Language Challenges for U.S. Immigrants: Background information when reading Time Is a Mother

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Time Is a Mother

by Ocean Vuong

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong X
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2022, 128 pages

    Jun 6, 2023, 128 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Language Challenges for U.S. Immigrants

This article relates to Time Is a Mother

Language and communication are key themes throughout the work of Ocean Vuong. In both his fiction and poetry — including his newest collection, Time Is a Mother — he discusses the difficulties his mother faced as a Vietnamese immigrant living in the U.S. who didn't read, write or speak English.

Historically, being a melting pot of people from around the world, the U.S. was a polyglot nation, with the use of multiple indigenous and immigrant languages accepted as the norm. Historical studies on this subject suggest that at the time of independence, the first language of a third or more of American residents was something other than English.

The arrival of World War I in 1914 significantly curtailed immigration to the U.S., and the subsequent global depression and stricter immigration quotas compounded rising feelings of hostility towards newcomers. Prior to this, minority languages often died out from generation to generation anyway, as immigrants assimilated, however...

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