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 email@example.com.
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.