portrays a rough picture of the author’s life and his struggles as a refugee, describing how he is shaped and chased by the “refugee” tag as trying to adapt to the new life. Rather than following the general organization of a typical essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion, the author shares his story chronologically, based on the events that he experienced. No introduction is found. The paper has a conclusion with a thesis statement coming at the end. Nguyen states: “When those others fight back … caused and denied” (Nguyen, 2020). The thesis statement appears to be not quite clear as standing alone. However, the author’s whole story lays a solid foundation for his point, which makes it rational to place the thesis at the end, consolidating the main idea of the paper. Clearly, the structure of the essay is simple but the content is profound. Besides that, not all paragraphs have a clear topic sentence. For example, in the paragraph located before the conclusion on page 26, which is about how refugees are treated, the main idea is not fully expressed in the first sentence but comes out more clearly with the support of the second sentence. In terms of supporting evidence, the article is a narrative story
3based on the author’s own life without the participation of information from studies, research or statistics. Even so, it is still relatable and makes readers think of what it is like to be a refugee. This is also greatly contributed by the use of parallel structure throughout the article as well as in several small paragraphs, making Nguyen’s idea memorable to readers. For example, he mentions in a paragraph: “… Republic of Vietnam, a country that no longer exists except in the imagination of its global refugee diaspora of several million people, a country that most of the world remembers as South Vietnam” (Nguyen, 2020). The word “a country” is repeated in the same sentence, not only to emphasize the author’s home country, but also to express his painful feelings when thinking about his homeland. More importantly, throughout the entire article, there is repetition of memorable phrases like: “I remember”, “I do not remember” and “I have to”. The word “remember” appears especially and frequently. It shows the author’s emphasis on every point that he makes as recounting his memories. They consist of what he remembers, what he does not, and what he tries not to remember. With these memorable phrases placed at the beginning of some paragraphs, they also act as transitions and connections, attaching and making the whole article coherent. A few minor grammatical errors can be found in the article. For instance, at the beginning, the author writes: “At four years of age I became …”, in which there should be a comma after the word “age”. Another example can be seen in page 25, where Nguyen writes: “… losing her self …” when the correct grammar is supposed to be “losing herself”. Lastly, the writer uses standard American written English.On top of that, the effectiveness of the article can be considered undeniable with a clear purpose. “Viet Thanh Nguyen” is written for a wide range of audiences. They include individuals who are not refugees and even who hold negative perspectives towards refugees, allowing them to truly understand what it feels like for someone to permanently leave their home country
4behind. The writing is also intended for individuals, who were once refugees, so they can feel for those who are in a similar situation. To begin the article, the author certainly succeeds in identifying himself as a refugee, not an immigrant, and explaining why he does so. I am not sure if I am impressed with the opening but I like the way Nguyen chooses to go straight to the topic issue, not circling around. More importantly, examples are given as much as possible to support the author’s main point. Nguyen does not hesitate to share his past stories of the war, poverty and difficulties to adapt the new life, which are described in great detail even though they are traumatic memories for him. For example, he writes: “… I remember the gunman who followed us home and knocked on our door and pointed a gun in all our faces and how my mother saved us by running past him and out onto the sidewalk …” (Nguyen, 2020). Through it, readers can imagine a full picture of the struggles that the author and his family have had to go through as a Vietnamese refugee since he was at the age of four, moving to the Philippines before arriving to the refugee camp in Pennsylvania of the USA. This is not to mention how their lives were socially and economically shaped and determined as refugees. As the author defines the issue, I cannot think of other counter arguments. The article is subjective as it is based on the author’s raw experiences and emotions. There is a lack of quantitative information, which is understandable since the author’s intention is not to suggest any solution or new approaches to help the refugee community less struggle. It is written to give the public a deep insight into refugees, who have suffered loss and struggles from displacement in their own skin. When placed with other articles written by refugees from different countries in the collection, it helps to make the author’s point more powerful, persuasive and inspiring. Also, because the narration is sorely based on a personal story, it is hard to say if there are any sweeping generalizations that go beyond the evidence.
5In conclusion, the article helps me better understand the pain and hardships that refugees have to endure when forsaking their homeland as well as learning how to adjust to a new life. All the life events and feelings of the author are described in such detail that I feel they are incredibly real and vivid despite the lack of quantitative data. Refugees are always a controversial topic and are accompanied by comments, assumptions and even prejudices. It is important to be open minded and see the world from different aspects as refugees are also human. They have their stories and their own voices that need to be heard.
6ReferencesNguyen, V. T. (2020). From the displaced. In M. A. Goldthwaite et al (Ed.), The Norton reader: An anthology of nonfiction (shorter 15th ed., pp. 24-26). W. W. Norton.