Disturbing Histories, Multilayered Traumas, and De-centered Subjectivities in Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge

Ozun Ş.

NEOPHILOLOGUS, vol.103, no.3, pp.293-306, 2019 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 103 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11061-018-09592-4
  • Journal Name: NEOPHILOLOGUS
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.293-306
  • Keywords: Trauma, Vietnam War, Lan Cao, Monkey Bridge, Vietnamese-American identity, Diasporic subjectivity
  • Süleyman Demirel University Affiliated: Yes


Monkey Bridge is a novel by Lan Cao which focuses on the complexities of the Vietnamese refugee experience through the relationship between teenage Mai Nguyen and her mother Thanh, and their interlocked stories. Vietnamese Mai flees to America on the day Saigon falls in 1975, settles in Falls Church and her mother, Thanh, joins Mai in Virginia a few months later. Through the mother/daughter and first/second generation immigrant relationships, Monkey Bridge reflects the diasporic, ethnic, linguistic and cultural negotiations both the mother and daughter should handle with in order to make a future in the United States. Implications of war on the Vietnamese families, characters' struggle of trying to become American and also remaining Vietnamese at the same time, the loss of ancestral land, maternal body, and memory are the central issues that Lan Cao lays bare for her readers. The relationship between the mother and daughter is predominantly shaped by the traumatic memories in both women's lives, with each responding in her own way. Rather than claiming that trauma shatters identity, Monkey Bridge suggests that trauma as a provocative paradigm deconstructs and reconstructs previous perceptions of self, reality and individuals' relations to the world. The aim of this article is to analyse how traumatic memories with regard to life in exile, generational gaps, and biculturalism affect subjectivity of the main characters, Mai and Thanh, in the novel.