By Nazli Kibria
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Extra resources for Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans
In the formal political arena, for example, women were completely absent: the village notables were an exclusively male group, as were the heads of hamlets and family groups. Confucian ideology, which shaped Vietnamese family life in critical ways, was predicated on the dominance of men over women. Women were expected to be married at a young age, after which they entered the household of their husband’s father. Young brides were subservient to both men and older women in the household and had little domestic status until they produced sons.
For the most part, older Vietnamese American men retained a posture of distance and formality toward me throughout the course of the study, although they greeted me warmly during my visits to their homes and agreed to be interviewed for the study. But with younger Vietnamese American men, I often played—as I did with women—the role of conﬁdante. I was someone who had developed a reputation for not gossiping. And particularly when, as was often the case, young men talked to me of the dilemmas of their love lives, I was someone who had no obvious stake in the outcomes of the situations they described.
On the left side of the room there was an ancestral altar—a shelf with two photographs, incense sticks, and bowls. Ha was in the kitchen, which was a small area that opened up from the right side of the room. My initial contacts with the participants of the study occurred in a variety of ways. I had been acquainted for some time with a Vietnamese immigrant family who owned and operated a restaurant. Luckily, members of this family were willing to help me locate other Vietnamese refugees by introducing me to friends and relatives in the neighborhood.