I recently watched Bố Già in theaters and the ending credits displayed a message urging us to tell our parents we love them while we have the time.
This is my attempt to do that, not just for my parents, but for my people, Vietnamese people as a whole.
It seems an impossible task since there is no singular Vietnamese identity, but rather an immense number of Vietnamese experiences, personalities, and lives. I respect, appreciate, and love all of these identities within the Vietnamese and Vietnamese diaspora community.
So here goes..a love letter to my people (with just a fraction represented below)...
To the Refugees
To the Vietnamese refugees who bravely built new lives in foreign lands after the war. I hold such reverence for the paths you forged after the drastic and traumatic changes in your lives and everything it took to get there. When I am feeling weak or scared, I draw on the knowledge that because I am Vietnamese, I have resilience, strength, and fortitude in my history and in my blood. I will never be able to fully understand it, but I appreciate your journey and celebrate your success that has been the foundation to my own.
To the Artists
Including Ocean Vuong, Lan Cao, Phuc Tran, Thái Nguyễn, Nguyên on Youtube, Dustin Phúc Nguyễn, Philip Lê, thuy, Chillies, Suboi, AMEE, Mixed Miyagi, Thi Bui, Pham Huy Trung.
Thank you for capturing the beauty and complexity of life and showcasing it in your work. Your minds are beautiful and your work is inspirational.
To the Writers. I admire the way you can perfectly articulate emotions and thoughts. The way you encapsulate the experience of being Vietnamese - of being human - grounds and inspires me.
To the Designers. As an aspiring seamstress myself, I am in awe of what you can create - pieces quite literally worthy of red carpets.
To the Content Creators. The way you’re able to harness your creativity, innovation, and talent into shareable media is remarkable. Thank you for sharing your culture, whether it be Vietnamese, Vietnamese American, etc. with the world.
For the above image, from top left to bottom right: The Lotus and Storm by Lan Cao, YouTube screenshot from Philip Le, Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran, drAMEE album by AMEE, Qua Khung Cữa Sổ album by Chillies, áo dài sketch by Thái Nguyễn, Bar Stories episode YouTube screenshot by Dustin Phúc Nguyễn (with Suboi), YouTube screenshot from Nguyên NEWIN, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
To the Teachers
Including Thich Nhat Hanh, my Vietnamese tutor Nghi Lâm, and everybody who I have ever learned from.
It is impressive that you’ve gained expertise in your fields, from Buddhism, to the Vietnamese language, to everyday adult tasks, and it is kind of you to spread that knowledge. Your practice enriches our world.
To the Chefs
Including my mother and countless other parents and grandparents, restaurant owners and employees, Andrea Nguyen, Twaydabae, etc.
What would my life be without the comforts of bún bò, chả giò, bánh bột lột, mì quảng, (the list could go on for pages) cooked with love by you? These meals that remind me of home are also tangible aspects of our culture that can be shared and appreciated by others.
To Ba Mẹ (my parents), Ông Bà Ngoại và Ông Bà Nội (my grandparents), and all parents
I sometimes feel guilty for how easy my life is, how I will never have to go through the hardships or make the sacrifices you did. It was not luck that created the luxuries of my life, but I am lucky to have been born to our family.
By example, you have instilled in me the importance of family, work ethic, and community. You have filled my life with an exuberance of love, support, and joy.
I recognize that words will never be adequate to express my appreciation and gratitude for all that you’ve done for me and chị Mai, but I will never stop trying to show you. Con thương ba mẹ nhiều lắm.
To my Sister, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Family, and Friends