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The image is a photo of my parents captured at the Statue of Liberty nearly 30 years after immigration to the United States. In many ways, it is symbolic of their respective journeys.

The image is a photo of my parents captured at the Statue of Liberty nearly 30 years after immigration to the United States. In many ways, it is symbolic of their respective journeys.


As Told By: Jennifer Nguyen

A brief outline of my father's experiences as a refugee and immigrant through my perspective of him.


  • My Name is Jennifer Nguyen
  • I am based in Kansas City, MO, USA
  • This story is about my dad
  • Text 2

    Text 1

  • Childhood Address: Lam Sơn, Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu
  • Departure Location: Hải Sơn
  • Departure Year: 1980
  • Camp 1: Pulau Kuku (Indonesia)
  • Camp 2: Pulau Galang (Indonesia)
  • Camp 3: Hawkins Road (Singapore)
  • Resettlement Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
  • Resettlement Year: 1981
  • My Story

    00:00 / 01:04

    An objective description of my dad reveals a middle-aged Vietnamese man with tanned skin that exists all-year-round, white highlights that say hello from underneath layers of dye, and a smile that naturally travels up to his eyes.


    When I see him, I see a human that has lived through experiences unlike any I could imagine for myself.


    In the frame of my dad, I see a 14-year-old boy that I heard stories about growing up. Unknowingly, this teen would make one of the most monumental decisions of his life. He would board a ship alone, leaving everything he knew to be home—family, friends, and the land that raised him.


    My dad’s callused hands tell the narrative of a 19-year-old that made it to upstate New York. At this point, those hands had spent hours writing note cards of the language that dominated his new home. They had set the table for countless dinners spent with a family that transcended shades of skin. They picked strawberries in the field during the summers and bagged groceries in the store during the winters, sending money back to support a family of twelve. They lifted weights that would allow him to pursue his “legendary” career as wrestling captain of his high school and became vessels of self-defense against individuals that could not comprehend difference.


    The teasing smile tells the tale of a young adult at the age of 23 that received a letter one day from a woman in Missouri. It is the same curious smile that led him to write back and reconnect with a face from his hometown. That pushed him to pursue her for years on end until finally making the decision to leave the northeast and build a life in Midwest America.


    In the wrinkles near his eyes, I see a 35-year-old man that is exhausted from late night shifts at the industrial plant, but eager to pick up weekend shifts to support his expanding family. I see a father that is gingerly rocking one daughter while crafting mermaid tails out of wrapping paper for another. I see a friend that acts as a brother to those bonded by experience, not blood. I see a husband that makes mistakes and is humbled by a wife with her own strength and experiences.


    The natural highlights that he tries so desperately to hide communicate the story of an individual that has witnessed a life of personal challenges, failures, and successes. They represent the years of integrity and wear that he has embraced in a society that hasn’t always embraced him. The moments of overwhelming happiness and upset. The knowledge that can only be obtained through experience. Collectively, they tell the story of a man that was once 14, 19, 23, 35, and now 57. They tell the story of my ba.

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