Andrew Lam is a writer born in 1964. He grew up in America, in a community of
Vietnamese of San Francisco, following the fall of Saigon which drove many people to America
as refugees. He majored in Biochemistry in the University of California, Berkeley and later
joined a school of creative writing after abandoning the plans to go to medical school. There
were so many factors that were working to influence what path Andrew take. While some of
these factors were individual influences, others were collective influences. However, even in the
light of these forces, he was able to chart his own path uninfluenced and ascend to great heights
of excellence and success. As later discussed in this paper, he justified his decisions of not
following the dictates of the environment in which he was. He wanted to follow his dreams, the
heartbreak from “M” and his past life made him want to write more. In the essay by Dinesh D.
Souza, “Becoming American” Dinesh writes of the life of America, the living Standards, and the
powerful forces in America that works towards shaping someone’s life. There is a point of
convergence of the essays in that both describe the life in America as of mixed emotions of
delight and awe-inspiring.
Many factors influenced him and his ultimate decision of following his path. Some of
these were individual while others were collective influences. The first individual influence was
his mother and his father. In the traditions of Vietnam, children were taught the filial duty of
being obedient to their parents at all times (Lam, 41). For this reason, it was hard for Lam to
make a decision that contradicted the dictum of this parents. He knew this in no other words but
a betrayal of parents who had high hopes for him and expected much from him. He, however,
decided of following his dreams and inclination. He chooses what his passion, creative writing
was. When he divulged this to his parents, they exhibited mixed reactions. His mother was angry
with him that she could not control her tears. On the other hand, his father composedly made him
understand that he too he had a passion of studying writing but realized that poems and other
literary works could not sustain the family that was looking upon him (Lam, 42). With this, his
father wanted him to reconsider the decision that was already made.
Though he felt that he was alienating himself from him, parent, he chose to abandon the
plans to go to the medical school. Instead, he joined writing programs in the San Francisco state
university (Lam, 45). He chose a path that his parents regarded as mysterious as no one,
according to them, as nothing could come out of it to support the family. One the major
individual factor that influenced Andrew chose his path of success because he had much passion
for writing. He wanted to follow his dreams. His passion for writing made him enroll in creative
writing classes when he was doing biochemistry.
Another individual influence to his choice of own path was the message of “follow your
dream.” He had ambitions in following a secret desire he had of excelling in writing. Reading
literary works was deeply ingrained in him even before he settled in America. He had a desire to
stake his time in literature and was a bookworm in this field. He had read the epics of martial arts
which had been translated from Chinese to Vietnamese and also the comic books of French. He
even admits to having read the literary works of romance of his mother (Lam, 45). This was long
before he settled in America. And immigrating to America, this did not disrupt the trend. The
immigration saw no change in his passion for writing as he continued to read the American
Novels in his teens and had a particular affection and liking for fantasy and science fiction. For
this reason, he could spend all his time in public libraries reading novels.
Additionally, there was “M” and Helen. At first, he wanted not to address the world, or
the Vietnam refugees or the American but wrote simply because of he unhappy (Lam, 46). This
began when he was in high school when he found himself in a romantic world. He fell in love
with “M” with whom they shared their lives. However, life was not kind to him as they later
broke up. His world shattered. He was overwhelmed by loneliness and became forlorn. During
this time, he found refuge in writing. He felt like an exile having lost “M,” and this motivated
him to write as he was not happy and this made him in control of himself and gave him refuge.
Also, Helen was an influencer as he noticed his progress in writing and recommended him to a
creative writing school. In her own words, she said “Andrew, you are not going to medical
school, you are going to creative writing school.” She was coaching him and wanted the best for
Individual influencers did not work in isolation, but there existed collective influencers
that shaped and made him take a different path but also were the collective influencers.
American culture was one of the influencers. When he came to America, he was glad as he said.
This is because America presented so many opportunities to people that one could get torn
between what they wanted. America valued and prioritized education that there were so many
colleges and universities yet it wasn’t lost on him what he wanted from America. His historical
past made him want to write even more. There were fresh and undressed wounds that were
haunting him. He lamented of children who had been driven out of their countries who went to
seek asylum in countries that made them feel aliens. People who were driven out of their country
and how desperate they were to return to their country (Lam, 48). He harbored sad emotions of
children being forced to run out of their country, the challenges that they were confronted with
like making long queues for food under a scorching sun. He wanted to write about people whose
ways of life have been stolen and made foreign.
Another collective influencer was the Vietnam culture. Vietnam had a culture that
demanded that children followed the dictum of their parents (Lam, 41). Children were required
to fulfill the filial duty of being obedient to their parents and to follow their instructions. Andrew
was no exception to this. His parents wanted him to pursue a medical course, and as such, he was
obliged to following their dictates. However, he wanted something different. When he expresses
his disinterest in joining medical school, they suggested a dental school. Their insistence as so
disturbing to Andrew who knew what he wanted was not in the options that he was being given.
But driven by his desire to pursue his desire and goals he was determined to excel in writing
which he went for.
In the “Becoming an American” by D. Souza, what made Andrew delighted being in
America can best be pointed out. One, it depicts America as a country where the living standards
of people are high (D'Souza, 437). Indians are quoted saying “we want to stay an Indian life style
but at an American standard of living.” People, therefore, come to America with the desire to
alleviate their living standards from abject poverty that faces them in their countries. The
immigrants experience a mix of emotions from delight to wonder. Also, there is a triumph of
America morally in extending the benefits of affluence and comfort, which are traditionally
enjoyed by a little people, to a large section of the society (D'Souza, 438). When one gets into
America, they are not bound by the traditional confines that would rather have confined them to
behave in a particular way. D. Souza says “by coming to America; I have seen my life break free
of these traditional confines.”
In conclusion, it is evident that Andrew was able to excel in life by knowing what he
wanted and following his dreams. He broke the traditional confines that dictated that he
remained bound to the instructions and the demands of his parents and was determined to prove
his parents wrong a way of avoiding their negative criticism for not following their wishes. His
decision, however, to follow his path was influenced by many factors as discussed above which
worked together to shaping him and who he was to become.
D'Souza, Dinesh. What's so great about America. Regnery Publishing, 2012.
Lam, Andrew. East eats west: Writing in two hemispheres. Heyday, 2010.