Refugee Gratitude: Narrating Success and Intersubjectivity in Kim Thúy’s Ru


This paper makes the rhetorical move to consider narratives of “refugee success” outside the framework of liberal nationalism and multiculturalism. It focuses not on how such narratives are produced for and deployed by the state and its apparatuses to bolster ideological ends, but on the ways in which these stories are integral to the intertwined processes of survival and subject formation for those who have experienced intense struggle, loss, and trauma. Through an analysis of Kim Thuy’s novel Ru, I argue that “success” – as articulated through gratitude – can become a critical tool for “post”-refugee subjects to make sense of their oftentimes fraught and incongruous experiences and selves. The expression of gratitude, I suggest, enables a process of intersubjectivity, whereby the “post”-refugee can (re)construct a life and a sense of identity, and link that self with others to create an understanding of the individual and individual success as mutually constitutive, shared, and collective.

This article “Refugee Gratitude: Narrating Success and Intersubjectivity in Kim Thúy’s Ru” originally appeared in Contested Migrations. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 219 (Winter 2013): 17-36.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.