My name is Terra and my pronouns are she and her. I am a first generation, non-binary Cambodian-American who is passionate about intersectional feminism within public health, public policy and governance, and economics. My long term career aspirations involve structural reform to promote the wellness of minority populations, including the socially and economically displaced, those LGBTQ+, people of color, and many more mis- or underrepresented. In time, I hope to be a leader in work which equitably shapes policies and social structures.
Outside of academics, I love experimenting with makeup, playing Pokemon, and watching intense shows and movies.
June Kuoch is an aspiring activist-scholar-writer-artist. June is a queer and trans-nonbinary child of Khmer-Refugees. They use they/them pronouns. They are a recent college graduate from the University of Minnesota. They’re a local community organizer. Their activist works have been inspired by the Japanese American activist Yuri Kochiyama. They have worked with grassroots groups in Minnesota such as ReleaseMN8, TCJ4J (Twin Cities Justice 4 Jamar), RadAzns, and Shades of Yellow (SOY). In the fall, they will be a first-year MA student at UCLA in Asian American Studies. Their current research focuses on haunting as it pertains to memory politics brought by United States empire building, specifically as it intersects with critical refugee studies, Asian American studies, critical archival studies, and queer of color critique. Follow them on Instagram: @gucci_kuochie
Thuy Thi Nguyen serves as the seventh President of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, a position she has held since July 2016. Nguyen is believed to be the first Vietnamese American college president in the country.
Prior to her arrival at Foothill, Nguyen served as interim general counsel for the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office. For over eleven years, Nguyen was the General Counsel for the Peralta Community College District.
When she was 3, she and her family joined the wave of “boat people” who fled Vietnam after the end of the war. They drifted in the Pacific Ocean on a boat for more than 20 days before a commercial ship rescued them and took them to a refugee camp in Japan. Eventually, the family relocated to Wichita, Kansas, and then moved to the warmer climate of New Orleans, and later to Oakland, California.
For a full biography, click here.
An Uong is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and a current Creative Nonfiction MFA candidate at Emerson College. She is Editor and Community Liaison at AIR (the Association of Independents in Radio). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Catapult, Skin Deep Magazine, Roads and Kingdoms, and Wildness Journal. She lives in New England, where she can be found camping, hiking, or rock climbing when she’s not running after a bus or subway. She also has a knack for ill-timed laughter. Find her on Twitter or Instagram: @anuonganuong.
My name is Hứa Kim Hiền. Originally from Boston, I'm a nonbinary Chinese Vietnamese American (they/them pronouns), who's currently finishing a BA at Smith College. As a student activist and aspiring community organizer/researcher, I want to continue to push for social justice, equity, and the destruction of all systemic oppression while trying to center softness, radicalism, and resilience in my life.
I wrote this poem to celebrate what it means to be "yellow". Yellow is a soft color, a lovely color and I hope this poem can be a reminder for us to love and honor our "yellowness" - our skin color, our body, and the stories that comes with the image of us.
Julia Ha is one of the co-founders of Project Yellow Dress. A Chinese-Vietnamese American from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is also the daughter of Vietnamese Boat People refugees who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s. You can follow her on Instagram at @jbwahaha, or contact her directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tara Tran is a high school senior who wrote the following response to a personal statement prompt that asked, "What matters to you, and why?" We were so incredibly struck by the topic she chose, her creative writing approach, and her heartwarming insight. We are so happy that she graciously agreed to allow us to share it on PYD.
Tim Reason is an editor in Boston. He grew up in New York City and his father served as sponsor for nearly 20 Cambodian and Laotian refugees in the early 1980s. The taste of lemongrass still instantly transports him back to his first time eating Cambodian food while sitting cross legged on the floor of an apartment in Queens. He can be reached at @cleverreason
UyênThi has a B.A. in Journalism but only recently returned to writing. The youngest in the family of six, she is the daughter of refugees, and grew up less than a mile away from Paisley Park, although she spent much of her childhood singing along not to Prince, but to The Sound of Music. UyênThi has a healthy appreciation for fresh journals, Tom Hardy, and golden retrievers, but she is a cat mom at heart. She and her partner (and hopefully a fur baby in the near future) live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can find her online at https://whenyousaywe.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @vanitycake.
About the author: Kim Truong is a recent American University graduate. A transplant from Vancouver, Canada, she now calls Washington D.C. home. She works in social change communications and in her free time writes essays and stories about voluntourism, travel privilege and cultural authenticity. For more of her work, visit: medium.com/@kttruong_
About this work:
I had actually written this piece a couple of months ago and submitted it to a literary journal. But as the political climate in the United States becomes increasingly unsympathetic and the government increasingly hostile to refugees and immigrants, I thought it important to share my story now, and I withdrew it from consideration. Our voices are more important than ever now, in support of and solidarity with people of color here and around the world.
Writer: Teresa Pham
I wrote the poem The Children Who Live in Boats because the plight of boat people feels especially relevant in the current political climate. Our supposed “leader of the free world” is a man who is dead-set on fomenting more and more fear and xenophobia within the population, on closing the borders and turning away those who seek sanctuary. It’s a strange and sad time to be the child of refugees in America.
There’s this narrative that we’re fed in this country, that America is a melting pot of immigrants who came here seeking a better future. It’s this idealized promised land. And while that may be true for many families, the Vietnamese American experience is largely separated from this narrative because our parents aren’t immigrants by choice - they’re refugees. They came here because it was the only option available to them when their home became a war zone, when everything they knew and loved became untenable.
There’s a Warsan Shire poem titled Home that goes: “you have to understand/no one puts their children in a boat/unless the water is safer than the land.” To me, that feels like the crux of what refugees face when they put their children in rickety vessels and pray for a safe passage.
The refugee experience is one in which there are no good choices or a sought after American utopia. There's only the hope of survival - for yourself and for future generations.
Teresa Pham lives and writes in Oakland, California.
This is a letter from Phi Minh Tam, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Class of 1963, writing to the Director of Alumni Affairs and his fellow alumni about his attempts to escape Vietnam in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Below is a photo of the copy of the letter, followed by a transcript of the text.
Note from author: This is my college personal statement and the prompt was about describing our favorite word. My favorite word is peservance because it reflects my family's hard work and the world they come from.
Reflecting on my experiences growing up as the daughter of refugees and as a Chinese-Vietnamese American.