‘Nothing ever dies’: memory and marginal children’s voices in Rwandan and Vietnamese narratives

by Ashwiny O. Kistnareddy

22 Jun 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
16 (pp. 157-172)

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Abstract: Memory is a highly contested notion insofar as it is claimed by the collective (Halbwachs, Young) and deployed within a variety of political and socio-cultural contexts. For Viet Thanh Nguyen, the ‘true war story’ can be told by those who lived through it, thereby wresting power from ‘men and soldiers’ and dominant structures (Nothing Ever Dies, Harvard UP, 2017: 243). Examining the dialectics of remembering and forgetting, this article examines narratives which reclaim memory as a personal and as a collective plea to understand the structural discrepancy at play from the child, who is victim of war. It examines the memoir of a Tutsi refugee child, Moi, le dernier Tutsi (C. Habonimana, Plon Récit, 2019) and an autobiographical narrative by a Vietnamese refugee in Canada, Ru (K. Thúy, Liana Lévi, 2010), to gauge the extent to which such narratives create their own memorial spaces and in so doing reclaim their marginal memories and centre them, while grappling with the imperative to forget. Ultimately it tests Nguyen’s theory that memory can be just and that in this ethical recoding of memory, the humanity and inhumanity of both sides is underlined.

Keywords: Tutsi genocide, Vietnamese refugees, childhood narratives, war, memory, affect.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 3 (Memories from the Margins: Violence, Conflict and Counter-Narratives).

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