Project Yellow Dress (PYD) grew out of a desire to create a platform for the Southeast Asian diaspora to have a voice and to build community through our shared heritages and histories. The name is inspired by the yellow dress worn by our main character in our upcoming children’s book about the Vietnamese Boat People experience.
Growing up as the children of Vietnamese Boat People, we heard bits and pieces about how our families escaped Vietnam and came to America, but none of it was ever discussed outright at home or at school. While every U.S. and world history class covered the Vietnam War, none of the textbooks ever outlined in detail what it was like for Southeast Asians before, during, and after the war, instead focusing on the experiences of American soldiers and never really addressing what happened after the Fall of Saigon.
It was not until college that we realized how little information there was available about the Boat People experience, not to mention about life before the Fall, reeducation camps, refugee camps, and life after resettlement. Also, most people do not know that the term Vietnamese Boat People actually encompasses a very diverse group of ethnic Southeast Asians and ethnic Chinese refugees fleeing not only from Vietnam, but also from the nearby countries of Laos and Cambodia. We think Vietnamese director of Journey From the Fall, Ham Tran, explained this discrepancy best when he remarked about how difficult it was to find information to write his film, and in doing so stressed how important any work related to this subject is: “The short chapter in American history books about the Vietnam War ends on April 30, 1975, the day American forces pulled out of Vietnam. Our story begins where the history books end.”
Recently, we had the opportunity to attend a Holocaust film screening at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco. On display outside the lecture hall were several books about the Holocaust, including a children’s book titled, Benino and the Night of the Broken Glass. It was at that very moment that we both became inspired to write a children’s book as well, but this one about the often-forgotten and neglected story of Vietnamese Boat People.
Our goals for PYD go beyond the children’s book we are writing. We see PYD as a springboard, not the end of the road. For example, we dream of starting other projects that focus on community building and networking, educational programs that promote Southeast Asian and Asian American history in schools and local communities, and hopefully becoming a full-fledged nonprofit one day.
We hope that you will join us in our efforts, be it by sharing your or your family’s story, contributing to our projects, becoming an ally, joining our team, or helping us spread the word. Together, we believe we can accomplish something incredibly meaningful.
Julia H. is a Chinese-Vietnamese American from the San Francisco Bay Area, and she is also the daughter of Vietnamese Boat People refugees who immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s. Ha recently graduated with a M.A. Ed. degree in Equity and Social Justice in Education from San Francisco State University (SFSU), where she created a genocide education curriculum for high school students for her thesis. She received her B.A. from University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where she majored in History: War, Revolution, and Social Change. Her education and work in the social justice field have inspired her to try and find more ways to share and highlight the diverse and often neglected voices, experiences, and histories of underrepresented communities, namely that of Southeast Asians and Southeast Asian Americans.
Tammy T. is a Chinese-Vietnamese American whose parents are both Vietnamese Boat People refugees. Originally from the East Coast, Tammy moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the Academy of Art University for Art History and Fine Arts. It was during her college years where she reconnected with Julia and began studying about her family's history. She now studies at George Mason University, where she is pursuing a M.A History of Art. When she is not working or studying, one would find her at cafes, plant shops, or in her room devouring Netflix. Along with Julia, Tammy oversees the creative aspects of the website and the book’s storyboards.
Jenny N. is a Vietnamese-American who is sprinkled with a bit of Caucasian on her mother's side. Her parents are both Vietnamese Boat People who immigrated to Virginia, where they still reside. A graduate from George Mason University with a B.A. in English, J.N. discovered PYD when Tammy, an old family friend, reconnected with her. It was through their conversations that Jenny realized the support a project like this could build for Boat People. Currently Jenny is PYD's Editorial Coordinator and assists in PR networking. In her spare time, you'll find Jenny checking off her bucket list by traveling, eating, and shopping in new places. She's constantly devouring books and aspires to write a novel one day.
Kimberly N. identifies as Vietnamese-American and is the daughter of former refugees/boat people. Originally from the SF Bay Area, she graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A in public health and plans to pursue medicine in the future. However, remembering the history of SEAsians is something she strongly values. For her, understanding this history in context to health and social justice motivates her work towards health equity, especially for underserved communities. She recently stumbled upon PYD, reconnected with an old family friend, Julia, and hopes to promote community stories through social media.
Holly N. is a Vietnamese-American who resides in NoVa (Northern Virginia) where her family settled after coming over from Vietnam. She is currently pursuing a fine arts degree and hopes that through PYD, her art can contribute to the awareness of Vietnamese boat people. At the moment, Holly is PYD's Artworker/Communication Designer and assists Tammy and Jenny with East Coast operations.