Family Life by Diem Vo
In Family Life by Diem Vo we have the theme of prosperity, family, connection, conflict, tradition and community. Narrated in the first person by Vo herself the reader realizes after reading the story that Vo may be exploring the theme of prosperity. Vo’s family come from Vietnam and when they first came to Australia they had very little. However they did understand the importance of family and remained tightly-knit with other Vietnamese immigrants. They moved from working in factories to owning their own video store. An achievement by any measure and one that shows the ability of Vo’s family to progress in a new country. Vietnam itself has changed over time and Vo thinks that perhaps her parents would not recognize it now. Vo also thinks that her cousins, whose parents migrated to Australia when they were younger than her parents, have it that little bit easier. This may be significant as Vo could be suggesting that her parents’ generation opened the door for the next generation.
The family gatherings with her cousins are important as they suggest that even though the family may have fragmented (compared to living in Vietnam). They remain close. There continues to be a connection. A connection that includes those that were of Vietnamese extraction and born in Australia. It may also be case that Vo is highlighting the importance of community to those from Vietnam. They are after all part of what connects Vo’s parents to their homeland. There is a slight conflict in the story when it comes to Vo’s accent. If she does not talk with a Vietnamese tone on the telephone, her relatives will think they have the wrong number and hang up. Yet if she does talk with a Vietnamese accent her friends will not understand her. It is as though there is a part of Vo’s heritage that she has to carry with her despite the fact that she is Australian.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The video store that Vo’s parents own could represent prosperity for those who have migrated to Australia. The hamburgers and coffee that Vo and her sister buy when working in the shop and the fact that they come from the Italian take-away suggests that Vo and her sister have adapted to western culture. Her parents might not appreciate it or may be too old to adapt but this does not stop Vo and her sister. The family gatherings obviously refer to the theme of connection as too does the introduction of the next generation (cousins). If anything Vo has been protected from any feelings of loneliness that she might have. Unlike her Australia counterpart. The boy who is an only child.
The end of the story is interesting as Vo seems to realize the importance of her extended family around her, when she was growing up. They were always there for the Vo and continue to be. Though she is the daughter of immigrants Vo has embraced both the Vietnamese culture and that of Australia. She has a balanced and understanding outlook on life. She can understand her parents’ generation and her own generation. Vo has successfully blended both traditions together while she grew up in Australia. She is able to identify with being both Vietnamese and Australian. Something that is not always clear for others who have similar immigrant backgrounds to Vo. Often one tradition is forgotten about as the children of immigrant’s rebel against their parents and their heritage.