Canniff, Julie G, Cambodian Refugees' Pathways to Success: Developing a Bi-Cultural Identity

Article excerpt

New York, NY: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC, 2001, 312pp., $75.00 hardcover.

As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, with immigrants and refugees from throughout the world, it is concomitantly important that all Americans understand their cultures and values. Cambodian Refugees' Pathways to Success: Developing a Bi-Cultural Identity fills the bill in terms of helping westerners to better understand Cambodian culture, values, concerns and needs as these new immigrants adjust to life in the United States.

The book consists of 9 chapters, each with an introduction and summary, an epilogue chapter, appendices about the pilot studies [done in 1992-1994 and 1996-1997] on which the book is based, and a bibliography. Chapters cover such topics as predicting success for Southeast Asian refugees, patterns of culture and elements of a world view, context and history: Cambodian history and geography as well as society and daily life, religion as a social system, research design and methods of data analysis, research setting, case studies of 3 Cambodian families, discussion of findings, conclusion and implications of the research, and finally mythic journey/multiple paths.

The book starts with a "funnel" approach, which I also used in my own dissertation work on loss in the lives of Southeast Asian elders, namely looking at success for Asian immigrants in general, then for Southeast Asian refugees, and finally for Cambodian refugees. In part this reflects the author's effort to organize and make sense of huge and complex data concerning very diverse cultures. Canniffs research looks at 3 multigenerational families over time in the Cambodian community of Forest City, a traditional East Coast city. She began with 3 research questions:

1. What does being successful mean to Cambodian refugee parents and children in this group?

2. In what ways do these parents connect their perceptions of success to cultural models represented by Theravada Buddhist beliefs, Cambodian institutions, and/or American institutions?

3. In what ways do these children connect their perceptions of success to cultural models represented by their parents, Theravada Buddhist beliefs, and/or American institutions?

There are many things I appreciate about this book. It is based on solid longitudinal qualitative research, with long verbatim quotes from intergenerational members of all 3 families. Also, Canniff provides what is so often missing from quantitative and qualitative research: a long reflexive section on who she is and where she stands, as a 55-year-old Caucasian woman, in relationship to the research. …