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Rise From the Fall, Unmasking the Vietnamese-American Identity: A Conversation with Author Lan Cao

October 6 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Speaker: Lan Cao, Author and Professor of Law at the Chapman University School of Law

Moderator: Naja Pham Lockwood, Producing Fellow for Asia in Action, Weatherhead East Asian Institute

This Asia in Action Speaker Series event revolves around the life and literary journey of Lan Cao, a Vietnamese American writer. It begins with her early life in Vietnam and her migration to America in 1975, as depicted in her novel Monkey Bridge, emphasizing themes of exile, loss, and hope. It then delves into the significance of authentic Vietnamese storytelling through her work The Lotus and the Storm, offering a unique perspective on the Vietnam War. The discussion also touches on Vietnam’s economic transition with Doi Moi policies and its reflection in Three Seasons, while exploring its impact on Lan Cao’s identity as a Vietnamese American and refugee. Finally, her latest book, Family of Six Tones: Refugee Mother and American Daughter, is introduced, along with her ongoing literary journey and future projects.

Speaker’s Bio: Lan Cao was born in Saigon, Vietnam and came to the United States as a refugee in 1975. As a child who grew up in war, she found comfort in the stories of 1001 Arabian Nights, fascinated by the idea that the narrator saved her own life by engaging in the creative process of telling stories. In the United States, as a refugee, she again found solace in books, in novels such as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, and in the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, T.S. Eliot, and Adrienne Rich.

She was inspired to write when she entered Mount Holyoke College and read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Lan received widespread critical acclaim when she wrote Monkey Bridge, published by Viking in 1997. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times wrote, “Cao has not only made an impressive debut, but joined authors such as Salman Rushdie and Bharati Mukherjee in mapping the state of exile and its elusive geographies of loss and hope.” Lan is also the author of The Lotus and the Storm, published by Viking Penguin in 2015 and the co-author (with Harlan Margaret Van Cao) of Family in Six Tones, also published by Viking Penguin in 2020.

Lan graduated from Mount Holyoke College and Yale Law School. She clerked for the legendary Judge Constance Baker Motley (Southern District of New York), the first African American female federal judge in the United States, who, as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, had argued and won nine out of ten desegregation cases before the United States Supreme Court.

She has taught at Brooklyn Law School, Duke Law School, William & Mary Law School, Michigan Law School and is currently the Betty Hutton Williams Professor of International Economic Law at Chapman University Fowler School of Law, where she specializes in international business, corporate law, contracts, international law, international human rights, women’s rights, and rule of law development and its relationship to culture. Her academic monograph on the rule of law, democracy, and culture was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. At its core, her legal scholarship centers on the development of markets, civil society, and democracy.

This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Lunch will be provided.

To attend this event in-person, please register HERE.

Contact Information

Hiba Rashid