Andrew Lam's "Who Will Light Incense When Mother's Gone?"

299 views 4 pages ~ 845 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

When Mother is gone, who will light the incense? Is written by Andrew Q Lam and focuses on the problem of people who go to live in developing countries to protect their future and end up forgetting their cultural values. In the article, Andrew attempts to find an answer to his mother's 70th birthday question of who will light the incense while the mother is gone. The Vietnamese-American discusses his antagonistic relationship with his mother. Andrew, born in Vietnam, migrates to America with his kin, and as a result of assimilation, Andrew begins to distance himself from his conventional standards. Andrews's story shows what may take place when a traditional immigrant family moves to America. The cultural identity disappears, and rebellion takes over.

Andrew admits that part of his culture will be lost when the mother will be no more and as such will never again light the incense for the ancestors as the mother does. He is sorry that he will not be able to please his mother by following their traditions. He is extremely commited to his job and changing technology to continue with a tradition that has been underway for decades. He has to drop part of him which he innocently depended on all his life. This portrays how cultural identity starts fading away once engulfed in U.S. however, a person's identity is put in compromise when they find themselves adapting to the American way.

In his essay, Andrew Lam, explains that in selecting a profession in America, one's identity as a grown-up defines the career they have and their status it. In explaining the differences he has with his mom, Andrew says that, "We live in two different worlds, after all, she and I. Mine is a world of travel and writing and public speaking; hers is a world of consulting the Vietnamese horoscope and eating vegetarian food when the moon is full, of attending Buddhist temple on the day of her parents' death anniversaries, a pious devotion.,". If this scenario is placed in Vietnam as opposed to America, the mother will be someone of larger identity. The rituals she performs are morally valuable to the Vietnamese people. Andrew in pleasing his mother tells him that he will maintain memories of all what the mum taught him in writing, ""Yet, if some rituals die, some others have only just begun. I am, after all, not a complete American brat, dear mother. Every morning I write, rendering memories into words. I write, going back further, invoking the past precisely because it is irretrievable. I write if only, in the end, to take leave." one of the prices for living in America is the loss of cultural identity. To the kids from traditional cultures who move to America while young, this can be unfair to them as they remain oblivious to their culture and traditions. While growing, they learn new lifestyles. Andrew could not make it in upholding his traditions given the changing technology and his busy schedule with school and work.

As children grow up, they become rebellious. "Who will light incense to the dead when I'm gone?" Aunty while shaking her head exclaims, "Honestly, I don't know. None of my children will do it, and we can forget the grandchildren. They don't even understand what we are doing when we pray to the dead. I guess when we're gone, the ritual ends." Andrew understands the hopelessness of his mom and aunt. He understands very well that there is no hope that any of them will uphold the rituals. When my mother noted that I was becoming rebellious and ascribing to U.S culture, she requested me to speak Vietnamese while indoors. "No," I replied. "What good is it to speak it, Mom? It's not as if I'm going to use it after I move out." The response brings out the theme of rebellion. Andrew is tired of his mom's requests and insists that he does not have to communicate in Vietnamese, showing how rebellious he is against her mum and their traditions and instead chooses American simplicity. In Andrew Lam's "Who Will Light Incense When Mother's Gone?" Andrew states how her mother looked pained in the eyes. Despite the fact that Andrew had made some achievements, the mother was worried about the distance between them. She mourned that America had given his son so much freedom making him introspective. "Despite the complaints by his mom, the author affirms that after the rebellion of a child, it is only them that can decide to cooperate or to conform.

The themes of identity and rebellion have been expressed all through Andrew's essay bringing out the picture of what a young American-Vietnamese ought to be like. The reader sympathizes with the mother and the elders as they're aware that tradition will not be passed down. This essay surely touches many other people who wish to retain their traditions and transfer them to the future generations.

Work Cited

Lam, Andrew. "Who Will Light Incense When Mother's Gone?"Huffpost. New America Media. 11 May, 2013. Web 11 July, 2013

January 13, 2023

Asia Immigration

Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Immigrants
Verified writer

Tony is a caring and amazing writer who will help you with anything related to English literature. As a foreign exchange student, I received the best kind of help. Thank you so much for being there for me!

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro