Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
This important book documents two areas, the history of the Vietnamese traumatic emigration to the U.S. from 1975 to the early 1990s and the central role of music in Vietnamese responses to diaspora. Because ethnographic studies of the Vietnamese diaspora are still limited in number, and this is the first focused on Vietnamese expressive practices, Songs of the Caged is a major contribution on both fronts. Unlike many accounts of the Vietnamese American experience, Reyes' book is based on extended field research and addresses big issues with attention to history and to real people in real situations often conveyed through intimate portraits. The breadth of Reyes' often difficult research (over many years and thousands of miles) grants this study a remarkable scope. She presents Vietnamese refugees as a diverse group of people with different histories and priorities. Reyes argues that music making is central to the ongoing construction of difference within Vietnamese American communities: she demonstrates how music, particularly singing, looks back nostalgically to pre-1975 Vietnam as well as forward to new Vietnamese American identities and even optimistically to the reclamation of a non-communist Vietnam.