As a Vietnamese refugee who became an American writer, I can tell you that you matter, that your sadness matters, the story of how you survived and triumphed matters. For every story that belongs to you, in time, belongs to America.

— Andrew Lam

The most colossal Andrew Lam quotes to discover and learn by heart

All three of my books, "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres," and "Birds of Paradise Lost," are immigrant narratives - their dreams, their traumas, their struggles - and I write them with the confidence that these stories, written from the heart, will belong, in time, to America.

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I am glad to see the wheels are moving at last toward comprehensive immigration reform after last year's election. I am glad that immigrants are speaking up.

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In the war on terrorism, the immigrant is often the scapegoat.

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When a well-rounded character takes over, he doesn't lecture you about his history and how he is misunderstood. He lives his life, does things that are unexpected, and makes you laugh and cry because of his human flaws and foibles.

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[The immigrant] becomes a kind of insurance policy against the effects of the recession. By blaming him, the pressure valve is regulated in times of crisis ... What we have now is a public mindset of us versus them, and an overall anti-immigrant climate that is both troubling and morally reprehensible.

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I thought, "Wow, English is like magic.

" It not only shattered my voice, it changed me physiologically. I believed this for months ... There's magic in the language. I never fell out of the enchantment.

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In fiction, it's as if you enter a dream world that you created, but your characters have their own free will. They don't do what you want them to do - they get into trouble, do drugs, fight over petty things, and do outrageous things that you wouldn't want your children to do. In other words, you can only provide the background, the seeds - in my case the background of the Vietnamese refugee.

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Missing from the national conversation are voices of pro-immigration reformers and civil rights leaders, who can speak on behalf of those who have no voice.

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After twenty years and thirty stories, thirteen pieces were finally selected and the collection was born. So far, the blurbs from [authors] Maxine Hong Kingston, Gish Jen, Robert Olen Butler, Oscar Hijuelos and others, have been most encouraging.

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I always say that writing non-fiction versus writing fiction is a bit like architecture versus abstract painting.

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In non-fiction you have to stay true to historical events, be they personal or national .

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I have a funny story to tell about English and how I came to fall in love with the language. I was desperate to fit in and spoke English all the time. Trouble was, in my household it was a no-no to speak English because somehow it is disrespectful to call parents and grandparents "you" - impersonal pronouns are offensive in Vietnamese.

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About Andrew Lam

Quotes 26 sayings
Profession Writer
Birthday 1964

I've been writing short stories for twenty years now, on and off ever since I was in the creative writing program at San Francisco State University.

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America's story is largely an immigrant story.

That hasn't changed since the Pilgrims ate their first turkey some four hundred years ago, and they were the original boat people.

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Though I later found a career as a journalist and an essayist, fiction is my first love and I never left it, even though there was no easy way to make a living from it.

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I am hopeful that the pendulum swings toward seeing immigrants in favorable terms once more.

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Precious things lost are transmutable.

They refuse oblivion. They simply wait to be rendered into testimonies, into stories and songs.

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Art is the lesser sister to medicine. It aims to heal.

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Isn't the first story told in the West about the Fall? Adam and Eve were immigrants too from somewhere, a lost Eden, a paradise lost. We all now are so mobile, so nomadic .

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The collection is a labor of love and devotion, and whenever I found free time from my journalism work, I'd work on one story or another, or at least sketch out my characters, and research various issues related to my characters' dilemmas.

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That experience of losing home, longing for home, that yearning for meaning and rootedness and identity in a floating world, it's what often makes an immigrant story into an American story .

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It's unfortunate that the country of immigrants has turned its back on immigrants. The atmosphere after 9/11 is toxic.

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Where are the leaders who can speak to the idea that it is not alien to American interests, but very much in our socioeconomic interests - not to mention our spiritual health - to integrate immigrants, that our nation functions best when we welcome newcomers and help them participate fully in our society?

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I think in a larger sense, immigrant narrative is comprehensive and speaks to the core of human experience.

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Today, more people are crossing various borders in order to survive, thrive, change their lives. Even if you don't cross the border, with demographic shifts, the border sometimes crosses you.

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