Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Degree Name

Creative Writing (Nonfiction)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Judy Blunt

Commitee Members

Kate Gadbow, Michael Downs


Asia, First Generation American, Fulbright, Memoir, Travel, Vietnam War


University of Montana


Year of the Snake is a travel narrative and family memoir that details a year of the author’s life as a Fulbright scholar in Vietnam. Twenty-five years after the author’s parents have fled Vietnam as war refugees, the author returns to her parents’ homeland. The author spends 2001 exploring and examining this forsaken homeland. She has three distinct experiences, as a student living with my uncle as his adopted daughter, as a backpacker exhilarated by the culture and land, and as a privileged ex-pat working among locals. Through these varied experiences, I began to see how Vietnam was trying to put resolution on the past while opening borders to a future of tourism and capitalistic enterprises. I also began to understand the trials my family endured and the connection between the relatives I loved in the U.S. and those left behind. Through field and academic research, I attempt to reconcile my parents and relatives' lives with my own experiences growing up poor in Mobile, Alabama. My personal journey as a young and fearful, first-generation 22-year-old living, abroad for the first time, draws parallels between the struggle to attain the American dream with the struggle of living in Vietnam's impoverished, communist world. My intent is to illuminate all that is both beautiful and sad about claiming identity as any ethnic minority in America. However, I push past the idea of being Vietnamese-American to point to the underlying humanity that brings us together. My stories of two different cultures delve into the tenderness of family and the common human experiences of fear, joy, and sacrifice. In our uncertain society today, there is added weight and virtue to finding likenesses and understanding between cultures. My audience will go beyond first-generation Americans to include those trying to find meaning in cultural differences, those who have ever felt an "otherness," and those who appreciate stories of hope and perseverance.



© Copyright 2007 Annie Hoang Nguyen