Amy Le was born in Tra Vinh Vietnam in 1974, with a severe heart condition. The doctors predicted that she would not live past her childhood. Desperate to find the right medical care, her mom decided they needed to escape the post-war conditions of Vietnam. In 1980 they arrived in Kent, Washington State. Growing up, her relationship with her mom had its ups and downs and her Dad was in and out of her life. In 2017, when Amy’s mom passed away, her world shattered. To honor her mom’s legacy and sacrifices, she left her job in corporate America to write her mom’s story. But she didn’t have all the details so she began a journey of piecing it together through other people and fictionalized what life must have been like for her mom in Vietnam. In this episode, Amy shares with us her journey of discovery, healing and forgiveness. Her debut historical fiction Snow in Vietnam is a tribute to her mother and the hundreds of thousands of boat people for their bravery. www.amy-m-le.com
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Cô Loan was born in Saigon and left Vietnam with her family on April 30 1975, the exact day when the South Vietnamese Army surrendered, bringing an end to the civil war in Vietnam. She was 11 years old and would face many new challenges as her family tries to adjust to a new country. But her greatest challenge came much later in her life, when she learns about her daughter with transgender experience. A term she knew nothing about. She shares her journey of trying to understand and accept, during a time when she felt her life had hit rock bottom. This is a beautiful story of a mother’s love and determination and her passion to help other families through PFLAG NYC, a family-based organization committed to the civil rights of the LGBTQ community.
Ten Storytellers from across America were selected from a nationwide open-call for submissions, sharing their Vietnamese American experiences in celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month. Each Storyteller shares their very personal experiences in the form of monologues, music, poetry, art and more. Featuring Lynn Kim Do, Julian Saporiti, Hop Nguyen, Kavi Vu, Lauren Nguyen, Trammy Lai, Cindy Nguyen, David Kaizen, Dieu Ngoc Nguyen, and Quentin Nguyen-Duy. Thank you WHRO Public Media, Asian Women Giving Circle and Asia Nation of Live Nation for making this event possible.
Visit our website to view the 2020 Mỹ Việt Story Slam event.
Bao Nguyen is an award-winning Vietnamese American filmmaker whose work has been seen on The New York Times, HBO, NBC, PBS and more. He has directed, produced, and shot a number of short films, which have played internationally in festivals and museums. His feature documentary directorial debut, Live from New York, opened the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. His latest film is, Be Water, a documentary about Bruce Lee, airing on ESPN on June 7, 2020. Bao is a child of refugees and grew up working in his parents' fabric shop. From childhood to high school, Bao was a studious student. He was on his way to becoming a lawyer until one day, in a split second decision, he decided to chase after his passion for visual arts. Bao talks about his parents' experiences as “boat people” and what it was like putting his personal life in front of the camera for the first time in his 2019 documentary short Where are you really from.
To view the full interview on VCMedia.org
Yen Ngo is number eleven of twelve children, born in Da Lat Vietnam. Her parents were both orphans and even though they did not receive a formal education themselves, they raised their kids to excel in school. After 1975, Yen’s oldest sister made the decision that the family needed to flee Vietnam in phases, and that the youngest children should go first. Yen arrived in America at the age of 13 and shares the loneliness she felt going from having a large family surrounding to feeling isolated in a new country. She studied engineering but stumbled into the restaurant industry and found completeness in serving food and bringing friends and communities together. She is the owner of an award-winning catering company Real Food Catering and Van Da restaurant in New York City.
Gene Binh Nguyen, the youngest of two children, grew up with a widowed mom. His father died in the Vietnam war when he was just two months old. Because Gene’s father fought on the South Vietnamese side, his family was ostracized in the new government regime. When Gene and his family finally escaped from Vietnam, they were put in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles California, where he faced racism, violence and gang life daily, while his mom tried to make ends meet. But despite all the challenges, he turned adversity into opportunity and opportunity into advocacy for the Vietnamese community. Gene became a successful entrepreneur and went on to help thousands of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants thrive in the booming nail salon industry.
By Thanh Duong Boyer with Lisa Worthey Smith
Thanhhà Lại was born in Vietnam in the middle of the war. She wrote about growing up there and leaving on a navy ship two days before the war ended in her first novel Inside Out & Back Again, which won a Newbery Honor and a National Book Award and eight years later is still a New York Times bestseller. She is the youngest of nine children raised by a single mother. Her father went missing during the war when she was just one years old. Her life in America would begin in Alabama and despite the trauma that was going on, Thanhhà grew up in a household full of humor. Many years later as a writer, she would discover that balancing trauma with humor is what makes her voice unique. The contrast is beautifully reflected in her latest novel, Butterfly Yellow.
Tom Pham, was born in 1971 in Saigon as Hung Quoc Pham. At the end of the Vietnam War, his father Qouc Pham, a former South Vietnam Naval officer was sent away for many years in re-education camp. His mom was left with young children to care for in a war-torn country. Tom was sent to live with his grandparents at age four until one day, a father he barely knew started to appear again. And the two of them would escape Vietnam in 1980 when Tom was just eight years old. Tom shares what it was like growing up in America, separated from the rest of his family and the emotional distance they felt when they were finally reunited in America. In 2014, Tom played an instrumental role in helping to get his father and mother's story of survival documented in the book The World Looked Away.
The World Looked Away
Qouc Pham's story
By Dave Bushy
VBP Student Spotlight: Growing up in Brooklyn New York, Vivian was not surrounded by many Vietnamese people. Her parents fled Vietnam by boat as refugees in 1978. And while she grew up in the largest melting pot in America, Vietnamese-Americans don’t even come close to 1% of the entire population in New York City. She never connected with her heritage until college, when she met a group of passionate and supportive students who recruited her to join the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). For the first time, she felt proud about her background and a sense of belonging.
Featuring Breathin by Ariana Grande - performed by Vivian Luu on the ukulele
Vietnamese Boat People podcast theme song - created by Paulina Vo