The Vietnamese Boat People

The Vietnamese Boat People podcast is stories of hope, survival and resilience. Between 1975 to 1992, almost two million Vietnamese risked their lives to flee oppression and hardship after the Vietnam War, in one of the largest mass exoduses in modern history. Escaping by boat, many found freedom in foreign land, many were captured and brutally punished, and many did not survive the journey. This population of people are known as the ‘Vietnamese Boat People‘ and these are their stories. Support the show and the mission to elevate our stories at We are a 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization. Thank you for your support!

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#49 Mai American

Wednesday May 10, 2023

Wednesday May 10, 2023

Kevin Truong was born in a refugee camp. His mom fled Việt Nam with his two older sisters, while two months pregnant with him. Kevin grew up in Oregon ashamed of his immigrant mother and how un-American their lives felt. For the past ten years Kevin has been working on a documentary called Mai American. The film is about a 70-year-old Vietnamese American refugee living in Oregon who writes down her life story, indelibly shaped by the War in Việt Nam. As she shares what she has written with Kevin, they begin separate but parallel journeys confronting the traumas of their past and the emotional divide in their present.The film is more than just a story about a Vietnamese refugee, or the immigrant experience, it is an American story and at the heart of it, a story about the relationship between a mother and a son. 
Mai American is one of five film projects participating in the 2023 DocPitch, a film pitching competition presented by the California Film Institute - Each of the five projects have a pitch online, and audiences get to vote to help the project of their choice win $45,000. Voting is Free! You can view Kevin’s pitch online and vote for his project to help get it to the finish line! Go to Episode Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyễn MangAssociate Producer: Saoli NguyễnVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther music: Fugetsu, SAYURI HAYASHI EGNELL; Somewhere Ahead, DANIEL KAEDEMai American trailer: courtesy of Kevin Truong

#48 Buried Ruins

Friday Apr 14, 2023

Friday Apr 14, 2023

Buried Ruins is a play written by Vietnamese American actor and playwright, Carolina Đỗ . It started out as a series of interviews that Carolina did with her parents, over the course of almost nine years, and turned into a personal writing project about memory and wishful dreams. The play is centered around a series of torturously absurd family dinners interrupted by glitches of memories of the past. It is a reflection of Carolina’s own experiences about Vietnamese parents and daughters trying to get through to one another despite generational trauma and the force of cultural assimilation. The play premiered in a staged reading in New York City with an all Vietnamese team, both onstage and backstage. This episode features discussions with Carolina, "Buried Ruins" director Cara Hinh, and actor Bi Jean Ngo. The conversation delves into the making of "Buried Ruins", the process of learning about one's parents, and what it’s like to be Vietnamese American in the theater industry.
Note: This episode contains some adult language that may not be appropriate for all ages. 
Episode Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyễn MangAssociate Producer: Saoli NguyễnVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther music: A Certain Shade of Blue: Paper Twins, Inside Clarity: Synthetic Tides

Tuesday Mar 14, 2023

Lisa Phu is an Alaska-based journalist and the creator of "Before Me", a limited series chronicling her mother’s journey to America. Lisa has always wanted to record her mom's story but never quite found the right moment, until she gave birth to her first child in 2016 and her mom came to care for them both. During that visit, Lisa's mom finally shared the real story about growing up in Cambodia, fleeing genocide by the Khmer Rouge, surviving as a gold dealer in Vietnam, building a home in America while navigating the fallout and traumas of war… and carrying the future of her children throughout the journey. Lisa shares her 5-year journey in making the series from the first day she pressed record to releasing the story, Before Me with Self Evident Media. 
"Before Me" is a 5-part story that follows one woman’s life, from Cambodia to America, over the course of decades. But it’s also a long overdue conversation between mother and daughter about their family’s history — through war and violence, separation and loss, endings and beginnings. To make Before Me, Lisa was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and did a residency at Alderworks Alaska Writers & Artists Retreat. She was an AIR New Voices scholar in 2017 and an AIR Edit Mode fellow in 2021.
Photo: Lan Phu holds her granddaughter Acacia in 2016 Oct
Episode Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangEditing Support: Matt YoungVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther music: Free Mind: Wildflowers, In-Between Heartbeats: Headlund

#46 Bonus Episode: Before Me

Wednesday Dec 14, 2022

Wednesday Dec 14, 2022

PodSwap with Self Evident podcast!
Before Me is a limited series launched by Self Evident with Alaska-based journalist Lisa Phu, chronicling her mother’s journey from Cambodia to America over the course of decades. The story unfolds between Lisa and her mother Lan as the two care for Lisa's first born daughter — and for the first time, Lan feels ready to share her own experiences fully with Lisa, on tape. But it’s also a long overdue conversation between mother and daughter about their family’s history — through war and violence, separation and loss, endings and beginnings. Because while we may never fully understand the reality of those who came before us, every story is a chance to get closer. 
Listen to the full show at Self Evident podcast
Episode Credits:Created, written, and produced by Lisa PhuEdited by Julia ShuFact checking by Harsha Nahata and Tiffany BuiSound design by James BooAdditional support from Cathy ErwayOriginal theme music by Avery StewartAdditional music by Blue Dot SessionsAudio engineering by Dave Waldron and Timothy Lou LyCover art and show name created by Christine CarpenterAudience engagement by Rekha RadhakrishnanThanks to Ben Kiernan for participating in the research and reporting processHuge thanks and gratitude to Lan Phu“Before Me” is a Self Evident Media production. The show’s Executive Producers are James Boo, Lisa Phu, and Ken Ikeda.This project is also supported in part by the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council and the City and Borough of Juneau.Thanks to the Alderworks Alaska Writers & Artists Retreat for the residency they provided for this project.

Wednesday Nov 30, 2022

PodSwap with Seven Million Bikes Podcast!Suzanne Thi Hien Hook was a baby found on the street and placed in an orphanage during the Vietnam War. She’s Amerasian; with a Vietnamese mother and an African-American soldier father. She was adopted into a white English family and moved to the UK when she was just three years old. Unfortunately it was not the beginning of a happy childhood that many would expect. Despite an abusive upbringing she became a trained chef, gained a business degree and started a successful company. In 2006 she visited Vietnam for the first time to connect with her roots. That experience changed the trajectory of her life. There she met other children in orphanages which had a profound effect on her. When she returned to the UK, she realized money didn’t buy happiness, and sold all of her possessions to start Allambie orphanage in Vietnam. She wanted every child, orphaned, adopted, fostered, or living in the streets to be cared for, and most importantly wanted to give them a sense of belonging.
This episode contains topics on abuse.
Episode Credits: Seven Million Bikes Podcast Host & Producer: Niall MackaySeven Million Bikes theme music composed by Lewis WrightVBP Host & Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina Vo

Wednesday Nov 16, 2022

The stories we share on Vietnamese Boat People are often harrowing tales of people surviving adversities and finding strength and resilience to move forward. Diving into their family histories and trauma, our interviewees can all be described as brave and introspective. And the same can also be said about our listeners. Over the years, listeners have reached out to us sharing how the podcast has given them a newfound connection with the culture. Our desire to bring people together to share stories and experiences, along with inspiration from podcasting colleagues Self Evident and PRX, led us to organize the first VBP listening party (kinda like a book club!). 
Several members of the VBP team met up virtually to listen to and discuss episode 31: The Escape. It was our first time doing this as a group, and the experience was recorded in order to serve as a guide for anyone who wishes to do something similar. Our conversation became a deep dive into one of the most intricate stories we’ve featured, as well as a behind-the-scenes discussion about how the episode came together. We hope this inspires you to host your own listening party with students, communities or just with friends and families.  
Featuring: Tracey Nguyen Mang, Saoli Nguyen, Matt Young, Bella Nguyen, Anthony Nguyen, and Brandon Nguyen
The video version of this episode can be found on the VBP YouTube channel and on our videocast page.
Episode Credits:Associate Producer: Saoli NguyenVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther music: Hop In (Instrumental Version): Iso Indies

Wednesday Oct 26, 2022

Family Histories & Emotional Truths: Healing Thru WritingAn intimate discussion with three Vietnamese-Americans who turned to writing as a way to confront and reconcile with their histories and upbringings. Featuring:Alison Hong Nguyen Lihalakha, author of Salted Plums ;Christina Vo, author of The Veil Between Two Worlds ;Len Tran, author of Split Up By The Sea
Replay of the discussion is also available on Vietnamese Boat People Youtube channelEpisode Credits: Host & Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangSupported by New Jersey Council for the Humanities 2022-23 Action Grant and Quill Hawk Publishing in effort to inspire the community to learn about family histories and contribute stories to the VBP Journeys digital collection at 

#42 - Ambiguous Grief

Wednesday Jul 27, 2022

Wednesday Jul 27, 2022

Thi and Phuong Nam Doan are two sisters born in Portland, Oregon. In 2020, their mom was diagnosed with lewy body dementia, a type of progressive dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function. The family has been navigating how to take care of a woman who used to take care of them. Their cousin, Andy Nguyen remembers how his aunt has always been like a second mother to him. The three grew up as a very close unit and they share how much the mom is the foundation in their lives. She is the matriarch of their family, the eldest who always cared for her younger siblings, the driving force behind the parents' escape from Vietnam and the caregiver to many. The recent news of the diagnosis has been hard for the family, and also the mom who has a hard time accepting it, feeling guilt and shame for putting a burden on her family. The three cousins share how they are navigating ambiguous loss/grief, a term that describes the grief one may feel for a loved one who has dementia. 
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with dementia, here are some resources shared by Thi Doan. has a directory of Asian American therapistsFamily Caregiver Handout in VietnameseFact Sheet on Dementia in VietnameseInformation on Dementia in VietnameseFor Lewy Body DementiaFor Alzheimer's DementiaA podcast by Bambu care called "What the Dementia" 
Episode Cover Art: 4thWorldPress: The Day I Woke Up Different 
Episode Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangAssociate Producer: Tricia VuongVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther music: Heat Dream: Patrick Latham, Marigold Spring: Daniel Kaede, Recovering Hope: Spirits of Our Dreams, First Time for Everything: Trevor Kowalski

Tuesday Jun 14, 2022

Trung Lê Nguyễn was born in 1990 in a refugee camp in Palawan, Philippines. His parents escaped Vietnam by boat and resettled in Minnesota, USA shortly after Trung was born. He grew up learning English with his parents through picture books and was always specifically drawn to fairytales. He studied Art History in college and eventually found himself gravitating towards being an artist. Trung's list of accomplishments and published works includes DC Comics, Oni Press, Boom! Studios, and Image Comics. The MAGIC FISH is his debut graphic novel. It is about an immigrant family, interweaving fairytales with the story of a young Vietnamese boy struggling to find the right words to tell his parents about his sexuality. THE MAGIC FISH is a warm and loving story that reminds young readers that they should be able to expect those who love them to accept them for who they are. In our conversation with Trung, he shares his own experiences of telling his parents he is gay.
Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangSound Editor: Matt YoungVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther Music: Sun Therapy (instrumental + full mix), Sum Wave

Tuesday May 31, 2022

​Many of us have experienced losses that have changed our lives. We have lost loved ones to war, harsh living conditions and arduous migrations or to illnesses, age and more recently to the pandemic. But sometimes the loss can be an invaluable object, a community, a place we call home or a state of being. The process of losing someone or something that is irreplaceable can turn our world upside down. However, the journey to heal can lead us to finding ourselves again. For 2022, we invited storytellers Alexander Nguyen, Qui-Shawn Tran, Mai Tran, Trinh Mai, and siblings Huong and Karin Hanh Nguyen, to share their experiences of loss in our 3rd annual Mỹ (American) Việt (Vietnamese) Story Slam event, ‘LOST & FOUND’. To view the stories visit 
Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangSound Editor: Matt YoungEvent Producers: Megan Do, Saoli Nguyen, Tricia VuongVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther Music: Midnight Sunlight (instrumental + full mix), Tap Machines

#39 - The Mountains Sing

Thursday Apr 28, 2022

Thursday Apr 28, 2022

When she was six years old, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and her family left their small village in northern Việt Nam for Bạc Liêu, a city located in one of the southernmost points of the country. As a northerner growing up in the south after 1975, Quế Mai witnessed the post-war devastation felt by those on both sides of the conflict. She gained a deep appreciation for the stories of all those around her, including the many boat people who were fleeing the country at the time. She had always wanted to be a writer, but initially pursued a career in business instead. But the dream to be a writer was always there. When Quế Mai published her first book of poetry in Vietnamese, there was no looking back. In 2020, she published THE MOUNTAINS SING, her debut novel and first book written in English. Set in 20th century Việt Nam, it tells the multigenerational tale of the Trần family as they experience several crucial moments in the nation’s history. The novel became an international bestseller, as well as a testament to the power of Vietnamese stories.
Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangAssociate Producer: Saoli Nguyen ( / IG: @saolinguyen)VBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther Music: Before the War, Lama House; Dew Over Meguro, Lama House; Miika’s Journey, Lama House; Where Legends Dwell, Lama House; Chapters, Aerian

#38 - Cooking From Memory

Wednesday Apr 06, 2022

Wednesday Apr 06, 2022

Growing up, Ly Nguyen and her mom did not have the most understanding or tender relationship. Ly remembers the friction starting very early in her childhood, when she was molested by a family member and found that she wasn’t able to talk about it with anyone. To protect the family’s reputation, the incident was kept a secret. Leaving Ly feeling alone and unprotected by her mother. Over the years, their relationship progressively worsened. It wasn’t until Ly had her own daughter, did the complicated and unresolved trauma begin to surface again. In early 2020 during the pandemic, Ly started Cooking off the Cuff, a food blog to preserve her family’s stories for her daughter. It began as a way to heal and later when her mom passed away, it became an important space to remember her mom through the meals they shared and a chance to change their relationship.
Content Warning: Please note that this episode contains discussions of sexual trauma as noted in the summary. 
Credits:Executive Producer: Tracey Nguyen MangAssociate Producers: Tricia Vuong, Matt YoungVBP theme music: Clarity, Paulina VoOther Music: Liberating, Megan Wofford; Respire, Rikard From; Beyond Imagination, Gavin Luke; Joust, Trevor Kowalski; Returning Memories, Erasmus Talbot (melody stem)

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