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Voices of Vietnamese America

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  1. Voices of Vietnamese America Vietnamese American Project VAP Center for Oral & Public History California State University, Fullerton

  2. Voices of Vietnamese America • Excerpts are selected and edited from Vietnamese American ProjectVAP interviews with community members from all social segments by Trangdai Tranguyen • Most excerpts are translated into English by Trangdai Tranguyen except for those not indicated • Presented in chronological order to convey the Vietnamese American Experience, the excerpts start with 20th-century Vietnam (its history, i.e. French colonization, World War II, etc) and arrive at the collective consciousness of Vietnamese Americans about the self, community, society, and the world.

  3. Voices of Vietnamese America ... Many people believe that Vietnamese American history begins in 1975, yet we possess a rich history that includes groups such as scholars, diplomats and war brides who arrived in substantial numbers during the period after World War II and some even migrated to the U.S. before that time. Even Thomas Jefferson, while Secretary of State, took an interest in rice from Vietnam during the late-18th century. Vu Hong Pham

  4. Voices of Vietnamese America ...I was born in 1939 and grew up during wartime Vietnam. Like most Vietnamese at the time, especially the populace in remote areas, life was harsh. As a result, I had started to help out as early as five or six years of age. My father was a teacher, my mother a weaver. Because I was young, I could only help with picking the cotton, sundry it, or work in the field during harvest season or watch the fish ponds. Ai Dinh Le Translated by Trangdai Tranguyen

  5. Voices of Vietnamese America ...In 1945, when the Japanese were invading Vietnam or Indochina at the time, we went back to Ha Noi from Cambodia by boat to go faster. We stayed in our birth house, about ten kilometers from the non-controlled French area. There was no school. My Dad and sister taught me as much as they could. But my Dad was killed by the French when they raided us in 1948. I was only seven years old. Dai Dao Nghiem

  6. Voices of Vietnamese America A a oi, a oi oi, I carry you on my shoulders, I hold you in my arms I do not mind this strenuous southward migration My child, take this to heart: Keep your Vietnamese spirit when you grow up Connect our country, make it one body Protect the land, reserve its identity Robert Nghiem Nguyen Translated by Trangdai Tranguyen

  7. Voices of Vietnamese America ...As an eight-year-old boy in 1974, I just didn't understand. I didn't know anything different, but I did know that there was a war. I did know that my Dad put on his uniform each day and went to work-war... Then I remember going to funerals of family members who died in the war, cousins who were soldiers, people having funerals all the time. Huy Minh Do

  8. Voices of Vietnamese America ...Living in the refugee camp, listening to the Vietnamese women who were raped and robbed, was a down point of my life. They still influence me today in my art. The rape, the robbing, the darkness of the ocean. Because after four days and nights when I went up to the shore, there was no moon, no stars, nothing. To look at the ocean was so scary. You saw black.Ann Phong

  9. Voices of Vietnamese America My family left on the 23rd of April, 1975. At the time, my Dad worked for Bank of America who told us to ready ourselves to leave the country any minute. But we never thought that it would happen. When we were actually leaving for America, my Mom got very worried because it’s a big deal for my parents with six kids to leave home for a new country, not speaking the language, not knowing what would happen. Thien-nu Vu This ladder was used to evacuate the Vietnamese and Americans during the Fall of Saigon, 29-30 April 1975. This ladder is currently at the Ford Library/Museum.

  10. thank you thank you Pendleton for the tent I creep in and out uncertain and hesitating like a yellow rat with a frozen mind and useless hand Du Tu Le Translated by Tranguyen On the wall of a Vietnamese family house, Laem Sing camp, Thailand, «We were from hell, we just want to live» Voices of Vietnamese America

  11. Voices of Vietnamese America When I first joined the staff at CSU, Fullerton, I fervently desired to create a Vietnamese cultural, historical, and linguistic program; and also a study for the 1.5, second and subsequent Vietnamese American generations to understand why their parents and grandparents emigrated to America and all over the world. Son Kim Vo Translated by Tranguyen

  12. Voices of Vietnamese America ...It was around 1987. There had been more businesses in the Vietnamese enclave. The community wanted to have this area designated as a tourist bureau. As a legislative assistant, I was able to lobby with representatives and assemblymen to sign the petition. Eighteen signatures were collected. It took about four months for the proposal to pass. Van Thai Tran Translated by Tranguyen

  13. Voices of Vietnamese America Besides the many unique scenes and sites that distinguished Ha Noi as a reality, it only exists and manifests itself in imaginative fascination. I was tuned into the lasting history of the place itself. Upon my return to Saigon, I fell right into writing about my one-month sojourn. The essay was secretly sent abroad and published in Nguoi Viet Xuan, the 1980 Spring volume, entitled, “Ha Noi in My Eye,” under my pen name Pham Xuan Dai. Pham Phu Minh Translated by Tranguyen Thay Temple, Hanoi

  14. Voices of Vietnamese America ... So that's when I realized that I wanted to use music as a part of a world where I can help the youth at risk and show them what is love, and the value of a family. That goes to any culture. Simon Levan

  15. Voices of Vietnamese America Being the 1.5 generation is difficult. On one hand, we have to deal with the elderly, with the old culture. On the other hand, we have to adapt to our children, the new culture. And as the sandwich generation, we are responsible to simultaneously support both our parents and our children. This is a great challenge that many cannot overcome. Nguyen Luong Cau Translated by Tranguyen

  16. Voices of Vietnamese America Orchid 3 by Thai Dac Nha Thus, I have just as many dreams as much hope, since what I have today is the crystallization of enduring constant hardship and obstacles throughout life. Therefore, I venture forth on that voyage, longing to yield something valuable for the art of Vietnamese photography as well as the pride of the Vietnamese in exile. Thai Dac Nha Translated by Tranguyen

  17. Voices of Vietnamese America ...In Vietnam, it appears that women are privileged by having their male partners earn the bread. De facto the wives are mostly "kept" from yielding any income unlike they can in the United States. Women are proud to contribute to the family financial well-being, and for me, that is the most exciting thing. We are fortunate to be in this advanced and desired land where if you sweat, your stomach will be filled. Thuy Thanh Nguyen Translated by Tranguyen

  18. Voices of Vietnamese America Since I am a Vietnamese American, I make an effort to retain my Vietnamese identity. But it is daunting, since here in America, you communicate in English. I want to be able to speak and read Vietnamese. Reading and writing is not as hard, but when I speak, I can’t find words to express myself. At first, I thought, “Oh, no, how come I forgot Vietnamese.” But then, I was only ten when I left Vietnam, and I never got to know such words. Paul Nguyen Translated by Tranguyen

  19. Voices of Vietnamese America My constant ambition to introduce Vietnamese traditional music to as many professional musical arenas as possible has inspired me to be innovative in composing activities. Integration of Vietnamese traditional musical elements into European classical forms enables the performers to magnify the piece’s richness and elevates greater appreciation in the audience. By that, Vietnamese music will achieve its deserving status universally. Le Van Khoa Translated by Tranguyen Ngan Khoi Choir, Le Van Khoa as Conductor

  20. Voices of Vietnamese America I determine to help my clients be happy, since the beauty from inside radiates out. However, as women, we must also tend for our look and appearance. In fact, women are apt to not only be beautiful, but also healthy, so that we could care for the family and excel at work. Hoang Nguyen Vinh Translated by Tranguyen

  21. Voices of Vietnamese America ...This piece I created with a rice bag turned into a canvas. It necessitated many layers of paint to hold up. My concept was to lose the frame, let the canvas flow on a free surface. The title said, "Golden Tower," not deciphering a tower of gold, but a tower that takes you to the new horizons. Nguyen Khai Translated by Tranguyen

  22. Voices of Vietnamese America I hope that the young generation will follow the right path to contribute to the country. Given that, we can optimize our cultural heritage and learn from influential figures in Vietnamese history, and passing on the values from one generation to the next. Such endeavors are building blocks that take the Vietnamese people to the next level, and make the country proud. Trong Minh Translated by Tranguyen

  23. Voices of Vietnamese America I love the beach. I can smell the salt, it’s cool! And the waves sound just beautiful, the breeze so brisk. The sea symbolizes the boundless and eternity. It also stands for unity: everyone’s blood is salty. The ocean is the source of life, the symbol of harmony and enlightenment. Nguyen Duc Dat Translated by Tranguyen A release by Bayadera (founded by Dat Nguyen)

  24. Voices of Vietnamese America With Chi Tam’s initial consultation, I have worked with three traditional music shows on Little Saigon Radio and 1190 AM. I play the instrument, and the audience calls in and sings. I have also helped with the Tet festivals, both with traditional music and visual preparations. Le Khiem Translated by Tranguyen

  25. ...I only know that I love my children. Being a mother in America is more difficult because you also work. I was able to stay home and attend to my kids. It's the best decision in my life. We would have made more money if I worked as a computer engineer here in the Silicon Valley, also given my years of experience. But my children are more precious and important. Quyen Nguyen Translated by Tranguyen Woman, Bananas, Child Water color on silk, Nguyen Thi Hop Voices of Vietnamese America

  26. Voices of Vietnamese America Spring 1997, our 24-hour Multilingual Voice Mail was first installed, allowing Pacific Asian Language Services (PALS) to better serve the diverse API populations in Los Angeles County, making it possible for clients to leave messages in Cambodian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Thai, Tongan, and Vietnamese. Nguyen Anh Dao Elizabeth PALS’s multilingual “I Speak” card