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COPYRIGHT NOTICE


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Florida.

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
used.

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida











M: This is Matt Marcus interviewing at 123 NW 26th Street, at 5: 00 Sunday afternoon,
April 4, interviewing ..

H: Tu Huynh.

M: We are doing a life history of Tu. Tu, when were you born?

H: I was born in 1970, in the city of Da Nang in Vietnam.

M: You were born in 1970 in South Vietnam?

H: Da Nang is actually in the central province of Vietnam, a few miles south of Hue.
Translated into English, Da Nang means "Sunny City" or something like that.

M: It is a city that is a part of the Republic of South Vietnam.

H: Yes, that is right.

M: So how long did you live in Vietnam?

H: I was there until 1975.

M: You were obviously there during the war. Do you remember very much about your life
there and what was going on at that time?

H: Sure, yes I do. We left Da Nang in 1973 when I was three years old, right after my
father died. Well, actually 1974; in 1973 my grandmother died, and we went down
to Saigon and lived there with my other relatives.

M: So you lived in Saigon from 1973 to 1975.

H: 1974 to 1975, yes; it was a year. We left [in] the last few days when the city was being
sacked by the Communists.

M: You still have recollections of what is was like?

H: [I] sure do.

M: Are they pretty vivid memories or are they sort of sketchy? What is your recollection?

H: I think that the most vivid memories are the days of our departure. I remember that
morning I woke up, some time in spring, and there was a huge fence around our


- 1 -











estate and I had never gone beyond that green fence. Behind that fence were the
railroad tracks and one morning it was really loud in the city. The city was right next
door, and there were a lot of gunshots in the air and so everybody in the house was
panicking and we all started leaving and going beyond that fence for the first time as
a child, so it was a huge thing for me.

M: What was behind this? I do not understand.

H: The railroad tracks were right behind the house, and my uncles were all in the military.
So one of them landed a helicopter back there and we collected our neighbors and
as much of our belongings as we could and we left Vietnam that morning.

M: So you flew in the helicopter to a ship?

H: Yes, to a ship outside, just offshore of Vietnam, [in the] South China Sea. [At] first they
did not want us to land, and started firing at us, to force us not to land on the aircraft
carrier, [but] eventually they allowed us to land. I remember somebody picked me
up and a few other kids and they raised us to the window. Naturally, just to show
that there were children on board. So they allowed us to land on this aircraft carrier.

From then, we went on to a huge refugee boat, not a regular banana boat as you would
perceive of Haiti or Cuba, but it was a huge ship filled with refugees who had just left
Vietnam and went to the Philippines then. From the Philippines we flew to Hawaii
for a few hours to refuel and then we went to California and settled in Miami.

M: So you were only five years old when this happened?

H: I was only five years old when all this happened. I remember things pretty well. It was a
huge shift from the things I was used to on a day-to-day basis in Vietnam.

M: Obviously the war was going on, but were you really affected by the war, did you really
realize what was going on?

H: That there was a war going on?

M: Yes, that there was danger. Were you told not to go certain places?

H: There were a lot of kids in our estate, children of my uncles and aunts, and they allowed
them to run around loose in the yards and they were not really disciplined. They
were not taught all of the knowledge of war and things of that nature, but we did see
soldiers everyday because my uncles all were in the army, except for one of them
who was a journalist. So in a few cases we saw dead bodies coming through the


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house. One of my uncles died and my father died. It is an important thing in
Vietnam to bring your dead ones home and so we had dead bodies in the house for
quite some time. On several occasions.

M: They were killed as casualties of the war?

H: That is right. It was not completely foreign to us that there was a war going on, since we
had seen dead bodies. Just beyond our wall that faced the city (not the fence that
was facing the railroads) a bus exploded and a whole bunch of kids climbed up on
the wall to look out. It was like a whole-day affair of ambulances and fire trucks and
things of that nature.

M: So that is one thing that stands [out] as a big memory, the bus blowing up like a terrorist
or Vietcong attack.

H: But as a child, I cannot really remember rationalizing about it or trying to conjure up a
solution to what was actually going on outside. But it was terrifying enough, I think,
to recall vividly.

M: So you remember the city being like a walled fortress? Do you remember the actual
notion of being under siege? I do not understand the wall.

H: When I was a kid, I had never gone beyond the wall of our estate. One wall faced the
city, the entrance to the house faced the city and the city was directly beyond the
wall. People were walking back and forth.

M: Like a city street.

H: City circle, actually, because there was a circle outside of our house. The other wall
faced the railroad tracks, and beyond the railroad tracks were just woods and a few
farm houses. We lived on the very edge of the city. In that case it was rather
fortunate for us to leave. It made it a lot easier for us to leave. So as a child it was
like a place of confinement. Our house was a place of confinement for me and what
was beyond that wall was sometimes a mystery, but occasionally you could hear a
lot of gunfire, occasionally you could hear a lot disturbances outside. My cousins
and I saw the bus explode and things like that.

M: So was it a big home with a walled-in courtyard and that is where you guys were just
sequestered in there and never really went out? Except your only outside links
were your uncles and your aunts, I suppose, who would come in and come out?

H: Yes, that is right.


- 3 -












M: Were you more privileged than the average citizen of Saigon?


H: Just a little bit, because my grandfather worked for the South Vietnamese government
and one of my uncles was a journalist. He was in protest of the war. He wrote
against the corruption of the South Vietnamese government as well as Communists
and a little bit of everything. He wrote three books in Vietnamese and my uncles
were all in the military. So it was kind of like royalty.

M: It seems a little controversial that one uncle would be against the war and your other
uncles were all in the war.

H: Yes, and he was the oldest of the uncles, so no one really said anything to him, no can
say anything to him. It was not a question of his patriotism or his feelings of
nationalism towards South Vietnam. It was not a question of that at all because he
was very patriotic for his country, but he stood up in a different way to try to push for
reform in his own country; it was a different kind of patriotism. When his own
brothers went out to fight they had different strategies as far as defining their
patriotism.

M: There was never any sort of retribution taken against your uncle for seditious actions
against the government in a time of war? From what I read about the [Nguyen Van]
Thieu government and [Ngo Dinh] Diem's government it was pretty corrupt and
sometimes very repressive and harsh.

H: Yes. I cannot really recall him saying that now, but journalists went against each other
most of the time, so there was freedom of speech in Vietnam, but if you said
something other people would argue with you about it, make things pretty
uncomfortable for you. Right now, living in America, everybody knows him as a
person who wrote against the policies of his own country. He has been looked at
badly by other people.

M: By other Vietnamese.

H: Yes, [the] Vietnamese community, in California and here in Florida.

M: Have you read his books?

H: No.


- 4 -











M: When you are with your uncles in a family environment (it sounds like you have a big
family) do you ever discuss or talk about the experience in Vietnam or the end of the
war or all that has happened, or is it a subject that is not really talked about?

H: It is not really talked about.

M: It is not really talked about or talked about a lot?

H: It is not talked about often. The entire family as a group does not talk about it, but in my
immediate family, my mom and I discuss a lot of it at times and she tells stories
about her own parents living in the mountains. She was a farm girl herself in Hue
City, which was the city of the kings and queens before the arrival of the Europeans,
so she recalls a lot of instances concerning that, her own childhood. She told us
stories of the French and her experiences with the French people, and [her] own
experiences with my dad and the war.

M: When she talks about it, do you get a sense of the way she feels about the French?
Obviously, I know that there is a lot of bitterness by some people toward the French.

H: No, she never really showed any bitterness towards the French at all. I do not think I
have ever heard her say anything bad about Americans or French in any form. She
would tell stories about [how the] Vietnamese people would use French words and
mix them around. There is a lot of mocking involved and cracking jokes.

M: Sort of like a cultural mixture, but was there sort of cultural hierarchy, the French
Vietnamese and the regular Vietnamese who did not really have any association
with the French?

H: I do not know.

M: Just in the sense when you said that it made me think that there was sort of close to a
mixture between the French and the Vietnamese.

H: In the language.

M: Sort of like with the Cajun in the United States.

H: That is right. There is also a mixture of the Vietnamese with the Chinese and the
Cambodians. So the language shifts a little bit, and if you say something in
Vietnamese and you have a northern accent, and you mix it with a French word or
something like that, it might mean something totally different when speaking to


- 5











someone from the South and that is what they laugh about. The commoners, they
laugh at jokes like that.

M: So it would be kind of like, in the United States if you ran into someone from the deep
South and you might laugh at the way they talk, because you think it may sound
kind of uneducated or backward or country. Is that sort of the same thing?

H: I do not think it is that similar, because we are mixing a different language all together
and it is a little bit more complicated, I think.

M: I guess you still have a lot of family who are still in Vietnam?

H: My mother's family. When we left to move to Saigon, she left her brother in Da Nang
and his family is still there.

M: Do she still communicate with that part of her family?

H: Yes, she does, and she tries to help out as much as she can.

M: What is your sense of how things are over there for them now?

H: Now?

M: Does she tell you at all?

H: She tells me, but she classifies it according to who is who and who is doing what now.
She does not generalize about [the] whole situation in Vietnam right now as far as
the family is concerned. The family has just gone on its own, everybody in the
family has split pretty much and has gone his or her separate way. All of my
cousins are at least five or six years older than I am right now and they are all
married. My oldest cousin is around twenty-nine and he got so frustrated, [because]
he was a very bright individual, [a] bright student, during the war and after the
collapse of the country he joined the Communist Party as a soldier and so he found
some means of survival that way. He had to adapt to the new system.

M: They had to give up their liberal ideas.

H: Liberal ideas and conform.

M: Because there was a real harsh conservative backlash after the war, was there not?


- 6 -











H: My uncle worked for the American government, my mother's brother as well. So when
they took over he was put in jail for a few years, and served time, and when he got
out of jail he was blind in one eye.

M: Sort of like a reeducation.

H: Reeducation, but you know, of course, people are not that easily manipulated.

M: Well, it sounds like you really had a close family, the family was really close knit and
bonded in Vietnam, but after the fall of Saigon the family comes to the United States
and nobody really has any contact anymore. It is sort of the feeling I get when you
said, "We really do not talk."

H: Well, being raised in a Vietnamese family is very different from being raised in an
American family. I watch television and I see how the western world communicates
with each other constantly, they speak about everything, and the culture in Vietnam
is very closed. Individual by individual [it] is very closed. People are very reserved
in their own thoughts, they do not wish to offend anyone else in most cases. People
keep things to themselves most of the time.

M: So unless something is really disturbing you, you would never indicate to the other
person that it is bothering you.

H: Yes, pretty much. [It is a] self-imposed isolation kind of system.

M: It must be kind of strange when you come in contact with someone outside of your
family and you see how other families interrelate. Do you feel that is odd, or how do
you feel? What is it like?

H: When I first came to this country it was rather difficult because everybody was so
talkative. Western people to me at the age of six or seven seemed very curious
about everything. They asked questions about everything that there was to be
asked about. They posed a lot of questions and for us it was do as you were told,
be disciplined and trust your elders, trust people who are older than you to make
correct decisions for you, and that was about it. It was not a matter of asking too
many questions, it was a matter of being overly assertive.

M: Did you feel as if you were having a difficult time adjusting?

H: Well, they have a lot of stereotypes, a lot of prejudices against Orientals, and going
through elementary school and grade school people say things about you and make
fun of you and things like that. Some of it was rather amusing.


- 7 -












M: It gets to one after a while. Where did you go to school?


H: I went to Auburndale Elementary school in Miami. When we came in 1976 it was mostly
populated by Vietnamese refugees. Then later on it was populated by a lot of the
Cubans who came over, so this was a shift.

M: Was there bitterness?

H: No, not any sort of bitterness between people, but it was an education on both sides.
Both cultures seemed willing to learn about America and things of that nature. So it
was alright. It just brought up more stereotypes and prejudices.

M: So there was a degree of tension between Cuban-Americans and Vietnamese-
Americans, a noticeable tension at first.

H: It was mostly a curiosity, differences in people. The administrators looked at people
differently and they were also prejudiced. Who was Vietnamese, who was Cuban,
who was American, so there was always this distinction that was given to us by our
administrators.

M: How big was this Vietnamese community in Miami, or how big is it, would you say off
hand?

H: A lot of it is populated in Hollywood, in that area, and other parts are Kendall. That is
about it, I think.

M: So there was a lot of communication between the Vietnamese community? Or is it just
sort of: "I am Vietnamese, you are Vietnamese," and you happen to see each other
in the neighborhood?

H: No, I am sure there will always be some like that. If you are Cuban and you see another
Cuban and you are in a different part of town, you say, "Hey, how is it going," but
that is not how I perceive things at all. As far as community groups and community
action are concerned, it is basically centered around the church. You are Catholic
and you go to a certain church and you help out each other. I do not belong to any
church, but my mom does, and she associates with other Vietnamese people from
different communities through the church.

M: She is Catholic?


- 8 -











H: Yes, but my grandfather has his own beliefs. He is a Buddhist and he is with his group
of people.

M: Does your grandfather live with your mother and your family?

H: No.

M: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

H: I have three other brothers. I have no sisters.

M: Where do you fit in chronologically?

H: Third brother.

M: You are the third brother so you have one younger brother.

H: One younger brother. His father is Guatemalan, so he is not from my real dad.

M: So, he is half Vietnamese and half..

H: Half Vietnamese and half Guatemalan so he speaks three languages. He writes in
Spanish and English, but he does not write very good Vietnamese. But he does
speak Vietnamese; he is not bad.

M: You write and you speak three languages; you say you do not, but you really do.
French, Vietnamese, and English.

H: I can understand a little bit at times, but I am not too quick on it. My mother learned to
speak French in a boarding school.

M: In a boarding school in Vietnam? What would be the primary language of
communication in your house?

H: It would be Vietnamese. If I was talking to anybody in my mothers generation it would
be Vietnamese, but as far as my brothers are concerned, most of the time when we
go out it is just taken for granted that we speak English.

M: Unless a situation arose where you did not want anybody else to understand, then
would you revert, or not necessarily revert, but would you go to Vietnamese?


- 9 -











H: It has happened before. When we hear people saying things about us or there is a
tension that might arise, or a situation that might come up, we might say something
in Vietnamese or just leave or something like that. We might do that. And then
when we play sports or something like that and we try to outsmart the other team
we speak a few words in Vietnamese.

M: So would you say that any one of your older brothers speak Vietnamese better than you
do or are more proficient in the language?

H: My second older brother reads a little faster than I do.

M: But when you said that you do not speak Vietnamese, you said that you can read it and
you can write it and you can speak it, so I do not understand what the area is [in
which] you feel that you that you are not proficient.

H: Well, he was formally educated in Vietnamese, when he was in Vietnam. He and my
oldest brother both went to school, whereas I had to pick up everything on my own.

M: So you just sort of picked it up by ear.

H: By ear and adapting to books.

M: Can you write it and read it?

H: Yes, I can write it and read it. What I have to write seems very elementary, but I can
write.

M: So on what grade level are you literate in Vietnamese, would you say?

H: Seventh or eighth grade, I think. I read English a lot better than I read Vietnamese, that
is for sure.

M: Do you ever dream in Vietnamese?

H: Yes, I do, and I have internal dialogues in Vietnamese too, at times. It is not like all of
my thoughts are English. I have not really been that Americanized yet.

M: You say you have internal dialogue, like on what sort of circumstances? Did you lose
your temper maybe?

H: No, no particular circumstances. It is just flip-flopping through languages. It really does
not have to be any situation.


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M: Sometimes there is the stereotype of seeing somebody lose their temper [and] they
revert to a fierce language other than English and they revert to that language,
learning the curse words in the language.

H: When I say a curse word in English it means a little bit less than when I say it in
Vietnamese. For some odd reason I say the same word in Vietnamese and it
seems a little bit more shocking.

M: So if you wanted to tell off your brother, you would probably tell him off in Vietnamese
rather than in English, if you wanted to offend him or be more vicious.

H: If I really wanted to offend him. It would be more vicious, I would say, in Vietnamese. It
would just mean more. In Vietnamese some words just mean more. Words that
are exactly the same in definition as in English, somehow have a stronger impact on
people.

M: Would you say that Vietnamese is a more eloquent language? When you say it means
more [do you mean] you can express yourself [better]?

H: I have arguments about that with my oldest uncle. He says that there are a lot of words
in Vietnamese that they do not have in English. Maybe he knows because his
vocabulary is a whole lot larger than mine, but I have arguments with that, because I
think I can explain things pretty well in English, but I do not always have the ability to
explain it in Vietnamese. My vocabulary is a little bit larger than it is in Vietnamese.

M: Which uncle is this that you have the arguments with? The uncle who is a journalist?

H: The journalist uncle, so if he says something, I have to trust him because he is a writer.

M: He still works as a journalist today?

H: Yes, for a Vietnamese newspaper.

M: In the United States?

H: Yes, that associates with other communities in California and Orlando and New York.

M: How often do you talk to this uncle?

H: A couple of times a year. Not that often.


- 11 -











M: I am curious because things seem to be changing pretty dramatically in Vietnam with
the situation there and there seems to be detente in the relations between the
United State and Vietnam and the issue of P.O.W.s and the fall of the Soviet Union.
I wonder what his perspective on it is. Does he ever tell you about that, does he talk
about that?

H: He talks about wanting to go back and set up a newspaper in Vietnam again and
connecting it with the people in America. He has mentioned that, but as far as living
standards are concerned, he is a lot happier here than he was in Vietnam, but he
realizes that he has a lot of enemies in Vietnam and so it would be a little bit
dangerous to go back.

M: Would you say there is a yearning on the part of your mother?

H: Sure, I think there is. I think there is always a yearning for the homeland, I think it is a
theme in history for all immigrants.

M: Do you ever feel that yourself, do you ever feel a desire, or just out of curiosity?

H: More curiosity than natural desire. I would like to see it one more time to remember
where I was brought up, the streets and alleyways that I used to play in. It would be
nice to see it for a few weeks, but not for the remainder of my life; I do not think I
would dedicate that much time to it.

M: What about your brothers? How do they feel towards it?

H: I do not know. Probably the same as me. I do not see any different than them.

M: You do not really discuss [it] among yourselves?

H: No, it is a lot of just guessing, because we know each other so well, all of us. That is
really why we do not really need to talk about very deep matters, because we all
know a lot of each other's own feelings about it.

M: So that is sort of the carryover of the Vietnamese trait that you were talking about
before.

H: Yes, exactly.

M: I guess you talk more with people outside your family than you do within your family.


- 12 -











H: Well, my mother speaks about her own childhood, her own growing up experiences.
She gets really teary-eyed and for us to even mention these things, you know it is
not really worth it, we all know how everybody else feels about it and to mention it
would be too emotional for some people and it is not worth the time or effort to recall
memories, things that we all know already in our own minds.

M: So it is a pretty painful subject for your parents, your mother and your uncles, but you
guys know where things stand. Would you say it is painful for you to talk about
that?

H: Certain things are, certain images. I think some are painful to remember.

M: You lost your father as a part of the war and I know that is one of the things you are
alluding to. So it is sort of a subject that is not really mentioned very often, it sounds
like.

H: No, it is not.

M: Obviously it is a big part of contemporary American history, and American history is one
of the few histories that they expose you to in the school system in this country, so it
must be rehashed a lot for yourself and your brothers. So that is sort of why I asked
how it feels when you read about it, especially from an American textbook.

H: We have our own criticisms about it, the fact that a lot of things are so taken for granted.
The sense of humanity is very powerful in my family, I think, because of all of the
things that the people in my family have experienced and for people to speak
candidly about things that to us are quite deep in meaning seems that a lot of things
are taken for granted. There are too many privileges that have not really been
noticed, have not really been considered in the Western world's minds. We think of
Bosnia-Hercegovina and when I read about it in the news, I have to recall memories
of Vietnam myself and so I cannot take that mode that I can sit in the living room
and watch these things and be very distant from it and those are abstract. Even
watching on television it is still a heavy abstraction for a lot of Americans, but for
Vietnamese people, we are a little bit more closer to that, we have stronger feelings
about it, so the sense of humanity is pretty strong.

M: I often wonder because I have read some of the books and historical perspectives and
analysis and all sorts of things on the Vietnam War, and it is very technical and very
emotionally removed. The reason I brought it up is that I wonder if I were you
reading that how would I feel, and obviously you have a personal stake in it, so you
have your own different perspective.


- 13 -











H: Well, you have to realize that is the role of the historian, that is not a role of a humanist.
It is not a role of someone who has had experience in it, not necessarily. I mean an
art historian, or a political historian or social historian, all will pretty much write
objectively or subjectively, but without emotion. A novelist would transcend all of
that, but he would incorporate different things, different perspectives.

M: The point I am trying to make is that (and I am not making it very well) you are always
hearing about history being revised in different perspectives, at least a different
revision or different sources, or new materials surface. I was just thinking of looking
at it from a social or personal perspective. I do not know how much you know about
the ..

H: The policies of South Vietnam relative to quality of U.S. policies.

M: Right. I guess one of the things I am wondering about is when you think of South
Vietnam and the war, do you think, "Oh, gee, we could have won that war, or things
would be different."

H: No, it is not a matter of thinking if we had land reform, or if we engaged in a different
kind of policy with the northerners; I do not ever think in those terms. I remember
watching dead bodies and asking a lot of questions, like why did this have to be? I
mean, those are the kind of questions that the majority of people think. There is a
group of Vietnamese people who do think of nationalism in a way of going back and
winning the war again, foolishly thinking of such kind of actions, but I think the
majority of the Vietnamese people are a little bit more relaxed than that in their
beliefs and their thoughts. That kind of history should not have to be relived by
anybody. We think of Vietnam [and] we do think of the North Vietnamese fighting to
unite their country; that will always be in the back of our minds, but we also have to
think that the South Vietnamese government, the people of South Vietnam, also
had a powerful sense of nationalism, too. But it differed greatly from the northerners
point of view as to what was the nationalistic interpretation. So if you were part of
the South Vietnamese people, it should not be taken for granted that you were a
puppet of the U.S. or the French. There is a powerful sense of nationalism in South
Vietnam, and patriotism, but it differed greatly from North Vietnam. The North
Vietnamese were Communist and for a South Vietnamese to be regarded as a
North Vietnamese Communist is a terrible disgrace.

M: Do you regard a South Vietnamese Communist as a total disgrace?

H: Yes, most of the time. If you were in America and you asked, "Which part of Vietnam
are you from, North or the South?" it is kind of disturbing to hear that kind of
question because you have to realize that there is a heavy difference between a


- 14











North Vietnamese and a South Vietnamese or Vietcong. The spirit of nationalism
on both sides is very different. One was sided by communism, by the Soviets and
the other was sided by freedom, the idea of liberty.

M: But when you said that it is offensive, if I were to see you and ask if you were from
North Vietnam, that would be an offensive thing to say, but obviously you cannot tell
by looking at someone if they are from North Vietnam or South Vietnam or Central
Vietnam.

H: But they are here, they are in America though, and you have to take that into
consideration. How can a Communist be in America, or someone whose ideas of
nationalism are the same as the ideas as North Vietnam be in America?

M: Well, would you say that it would be a seriously offensive thing to say?

H: It would be a seriously offensive thing to say to a Vietnamese person.

M: Would you be offended?

H: No, I would not be offended by it.

M: Do you think ..

H: I would assume that a lot of people would be offended.

M: Probably older generation people though, not younger people like yourself. Do you
think younger people like yourself [would be offended]?

H: I think a lot of young people my age are very Americanized, Westernized. Most of them
do not even read Vietnamese anymore. They have groups here in Florida at the
University of Florida who do not speak Vietnamese very well and who do not write
or read in Vietnamese and they are being taught that by a few older people.

M: Are you involved with the Vietnamese groups on campus at all?

H: No.

M: Are you just not interested, or is there any reason behind that? I am just curious.

H: Within any culture there is always a kind of hypocrisy that floats around and I do not
want to be social with hypocrisy.


- 15 -











M: What do you mean?


H: A group of people who have differences with other groups, I do not want to be
associated with that kind of separation of people.

M: Do you think it is sort of an exaggerated, phoney sense of group identity?

H: Very much so. Especially when they do not read Vietnamese well, they hardly speak it,
and they try to revive some sort of pride. It is just ludicrous thinking.

M: Do you ever feel uncomfortable, not necessarily uncomfortable, but feel like it would be
nice to hang around some people who you felt you had more in common with, or do
you not think that way at all? I know that the people you generally associate with
are all non-Asian. Do you ever get that sense?

H: No, I have Asian friends, mostly in Orlando, my brother's friends. My brother tries to get
me to join clubs here at [the] University of Florida, but I just do not have any interest
in any of them. Looking at my own philosophies, my own structured way of thinking,
with a group's idea of how to organize things. You think of Vietnam and you think of
the culture of Vietnam, you do not always have to think of groups of collaborated
thoughts. There is a lot of individualism involved as well. Such people as my uncle
who fought against the war in their own way. Maybe it is just a family thing. My
family is very individualistic.

M: You were saying before when you were growing up in elementary school there were
elements of stereotyping and prejudice that obviously are none too pleasant, but do
you still experience that today?

H: Occasionally, but my feelings have really changed. I have never taken any of it
seriously. If someone mocks you, there is no need to go up to them and try to
change the way they see things, you know. It takes so much time and effort that is
just wasted.

M: You do not personalize it?

H: No.

M: I was going to ask in the context of your uncles, who I assume are in the United States
now, who were in the military, do they ever express the notion that this was a war
that was lost because of politics, that it was a war we were capable of winning in
Vietnam, and we should still be in Vietnam?


- 16











H: I am sure those questions do go in their heads, but I see them as people who just
defended their homes. People who defended their neighbors' homes, people
defended a country they have known all of their lives. That was their sense of
nationalism, the fact that they were defending their own homeland. It was not a
matter of trying to win something, it was not taking something to an offensive kind of
position. The fact that your homeland is being invaded and you have to do
something about it, and your opponents do not want to come up to you and talk to
you about it, they just want to shoot you or take arms against you. So you try to
defend your homeland as best as you could.

M: So they were not so wrapped up in the politics?

H: Only my oldest uncle was. He was heavily involved in the politics, because he was a
writer, a journalist, so he was concerned with the role of the South Vietnamese
government, right on up to United States policies. He was concerned with the lack
of leadership in his own government, towards his people. The differences between
the Catholics and the Buddhists, he was concerned with those kinds of things.

M: Was you uncle a Buddhist or Catholic?

H: As far as I know, he has never showed any religious preference.

M: I was going to say, you say that you yourself do not consider yourself to have any
religious preference.

H: No religious preference at all, no.

M: That does not mean that you do not have a set of beliefs?

H: I am sure I do.

M: You would not consider yourself an atheist, would you?

H: I do not even consider it; I do not know.

M: You have never thought about it? I mean, you have some sort of philosophy?

H: Yes, ever since I was a little kid, I just did not like the naming of things. To simplify
things just for the sake of understanding it--there is a danger to those kind of
definitions, I think. I do not want to confine myself to being an atheist or even an
agnostic, because people change all of the time. I am flexible about change, I think.


- 17











M: Well, you say your mother is a Catholic and she is involved with the Catholic church.

H: She is heavily into policies of her Vietnamese community. My brothers may believe in
Christ as well, but I do not think they practice it, as far as going to church. I just do
not believe in any of that. I think I am tolerant of it; I am tolerant of what my
grandfather likes or dislikes or what other people in his family believe. I am tolerant
of all of that, but I just do not associate myself with any kind of religion.

M: So when you were being raised as a child, did you regularly attend a Catholic Mass?

H: No. I have been in a Buddhist temple once and that was when I was two or three years
old, and I vaguely remember what that was like, and I have been in a Christian
church once. That was just a couple years ago and that was just for a wedding. So
I have never practiced any kind of thing, I have never learned any catechism, never
prayed to anything, except for when I was asked to pray for something, which was
as a child praying for being part of a ceremony commemorating the dead, or the
new years, or the harvest moon festivities. When I was young, you were asked to
do these things and that was a part of your discipline and you never really
questioned any of that. But it does not mean that you believe in it or that you
believed in what was going on.

M: So it was more the notion of being obedient to your elders and being respectful.

H: Yes, being obedient and respectful, but it does not mean that you believe in it.

M: How does that carry over now, in the sense that as far as being obedient to your elders
or being respectful of people even though you do not necessarily believe in what
[they believe]? In Western society that is definitely not the case where we are
today. People are clearly disrespectful at will to everything and anything.

H: Well, part of me does not like the idea of offending anyone, so I will always try my best
to be respectful to people who have differences of opinion and even people who are
very much upset with me, you know. Someone who is about to attack me
physically, I will still have some respect for them, I still do not wish to offend them
verbally in any way or attack their psyche or anything like that. I think that is a part
of my family. People in my family do not want to offend someone, and when they
do offend someone, or they intentionally speak out against someone, then the
results are quite devastating. When you speak in Vietnamese, if I scream at my
brother, it does not mean much if it is in English, but if I was really upset with him
and I spoke to him in Vietnamese, for some odd, strange reason, there is more
depth to it, there is more cynicism involved in it. Sibling rivalry does not mean
much in my house, I think.


- 18 -












M: When you look at the inner family relationship that you have, do you ever compare them
to the sort of relationships that you see your friends have with their families, and get
this notion that "Boy, that is a pretty strange relationship"?

H: At first it was. Until I was like ten or eleven years old, I would look at other people's lives
and the way their lives were being dictated to them and the way they revolted and
screamed back at their parents and the way little kids would scream and cry and
pout in supermarkets and situations like that. It would be a little bit odd for me to
imagine an Eastern kind of family with a child who would behave in that kind of way.
First it was odd, but then I easily adapted to it.

M: In that sense, it must have been especially unusual at a school like Gables High. That
is a real big public high school and people are very disrespectful to their teachers
there. Did you ever find yourself leaning towards that sort of attitude or did you ever
find yourself talking back to your mother and sort of having a generational rift in the
sense that you were finding yourself thinking, "My friends talk to their parents this
way, why should I not talk to my mother that way"?

H: Yes. That is part of adapting to a different kind of culture, I guess. These things will
happen, especially when you are young.

M: How does your mother feel about it?

H: She is a bit more liberal than most Vietnamese parents are. She has raised me and my
brothers by herself, so she is a little bit more tolerant of our behavior towards
anything. So she is a little bit more tolerant in that, but I do not think I would ever go
up to my uncles and aunts and be as relaxed in conversations with them as I am
with my mom. So there is a difference with the way we treat people outside our
immediate family.

M: It is expected, even now.

H: Yes, even now, I do not think it would be expected of me, or anyone else, to speak to
someone, to a relative, in that kind of way, outside of the immediate family.

M: Is it almost that you will not speak unless you are spoken to?

H: No. I mean, the first things that are asked are usually asked by someone who is older
than you. Those things are taken for granted, because older people are always
more curious about their own children and the children are everlasting curious about
their elders. Especially people who have already been very much Americanized. I


- 19 -











think there are differences with the way I act and the way they act and those things
are quite apparent and for me to be butchered by their criticism would not be a nice
kind of sensation, so I try to avoid that as much as possible and speak very little to
them, unless I am spoken to, but that is not necessarily always the case.

M: Do you ever see them lamenting, "Oh, our children are losing their sense of being
Vietnamese, and they are losing their ethnicity"?

H: There is really very little emotion involved, unless it is a crisis kind of situation. I think
that my uncles pretty much know who is who and who is going to do what, who acts
a certain way, and who feels a certain way towards a certain idea. They are tolerant
of all of their children, and they try to teach that tolerance to all of us.

M: How many uncles do you have?

H: Well, my grandparents from my father's side had twelve children and during the war four
of them died, so I have eight.

M: So seven of whom were in the South Vietnamese military, and one was .

H: We have some aunts too; we have four aunts.

M: So they had sixteen children?

H: No, twelve children, four aunts.

M: Okay.

H: The four who died were all males. So, that is eight males and females, four males and
four females.

M: You said one lived in California.

H: No, he is in Miami, but his newspaper connects with California, Orlando, and other parts
of the country. I think also Texas.

M: They are all in Miami.

H: No, they are dispersed throughout the country--in Pennsylvania, New York, and
California.

M: Do you communicate with them fairly regularly?


- 20 -












H: No, only on occasions.


M: What does your mother do for a living?

H: She works for the Marriott, doing a catering business and she also has another catering
business of her own, a partnership with some other people.

M: Your youngest brother is the only one at home now.

H: Yes, he is at Gables as well; he is an eleventh grader.

M: Your mother is remarried now?

H: No, she was never married, but the father is always around.

M: Do you have a good relationship with him?

H: Yes, I think so. He used to be really bad, because he was an alcoholic at one time, but
he is really good now. He has been a recovering alcoholic for the past four or five
years now and he has helped out a lot. He has been more responsible with his own
actions and respectful of my mom and he is concerned with his son's progress, so
he is around a lot to help out. It is good relationship.

M: But you do not really spend very much time down there, do you?

H: No, I do not. I kind of get the idea of how things are being run. It is good for my mom to
be around with him because if she was by herself she would probably just think
about Vietnam and all of the other things like that and she would probably get too
depressed, so it is good that she has somebody.

M: It sounds like she dwells on that. Maybe not dwell on it, but it is a very important thing.

H: It is an important thing to everyone in her generation to tear off ties with the people in
Vietnam. When another Vietnamese person runs into another Vietnamese person
of her generation they would usually ask which part of the country you were from
and they would speak about Vietnam, the homeland and things like that. It is
planted in the back of their heads.

M: But when they say, "What part of the country are you from," would that not be
offensive?


- 21 -











H: No.


M: Because it would automatically be assumed that they were from the South.

H: That is right.

M: But it would be offensive, because I remember you saying that before.

H: That is right. One of my aunts married someone who was born in North Vietnam and so
his accent was different, so it was quite evident that he is from the North, but that
does not mean that he is a Communist or anything like that.

M: Well, when you said that you were lifted out on a helicopter and taken out on an
American aircraft carrier, and it was hard to get on the aircraft carrier, do you
remember the name of the aircraft carrier?

H: No.

M: Another question that I wanted to ask you was, you said that your uncles were in the
military, but what level of military? Were they officers in the military?

H: They were all officers. One of them was a pilot, obviously. He flew the helicopter down
and we picked up our neighbors and people who lived close by us, who wanted to
leave the country and we also dropped off a lot of the soldiers who were already in
the helicopter and the people who wanted to stay behind and go back to their own
families. My dad was in the army and he was like the captain of a tank division. But
they were all officers.

M: But the thing I guess I was driving at was that I assumed that they were rather low level,
middling officers.

H: Did they actually dictate policy? No, it was not that kind of thing.

M: What do you know about the heritage of your family, how far back?

H: Genealogy?

M: Yes, that sort of thing.

H: Not too much. My mother can speak of her own grandparents and her great-
grandparents and before her mother died she used to sing to me, when I was three
or four years old. She would sing very old songs about Hue City. Before the


- 22 -











separation of the North and the South, Hue City was the main city, the main capital
of Vietnam. She used to sing to me tunes about kings and queens of Vietnam and
all of this folklore.

M: Is that where your mom grew up, in Hue City?

H: Yes, she was on the outskirts of Hue, she was a farm girl who moved to the city.

M: You said your family [left] Hue to go to Saigon.

H: No, that was Da Nang.

M: So you have never been to Hue City.

H: No, I have never been to it. My older brother was going to Hue City, but my brother and
I, the one who is directly above me, were both born in Da Nang.

M: How much older is your oldest brother?

H: My oldest brother was born in 1965 and the other one was born in 1968.

M: So your older brother has some pretty vivid memories.

H: Vivid memories, yes, I think he did.

M: But this goes back to the thing that you guys never talk about it.

H: We do not talk about it often, but if somebody mentions something about it, you know
once or twice, it will pretty much be planted in your head for a long time, it is not just
something that you simply erase or take for granted. Both of them went to school in
Da Nang and they have stories about their own education and a lot more
experiences with my dad than I ever did. So they remember things about him.

M: Do you have any memories of your father?

H: No, not much, really.

M: What do your older brothers do now?

H: They are both engineers. They are both very much Americanized. The second one is
about to get married soon, and he is very traditional, as far as the idea of settling
down and the idea of family. He is family-oriented.


- 23 -












M: Family values.


H: Family values, but he is very liberal in the context of American definitions of the family.
He is a liberal; we are all liberals.

M: Is he marrying a Vietnamese woman?

H: No, he is marrying someone who is Korean.

M: I was just wondering if that would be an issue for your mother, or for someone, maybe
your uncles, who would say that you should marry a Vietnamese woman, or you
would be expected to marry a Vietnamese woman.

H: In my immediate household I do not think my mom really cares. She is just worried
about our future and after she is gone. She is worried about whether we are going
to [be] busy with ourselves and nurturing our own family. That is what she is
worried about. But my uncle, the one who is the journalist, was very upset when his
own daughter wanted to marry an American. It was very hard for him to take, the
idea that she was engaged to an American.

M: Did she marry him?

H: No, she did not.

M: Do you think it was because he was so against it?

H: Well, not only that. He is a very philosophical kind of person, and his daughter means a
whole lot to him, and he wanted to test, as much as possible, this person's true
feelings about his daughter. So the fact that he was American made it worse for
that individual, but it is terrible prejudice, it was a really bad situation. It is sort of a
half-and-half between letting go of his own daughter and the fact that he is a
foreigner and he is not very pleased about that prospect at all, and neither is my
grandfather, to tell you the truth. My grandfather did not like the fact that she was
going out with an American, so it was very political.

M: So the engagement broke off.

H: The engagement broke off.

M: Was that a result of the pressure that they were exerting on her?


- 24











H: It was that kind of pressure, I am assuming.


M: But you never really spoke to her about it.

H: Yes, I speak to her about it.

M: How did she take it?

H: It has been going on for a few years now; it was pretty harsh on her.

M: Is she still dating the guy?

H: No, she is not. But the pressure is there, it is always there. There is always constant
pressure in that Michael (that is his name) has been to her house a whole bunch of
times to participate in whatever festivities they were having and he got along with
everyone, but the pressure was always there for him to adapt to things, and it was
quite harsh.

M: Obviously it would be impossible for him to ever live up to the standards.

H: That is right. To live up to the standards of my uncle and my grandfather.

M: What about your brother? I mean, your brother is marrying a Korean? Is that not
almost just as bad?

H: I do not know. I think because it is in our immediate family, to us it is not a big deal.

M: It is none of his business really.

H: No, I do not think it should be. If it is, then I am sure my brother would say something
about it. He is very authoritative in his own way, he will say something about it. I do
not think anything can stop him from doing what he wants to do. My oldest brother
Tran is going out with an American, a blonde blue-eyed American, but it does not
really effect anybody at all, I think. There is definite prejudice against her. It is quite
vividly portrayed. Even beyond their veneer [of] facial expressions, they fake
politeness, you know, when they ask questions. "How is Karen, how is she doing,
we have not seen her in a very long time." There is a false pretense of actual
concern but nothing is going to stop him from going out with her.

M: Doing what he wants to do.

H: Yes. Our immediate family is a little bit more liberal, and a little bit more westernized.


- 25 -












M: Do you think there would be a problem if your uncle's daughter or your cousin was
going to marry a Korean? Would he have a problem with that?

H: I think it still would be a problem.

M: Same thing.

H: Same kind of scenario.

M: And do you think that this phoney veneer is noticeable to your brother and the girl he
dates? Do they ever say anything about it to your brother, or does she ever say
anything to your brother?

H: No, I do not think so. From that particular uncle I do not think so. There was one uncle
who was very much against the idea of having her in his household to stay
overnight, because of the fact that he and she were not married and they were to
stay underneath the same roof overnight at his house, he was very much disturbed
about that idea. Now, he did not say anything directly to her, but he would drive my
brother away and he said because he was a Christian (he is Catholic) he did not like
the idea of having her in his household, because they were not married.

M: Even in a different room?

H: Even in a different room. This was in Maryland, when we were visiting my second
brother when he was working in Washington, D.C., and so when we stayed
overnight at his house, at that uncle's house, he was a little disturbed about that
idea and so he said something to my oldest brother about it. Of course, he was
very upset, because they were not going to sleep in the same room or anything like
that, so we all just picked up our bags and said well, see you guys later.

M: Well, that must have been sort of a..

H: Yes, a kind of a heavy-duty crisis situation.

M: Was it ever resolved?

H: No, it was not resolved.

M: Never talked about again.

H: Never talked about again.


- 26 -












M: Well, the last time I thought it had more to do with the fact that..


H: That they were not married.

M: Not only that they were not married, but his Christian values. Not so much that she was
Anglo. It sounds like he would have had the same policy even if she would have
been Vietnamese, that is my point. Do you think?

H: Well, I am still wondering about that myself. If she were Vietnamese, and had spent
quite a few hours at that house that day, she might have gotten along with him a
little better, converse with him more, and maybe things would have been a little
different. These people spoke very little English, and so it was quite difficult for
them to actually relate to each other.

M: So among the older generation of Vietnamese in your family there is a sort of a
resentment towards Americans, I guess?

H: No, it is not a resentment, more of a ..

M: Distrust, maybe.

H: They are more protective of their own children, I think. They want to keep the line going,
[they want to keep] the genealogy from splitting into a different kind of race.
Probably because of their feelings for their homeland, the nationalistic spirit, they do
not want to abandon that totally and be completely westernized. They want to
maintain the Vietnamese heritage as long as possible in their own children. I think it
boils down to that more than anything else. There is not such a resentment against
Americans, it is just that if they see other families marrying Americans, or Cubans or
whomever, I think that would be fine for them, but when it deals with their own
children, I think they are a little bit more strict on it.

M: So in everyday dealings in the common marketplace, if you will, there would be no sorts
of distrust or wariness towards [Americans].

H: No. But I think everybody is prejudiced about something, someone or some group,
whether they are aware of it or not and with my mother's generation, some of them
are prejudiced or they still have those stereotypical definitions of people.

M: In light of the fact that there was such close cooperation between the U.S. military and
there is a large U.S. population living in South Vietnam, for a number of years, I did


- 27











not really think there would be that same sort of tension, although outward I would
have believed there would have been more tension or more of a bitterness.

H: Well, I have seen documentaries where children who are orphans who are a mix of
American and Vietnamese have been awfully treated.

M: Ostracized. Nobody would claim them, that sort of thing.

H: Yes. It was a lot harder for them to survive in Vietnam. There was a hierarchy I guess, a
favoritism toward someone who is pure Vietnamese. It was pretty sad to think of it,
but that is always going to happen with any kind of culture. That is why I do not like
to define myself, I do not want to be a part of any kind of group that would impose
any sort of definition on anybody else.

M: There has always been, in addition, a wariness towards the Chinese and a distrust of
Chinese as well.

H: There has always been some kind of hostility towards Chinese people. I mean, there
are a lot of Chinese people who live in Vietnam. There are a lot of Chinese people
here in America who speak Vietnamese, who are a part of the Vietnamese culture,
who go to Vietnamese churches. But I do not think there is a stereotype. I am sure
there are stereotypes about the Chinese, but I do not think it would go beyond that,
into harsh actions against them.

M: Yes.

H: There is such a thing as a Vietnamese mafia in California; I have heard about that.
They lynch other Vietnamese people in the community for believing in different
things. People, like my uncle, would not do too well in California.

M: Sort of like a Vietnamese KKK.

H: Vietnamese mafia, KKK, I guess you could say that. It is heavily into the idea of defining
nationalism as bearing arms against Communism, but they are just practicing the
same thing [as the Communists].

M: The whole thing with the sort of treatment, like the generational divide, the older
generation wants to maintain the blood lines and the younger generation has a
much more cavalier attitude towards it, not nearly as important. I wonder--like I
have heard you talk about it before--about the fact that your brothers are engineers
and really basically yuppies, I suppose, and have a career path, where you are sort
of. .


- 28 -












H: A student.


M: A student with no strict profession, and moving towards a career in art.

H: Much more of a black sheep kind of decision.

M: Do you feel the same sort of pressures that your uncle imposed, such as do not do this,
and do not do that? Do you feel that you are going down the wrong path?

H: I am a little different. I am very much different, I have a different kind of philosophy. [My
personal philosophy] is very Westernized at one point because I have learned about
a lot of Western philosophy and it is very Eastern in another part, because of
experience, and through the teachings and readings. I mean, do I feel pressured by
my uncles? Sure I do, but I will always respect them to say whatever they wish to
say to me, but I do not think they can ever impose anything on me anymore. I am
not a kid anymore, and they cannot impose any kind of discipline on me anymore.
Do I ever hear them say stuff against me? Or suggest that I do something
differently? Yes, I hear them suggesting different routes.

M: They must think it is strange that you read [Friedrich Wilhelm] Nietzsche [German
philosopher, 1844-1900].

H: Nietzsche and [Jacques] Derrida and all of these European philosophers.

M: Yes.

H: From antiquity to modern history. Well, I think it is important, not just by being a person
who is heavily influenced by Western ideology today, to know about how you know
what you know today. The idea to transfer some knowledge from antiquity to
modern history, but because of the fact that I was born and raised in a country that
was torn by war and death and hatred, I think it is fitting that I should ask these
questions with an understanding of humanity. Whether it is through the teachings of
a Western philosophy or Eastern philosophy. Western philosophy deals a lot more
with social-political theories, whereas Eastern philosophy deals with more
continental ideas, the idea of being one with the fellow, being one with nature and all
the other Zen stuff. There is always a distance between what philosophies I have
read and what experiences I have had, but there is always a difference between a
philosopher and his philosophy and an historian and what he writes, there is always
a difference. That is why when I read history I always have to remember in the back
of my mind [that] this is part of his role, to write something objectively as he writes


- 29











and to pose solutions or questions the way he poses them. His manners are a little
bit different than I would perceive them to be if I were doing his job.

M: Whatever a person writes or does is always going to be a part of him, no matter how
objective he attempts to be, he is going to bring his own baggage along with it.

H: Yes, but not necessarily through experience. You could have a subjective kind of
thought, you can have theories of your own and philosophies of your own, but they
are not always planted by experience, by actual visions of war and death, and
hatred and those kinds of things. I mean, if you listen to people who write about the
civil rights movement, then you get a stronger feeling of what it was like there,
because there is a lot of experience involved, in those kinds of writings and those
kinds of teachings. But when we speak about people who write about World War I,
and the person is thirty years old now, there is a difference.

M: There is a difference, [a] sense of objectivity to it.

H: Yes.

M: It is more removed, it is farther away from the facts, but that is why I wondered, like
when you had personal experience and it was one of the most pivotal events of this
century, definitely for U.S. foreign policies, [which] has been changed entirely from
the experience in the Vietnam War. What I wonder is, do you think it effects you,
the way that you are now? Do you think it has definite deep roots in your
experience in your very young years in that war?

H: Are you asking me if I am a product of war?

M: Yes, to a degree.

H: I do not understand.

M: I do not mean you are a product of domestic or foreign policy. What I want to know is
does it influence you, your background in Vietnam, do you think it influences your
everyday life now?

H: To some degree it does. When I think of where foreign policy is concerned, when I think
in that kind of abstraction, I think of foreign policy in Bosnia or the Persian Gulf, I
think of different alternatives of how things can be handled and I think of a human
being in terms of humanity more than terms of actual actions against governments.
I think of the people who are involved between the clashing of governments. I think
of that more than the actual government policies.


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M: But on a personal level, how does it effect you?


H: I think at times it effects me pretty strongly, it upsets me a little bit, but some things can
be forgotten, and you are watching the news and you hear something about Bosnia
and you just turn to the next channel. The person next to me may just flip the
channel and just carelessly drop it out of their minds, they see nothing more than
rumors. I mean it effects me a little bit, yes, it hurts to know that other people do not
share the same kind of feelings, or do not have that same kind of sense of
humanity. But I mean it is all understandable, not everybody wants to see the same
things. So, it effects me in that kind of personal way.

M: Do you sense that other people in your family are kept in tune with that particular event?
Do you ever talk to your brothers about that and say, "Wow, look at the parallels
there," maybe not look at the parallels, but does it seem really familiar?

H: I think that anybody who experiences that, or who has experience in warfare, people
who are veterans of war, whether they [are] really old now or my age [would feel
that way]. I think I have different ways of handling those kinds of issues. Some of
them will just turn the channel, because they do not want to be reminded of such
things, and others will try to relate that strongly, very differently to it.

M: On the whole would you say that..

H: I do not want to define any kind of..

M: It is a difficult issue to wonder how you internalize it, because it is something that you
always hear about. This may sound like a really dumb analogy, but if I hear about
something happening in Miami in the news, I think, "Wow, turn it up, what is going in
Miami?" That is where I am from. As far as Vietnam, just the name carries so
much weight in our culture, and I just wonder how does that affect you? Is it
something that you become desensitized to? I am Vietnamese, but I consider
myself American and I do not think about it.

H: No, I do not consider myself American or even Vietnamese at times unless I really think
about it and my older brother asks me sometimes, "Do you ever look at yourself in
a mirror?" Because most of my friends are Americans, so he asks me if I ever think
about what other people see in me. Do they see an American or do they see a
Vietnamese person, or an oriental person? It is only when he asks me these
questions that I guess I am Vietnamese.

M: You never really think about it, just when something like that comes up?


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H: Yes, most of the times I think that is the case. Otherwise, I do not know and I must not
be anything.

M: You just think you are a face in the crowd.

H: A face in the crowd.

M: Or I guess when somebody makes some sort of racial stereotype and then that gets
that going.

H: Then I know there is something wrong here, any kind of racial statement.

M: Oh, yes that is a reference to me.

H: That is a reference to my culture, but I do not have any culture. That is how I see it, I do
not want any culture. But see, that is an individual philosophy.

M: Or a defense mechanism.

H: It is a defense mechanism to turn a channel, when you see something like that, but I do
not turn a channel, most of the times when I see something that is disruptive I try to
watch it. But that is like my own kind of way of handling or trying to resolve
whatever differences or confusions I have had until I was five years old in Vietnam.
My older brother would say go to school, get a job, and settle down, and not have to
deal with those kinds of things, just go on with his life and that is his approach to it, I
guess. But that does not mean he forgets where he is from and what he has seen.
I choose a different kind of route. I would rather stick with the actual problem and
try to resolve it.

M: Most of your art is dark and sort of somber. Would you say you agree with that
assessment?

H: Yes, it is. It is kind of an early stage. Once I come into my own, when I do not have to
follow other people's instructions anymore, I think [it will be more] reflective of the
way I feel about Vietnam and war and other social issues.


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