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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tapestry of resilient lives : socio-cultural explorations of ten Vietnamese inner-city youths Phan, Tan Thi


Traditional psychological research on resilience has focused on individual traits and abilities and minimized the role of cultural and socio-political contexts in its analyses. In this tapestry, I use a narrative framework to learn about ten Vietnamese refugee youths, who have received university scholarships to attend university, but whose life chances would otherwise be considered, at high risk of failure because of their race, ethnic, and income status. I also interviewed their parents. Their narratives are discussed in the light of historical, cultural and social contexts in which they live and learn. In reporting the students' life stories, I use the concepts of "dance of life " that takes place within a context of shared human stories. The parents' endurance, struggles, and hopes accumulated over generations, become a story of collective resiliency. This story provides the informative thread for a collaborative weaving of the students' "dance of life" in which the children's individual responsibility for their academic (achievements. For the refugees academic resilience is a pervasive individual and collective experience, rooted in the distortions of social relations and the disruptions of community life that are the product of an oppressive society. Resiliency becomes the common "process" of participation open to all individuals, and conjoins deep personal meaning and shared common purpose. Thus, academic achievement is seen by the refugees as an effective instrument of empowerment and liberation for the entire family, community, and the hope for the future The self as narrated by these students orchestrates a dance between and among themselves within a family, a community, and across generations. The students' achievement is motivated by a debt of love and gratitude to those members of the family achievement is motivated by a debt of love and gratitude to those members of the family and the community to which they belong. Students stated that through their own efforts and the "right attitudes" they could reach their goals in school and break down the barriers of discrimination. They reported growing closer and more emotionally dependent on their parents over time. They struggled more with how to have and maintain satisfying peer relationships without becoming independent from their parents. This study opens a door to the discussion of socio-cultural perspectives that may partially explain previously reported outcomes of high achievement among Vietnamese refugee youths, despite their humble origins and their parents' low level of in come and education.

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