Interview with Yen Tran

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Yen Tran

Date

2018-11-02

Format

audio

Identifier

2018oh002_btba_004

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Yen Tran

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Yen Tran 2018oh002_btba_004 1:36:40 ohbtba Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans btba001 Vietnamese in North Texas Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans Yen Tran Betsy Brody mp3 oh-audio-dig-tran_y_20181102.mp3 1:|14(2)|23(15)|31(14)|43(8)|53(12)|65(1)|74(14)|85(3)|96(8)|107(6)|117(3)|127(5)|138(2)|146(12)|155(15)|166(8)|177(13)|187(5)|197(12)|208(5)|218(4)|229(1)|238(16)|250(6)|260(14)|271(6)|282(3)|294(18)|307(2)|319(11)|329(7)|341(1)|350(2)|360(6)|370(3)|380(3)|390(7)|401(8)|413(9)|423(6)|432(9)|443(1)|453(1)|463(5)|476(5)|486(1)|497(14)|506(12)|515(8)|524(12)|535(7)|547(4)|557(10)|567(1)|576(12)|588(2)|598(9)|611(5)|623(8)|632(3)|642(8)|651(8)|661(6)|670(10)|681(10)|692(3)|702(7)|714(8)|725(1)|735(11)|745(13)|757(12)|768(4)|779(1)|787(5)|795(7)|806(4)|817(6)|826(1)|834(11)|843(6)|852(6)|862(1)|875(5)|885(4)|894(7)|903(17)|912(9)|919(13)|931(1)|942(7)|952(8)|963(7)|976(4)|987(6)|997(10) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/114144 Aviary audio 2 Introduction &quot ; Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans&quot ; 26 Age when leaving Vietnam Okay, thank you for joining me, and I just wanted to ask you, first of all, how old were you when you left Vietnam? TRAN: I was four. I was four years old. escape ; leaving Vietnam 35 Father's work with U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and her family's departure from Vietnam TRAN: Well, my dad had worked for the U.S. embassy in Vietnam as an interpreter, and so before the actual fall he was well aware that he would not be able to stay in the country once the Viet Congs took over, and so— BRODY: It would be too dangerous? TRAN: Yes. And actually, before that, he had been picked up a couple of times already by the local authorities, and my mom had to actually go and find him and pay money to get him out. So even though during the time that he had worked with the U.S. embassy, he didn’t make his job or his role with them very public, but he knew that his life and our lives would be in danger if we had stayed. And so he was responsible for my grandmother and my younger—his two younger sisters and younger brother from the age of ten. And so he didn’t just think about the family as his wife and the four kids that he had, but he had an obligation to take his mom along, his two teenage sisters and his brother, who was studying at university at that time. And so we were airlifted from Vietnam and we travelled through Guam, then the Philippines, and then stayed in a refugee camp in California before we were offered permanent resettlement in Dallas. Fall of Saigon ; Guam ; interpreter ; Phillippines ; U.S. Embassy ; Viet COng 212 Memories of airlift and day of departure from Vietnam/Being reunited with dad and uncle in Guam refugee camp BRODY: What do you remember—I know you were young, but what do you remember of the airlift? TRAN: I remember—so I remember vividly the day that we left. There was a candy store—it wasn’t even really a candy store, it was probably just a stand—that I used to walk to every day to buy candy. And the day that we left, I remember seeing people tearing down the candy stand and not really understanding, you know, what was going on. Then my grandmother, who is—she’s a survivor and she’s very loud and she was probably the one that’s constantly keeping us together, because I’m sure it was complete chaos at that time with so—them trying to get so many people out of the country. It was a miracle that they kept all of us together (laughs) during the trip. But I do remember the day that we were reunited with my dad and my uncle, because we were in the refugee camp, I was just waking up from a nap, and I could hear my grandmother and my aunt say, “Oh, there’s Sao, there’s Sao!” And I looked around and I saw my dad walking towards us. It was almost like a dream, because at four years old, it’s hard to make sense of things, but you also sense it through the adults who are around you and what kind of anxiety and stress that they have, and you could feel that—I don’t remember if I knew that my dad wasn’t with us, but I do remember the sense of excitement and relief when he came walking towards us, and how my grandmother and my mom was just overwhelmed by it. airlift ; memories of leaving Vietnam ; refugee camps ; reunion with father Refugees--Vietnam 326 Memories of refugee camps in Guam, Phillipines, and Guam TRAN: I think we went from Guam to the Philippines, and then we went to California. BRODY: And then how did you find out or arrange the—do you know much about how the adults arranged the sponsorship, or— TRAN: From what I remember, I think we were in California for a while. I remember we lived in tents, you know, and not very different from the tents that we lived in in the Philippines or Guam. But there would be American soldiers working the food lines, and we would go every day to get our food, we had tickets. But I think they were just, at that point, just getting the first wave of refugees in and probably relying on charities and churches to sponsor and help resettle these refugees that were coming in from Vietnam. BRODY: Right, so this is still 1975. TRAN: Yes, 1975. 1975 ; California ; food lines ; Guam ; Phillippnes ; refugee camps ; resettlement ; sponsorship ; tents 383 Memories of arriving in Texas/Early acclimation BRODY: So the connection with north Texas is through the sponsorship of the Catholic Church and St. Pius. Tell me what you remember about your initial impressions or arrival in Texas. TRAN: Oh, wow, so I remember getting on the plane to fly from California to Texas, and I still remember—I think it was the Delta airline, and the stewardess gave me a little pin with wings, and I remember looking out the window and seeing ocean, even. But the first few years, I think I just remember my grandmother and my aunts and uncles, the old adults, just recounting those first days. For us, you know, we were just kids, we just kind of go with the flow to where we were and what we needed to do, because at that time, I was just speaking Vietnamese to my siblings, but you know, soon after our arrival we started kindergarten, and so we started going to school. But my grandmother would talk about how the first—when they first got there, they just didn’t even know how to go to a grocery store. My dad said that, you know, he was the first one to ever go to the grocery store, and he didn’t know what to even buy, he even bought a jar of oysters, when he brought it home he didn’t know what to do with it. (both laugh) And then my mom and my aunts would walk to the store and my uncle would tell them, “You have to walk”— there was a certain route that they thought they had to go in order to get to the store, but my aunt and my grandmother, my mom thought, There’s a faster way, but my uncle just kept insisting that they go that way every day. But one day they had enough courage to say, “You know what? We’re not going to listen to them, we’re just going this way,” and so slowly they started, you know, being able to figure things out and navigate through life in the U.S. arrival in Texas ; food ; groceries ; sponorship ; St. Pius X 507 Housing/St. Pius Catholic Church as hub of Vietnamese community BRODY: Wow. So you lived in a house near the church. Was the church sort of a hub for the families? TRAN: Yes, it really was. It was a hub for the entire Vietnamese community, and because my dad and my uncle were the only ones who knew how to speak English, they did—they looked to my dad and uncle, especially my dad, a lot too as kind of the liaison and the leader, and every time somebody was in the hospital, they would call my dad to come out and act as an interpreter. He was the one who kind of—he was the one who interfaced with Monsignor Weinzapfel, who was the head—who was the pastor at St. Pius at that time. And we were able to have Vietnamese church, you know, Vietnamese Mass at St. Pius at the four o’clock slot on Sunday. And so once that was established, then more Vietnamese families from around the area started congregating to St. Pius. BRODY: That’s really interesting. So were there activities for kids, for the Vietnamese refugees and their children or for family activities? TRAN: Yeah, I mean, we would have—you know, they would—every New Year’s they would have a special Mass in celebration, and of course they always had the ceremony, the flag ceremony and the anthem, singing of the old anthem, and it was always the old flag, (laughs) it was never the new flag at all. So they still tried to continue that tradition, and then they also offered Vietnamese classes and Vietnamese—and then also Sunday School, so CCD [Confraternity of Christian Doctrine] classes in Vietnamese. So I—my sister and I—I have a twin sister—she and I and a friend of mine who still lives in this area—her parents are the ones who still have that house near St. Pius—we were one of the first, I guess, graduating class to get our first communion in the Vietnamese Catholic community there at St. Pius. BRODY: That’s great, I would love to see pictures. TRAN: (laughs) Actually, I do have one. CCD ; English ; housing ; language ; St. Pius X ; Vietnamese flag ; Vietnamese mass ; Weinzapfel 696 Older generation's attitudes toward post-war Vietnamese politics/communism BRODY: That’s interesting, what you said about the anthem and the ceremony and the flag. How involved in the postwar politics of Vietnam do you think—I mean, in your experience, were some of the older generation refugees? TRAN: They took a very strong stance because, you know, the wave of immigrants I came with were the ones who were truly, you know, fleeing from the war because of their own political stance, and they had lost their country not of their own will. They didn’t leave their country of their own will, and so there was a loss there, and there was a lot of fear of the communists. I remember my aunts always making comments and jokes about,“Oh, the Viet Congs, they’re going to come get us,” or “He’s Viet Cong,” or whatever. BRODY: Even after being here? TRAN: Yes. Being here, you would always hear, “Oh, he’s a Viet Cong, he’s Viet Cong.” And so, you know, I grew up with that—the term Viet Cong was meaning something to be scared and fearful of, because I heard the adults in my family, you know, speaking—using it in a way that was not—that was out of fear, anxiety, and negative connotation. But over the years as, you know, the U.S. and Vietnam relations had started to thaw, several years ago there was a lady who—I guess that she’s a nanny for my sister and she also helped me out when Mi Lan, my second, was born. And her daughter was going through the senior project that she was doing in high school, and so she wanted to interview me, and the questions that—she made a comment during the interview, because she grew up—she was born and grew up under the new regime. And the comments that she made, initially I was surprised at my reaction, because I was very taken aback that she was very sympathetic to the government that she grew up in. And it was interesting that I caught myself having that reaction. attitudes toward Vietnam ; communists ; politics ; Viet Cong 854 Experiences in kindergarten at Gill Elementary and Truett Elementary So I went to Gill Elementary. We started off in kindergarten with a lot of the other Vietnamese children that had also relocated close to St. Pius. And then after a year, my dad found a house probably about, maybe, two miles away, but in another school zone, and so our whole family moved there and then I went to Truett Elementary until sixth grade, because elementary school went through sixth grade at that time. BRODY: So in the first school, where there were a lot of Vietnamese kids, what was that like? Were you—did you feel comfortable having people who had shared a similar experience? TRAN: I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember not feeling out of place in kindergarten. I honestly didn’t feel out of place until we moved, in first grade, to the school that was just two miles away, but didn’t have any Vietnamese students there. So looking back, I can now put it into perspective and put in context, you know, and make more sense of some of the experiences and how I was—I guess how some of the students reacted to me and— BRODY: Tell me about that. How did they react to you? TRAN: I do remember standing in the lunch line one time, and there was a friend of mine, her name was—I don’t remember her name now—she was a very sweet girl, we were very close and she always made me feel welcomed, even though I started school, not in kindergarten but first grade. And we were standing in lunch line and she told me that her uncle—she knew that I was Vietnamese, and she said that her—and she said it ©Baylor University 10 not in a mean way but just like what a six-year-old would say. She said, “Yeah, my uncle fought in the Vietnam War, and he told me that I’m not supposed to talk to anybody who’s Vietnamese.” BRODY: Oh, boy. TRAN: And I couldn’t—you know, as a six-year-old I just couldn’t—I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel, but I didn’t know even how to respond to that at the time. elementary school ; Gill Elementary ; kindergarten ; Truett Elementary 945 Early experiences of racism BRODY: Tell me about that. How did they react to you? TRAN: I do remember standing in the lunch line one time, and there was a friend of mine, her name was—I don’t remember her name now—she was a very sweet girl, we were very close and she always made me feel welcomed, even though I started school, not in kindergarten but first grade. And we were standing in lunch line and she told me that her uncle—she knew that I was Vietnamese, and she said that her—and she said it not in a mean way but just like what a six-year-old would say. She said, “Yeah, my uncle fought in the Vietnam War, and he told me that I’m not supposed to talk to anybody who’s Vietnamese.” BRODY: Oh, boy. TRAN: And I couldn’t—you know, as a six-year-old I just couldn’t—I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel, but I didn’t know even how to respond to that at the time. BRODY: Do you remember how you responded? TRAN: I don’t remember saying anything because, you know, I didn’t know much about the war other than that we had to leave our country and that, I do know that the Vietnamese who ran the country at that time were bad people, is what I thought. And it didn’t make sense to me as a child that my family had fought alongside the Americans, and yet, here was an American man who had never met me before—and I was only a first grader—and he was telling his niece not to talk to me because I was from a different, you know, ethnicity or from that country. I just—yeah, it was—I think my reaction was more confusion. discrimination ; elementary school ; racism ; teasing 1058 Experiences translating for other students/Memories of busing in Dallas BRODY: Sure, sure. So the rest of your elementary school experience were—I mean, did more Vietnamese kids move into this school, or were you pretty much—? ©Baylor University 11 TRAN: There were a few, yes. There were a few. After a couple of years there was another kid and another kid, and they would—if my brother was around, because he was two years older, the school administration would call my brother to come and help translate for him or her, and then when he moved on—I remember, there was another girl who was new, and they actually called me to help translate for her and explain to her, you know, you can eat here, this is time to eat, this is time to go to school, go back to class. But I do remember, other than that one incident with my friend whose uncle said, you know, not—that she wasn’t allowed to talk to me, but I do remember that there were kids who were being bused into the school where I was going ; kids who didn’t live in the area, a lot of African American kids. And you know, I think looking back, I was experiencing and witnessing, you know, I guess, the busing phenomenon. BRODY: Right, in Dallas. TRAN: In Dallas, in the south. BRODY: Yeah. What do you remember about that? Was there conflict? TRAN: Oh yes, there was a lot of conflict. I mean, you’ve got—at the time I didn’t understand why there was so much conflict, but now, you know, knowing the history and knowing how recent that history was, then having—injecting into that mix a whole new group of people that most people had never—in America—had never even encountered before. It must’ve been really hard for all the children at that time to be able to make sense of. African Americans ; busing ; discrimination ; racism ; translating Busing for school integration ; Racism 1187 Role of Mr. and Mrs. Harmon as sponsors for the family's resettlement BRODY: With the sponsors, what role did they play, once you got here, in sort of setting up your life here in Texas? TRAN: They helped my dad. Mr. and Mrs. Harmon, they were our sponsors, and they helped my dad and my uncle get a job. I think it was in the computer center, hanging computer tapes, at that time, for Sun Exploration and Production. And then they also helped us, you know, just get our basic necessities, like clothing and furniture and bedding and whatnot. And then they also helped my uncle and my dad go back to school so that they could get a degree. I think both of them went back to school for computer science degrees. And so they were—through that, they were able to get positions, you know, computer analyst positions with Sun Exploration. And they worked there for, I think, until the company changed to Oryx and then, eventually, the entire IT [Information Technology] department was outsourced, maybe about sixteen years ago? And so they both worked at the same company from the time they came to the U.S. until, you know, it was time for either early retirement or being outsourced to another company at the time. BRODY: That’s a close family. TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) Exactly. But I do remember the Harmons inviting us over to their house for a party once, and they had a pool. And my brother, I think he’s probably six at the time, or seven, he didn’t know how to swim but he just ran excitedly out there and there was a little floatie, and he stepped on the floatie and, of course, fell into the pool, and the Harmons’ daughter had to jump in and save him. (laughs) education ; employment ; jobs ; pool party ; sponsors ; sponsorship ; Sun Exploration and Production Refugees--Vietnam 1308 Role of culture in family dynamics/closeness of the Vietnamese community BRODY: That’s a great story. So your whole family, they do sound very close. Is that something you feel like was, you know, particular to your culture of—or the experience of travelling as refugees and making a new life here? TRAN: I think it’s very—I knew it was very particular to the culture, our culture at that time, and I think it was made—reinforced by the fact that my aunts were both underage at that time, because—so there was a certain responsibility that my father had to make sure that they finished school, and then—plus my dad being their caretaker for most of his life. My mom told me that even after she married him, whatever salary that he made, he always sent half of it home to his mom and his siblings, and then the other half was what he used to take care of us. But I think also because, I mean, when you have suffered or gone through something that’s life-changing and stressful and traumatic, you do tend to stick together more, and so it wasn’t just our family that was close, but all the other families were very tight-knit, too, with each other, and the community was more tightknit because there were just fewer of us at that time. I mean, there were no Vietnamese grocery stores, you know, so whatever we could come up with, whatever could grow in the garden in our backyard, we shared with other families and vice-versa. But our family, compared to other families in the community, was relatively small. My grandmother only had four kids, and so I was always jealous of my friends, because they had twenty cousins and all their cousins went to church and they hung out together, and we had no cousins, because my dad was the oldest and he was the first one to get married. It wasn’t until much—I think—I’m ten years older than my oldest cousin, so it wasn’t until I was ten years old that I even had a cousin. culture ; family values ; refugee experience ; trauma 1439 Social activities, Christmas, Easter, and Vietnamese New Year celebrations in the community BRODY: Right. So that community that you’re talking about, what kinds of social things did you guys do together? TRAN: Going to church every week. They also did the Christmas celebrations and the Easter celebrations, and that was always special, in addition to the Vietnamese New Year’s. So those were always opportunities for us to do more than just go to Mass and pray, but to get together as a community and do programs and, you know, dances or singing together and sharing food. I remember growing up, there was always somebody coming to visit my house ; you know, one of the men, a couple of the men from the church would come to call on my dad, and it was just very much a part of our life. You know, if they come and then—my job was to make sure that there was tea and then we’d bring out food or whatever to host the mother there. But it was definitely more of a closer-knit community, not just within our family but then also people visiting each other’s homes too. BRODY: Did that persist all the way through, you know, your high school years, or did the community kind of dissipate as time passed, and— Catholic Church ; food 1511 Founding of St. Peter's Vietnamese Catholic Church in Garland BRODY: Did that persist all the way through, you know, your high school years, or did the community kind of dissipate as time passed, and— TRAN: Yeah. I think it’s dissipated more since times past. I think it probably persisted, probably all the way through even past law school for me, so probably over twenty years. But I think that’s probably a function of the fact that my dad was so—had played such a large role in the community. And so every time there was something that—something with the church, then people would come and talk to him about it, and he was instrumental in actually finding a church—a separate physical facility for the Vietnamese congregation, when I was in college. So that was almost twenty years after we came, so almost twenty years after the Vietnamese congregation started at St. Pius, they were able to find a separate church and have their own presence. Because before then, we could only celebrate whenever, you know, St. Pius was available to us. BRODY: Right. So the new church is called— TRAN: It’s called St. Peter’s Vietnamese Catholic Church. It’s in Garland. Garland ; St. Peter's Vietnamese Catholic Church ; St. Pius X 1596 Learning English/Maintaining Vietnamese language skills BRODY: I wanted to go back to talk about language because, I mean, obviously, you mentioned that you were speaking Vietnamese with your siblings at the time that you left Vietnam. How quickly or how difficult was it for you to pick up English? TRAN: It was—I guess at four, it wasn’t that difficult at all. I remember in kindergarten speaking Vietnamese to my sister and then probably in first grade we were already in English. BRODY: Right. You learned quickly. Was that the experience of your older sibling? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: Yeah, so everybody kind of picked it up real quickly. TRAN: Yes, because he was only six. So it was very easy for him to pick up too. BRODY: Good. TRAN: Plus it was also a way for us to speak without (laughs) the adults understanding what we’re saying. (laughs) BRODY: That’s really funny. (laughs) So you’re still bilingual? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: You speak both Vietnamese and in English. Are all of your siblings? TRAN: I have two younger sisters who were born here, and I think both of them, they do speak it, it’s a little more broken than ours, but we—it helped that we had our grandmother live with us, because she could only speak Vietnamese, and she was the one who was in the house all the time. And so she was there when we left, she was there when we got home from school, she was there when our parents weren’t home from work yet, and so we had to speak Vietnamese or we couldn’t communicate with her. And my grandma, my mom, and my dad only spoke Vietnamese to us too. And so that’s why they were able to speak Vietnamese. I don’t think that they’re as fluent as my brother and my—you know, my twin sister and I, but they’re able to hold conversations still. BRODY: Right. So that must’ve been pretty comforting for you all to have your grandmother in your house and also a relief for your parents. TRAN: Yes, definitely. bilingualism ; communication ; English ; extended family ; grandmother ; language ; Vietnamese language Bilingualism ; English language--Acquisition 1707 Employment of Vietnamese women in Dallas/Assembly and soldering work BRODY: You’ve mentioned what your dad did. What did you mom do as far as work? TRAN: She worked for—she and my aunt, my oldest aunt—so after my oldest aunt graduated from high school and my mom and she, they both worked at Garrett, I think it’s Garrett Electronics. It’s a company that made metal detectors. And so they soldered electronic boards. BRODY: Had she had experience doing stuff like that before? TRAN: No, and it seemed like that was the job that a lot of the Vietnamese women did, was working in assembly jobs, working—doing soldering assembly work. BRODY: That’s interesting. TRAN: Yeah, my mom worked that. She worked there for probably thirty years, and then my aunt is still working for the same company. BRODY: Oh, really? Are there still a lot of Vietnamese women working there? TRAN: Yes, there are, especially that generation, because they didn’t get a chance to learn English as well, and so they weren’t—you know, it’s a job that didn’t—it’s more of a hands-on job. assembly work ; Garrett Electonics ; soldering ; Vietnamese refugee women ; women's work Political refugees--Employment ; Solder and soldering 1771 Gardening/Growing vegetables/Role of food BRODY: Right. That makes sense. So the—okay, you mentioned your garden in your house and the vegetables you grew. I know that there was not that much of a Vietnamese community in terms of the stores and restaurants and things at that time, in the seventies. What kind of vegetables did you grow, and— TRAN: Oh wow, we grew—my grandmother was—she had a green thumb. So she didn’t work because she was older when she came, and so that’s what she did in her free time, she would grow bitter melon and squash, all types of Vietnamese squashes, Vietnamese water spinach, and lemongrass. What else? And then this leaf, I don’t know how you say it in English, it’s called ______(??). It’s a large leaf, it grows on a vine, but it has a really gelatinous consistency to it when you cook it and it’s actually supposed to be very good for you. (laughs) And then also cilantro and basil and mints, chives. She would also sprout her own bean sprouts from mung beans, so she was a very avid gardener. BRODY: And did she cook everything too? TRAN: Yes, she cooked. She cooked—and so we grew up eating Vietnamese food. Rice and Vietnamese food, and whatever she cooked, we ate the vegetables of whatever she cooked in the garden. BRODY: So did she teach you how to cook? TRAN: No, (laughs) but I learned from being in the kitchen with my mom, just starting with cutting onions and garlic, and just being in the kitchen with them, I learned to cook from there. But my grandmother, she was always such a very independent women, so she just does it and then would say, “Well, you do this,” but she’s not—she was not the teacher type, for sure. (both laugh) bitter melon, squash ; chives ; cilantro ; cooking ; food ; Gardening ; grandmother ; lemongrass ; mint ; mung beans ; rice ; Vietnamese food ; Vietnamese vegetables ; Vietnamese water spinach 1887 Elementary School/Fitting In BRODY: So we got to first grade. So the rest of elementary school, just tell me, what do you remember about growing up as a Vietnamese American in Dallas through your schooling? TRAN: Well, elementary school was—you know, I remember having really good teachers, and then also some mean teachers at that time. It was a different, I think—it was a different time where teachers were allowed to—some teachers were allowed to yell more. I mean, paddling was really, pretty common. Of course, I mean, I was always (laughs) the perfectly behaved kid, I would never get in trouble at school, but I just never felt like I fit in very well. My—our life didn’t consist of a lot of frivolous things. So we went to school—that was our main job—went to church, and we stayed home. And then every once in a while on the weekends, if my mom would take one of us to go the store with her, because she didn’t want to go by herself, you know, to have somebody to translate. And that was our life, and so it was hard to develop friendships if you can’t go to a birthday party, or you weren’t allowed to go to a movie with somebody, because that just wasn’t—we couldn’t afford it and it just wasn’t even, I think, in our parents’ radar to think that that was an important thing for us. BRODY: So was it just that, or were they afraid as well? TRAN: Yeah, I’m sure part of it was they were also afraid of letting us out of their sight. My grandmother, especially, was also a—I think neurotically protective because of, you know, her own life situation, being that old and having to raise four kids by herself. And then my parents, my mom is also a very—a worrywart as well. And so I think it was those first few years, the adults were just focused on surviving, you know? Providing for us, and so, you know, the idea that we would even think about going to another person’s house to play, or go to a birthday party, and that wasn’t even something that we would even ask permission for. birthday parties ; elementary school ; Friendships ; paddling 2043 Emphasis on education/Attitudes toward education for women BRODY: Right. And did they emphasize studying and education? TRAN: Oh, very much so. Very much so. BRODY: Yeah, tell me about that. TRAN: My dad especially, because he was—you know, he came from a very, very poor part of Vietnam, and he lost his dad at a very young age, and so my grandmother, even though she never went to school, she was not literate, she was very determined for her kids, mainly her boys, to have an education because she saw that as the only way to get out of poverty. And so she pushed education a lot for my father and my uncle. And my dad, I think he was the first to even graduate from high school in that time. BRODY: So she did it. TRAN: Yeah. My aunt, you know, my aunt and my mom worked for—at the Garrett Electronics doing soldering _________(??), so when I was fifteen, I worked a summer with them, and I would listen to my aunt tell stories with the other women about, you know, things that happened with her family, and so I learned a lot about my family from listening to—during that summer with my aunt. And she told a story about how after my grandmother lost her husband, that a lot of men would come and try to, you know, court her, but she never wanted to remarry. Men would come and try to conscript my dad and my uncle to go and fight in the war—and she’s only 4’10”, seventy-seven pounds, she was a very tiny lady—and she would fight them off, she would not let them take my dad and my uncle to go fight, because she said, “My boys are going to go to school, they’re not going to go and fight your fight and get killed.” And I don’t know how she did it, but she was able to scare them off. (laughs) BRODY: That’s amazing. So they got their education, and then once they were here and had all of you, they also emphasized your studies. TRAN: Oh, very much so, and my dad was very progressive for his time. I really think so. And I think it had a lot to do with his background of having a strong matriarch figure. He never made my sister and me feel like we could—we could or should do less because we were a girl. You know, my two aunts were still in high school when we first came, and my second aunt, she was younger, and she met a man that she wanted to get married to her senior year in high school. And my dad was so against it. He told my grandmother, “You need to let her go to school. You need to let her have an education, you cannot allow her to get married at such a young age because she’s going to be in the same situation that—” you know, my grandmother was. So if her husband is not able to take care of her, she would be left with nothing. So he saw education as a very—as something that was very valuable and would help my aunt, you know, be able to establish herself in this new life in the US. But my grandmother said, “Well she’s my child, I’ll just let her do whatever she wants,” because my grandmother, even though she pushed her sons very hard, she was pregnant with my aunt when she lost her husband. And so she really babied my youngest aunt and just let her do, really, whatever she wanted, she would let her have, and whatever she wanted to do she would let her do. And my aunt told my cousin this story a few years ago about how the night before her wedding my dad woke her up in the middle of the night and begged her not to get married, and he said, “If you go to college, I’ll buy you a new car so you can drive to college by yourself, you don’t have to worry about having our brother have to take you.” And of course, she didn’t take him up on the offer. (laughs) BRODY: He was serious though. education ; education for women ; poverty 2336 High School in Dallas BRODY: That’s hard. So, high school. Tell me about that. You must have—you and your siblings must have been among the first batch of Vietnamese Americans graduating from high schools in Dallas. TRAN: Definitely. Well, we also met—we were able to meet two more Vietnamese when we went to middle school, from our elementary school. So we did really well, yeah, academically in elementary school, and so we were invited to apply for Spence Academy, which is the GT [Gifted and Talented] Academy for DISD [Dallas Independent School District]. And so there—and the kids that I met there, I still keep in touch with, because—and they’re from different backgrounds, and different ethnic backgrounds, but for some reason they were more like-minded and, you know, had some of the more similar values towards education and now, even many years later in speaking with them, towards social policies, but we did get to meet a couple more Vietnamese kids in middle school. And then when we went to high school, we went to a very large high school, at Skyline High School, so a class of a thousand in each grade, and so there were a few more Vietnamese students when we got to high school, but because the classes were so big, it was hard to really, you know, know a lot of people. BRODY: So did you feel by then that you were more integrated into the high school or— BRODY: Through church? TRAN: —through church, and I was singing in the church choir and so met more friends there. But still, through high school, I did—I still felt like one of the few people, you know, one of the few Vietnamese people in that environment. BRODY: So that experience that, you know, from the very beginning that you had of not feeling like—not quite fitting in, that just kept on, or you just kind of were more tied to your Vietnamese church community? TRAN: I think in school itself it did keep on. I mean, we made friends and we did—you know, we were involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, but I always felt that I was ethnically different, you know? And I think people—my peer also, would make comments that, whether it was joking or not, that I was different. BRODY: What kind of comments? TRAN: You know, I think things that wouldn’t be even—could be repeated these days, (laughs) that’s not PC [politically correct], you know, the “chink” word and all the derogatory jokes about eyes and whatnot, and even I remember having a high school science teacher who made a joke about Asian—you know, the Asian language, as well. chink ; church community ; cultural identity ; Dallas Independent School District ; discrimination ; DISD ; ethnic differences ; extracurricular activities ; friendships ; Gifted and Talented ; GT ; high school ; racism ; Skyline High School ; Spence Academy ; teasing Racism 2574 College and law School/Community attitudes toward law school BRODY: So by the end of high school, what were you—you know, when you were thinking about your future after high school, what was your mindset and what were you looking forward to doing? TRAN: Well, I wanted to—I always had that inner drive to do something to give back. You know, I mean, everybody has their own, I guess, mode of how they interact in the world, and I know that, you know, in all the personality tests I’ve taken in my life, you know, I rank very strong as a caregiver. And so I wanted to do something that would help people. I thought, well, maybe a social worker, but my dad was very pragmatic. He said, you know, “You have to get a job that’s going to be able to feed your family. You have to get a profession, not just a degree.” My brother, my older brother had graduated two years before us, and he had applied to University of Dallas and gotten a full scholarship, and so he went there. And so when my sister and I were graduating, we really didn’t have a choice on where we were going to go to school because my parents didn’t even like the idea of us moving out, and so they wanted to keep us close in— BRODY: They wanted you to be together? TRAN: Yes, and so we—that was the only school that we applied to, was University of Dallas. But he told us going in, because he knew it was a liberal arts school, that we had to go beyond college. It had to be professional school or graduate school at that time. BRODY: Right off the bat, you knew that’s what you were getting into. TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) BRODY: So what ended up happening? What did you major in? TRAN: I majored in psychology, which I thought was the most relevant study for me. You know, literature was great, theology was great, but I really wanted to understand human behavior and really into the human psyche and how to—I felt that way I can actually tap into how I can help people. But I didn’t know—I wasn’t sure of actually going on to grad school and getting a Ph.D. and being a psychologist, because I wasn’t convinced that that was the right or the most effective way for me to help people. And at that time, most Ph.D. programs were only taking one per year, and even then, after you take a lot of student loans, you graduate and then the most you can do is teach, you know, at a lower salary than you could—that you would need to be able to pay back the student loans. And my parents had six kids, so they couldn’t—they were relying on us to be as independent and financially independent as possible, as soon as possible. And so my dad called me up one day towards the end of my fall semester and—actually I had graduated a year early, because my dad—he’d never asked us to do anything other than, you know, of course we had chores at home, but he never wanted us to feel that we had financial pressure to do anything other than going to school, and after our first semester at UD, he felt, I think, some financial pressure, because he had to take money out of his 401k to pay for our college. So he had three kids in college and three at home, and he said, “Well, if you can graduate even a semester early, that would save a lot of money.” And I think I was struck by the fact that he asked me something like that, because that was a huge thing to ask, and for him, he would never even approach us with something like that unless he felt that pressure, so I worked really hard to graduate a year early. So developed my whole graduation plan, and I was able to leave a year early. But the semester before I graduated—no, the fall semester of my last year, he said, “Well, why don’t you look at law school too? That way you can open up your options, in case you don’t get into one of these Ph.D. programs.” And so I said, “Oh, okay, I guess I can do that.” But, you know, when I agreed to applying to law school, that was my—my fate was sealed as far as my parents were concerned. And I think, looking back at that time, honestly, and the fact that he even suggested law school for me, I didn’t realize how progressive he was, because all of the Vietnamese kids my age, all my peer, were going to science-based fields. They were all going to pharmacy, or dental school, or medical school, or engineering. There were—nobody going to law school, especially females going to law school. And now, I can even recount a couple of instances where that was even—that kind of forwardthinking step was kind of—was a shock for some people. Because there was a Vietnamese friend of mine at UD at the time, and when he found out that I was going to apply to law school, he asked me, “Well, how are you going to be able to find a husband if you’re going to be a lawyer? Everybody’s going to be intimidated by you and by you being that educated.” careers ; college ; financial pressure ; graduate school ; law school ; professional school ; University of Dallas ; University of Houston 3114 Legal career BRODY: Okay. And what kind of law did you end up practicing? TRAN: Okay, so my first—I went to law school knowing that I didn’t want to do litigation, but I did well in law school because I can read and write very well. And I loved constitutional law and I loved everything that was more principle-based, rather than contract-based or property rights or criminal law and whatnot. I was really drawn to the policy work more. And so as I got closer to graduation, I did a few clerkships. I clerked at a law firm in their corporate law department, and then I clerked with the Supreme Court. And so I knew that I had a strength in being able to write judicial decisions and researching and writing, and so I wasn’t quite ready to make a decision as to what law field I wanted to go into, and so I was able to get a position with the Attorney General’s Honors Program. The Attorney General’s Honors Program, they recruit students out of law school and they place them in different positions within the Department of Justice. And so I was—I interviewed with a judge from the Board of Immigration Appeals, and he actually offered me a clerkship with the Houston Immigration Court. So I clerked for five immigration judges my first year out of school, and that was, you know, where I was able to actually see firsthand human rights law, immigration law, asylum law, and how it worked and how it got played, and to see the laws changing right before my eyes while I was there that first year. I mean, I remember having a case where the gentleman had one small conviction for possession of marijuana, and because he never applied for citizenship—he was thirty, he never applied for citizenship—that made him subject to deportation under the law. But all his family were U.S. citizens or permanent residents, he had a gainful job, he’d never had any other criminal record, and apparently it wasn’t even his marijuana. He was driving—he was on a date with a girl and it was hers, and he got stopped for speeding, and he took the hit for her. That landed him in deportation proceedings. But under the law before the Immigration Reform Act, he would go before the immigration court, and that would’ve been a slam dunk case for relief. We would grant him—he met other requirements that would be in his favor, he would be granted relief from deportation and hopefully, you know, nothing like that would ever happen again. But before his case came up for hearing, the Immigration Reform Act was passed, and that took away that right. BRODY: So what happened to him? TRAN: I’m not sure, because they kept having to defer his case, and so that—and then also, the experience of having—and asylum, unlike what people think, is very hard to get. I mean, I had the awful job of determining people’s future because the judges—if it was a really clear case that they would grant it or deny it, they would do it right then and there in their oral decision. If it was a difficult case they would give it to me, and then I would have to research the law and I’d have to read the transcript, and then I would have to make that decision. And it was very heartbreaking to have to deny people’s asylum cases because they didn’t meet the standards under the law for asylum. Their lives were in danger, they were targeted by people in their home country, but it wasn’t—you know, on the five protected grounds of, you know, race, religion, whatever. And so I knew—after my first year there, I didn’t want to continue in that field, because I just wasn’t sure if I had it in me to continue to fight something like that, because I am not a fighter. I prefer to be able to work together, collaborate on changes to help people. So that’s why I was always drawn to policy. And so I went back to get an LL.M. [Legum Magister] in health law and health policy, because that was really where I felt my passion was. And so I applied and got accepted into the LL.M. program at U of H, which was, at that time, one of the best programs in the nation. And so I had a class—was in a class with five people ; really great, you know, minds and I really enjoyed my study there. I got to study one summer with—through Syracuse University and went to study in Europe and studied their healthcare system and meet with all their bioethicists, and I felt like health policy is something that is universal to everybody and it’s where you can make a lot of difference. But then I got recruited by these law firms. (laughs) I was facing graduation at that time and thinking, you know, I got all these student loan debts, my brother is still in medical school, he still has residency to go through, my parents have these younger kids to take care of, my sister was still in medical school, and I felt that pressure to at least get out and start making money and start helping them. And so I was recruited by a big law firm to work in their health law department, but it was really transactional work ; hospital mergers and whatnot with that regulatory overlay. So that was a lot of what I did for seventeen years. But because of my immigration background, there was always a need for immigration help too, so I also built a book of business with companies that were looking to hire people from outside the country ; you know, hospitals that were needing to hire cancer researchers or cardiac CT [cardiothoracic] surgeons that they weren’t able to find in the U.S., or engineers that were more involved in R and D [Research and Development] because the U.S. engineers tend to get their bachelor’s and go and work, whereas the foreign graduates would go on and get their master’s and their Ph.D.s, and those were the skillsets that a lot of the R and D companies were looking for. asylum law ; human rights law 3521 Impact of refugee experience on attitudes about the law BRODY: Interesting. How much did your own experience, your own life experience, inform your work in the law, or your way of looking at the law? TRAN: Oh, it just really, definitely colors everything that I look at, and how I look at— BRODY: How so? TRAN: Well, basic human rights. I mean, to me, law is not just local or federal, but there’s some basic human laws that preexist even the, you know, the formation of this country. Asylum is a doctrine that has been around for thousands and thousands of years, that human beings have an ethical, even a moral and legal obligation to give safe haven to people who are fleeing from their country because they are not able to exercise some very basic rights, or they’re not able to change something that is so immutable to them as, you know, the race that they were born in or the religion that they followed. And so I look at law with everything from that stance, you know, a basic human rights stance, and due process. And so even if it’s a traffic light law that they implement, I am a strong believer that you have to go through the whole due process, you know, you have to meet due process in implementing something like that. BRODY: Yeah. So it sounds like your own experience is really informing how you have gone about your work and—are there other things that you’ve been doing that you feel like are flavored by the experiences you’ve had? TRAN: Yes, definitely. So after the—I think practice of transaction law is really—it’s great, but it’s very—the actual application of it’s all reading and writing and arguing over little points and deals and, in the end, it’s about, you know, formalizing in paper and legalese what each party wants to get out of a particular deal, whether it’s a hospitalmerger or, you know, a large multibillion dollar deal to develop a sports arena. It’s about making money and engaging in, you know, transactions between parties, but it always came down to money in the end. That was the very—you know, the ultimate goal of the transactions that I did, all the MNA [Master Netting Agreement] work that I did, and it was so far removed from where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be able to do and the connection that I made. So being able to maintain the immigration law piece of my practice, even if I was representing a hospital or a company that was bringing in an engineer—I got to speak to the engineer, I got to get information about them, and even if I never met the person, I knew that I was actually making a difference in somebody’s life. I was able to give them an opportunity to contribute to society. And also, it really made me understand why this country had been so far ahead and had become a leader in the world is because we had this constant intake, this constantly influx of new talent and of skill and new motivation that drove the country forward in progress. I mean, I was bringing in people that had skills that were just phenomenal, people that were doing, you know, research that was not being done in the U.S. in every field, whether it was petroleum exploration or medical field. And, you know, being able to bring them in—and they’re the ones who were contributing to our growth as a country. And so I did feel like I was, in a way, contributing back in that way. due process ; human rights ; law ; legal views 3791 Engagement with politics BRODY: Sure. That sounds like—that makes me think about politics too. Are you—have you or your family been engaged with politics in the United States? TRAN: Oh, yes. Well, we’ve proven very active, I think—I was not as—had I not gone into law, I don’t think I would’ve been as—in a position to even be knowledgeable enough, but I think my first year out of school and seeing how a piece of legislation that was passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed by a Democratic president—even though when he signed it, he signed it begrudgingly saying, you know, “I don’t agree with this law, it’s going to affect a lot of family members—people who have lived here for a long time.” I think what he was saying was that, “Reelect me and we’ll try to find a way to fix it.” But it’s a lot easier to pass a law than to fix a law. It takes a lot more time (laughs) and effort into fixing a law. And so that was my first taste of seeing how politics and law affects everyday lives. I mean, in my practice I had another situation where there was a teenage boy who was eighteen at the time, same situation. He was a permanent resident, able to, you know—just never bothered to apply for citizenship, and he was facing deportation. And Lamar Smith, who was a congressman in Texas at that time, he was one of the proponents of this Immigration Reform Act that was passed in ’95. His mom that this—this gentleman’s mom lived in Lamar Smith’s district. She went to his office and explained her son’s situation, and their response was, “Well, why don’t you write down all of your equities and present it before the immigration court?” I mean they had no idea that they had taken that relief away from this family. BRODY: Yeah, the real-life impact of the law. TRAN: Exactly, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that we elect people to represent us, and we elect them to make sure that laws that are passed are going to benefit us as a society, yet a lot of these lawmakers are taking actions and doing things that they don’t even understand the consequences of. BRODY: Yeah, how do you think that can be addressed? TRAN: Well, I mean, I think more education, but that’s really hard. I mean, I think— when I left law and went back to do occupational therapy, which was my second career, I thought there’s always going to be somebody. I mean, I was very impressed with the bar at the time, I got to meet a lot of very articulate people, a lot of very driven people, especially in the immigration bar, and I always felt that they’re always going to be there to fight the good fight. They were always going to be able to do it better than I can, because I’m not as articulate as they are, I am not as capable as they are, and so there’s always going to be people that are going to be able to fight and stand up in this area. But I’m just ready to do something that’s going to be a lot more—not as combative. That’s going to be more in my own caregiving nature. immigrants ; Immigration Reform Act 1985 ; law ; politics 4008 Career change to occupational therapy BRODY: So you’re doing occupational therapy now? TRAN: Yes. (laughs) BRODY: Tell me what led you down that path. TRAN: Okay, so after my fourth child was born, you know, I guess I was going back to my roots in psychology, and I was—I kept looking at him and thinking, You know, he’s going to be—eighteen years he’s going to be gone, and what am I going to do? Am I ©Baylor University 37 going to continue sitting at my desk and writing these petitions and—yeah, it’s great to talk. My favorite part of practice was being able to talk to people and talk to clients and consult with them but, you know, the work itself that I do for them is all paper-driven, and it was very isolating, because I do need that human interaction. And so after about seventeen years of it I said, you know, I need to do something else and I want to do something else. The more I looked to occupational therapy the more I really felt like that was field for me because, first of all, I just believe in the power of occupational therapy because it helps people be able to function in a better—you know, function with what needs that they have in their lives and what they desire to be able to—to do in their life, to make their life more satisfying. And with my background in health policy, I had studied, you know, all the different—you know, the different approaches to healthcare, not just in the U.S. but in Europe too. And having a lot of healthcare professionals in my family that a lot of doctors—it was frustrating to see doctors patching people up and sending them home, but they’re not giving any instruction or any assistance in what they—they still need to live their life, they still have a baby to feed, they still have kids to take care of, they still have a dog to walk, and doctors, they just, you know, operate on them or they give them medication and that was it. And so I did see that the more research I did, the more I saw that occupational therapy was a field that I could be able to be able to pull from both my health policy background as well as my law background and then, also, my own—I think my personal talents, because I have a talent for being able to identify when one of my kids was struggling with a task and helping them be able to practice that one step until they are able to master it. And so I’m just a natural problem solver by nature. And so it’s a great field for me. I mean, I love it. I worked really hard, ©Baylor University 38 harder than I have expected because education changed so much from the twentysomething years before when I had last gone to school, but my goal in the end is always to be able to at least practice a few years. And also occupational therapy gave me the freedom to do work that was more fungible than law. I mean, when I was doing law, I would have a client that I would stick with for months or years, you know? And it wasn’t something that I could easily transfer to somebody else. Every time I had a baby, I was either working immediately afterwards or meeting clients a week later or consulting with another attorney on another client, so I never was able to get away from that work because my fingerprint was all over it. And it was very stressful to be able to know that that kind of responsibility hung on me while I had so many other responsibilities at home in raising my kids too, and helping Thai with his practice. So I saw occupational therapy—I went in knowing that I would only do PRN [pro re nata] work, and that would give me the flexibility to be able to do that work, and then when the kids are older, be able to go back and be able to speak with a lot more authority that I was in the clinical world and I could identify where all the problems are and be able to be a part of the solution for it. career change ; health policy ; occupational therapy 4279 Marriage and Family Life/Role of Vietnamese culture in approach to family BRODY: So you—that sounds like a good transition but a really different world that you went through, law to occupational therapy. (Tran laughs) You mentioned your family, so your husband and you have four kids. Tell me a little bit about your home life. TRAN: Oh gosh, it’s very hectic, to say the least. (laughs) BRODY: So your husband is— ©Baylor University 39 TRAN: Yes, he’s also Vietnamese, he came to the U.S. when he was ten, not in ’75, but they left in ’79. BRODY: How did you meet? TRAN: We met—he was a classmate of my sister’s in medical school. So I met him through her. And so we dated—started dating after I graduated from law school. BRODY: Had you always thought that you would marry another Vietnamese person? TRAN: No, it’s so funny, I grew up thinking that Vietnamese men were yucky, (laughs) because of the stories I told you earlier. You know, they were, you know, very chauvinistic and weren’t very nice. I didn’t think that they were very nice and didn’t appreciate women and what they can bring to the table. And so I really didn’t, all through high school, even, I didn’t think that I would ever marry a Vietnamese person. It wasn’t until college where I felt that I was able to come into my own and really identify with—I think in college, I was able to identify with more the—being away from my family, I think, also made me realize how homesick I was and how much I valued my family and my connection with my family. Through that, I was able to really know myself more, in that sense, and I realized that, you know, I probably would marry a Vietnamese person because they did share the same, I think, approach to family. connections to family ; family life ; identity ; marriage ; values 4388 Ideas about family life BRODY: Yeah, can you tell me about, like, how you would articulate that approach to family, or that mindset? TRAN: I think because family is not—at least the culture that I came from, family is not just the nuclear family, because I grew up with my uncle in the house, my grandmother in the house, my two aunts, and they didn’t leave until they got married. And even when they got married, they were still very involved in our lives. We saw them weekly, all three of them had houses that were within two miles of us and we saw each other every weekend. BRODY: For meals? TRAN: Yes. And so raising a family was not just the job of two parents, but it was also the job of the aunts and uncles too. And, you know, you have that support, and when you—when I was living away, for the first time, from my family in college—even though it wasn’t that far, but just not being in the house anymore—was the first time I felt, like, true loneliness. And I think having family grounds you. You know, grounds you in a way that when you’re facing all the changes that life will throw at you, you do have them to fall back on. You do have them as sounding boards to help guide you. My cousin, my aunt’s daughter, got pregnant when she was sixteen. And what she—I really do think that if she had not been born in the family that she was born in—and then also the man—the boy that she was involved in, he was also Vietnamese—and she could’ve easily been— end up being another welfare mom, you know? But the whole family came together and problem-solved together how to address the situation, how to support her, and they always called on my dad, because they didn’t have a dad around, so they always called on my dad for advice and guidance. And so she ended up having the baby and my aunt says,“You’re not going to get married, even if you need to graduate from high school at least.” So she graduated from high school, and even after high school she goes, “You’re not going to get married until you graduate from college, you need to go to college.” During that time, his mom took care of the baby for them, and my grandmother, my aunts, everybody was there for her when she needed. She always had somebody to help her with the baby because she had family on both sides, and she wouldn’t have been able to have that, you know, if she had been born, I think, in a different situation or under different circumstances. extended family ; parenting 4587 Dating BRODY: Sure. That makes sense. So you went on a date, you were set up by your sister. TRAN: Oh, I wasn’t set up. (laughs) So she—yeah, so my sister, you know, in the medical field, there were a lot more Vietnamese people, students, than in law school. And so she—when she started medical school, she got to know all the other Vietnamese students in her class. And she was making a Vietnamese noodle soup at our apartment, and I lived with her at the time. So she invited all of them over for dinner and that’s how I met him. Yeah, but we didn’t start dating until two years later. We would see each other at different social gatherings and whatnot, but didn’t date until two years after we met. BRODY: Right. And then now it’s been how many years? TRAN: (laughs) Wow. I think it’s going to be twenty years anniversary next year, in 2019. So almost twenty-three years? children ; dating ; marriage ; pho 4648 Identity and Tradition BRODY: Wow, and four kids. And so when you think about your life together and your kids, do you identify yourself more as Vietnamese, Vietnamese American? Do you notice differences between your perspective and your husband’s perspective? TRAN: Oh yes, I think so. I mean, I think Thai is a lot more—he’s more of a traditionalist in terms of Vietnamese values ; one, because he’s older and, I think, two, because his family is even more traditional than mine. His family, on a whole, is older than my family. His parents are more than ten years older, and his oldest sister is a grandmother, his oldest sister. And so he is towards the younger end of his siblings, and he has an extended family that’s very close, even closer than my family. And so they identify very strongly with their roots. And I understand that too. Like, his siblings, all eight of them are married to Vietnamese. His brother was involved with a girl who was Filipino and he has a son from that relationship, but he eventually married a Vietnamese girl. And so they have a child. And on my side, three of our siblings are married to Vietnamese and three are married to Caucasians, Americans. And we were much younger ; the oldest sibling in my family was six when we came over, and I was four. And I think being a girl, I don’t know if it’s just—I don’t know if it’s more cultural—as I’ve gotten older, I don’t know if it’s more cultural or it was more the fact of the gender that makes a difference in how close you stay to your family, because both my brothers, one’s married to an American Caucasian girl and one is married to a Vietnamese, but both of them, I think, are not as close and as attentive as the daughters are—including the daughters who are not married to Vietnamese. So as I’ve gotten older, I think my perspective has gotten broader in that sense, because in my own experience as a daughter, you know, when my grandmother was towards the end of her life and she was on her deathbed, all the granddaughters, every single one of the granddaughters—I think the youngest granddaughter, at that time, was high school or even early college. All the granddaughters were there. Not only all the granddaughters were there, but each granddaughter’s either husband, fiancé, or boyfriend was present. And the boyfriends were of all different types of ethnic background. But there was only one grandson that was there, and he was the one who was not dating anybody or married at that time. |01:20:59| generational differences ; identity ; interethnic marriage ; interracial marriage ; traditions ; values ; Vietnamese traditions 4862 American identity vs. Vietnamese American identity BRODY: So it’s hard to parse out gender, culture, and so on. I don’t know. So do you think of yourself as American? TRAN: I think of myself as—I think I think of myself as Vietnamese American, for sure. BRODY: And what does that mean to you? TRAN: I think it means that I’m an immigrant, you know? First of all, I’m an immigrant who comes from an ethnic culture that has a specific taste in food, they share certain traditions and perceptions in life. But then I’m also very, I think, Americanized. I’ve always been—you know, it was kind of hard because the Vietnamese kids that I knew growing up all the way through school always considered my sister and me too Americanized, but then we were never Americanized enough for our American friends. (laughs) But the reason why is because I think we weren’t—my dad did not raise us— he’s traditional, but I think his mindset and his outlook on our development encouraged us to be—to, I think, express ourself and pursue interests that probably wouldn’t even be on the mindset or even be in the reality of some of my peer. I mean, I didn’t realize until I was in—probably in college—that some of my friends, some of my Vietnamese girl friends have been told by their parents, had been made to feel that they were less because they were girls, or they were discouraged from pursuing higher educational opportunities or higher education because they were girls. BRODY: Wow, by their parents. TRAN: By their parents. American identity ; gender ; identity ; immigrant identity ; tradition ; Vietnamese American identity 4955 Feminism/Attitudes about gender I didn’t realize until I was in—probably in college—that some of my friends, some of my Vietnamese girl friends have been told by their parents, had been made to feel that they were less because they were girls, or they were discouraged from pursuing higher educational opportunities or higher education because they were girls. BRODY: Wow, by their parents. TRAN: By their parents. BRODY: Growing up, even though they were growing up here in the United States. So your dad was not like that? TRAN: Not at all, and I didn’t even—I wasn’t even aware of that until I started talking more to my other Vietnamese girl friends as we’ve gotten older. I had a friend who—her dream was always to go to medical school, and she was the second oldest, but her dad told her that she had to go to pharmacy school because she would be too old to get married if she went to medical school. So her older brother went to medical school. Her baby sister went to medical school, and her younger brother went to medical school. But she was the only one who went to a pharmacy school. BRODY: That’s a sad story. TRAN: Yes. BRODY: So as a mom of daughters—I know you have daughters as well as a son—you know, who grew up here, how do you approach those types of issues? TRAN: I think I’ve become a lot—I’ve found my feminist voice a lot more since having daughters. I try to let them know that I’m not one to, I think, sugarcoat the world for them. I’m not going to say, “Oh, you could be the best that you can be.” Yes, I tell them, I encourage them all the time, you can be whatever you want with a lot of hard work. And that’s part of the reason why I decided to go back to school, because I felt that the time that I was put into going to school and—versus the time that I would spend being with them and raising them, I think what—if I had lived by example, it could show them that they can do whatever, they do have the strength to do whatever they want if they— with enough hard work. But then I also am very realistic to let them know all the—I think, all the dynamics in our culture and our society still that are still working against that. BRODY: What do you mean by that? TRAN: To be a country as we are now and never having had a female leader is just—I think it speaks volumes to the culture. The American culture is a lot more misogynist than, I think, I thought and, I think, what most people had thought, and so we’re right at this point where there’s the turning point of “#MeToo.” We still have a long way to go, I think, in changing people’s perceptions, and I think it’s turning towards the right way, in the right direction, but I always tell our girls that, you know, it’s up to their generation to bring it even further along. #MeToo ; feminism ; gender ; misogyny Feminism 5153 Thoughts about American identity/Freedom and opportunity BRODY: Right. That’s hopeful. When you think about your kids growing up as, obviously, American and yourself and your own experiences and your husband’s experiences and your parents’ experiences, what—if you could in just a couple of words or one word, describe what it means to you to be American. What does that mean when somebody says, “I’m American,” or, you know, sum up what that sort of means to you personally? TRAN: I think America, the U.S., has always been—has stood in a position of uniqueness in the opportunities. And I know it sounds very cliché-ist, but it’s true that the opportunities that are available to immigrants here, to be able to be who they want to be and to be able to pursue their dreams or what they want to accomplish with enough work—and luck too, because that’s not to say if you have no family support, how can you even go to school? I mean, if you have five kids and you have nobody to watch them, how can you even go to school? And so—but I still think that the U.S. has more open doors and avenues, opportunities that will allow people who are willing to and able to, to be able to make something of themself, whatever that may be, more than other cultures. We have friends in Italy and I talk to them a lot about, you know, about the differences. And in Italy and in a lot of European countries still, there are still a lot of class-based barriers to advancement that are not available in the U.S. because, you know, we were— we’re a hodgepodge of immigrants that came in with, you know, not a lot of distinction between class. And so I think being American is being able to—I think, being a beneficiary of that system, coming from that system where you think of the mindset of having that individual liberty to do what you want and accomplish what you want in your life and in your family’s life and making those decisions. In a sense, that also adds to some of our problems in our—you know, because we give voice to everybody, even if it’s a dissenter, then a lot of the policies that we want to be able to enact that—you know, in Europe you would think, oh yeah, it’s unbalanced, it’s going to be—that makes more sense, this is more pragmatic, it’s going to benefit more people. But, you know, because we have to respect the religious liberty of a certain group of people, we’re not able to provide the level of sexual education in our school as the majority of the people would want, and that’s just one example. But I think being American is having to live with that reality— BRODY: Compromise. TRAN: —is that you have to give voice and have to respect everybody’s voice. I think it’s a huge amount of freedom and liberty that people take advantage of and don’t always use it in the right way and can hurt people through the exercise of their freedom, but at the same time, it opens you up to possibilities that are not available in other countries. American identity ; being American ; class ; freedom ; hard work ; immigration ; liberty ; luck ; opportunities ; opportunity ; social class 5399 Vietnamese community in North Texas today/Changes in the community BRODY: That’s true. I wanted to circle back just to one more thing, the Vietnamese community today. What are the main differences that you notice between when you first—your family first came, and what we have around us in north Texas today. ©Baylor University 48 TRAN: I think that’s really interesting, because I left Dallas about ten years to go to law school and I was down there for ten years before I moved back. And so when I moved back I had—our first child was one, and I thought coming back, I’m going to go back to the same community, it’s going to be the same tight-knit community, both within my family and then within the larger Vietnamese community where I’m going to raise my kids, and it did not—it has not turned out to be like that, surprisingly. BRODY: Really? What are the differences? TRAN: I think, you know, back then the community was much smaller, so it was a lot— we had to rely more on each other. And now the community is so large, it’s not homogenous anymore. It’s made up of people with—Vietnamese people with very many—with different backgrounds who came over through different avenues and, even now, is made of Vietnamese people who are here temporarily. You know, people who are here on student visas, people who have no intention of staying here but are just currently here to visit family, or currently here to get an education or are currently here to work a temporary job and go back to Vietnam. And so it’s not as tight-knit, it’s not as homogenous, and as our families have gotten older, my parents—you know, each individual family becomes their own family. Like my uncle has become the head of his own family with his four kids and eventually his grandkids, and my dad is the same way, and so within the aunts and uncles, we’re not as close anymore either. BRODY: Is that due to time or distance? TRAN: I think it’s time and distance, and then also the passing of my grandmother, because she was the one that tied everybody together. And then also because my husband did not grow up in a Vietnamese community, really. He’s more Vietnamese than I am, but he grew up in El Paso with his uncle, so he didn’t go to temple, he didn’t have a traditional Vietnamese community, a greater Vietnamese community that he saw regularly. He had a bigger network of people because of his family being bigger and the people they knew. So he had interaction with the Vietnamese community through, I think, more family interaction. And he’s also very anti-religious establishment, and so raising—he wasn’t too keen on raising our kids in the Vietnamese Catholic church, but that was the only avenue we could go—it was only placement for them to be able to learn and interact with other Vietnamese kids. And then I thought, Well, why don’t we go—if you’re against the Catholic church, let’s put them in the temple. Because, you know, they also offer a lot of the same social activities. No, he’s not—he didn’t want to send them to a temple, (laughs) and so they have grown up with not as much interaction with Vietnamese— Dallas ; Vietnamese community 5613 Passing on Vietnamese language BRODY: Do they speak Vietnamese? TRAN: They don’t. BRODY: Because those two avenues would’ve been the way to learn the language. TRAN: Yes, exactly. Because we speak English, there’s no need for them to speak Vietnamese, even though our oldest spoke Vietnamese until she started preschool and ©Baylor University 50 then after that, everybody else—all the other kids just spoke English because she spoke English. BRODY: Tell me about how that makes you feel, are you— TRAN: I feel like that is my biggest failure as a parent, because my in-laws, they don’t speak Vietnamese—I mean, they don’t speak English. They came over when they were in their sixties, and so they resettled from Vietnam into Holland for many years. And they were there until they—until I started dating Thai. And so when they finally came to the U.S., they were much older, probably about my grandmother’s age. So by then, it’s too late to really pick up a new language. And English is a hard language to pick up when you’re older, and so my kids cannot communicate with their grandparents on their dad’s side. And I do feel a lot of guilt because of that, because it’s—it really affects their ability to get to know their grandparents, and for the grandparents to get to know them, too. But they can speak to my parents, because my parents know English. BRODY: Sure. Yeah, language is an important piece of culture, for sure. TRAN: Yes, it really is. culture ; English language ; language learning ; parenting ; Vietnamese language 5706 Reflections on immigrants and assimilation/Melting Pot BRODY: Well, I want to say thank you for this conversation. Is there anything that you wanted to add or anything that I did not ask you? TRAN: Oh gosh, I think that—I think I want to add, like, one perception that I was able to gain when I started working at Zale Lipshy [University Hospital], where I do my PRN work with occupational therapy. I was able to treat a patient who was Nigerian, and he belongs to a Catholic church, a Nigerian Catholic church. And seeing the men who would come and visit him from the church community, it reminded me of my family back in, you know, back when we first came to the US and how tight-knit they were, and it does make me sad, in a way, to see that every group of immigrants that have come to the U.S., eventually they end up integrating into the general population and then eventually phasing out in their cultural values until another group comes in. And so, you know, I think that’s just the process of life. BRODY: Do you think that’s the melting pot? TRAN: Yeah, that’s the melting pot. But we have to keep more metals (laughs) coming in to add to that pot, because that’s what adds to the color of it. BRODY: That’s really interesting, yes, and this area certainly has a lot of different immigrant groups melting together, so— TRAN: Well, thank you so much for speaking with me to today. assimilation ; immigrant integration ; immigration ; integration ; melting pot ; Zale Lipshy Baylor University Institute for Oral History Yen Tran Oral History Memoir Interview Number 1 Interviewed by Betsy T. Brody November 2, 2018 Richardson, Texas Project -- Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans: The Making of the Vietnamese Community in North Texas BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is November 2, 2018. I am interviewing, for the first time, Ms. Yen Tran. This interview is taking place in my home in Richardson, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History, and is part of the Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans project. Okay, thank you for joining me, and I just wanted to ask you, first of all, how old were you when you left Vietnam? |00:00:29| TRAN: I was four. I was four years old. BRODY: Tell me about how you got here and what your story was. TRAN: Well, my dad had worked for the US embassy in Vietnam as an interpreter, and so before the actual fall he was well aware that he would not be able to stay in the country once the Viet Congs took over, and so-- BRODY: It would be too dangerous? TRAN: Yes. And actually, before that, he had been picked up a couple of times already by the local authorities, and my mom had to actually go and find him and pay money to get him out. So even though during the time that he had worked with the US embassy, he didn&#039 ; t make his job or his role with them very public, but he knew that his life and our lives would be in danger if we had stayed. And so he was responsible for my grandmother and my younger--his two younger sisters and younger brother from the age of ten. And so he didn&#039 ; t just think about the family as his wife and the four kids that he had, but he had an obligation to take his mom along, his two teenage sisters and his brother, who was studying at university at that time. And so we were airlifted from Vietnam and we travelled through Guam, then the Philippines, and then stayed in a refugee camp in California before we were offered permanent resettlement in Dallas. We were sponsored by the Catholic Church and the diocese in Dallas. There were about twenty families that were sponsored, and we were taken in by the people at the St. Pius Church in east Dallas. My father, at the time, when we were leaving, he sent us on--my brothers and sisters and my mom and his two sisters and his mom first, so it was just two female adults and six underage children travelling to Guam and the Philippines, and my father had to get an American GI [General Issue] to fly him by helicopter over to the island to look for his younger brother who was working on his PhD, I believe, at that time on an island right off of Vietnam. And so he found him, and then miraculously they were dropped in the same refugee camp in Guam where we were. And then from there we were able to travel together as a family. BRODY: That&#039 ; s amazing that he ended up in the same place that you were. TRAN: It really was. |00:03:29| BRODY: What do you remember--I know you were young, but what do you remember of the airlift? TRAN: I remember--so I remember vividly the day that we left. There was a candy store--it wasn&#039 ; t even really a candy store, it was probably just a stand--that I used to walk to every day to buy candy. And the day that we left, I remember seeing people tearing down the candy stand and not really understanding, you know, what was going on. Then my grandmother, who is--she&#039 ; s a survivor and she&#039 ; s very loud and she was probably the one that&#039 ; s constantly keeping us together, because I&#039 ; m sure it was complete chaos at that time with so--them trying to get so many people out of the country. It was a miracle that they kept all of us together (laughs) during the trip. But I do remember the day that we were reunited with my dad and my uncle, because we were in the refugee camp, I was just waking up from a nap, and I could hear my grandmother and my aunt say, &quot ; Oh, there&#039 ; s Sao, there&#039 ; s Sao!&quot ; And I looked around and I saw my dad walking towards us. It was almost like a dream, because at four years old, it&#039 ; s hard to make sense of things, but you also sense it through the adults who are around you and what kind of anxiety and stress that they have, and you could feel that--I don&#039 ; t remember if I knew that my dad wasn&#039 ; t with us, but I do remember the sense of excitement and relief when he came walking towards us, and how my grandmother and my mom was just overwhelmed by it. |00:05:11| BRODY: That&#039 ; s just absolutely amazing that you all were in Guam together. So after Guam, you headed to California? TRAN: I think we went from Guam to the Philippines, and then we went to California. BRODY: And then how did you find out or arrange the--do you know much about how the adults arranged the sponsorship, or-- TRAN: From what I remember, I think we were in California for a while. I remember we lived in tents, you know, and not very different from the tents that we lived in in the Philippines or Guam. But there would be American soldiers working the food lines, and we would go every day to get our food, we had tickets. But I think they were just, at that point, just getting the first wave of refugees in and probably relying on charities and churches to sponsor and help resettle these refugees that were coming in from Vietnam. BRODY: Right, so this is still 1975. TRAN: Yes, 1975. |00:06:20| BRODY: So the connection with North Texas is through the sponsorship of the Catholic Church and St. Pius. Tell me what you remember about your initial impressions or arrival in Texas. TRAN: Oh, wow, so I remember getting on the plane to fly from California to Texas, and I still remember--I think it was the Delta airline, and the stewardess gave me a little pin with wings, and I remember looking out the window and seeing ocean, even. But the first few years, I think I just remember my grandmother and my aunts and uncles, the old adults, just recounting those first days. For us, you know, we were just kids, we just kind of go with the flow to where we were and what we needed to do, because at that time, I was just speaking Vietnamese to my siblings, but you know, soon after our arrival we started kindergarten, and so we started going to school. But my grandmother would talk about how the first--when they first got there, they just didn&#039 ; t even know how to go to a grocery store. My dad said that, you know, he was the first one to ever go to the grocery store, and he didn&#039 ; t know what to even buy, he even bought a jar of oysters, when he brought it home he didn&#039 ; t know what to do with it. (both laugh) And then my mom and my aunts would walk to the store and my uncle would tell them, &quot ; You have to walk&quot ; -- there was a certain route that they thought they had to go in order to get to the store, but my aunt and my grandmother, my mom thought, There&#039 ; s a faster way, but my uncle just kept insisting that they go that way every day. But one day they had enough courage to say, &quot ; You know what? We&#039 ; re not going to listen to them, we&#039 ; re just going this way,&quot ; and so slowly they started, you know, being able to figure things out and navigate through life in the US. |00:08:24| BRODY: Initially, where were you living? TRAN: We were living in--I think we were living in an--I think at the time there were dorms, is what my dad told me. There were dorms on the UTD [University of Texas-- Dallas] campus, or somewhere around there. And then we were actually sponsored, officially sponsored, we started moving in homes and renting homes around the St. Pius neighborhood. Our very first home that we rented was very close to the church there, and of the twenty families that were resettled there, there was--I know of one who still lives there. BRODY: Really? TRAN: Yes. |00:09:10| BRODY: Wow. So you lived in a house near the church. Was the church sort of a hub for the families? TRAN: Yes, it really was. It was a hub for the entire Vietnamese community, and because my dad and my uncle were the only ones who knew how to speak English, they did--they looked to my dad and uncle, especially my dad, a lot too as kind of the liaison and the leader, and every time somebody was in the hospital, they would call my dad to come out and act as an interpreter. He was the one who kind of--he was the one who interfaced with Monsignor Weinzapfel, who was the head--who was the pastor at St. Pius at that time. And we were able to have Vietnamese church, you know, Vietnamese Mass at St. Pius at the four o&#039 ; clock slot on Sunday. And so once that was established, then more Vietnamese families from around the area started congregating to St. Pius. BRODY: That&#039 ; s really interesting. So were there activities for kids, for the Vietnamese refugees and their children or for family activities? TRAN: Yeah, I mean, we would have--you know, they would--every New Year&#039 ; s they would have a special Mass in celebration, and of course they always had the ceremony, the flag ceremony and the anthem, singing of the old anthem, and it was always the old flag, (laughs) it was never the new flag at all. So they still tried to continue that tradition, and then they also offered Vietnamese classes and Vietnamese--and then also Sunday School, so CCD [Confraternity of Christian Doctrine] classes in Vietnamese. So I--my sister and I--I have a twin sister--she and I and a friend of mine who still lives in this area--her parents are the ones who still have that house near St. Pius--we were one of the first, I guess, graduating class to get our first communion in the Vietnamese Catholic community there at St. Pius. BRODY: That&#039 ; s great, I would love to see pictures. TRAN: (laughs) Actually, I do have one. |00:11:33| BRODY: That&#039 ; s interesting, what you said about the anthem and the ceremony and the flag. How involved in the postwar politics of Vietnam do you think--I mean, in your experience, were some of the older generation refugees? TRAN: They took a very strong stance because, you know, the wave of immigrants I came with were the ones who were truly, you know, fleeing from the war because of their own political stance, and they had lost their country not of their own will. They didn&#039 ; t leave their country of their own will, and so there was a loss there, and there was a lot of fear of the communists. I remember my aunts always making comments and jokes about, &quot ; Oh, the Viet Congs, they&#039 ; re going to come get us,&quot ; or &quot ; He&#039 ; s Viet Cong,&quot ; or whatever. BRODY: Even after being here? TRAN: Yes. Being here, you would always hear, &quot ; Oh, he&#039 ; s a Viet Cong, he&#039 ; s Viet Cong.&quot ; And so, you know, I grew up with that--the term Viet Cong was meaning something to be scared and fearful of, because I heard the adults in my family, you know, speaking--using it in a way that was not--that was out of fear, anxiety, and negative connotation. But over the years as, you know, the US and Vietnam relations had started to thaw, several years ago there was a lady who--I guess that she&#039 ; s a nanny for my sister and she also helped me out when Mi Lan, my second, was born. And her daughter was going through the senior project that she was doing in high school, and so she wanted to interview me, and the questions that--she made a comment during the interview, because she grew up--she was born and grew up under the new regime. And the comments that she made, initially I was surprised at my reaction, because I was very taken aback that she was very sympathetic to the government that she grew up in. And it was interesting that I caught myself having that reaction. |00:14:04| BRODY: Yeah, that is really interesting, the different generational experience, I guess. Tell me about school. So if you were kindergarten when you first came, what was your experience of--what high school--or what kindergarten did you go to? TRAN: So I went to Gill Elementary. We started off in kindergarten with a lot of the other Vietnamese children that had also relocated close to St. Pius. And then after a year, my dad found a house probably about, maybe, two miles away, but in another school zone, and so our whole family moved there and then I went to Truett Elementary until sixth grade, because elementary school went through sixth grade at that time. BRODY: So in the first school, where there were a lot of Vietnamese kids, what was that like? Were you--did you feel comfortable having people who had shared a similar experience? TRAN: I don&#039 ; t remember much about it, but I do remember not feeling out of place in kindergarten. I honestly didn&#039 ; t feel out of place until we moved, in first grade, to the school that was just two miles away, but didn&#039 ; t have any Vietnamese students there. So looking back, I can now put it into perspective and put in context, you know, and make more sense of some of the experiences and how I was--I guess how some of the students reacted to me and-- |00:15:41| BRODY: Tell me about that. How did they react to you? TRAN: I do remember standing in the lunch line one time, and there was a friend of mine, her name was--I don&#039 ; t remember her name now--she was a very sweet girl, we were very close and she always made me feel welcomed, even though I started school, not in kindergarten but first grade. And we were standing in lunch line and she told me that her uncle--she knew that I was Vietnamese, and she said that her--and she said it not in a mean way but just like what a six-year-old would say. She said, &quot ; Yeah, my uncle fought in the Vietnam War, and he told me that I&#039 ; m not supposed to talk to anybody who&#039 ; s Vietnamese.&quot ; BRODY: Oh boy. TRAN: And I couldn&#039 ; t--you know, as a six-year-old I just couldn&#039 ; t--I couldn&#039 ; t make sense of it. I didn&#039 ; t know how I was supposed to feel, but I didn&#039 ; t know even how to respond to that at the time. |00:16:44| BRODY: Do you remember how you responded? TRAN: I don&#039 ; t remember saying anything because, you know, I didn&#039 ; t know much about the war other than that we had to leave our country and that, I do know that the Vietnamese who ran the country at that time were bad people, is what I thought. And it didn&#039 ; t make sense to me as a child that my family had fought alongside the Americans, and yet, here was an American man who had never met me before--and I was only a first grader--and he was telling his niece not to talk to me because I was from a different, you know, ethnicity or from that country. I just--yeah, it was--I think my reaction was more confusion. BRODY: Sure, sure. So the rest of your elementary school experience were--I mean, did more Vietnamese kids move into this school, or were you pretty much--? TRAN: There were a few, yes. There were a few. After a couple of years there was another kid and another kid, and they would--if my brother was around, because he was two years older, the school administration would call my brother to come and help translate for him or her, and then when he moved on--I remember, there was another girl who was new, and they actually called me to help translate for her and explain to her, you know, you can eat here, this is time to eat, this is time to go to school, go back to class. But I do remember, other than that one incident with my friend whose uncle said, you know, not--that she wasn&#039 ; t allowed to talk to me, but I do remember that there were kids who were being bused into the school where I was going ; kids who didn&#039 ; t live in the area, a lot of African American kids. And you know, I think looking back, I was experiencing and witnessing, you know, I guess, the busing phenomenon. BRODY: Right, in Dallas. TRAN: In Dallas, in the south. |00:18:59| BRODY: Yeah. What do you remember about that? Was there conflict? TRAN: Oh yes, there was a lot of conflict. I mean, you&#039 ; ve got--at the time I didn&#039 ; t understand why there was so much conflict, but now, you know, knowing the history and knowing how recent that history was, then having--injecting into that mix a whole new group of people that most people had never--in America--had never even encountered before. It must&#039 ; ve been really hard for all the children at that time to be able to make sense of. BRODY: Yeah. I think as children, it&#039 ; s probably very difficult to process what&#039 ; s going on. TRAN: Yes. Um-hm. |00:19:45| BRODY: With the sponsors, what role did they play, once you got here, in sort of setting up your life here in Texas? TRAN: They helped my dad. Mr. and Mrs. Harmon, they were our sponsors, and they helped my dad and my uncle get a job. I think it was in the computer center, hanging computer tapes, at that time, for Sun Exploration and Production. And then they also helped us, you know, just get our basic necessities, like clothing and furniture and bedding and whatnot. And then they also helped my uncle and my dad go back to school so that they could get a degree. I think both of them went back to school for computer science degrees. And so they were--through that, they were able to get positions, you know, computer analyst positions with Sun Exploration. And they worked there for, I think, until the company changed to Oryx and then, eventually, the entire IT [Information Technology] department was outsourced, maybe about sixteen years ago? And so they both worked at the same company from the time they came to the US until, you know, it was time for either early retirement or being outsourced to another company at the time. BRODY: That&#039 ; s a close family. TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) Exactly. But I do remember the Harmons inviting us over to their house for a party once, and they had a pool. And my brother, I think he&#039 ; s probably six at the time, or seven, he didn&#039 ; t know how to swim but he just ran excitedly out there and there was a little floatie, and he stepped on the floatie and, of course, fell into the pool, and the Harmons&#039 ; daughter had to jump in and save him. (laughs) |00:21:41| BRODY: That&#039 ; s a great story. So your whole family, they do sound very close. Is that something you feel like was, you know, particular to your culture of--or the experience of travelling as refugees and making a new life here? TRAN: I think it&#039 ; s very--I knew it was very particular to the culture, our culture at that time, and I think it was made--reinforced by the fact that my aunts were both underage at that time, because--so there was a certain responsibility that my father had to make sure that they finished school, and then--plus my dad being their caretaker for most of his life. My mom told me that even after she married him, whatever salary that he made, he always sent half of it home to his mom and his siblings, and then the other half was what he used to take care of us. But I think also because, I mean, when you have suffered or gone through something that&#039 ; s life-changing and stressful and traumatic, you do tend to stick together more, and so it wasn&#039 ; t just our family that was close, but all the other families were very tight-knit, too, with each other, and the community was more tight- knit because there were just fewer of us at that time. I mean, there were no Vietnamese grocery stores, you know, so whatever we could come up with, whatever could grow in the garden in our backyard, we shared with other families and vice versa. But our family, compared to other families in the community, was relatively small. My grandmother only had four kids, and so I was always jealous of my friends, because they had twenty cousins and all their cousins went to church and they hung out together, and we had no cousins, because my dad was the oldest and he was the first one to get married. It wasn&#039 ; t until much--I think--I&#039 ; m ten years older than my oldest cousin, so it wasn&#039 ; t until I was ten years old that I even had a cousin. |00:23:56| BRODY: Right. So that community that you&#039 ; re talking about, what kinds of social things did you guys do together? TRAN: Going to church every week. They also did the Christmas celebrations and the Easter celebrations, and that was always special, in addition to the Vietnamese New Year&#039 ; s. So those were always opportunities for us to do more than just go to Mass and pray, but to get together as a community and do programs and, you know, dances or singing together and sharing food. I remember growing up, there was always somebody coming to visit my house ; you know, one of the men, a couple of the men from the church would come to call on my dad, and it was just very much a part of our life. You know, if they come and then--my job was to make sure that there was tea and then we&#039 ; d bring out food or whatever to host the mother there. But it was definitely more of a closer-knit community, not just within our family but then also people visiting each other&#039 ; s homes too. BRODY: Did that persist all the way through, you know, your high school years, or did the community kind of dissipate as time passed, and-- TRAN: Yeah. I think it&#039 ; s dissipated more since times past. I think it probably persisted, probably all the way through even past law school for me, so probably over twenty years. But I think that&#039 ; s probably a function of the fact that my dad was so--had played such a large role in the community. And so every time there was something that--something with the church, then people would come and talk to him about it, and he was instrumental in actually finding a church--a separate physical facility for the Vietnamese congregation, when I was in college. So that was almost twenty years after we came, so almost twenty years after the Vietnamese congregation started at St. Pius, they were able to find a separate church and have their own presence. Because before then, we could only celebrate whenever, you know, St. Pius was available to us. BRODY: Right. So the new church is called-- TRAN: It&#039 ; s called St. Peter&#039 ; s Vietnamese Catholic Church. It&#039 ; s in Garland. |00:26:36| BRODY: I wanted to go back to talk about language because, I mean, obviously, you mentioned that you were speaking Vietnamese with your siblings at the time that you left Vietnam. How quickly or how difficult was it for you to pick up English? TRAN: It was--I guess at four, it wasn&#039 ; t that difficult at all. I remember in kindergarten speaking Vietnamese to my sister and then probably in first grade we were already in English. BRODY: Right. You learned quickly. Was that the experience of your older sibling? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: Yeah, so everybody kind of picked it up real quickly. TRAN: Yes, because he was only six. So it was very easy for him to pick up too. BRODY: Good. TRAN: Plus it was also a way for us to speak without (laughs) the adults understanding what we&#039 ; re saying. (laughs) BRODY: That&#039 ; s really funny. (laughs) So you&#039 ; re still bilingual? TRAN: Yes. BRODY: You speak both Vietnamese and in English. Are all of your siblings? TRAN: I have two younger sisters who were born here, and I think both of them, they do speak it, it&#039 ; s a little more broken than ours, but we--it helped that we had our grandmother live with us, because she could only speak Vietnamese, and she was the one who was in the house all the time. And so she was there when we left, she was there when we got home from school, she was there when our parents weren&#039 ; t home from work yet, and so we had to speak Vietnamese or we couldn&#039 ; t communicate with her. And my grandma, my mom, and my dad only spoke Vietnamese to us too. And so that&#039 ; s why they were able to speak Vietnamese. I don&#039 ; t think that they&#039 ; re as fluent as my brother and my--you know, my twin sister and I, but they&#039 ; re able to hold conversations still. BRODY: Right. So that must&#039 ; ve been pretty comforting for you all to have your grandmother in your house and also a relief for your parents. TRAN: Yes, definitely. |00:28:24| BRODY: You&#039 ; ve mentioned what your dad did. What did you mom do as far as work? TRAN: She worked for--she and my aunt, my oldest aunt--so after my oldest aunt graduated from high school and my mom and she, they both worked at Garrett, I think it&#039 ; s Garrett Electronics. It&#039 ; s a company that made metal detectors. And so they soldered electronic boards. BRODY: Had she had experience doing stuff like that before? TRAN: No, and it seemed like that was the job that a lot of the Vietnamese women did, was working in assembly jobs, working--doing soldering assembly work. BRODY: That&#039 ; s interesting. TRAN: Yeah, my mom worked that. She worked there for probably thirty years, and then my aunt is still working for the same company. BRODY: Oh, really? Are there still a lot of Vietnamese women working there? TRAN: Yes, there are, especially that generation, because they didn&#039 ; t get a chance to learn English as well, and so they weren&#039 ; t--you know, it&#039 ; s a job that didn&#039 ; t--it&#039 ; s more of a hands-on job. |00:29:30| BRODY: Right. That makes sense. So the--okay, you mentioned your garden in your house and the vegetables you grew. I know that there was not that much of a Vietnamese community in terms of the stores and restaurants and things at that time, in the seventies. What kind of vegetables did you grow, and-- TRAN: Oh wow, we grew--my grandmother was--she had a green thumb. So she didn&#039 ; t work because she was older when she came, and so that&#039 ; s what she did in her free time, she would grow bitter melon and squash, all types of Vietnamese squashes, Vietnamese water spinach, and lemongrass. What else? And then this leaf, I don&#039 ; t know how you say it in English, it&#039 ; s called (??). It&#039 ; s a large leaf, it grows on a vine, but it has a really gelatinous consistency to it when you cook it and it&#039 ; s actually supposed to be very good for you. (laughs) And then also cilantro and basil and mints, chives. She would also sprout her own bean sprouts from mung beans, so she was a very avid gardener. BRODY: And did she cook everything too? TRAN: Yes, she cooked. She cooked--and so we grew up eating Vietnamese food. Rice and Vietnamese food, and whatever she cooked, we ate the vegetables of whatever she cooked in the garden. BRODY: So did she teach you how to cook? TRAN: No, (laughs) but I learned from being in the kitchen with my mom, just starting with cutting onions and garlic, and just being in the kitchen with them, I learned to cook from there. But my grandmother, she was always such a very independent women, so she just does it and then would say, &quot ; Well, you do this,&quot ; but she&#039 ; s not--she was not the teacher type, for sure. (both laugh) |00:31:22| BRODY: So we got to first grade. So the rest of elementary school, just tell me, what do you remember about growing up as a Vietnamese American in Dallas through your schooling? TRAN: Well, elementary school was--you know, I remember having really good teachers, and then also some mean teachers at that time. It was a different, I think--it was a different time where teachers were allowed to--some teachers were allowed to yell more. I mean, paddling was really, pretty common. Of course, I mean, I was always (laughs) the perfectly behaved kid, I would never get in trouble at school, but I just never felt like I fit in very well. My--our life didn&#039 ; t consist of a lot of frivolous things. So we went to school--that was our main job--went to church, and we stayed home. And then every once in a while on the weekends, if my mom would take one of us to go the store with her, because she didn&#039 ; t want to go by herself, you know, to have somebody to translate. And that was our life, and so it was hard to develop friendships if you can&#039 ; t go to a birthday party, or you weren&#039 ; t allowed to go to a movie with somebody, because that just wasn&#039 ; t--we couldn&#039 ; t afford it and it just wasn&#039 ; t even, I think, in our parents&#039 ; radar to think that that was an important thing for us. BRODY: So was it just that, or were they afraid as well? TRAN: Yeah, I&#039 ; m sure part of it was they were also afraid of letting us out of their sight. My grandmother, especially, was also a--I think neurotically protective because of, you know, her own life situation, being that old and having to raise four kids by herself. And then my parents, my mom is also a very--a worrywart as well. And so I think it was those first few years, the adults were just focused on surviving, you know? Providing for us, and so, you know, the idea that we would even think about going to another person&#039 ; s house to play, or go to a birthday party, and that wasn&#039 ; t even something that we would even ask permission for. |00:34:00| BRODY: Right. And did they emphasize studying and education? TRAN: Oh, very much so. Very much so. BRODY: Yeah, tell me about that. TRAN: My dad especially, because he was--you know, he came from a very, very poor part of Vietnam, and he lost his dad at a very young age, and so my grandmother, even though she never went to school, she was not literate, she was very determined for her kids, mainly her boys, to have an education because she saw that as the only way to get out of poverty. And so she pushed education a lot for my father and my uncle. And my dad, I think he was the first to even graduate from high school in that time. BRODY: So she did it. TRAN: Yeah. You know, my aunt and my mom worked for--at the Garrett Electronics doing soldering work. So when I was fifteen, I worked a summer with them, and I would listen to my aunt tell stories with the other women about, you know, things that happened with her family. I learned a lot about my family from listening to--during that summer with my aunt. And she told a story about how after my grandmother lost her husband, that a lot of men would come and try to, you know, court her, but she never wanted to remarry. Men would come and try to conscript my dad and my uncle to go and fight in the war--and she&#039 ; s only 4&#039 ; 10&quot ; , seventy-seven pounds, she was a very tiny lady--and she would fight them off, she would not let them take my dad and my uncle to go fight, because she said, &quot ; My boys are going to go to school, they&#039 ; re not going to go and fight your fight and get killed.&quot ; And I don&#039 ; t know how she did it, but she was able to scare them off. (laughs) |00:36:01| BRODY: That&#039 ; s amazing. So they got their education, and then once they were here and had all of you, they also emphasized your studies. TRAN: Oh, very much so, and my dad was very progressive for his time. I really think so. And I think it had a lot to do with his background of having a strong matriarch figure. He never made my sister and me feel like we could--we could or should do less because we were a girl. You know, my two aunts were still in high school when we first came, and my second aunt, she was younger, and she met a man that she wanted to get married to her senior year in high school. And my dad was so against it. He told my grandmother, &quot ; You need to let her go to school. You need to let her have an education, you cannot allow her to get married at such a young age because she&#039 ; s going to be in the same situation that--&quot ; you know, my grandmother was. So if her husband is not able to take care of her, she would be left with nothing. So he saw education as a very--as something that was very valuable and would help my aunt, you know, be able to establish herself in this new life in the US. But my grandmother said, &quot ; Well she&#039 ; s my child, I&#039 ; ll just let her do whatever she wants,&quot ; because my grandmother, even though she pushed her sons very hard, she was pregnant with my aunt when she lost her husband. And so she really babied my youngest aunt and just let her do, really, whatever she wanted, she would let her have, and whatever she wanted to do she would let her do. And my aunt told my cousin this story a few years ago about how the night before her wedding my dad woke her up in the middle of the night and begged her not to get married, and he said, &quot ; If you go to college, I&#039 ; ll buy you a new car so you can drive to college by yourself, you don&#039 ; t have to worry about having our brother have to take you.&quot ; And of course, she didn&#039 ; t take him up on the offer. (laughs) BRODY: He was serious though. TRAN: Yes, he was that serious. |00:38:19| BRODY: So she married the man that she met while she was still in high school. TRAN: Yes. She didn&#039 ; t even go to her high school graduation. BRODY: Oh boy. TRAN: So she was--and then now--and then she divorced him many years later, and so--he was right. And she&#039 ; s still, out of the four of them, she was the only one who divorced and she has struggled financially most of her life ; hasn&#039 ; t had as stable of a life as the other siblings. |00:38:50| BRODY: That&#039 ; s hard. So, high school. Tell me about that. You must have--you and your siblings must have been among the first batch of Vietnamese Americans graduating from high schools in Dallas. TRAN: Definitely. Well, we also met--we were able to meet two more Vietnamese when we went to middle school, from our elementary school. So we did really well, yeah, academically in elementary school, and so we were invited to apply for Spence Academy, which is the GT [Gifted and Talented] Academy for DISD [Dallas Independent School District]. And so there--and the kids that I met there, I still keep in touch with, because--and they&#039 ; re from different backgrounds, and different ethnic backgrounds, but for some reason they were more like-minded and, you know, had some of the more similar values towards education and now, even many years later in speaking with them, towards social policies, but we did get to meet a couple more Vietnamese kids in middle school. And then when we went to high school, we went to a very large high school, at Skyline High School, so a class of a thousand in each grade, and so there were a few more Vietnamese students when we got to high school, but because the classes were so big, it was hard to really, you know, know a lot of people. BRODY: So did you feel by then that you were more integrated into the high school or-- TRAN: Probably not at school as much. I mean, I felt like I had my cultural identity from my church community. So by then it was--the community was growing a lot, and we got to meet with a lot--got to interact with a lot of people-- BRODY: Through church? TRAN: --through church, and I was singing in the church choir and so met more friends there. But still, through high school, I did--I still felt like one of the few people, you know, one of the few Vietnamese people in that environment. |00:41:14| BRODY: So that experience that, you know, from the very beginning that you had of not feeling like--not quite fitting in, that just kept on, or you just kind of were more tied to your Vietnamese church community? TRAN: I think in school itself it did keep on. I mean, we made friends and we did--you know, we were involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, but I always felt that I was ethnically different, you know? And I think people--my peer also, would make comments that, whether it was joking or not, that I was different. BRODY: What kind of comments? TRAN: You know, I think things that wouldn&#039 ; t be even--could be repeated these days, (laughs) that&#039 ; s not PC [politically correct], you know, the &quot ; chink&quot ; word and all the derogatory jokes about eyes and whatnot, and even I remember having a high school science teacher who made a joke about Asian--you know, the Asian language, as well. And to me, I didn&#039 ; t think it was anything--I didn&#039 ; t take offense to it, but deep down inside I knew that it just kind of--it didn&#039 ; t sit right with me, but I didn&#039 ; t know how to--I didn&#039 ; t have a word for it or how to identify it, even how to react to it. BRODY: Yeah, that&#039 ; s understandable. TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) |00:42:50| BRODY: So by the end of high school, what were you--you know, when you were thinking about your future after high school, what was your mindset and what were you looking forward to doing? TRAN: Well, I wanted to--I always had that inner drive to do something to give back. You know, I mean, everybody has their own, I guess, mode of how they interact in the world, and I know that, you know, in all the personality tests I&#039 ; ve taken in my life, you know, I rank very strong as a caregiver. And so I wanted to do something that would help people. I thought, well, maybe a social worker, but my dad was very pragmatic. He said, you know, &quot ; You have to get a job that&#039 ; s going to be able to feed your family. You have to get a profession, not just a degree.&quot ; My brother, my older brother had graduated two years before us, and he had applied to University of Dallas and gotten a full scholarship, and so he went there. And so when my sister and I were graduating, we really didn&#039 ; t have a choice on where we were going to go to school because my parents didn&#039 ; t even like the idea of us moving out, and so they wanted to keep us close in-- BRODY: They wanted you to be together? TRAN: Yes, and so we--that was the only school that we applied to, was University of Dallas. But he told us going in, because he knew it was a liberal arts school, that we had to go beyond college. It had to be professional school or graduate school at that time. BRODY: Right off the bat, you knew that&#039 ; s what you were getting into. TRAN: Yeah. (laughs) |00:44:29| BRODY: So what ended up happening? What did you major in? TRAN: I majored in psychology, which I thought was the most relevant study for me. You know, literature was great, theology was great, but I really wanted to understand human behavior and really into the human psyche and how to--I felt that way I can actually tap into how I can help people. But I didn&#039 ; t know--I wasn&#039 ; t sure of actually going on to grad school and getting a PhD and being a psychologist, because I wasn&#039 ; t convinced that that was the right or the most effective way for me to help people. And at that time, most PhD programs were only taking one per year, and even then, after you take a lot of student loans, you graduate and then the most you can do is teach, you know, at a lower salary than you could--that you would need to be able to pay back the student loans. And my parents had six kids, so they couldn&#039 ; t--they were relying on us to be as independent and financially independent as possible, as soon as possible. And so my dad called me up one day towards the end of my fall semester and--actually I had graduated a year early, because my dad--he&#039 ; d never asked us to do anything other than, you know, of course we had chores at home, but he never wanted us to feel that we had financial pressure to do anything other than going to school, and after our first semester at UD, he felt, I think, some financial pressure, because he had to take money out of his 401k to pay for our college. So he had three kids in college and three at home, and he said, &quot ; Well, if you can graduate even a semester early, that would save a lot of money.&quot ; And I think I was struck by the fact that he asked me something like that, because that was a huge thing to ask, and for him, he would never even approach us with something like that unless he felt that pressure, so I worked really hard to graduate a year early. So developed my whole graduation plan, and I was able to leave a year early. But the semester before I graduated--no, the fall semester of my last year, he said, &quot ; Well, why don&#039 ; t you look at law school too? That way you can open up your options, in case you don&#039 ; t get into one of these PhD programs.&quot ; And so I said, &quot ; Oh, okay, I guess I can do that.&quot ; But, you know, when I agreed to applying to law school, that was my--my fate was sealed as far as my parents were concerned. And I think, looking back at that time, honestly, and the fact that he even suggested law school for me, I didn&#039 ; t realize how progressive he was, because all of the Vietnamese kids my age, all my peer, were going to science-based fields. They were all going to pharmacy, or dental school, or medical school, or engineering. There were--nobody going to law school, especially females going to law school. And now, I can even recount a couple of instances where that was even--that kind of forward- thinking step was kind of--was a shock for some people. Because there was a Vietnamese friend of mine at UD at the time, and when he found out that I was going to apply to law school, he asked me, &quot ; Well, how are you going to be able to find a husband if you&#039 ; re going to be a lawyer? Everybody&#039 ; s going to be intimidated by you and by you being that educated.&quot ; BRODY: Really? |00:48:40| TRAN: And at that time, I knew enough at that point to be offended--well, be offended, but I didn&#039 ; t have an answer to that, because I hadn&#039 ; t quite developed my own voice, just for standing up for myself and my own feminist voice. And then my first year in law school, my brother&#039 ; s friend, he had a friend--he was in medical school at that time, and he had a Vietnamese friend that he had met in medical school. And so he called to our house to talk to my brother over Christmas break and I answered the phone, and he was making small talk: &quot ; Oh yeah, you&#039 ; re the sister who&#039 ; s in law school, right?&quot ; And I said yes, and he said, &quot ; How are you able to, I guess, justify being a lawyer with being a Catholic?&quot ; That was his question to me. The first time I ever talked to this person, and that was his question to me. BRODY: And what was he driving at? TRAN: I guess he was--I guess in his eyes, and I think a lot of Vietnamese people&#039 ; s eyes at that time, they didn&#039 ; t know enough about what lawyers do or the law field, they just thought maybe lawyers were ambulance chasers, or, you know, defended people who did bad things in criminal court, and they couldn&#039 ; t understand why a Vietnamese girl would choose to study law and become a lawyer when everybody else is just, you know-- BRODY: Yeah. Do you remember what you said? TRAN: I don&#039 ; t remember what I said, because I didn&#039 ; t know where he was coming from at that time. I think, maybe, I would say--I think, at that time, I was very aware of the Vietnamese refugee situation at that time. Before I went to law school, I had gotten in contact with a Vietnamese gentleman in [Washington,] DC, and he had worked with--I think he was working with Catholic Charities [USA] or the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], and he was actually in--he had worked in the refugee camps, helping people with their asylum cases too. And so he--through my contact with him, I was actually offered a position to actually go and work in the refugee camps and help people with their asylum case. BRODY: Did you do that? TRAN: My mom said, &quot ; Heck no.&quot ; (laughs) &quot ; No way. That&#039 ; s not a safe place for you to go, you need to go to law school.&quot ; And so I think--and then my first year in--my second year in law school, I made the law review international journal, and so I did a lot of research into asylum law and human rights, and so I think--I don&#039 ; t remember exactly what I said, but I think I pulled from that experience in saying, you know, that as a Catholic I think I can do a lot of good with the law as well. |00:51:47| BRODY: Yeah. Where did you go to law school? TRAN: I went to University of Houston. BRODY: Okay. And what kind of law did you end up practicing? TRAN: Okay, so my first--I went to law school knowing that I didn&#039 ; t want to do litigation, but I did well in law school because I can read and write very well. And I loved constitutional law and I loved everything that was more principle-based, rather than contract-based or property rights or criminal law and whatnot. I was really drawn to the policy work more. And so as I got closer to graduation, I did a few clerkships. I clerked at a law firm in their corporate law department, and then I clerked with the Supreme Court. And so I knew that I had a strength in being able to write judicial decisions and researching and writing, and so I wasn&#039 ; t quite ready to make a decision as to what law field I wanted to go into, and so I was able to get a position with the Attorney General&#039 ; s Honors Program. The Attorney General&#039 ; s Honors Program, they recruit students out of law school and they place them in different positions within the Department of Justice. And so I was--I interviewed with a judge from the Board of Immigration Appeals, and he actually offered me a clerkship with the Houston Immigration Court. So I clerked for five immigration judges my first year out of school, and that was, you know, where I was able to actually see firsthand human rights law, immigration law, asylum law, and how it worked and how it got played, and to see the laws changing right before my eyes while I was there that first year. I mean, I remember having a case where the gentleman had one small conviction for possession of marijuana, and because he never applied for citizenship--he was thirty, he never applied for citizenship--that made him subject to deportation under the law. But all his family were US citizens or permanent residents, he had a gainful job, he&#039 ; d never had any other criminal record, and apparently it wasn&#039 ; t even his marijuana. He was driving--he was on a date with a girl and it was hers, and he got stopped for speeding, and he took the hit for her. That landed him in deportation proceedings. But under the law before the Immigration Reform Act, he would go before the immigration court, and that would&#039 ; ve been a slam dunk case for relief. We would grant him--he met other requirements that would be in his favor, he would be granted relief from deportation and hopefully, you know, nothing like that would ever happen again. But before his case came up for hearing, the Immigration Reform Act was passed, and that took away that right. |00:55:09| BRODY: So what happened to him? TRAN: I&#039 ; m not sure, because they kept having to defer his case, and so that--and then also, the experience of having--and asylum, unlike what people think, is very hard to get. I mean, I had the awful job of determining people&#039 ; s future because the judges--if it was a really clear case that they would grant it or deny it, they would do it right then and there in their oral decision. If it was a difficult case they would give it to me, and then I would have to research the law and I&#039 ; d have to read the transcript, and then I would have to make that decision. And it was very heartbreaking to have to deny people&#039 ; s asylum cases because they didn&#039 ; t meet the standards under the law for asylum. Their lives were in danger, they were targeted by people in their home country, but it wasn&#039 ; t--you know, on the five protected grounds of, you know, race, religion, whatever. And so I knew--after my first year there, I didn&#039 ; t want to continue in that field, because I just wasn&#039 ; t sure if I had it in me to continue to fight something like that, because I am not a fighter. I prefer to be able to work together, collaborate on changes to help people. So that&#039 ; s why I was always drawn to policy. And so I went back to get an LLM [legum magister] in health law and health policy, because that was really where I felt my passion was. And so I applied and got accepted into the LLM program at U of H, which was, at that time, one of the best programs in the nation. And so I had a class--was in a class with five people ; really great, you know, minds and I really enjoyed my study there. I got to study one summer with--through Syracuse University and went to study in Europe and studied their healthcare system and meet with all their bioethicists, and I felt like health policy is something that is universal to everybody and it&#039 ; s where you can make a lot of difference. But then I got recruited by these law firms. (laughs) I was facing graduation at that time and thinking, you know, I got all these student loan debts, my brother is still in medical school, he still has residency to go through, my parents have these younger kids to take care of, my sister was still in medical school, and I felt that pressure to at least get out and start making money and start helping them. And so I was recruited by a big law firm to work in their health law department, but it was really transactional work ; hospital mergers and whatnot with that regulatory overlay. So that was a lot of what I did for seventeen years. But because of my immigration background, there was always a need for immigration help too, so I also built a book of business with companies that were looking to hire people from outside the country ; you know, hospitals that were needing to hire cancer researchers or cardiac CT [cardiothoracic] surgeons that they weren&#039 ; t able to find in the US, or engineers that were more involved in R and D [Research and Development] because the US engineers tend to get their bachelor&#039 ; s and go and work, whereas the foreign graduates would go on and get their master&#039 ; s and their PhDs, and those were the skillsets that a lot of the R and D companies were looking for. |00:58:38| BRODY: Interesting. How much did your own experience, your own life experience, inform your work in the law, or your way of looking at the law? TRAN: Oh, it just really, definitely colors everything that I look at, and how I look at-- BRODY: How so? TRAN: Well, basic human rights. I mean, to me, law is not just local or federal, but there&#039 ; s some basic human laws that preexist even the, you know, the formation of this country. Asylum is a doctrine that has been around for thousands and thousands of years, that human beings have an ethical, even a moral and legal obligation to give safe haven to people who are fleeing from their country because they are not able to exercise some very basic rights, or they&#039 ; re not able to change something that is so immutable to them as, you know, the race that they were born in or the religion that they followed. And so I look at law with everything from that stance, you know, a basic human rights stance, and due process. And so even if it&#039 ; s a traffic light law that they implement, I am a strong believer that you have to go through the whole due process, you know, you have to meet due process in implementing something like that. |01:00:15| BRODY: Yeah. So it sounds like your own experience is really informing how you have gone about your work and--are there other things that you&#039 ; ve been doing that you feel like are flavored by the experiences you&#039 ; ve had? TRAN: Yes, definitely. So after the--I think practice of transaction law is really--it&#039 ; s great, but it&#039 ; s very--the actual application of it&#039 ; s all reading and writing and arguing over little points and deals and, in the end, it&#039 ; s about, you know, formalizing in paper and legalese what each party wants to get out of a particular deal, whether it&#039 ; s a hospital merger or, you know, a large multibillion dollar deal to develop a sports arena. It&#039 ; s about making money and engaging in, you know, transactions between parties, but it always came down to money in the end. That was the very--you know, the ultimate goal of the transactions that I did, all the MNA [Master Netting Agreement] work that I did, and it was so far removed from where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be able to do and the connection that I made. So being able to maintain the immigration law piece of my practice, even if I was representing a hospital or a company that was bringing in an engineer--I got to speak to the engineer, I got to get information about them, and even if I never met the person, I knew that I was actually making a difference in somebody&#039 ; s life. I was able to give them an opportunity to contribute to society. And also, it really made me understand why this country had been so far ahead and had become a leader in the world is because we had this constant intake, this constantly influx of new talent and of skill and new motivation that drove the country forward in progress. I mean, I was bringing in people that had skills that were just phenomenal, people that were doing, you know, research that was not being done in the US in every field, whether it was petroleum exploration or medical field. And, you know, being able to bring them in--and they&#039 ; re the ones who were contributing to our growth as a country. And so I did feel like I was, in a way, contributing back in that way. |01:03:01| BRODY: Sure. That sounds like--that makes me think about politics too. Are you--have you or your family been engaged with politics in the United States? TRAN: Oh, yes. Well, we&#039 ; ve proven very active, I think--I was not as--had I not gone into law, I don&#039 ; t think I would&#039 ; ve been as--in a position to even be knowledgeable enough, but I think my first year out of school and seeing how a piece of legislation that was passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed by a Democratic president--even though when he signed it, he signed it begrudgingly saying, you know, &quot ; I don&#039 ; t agree with this law, it&#039 ; s going to affect a lot of family members--people who have lived here for a long time.&quot ; I think what he was saying was that, &quot ; Reelect me and we&#039 ; ll try to find a way to fix it.&quot ; But it&#039 ; s a lot easier to pass a law than to fix a law. It takes a lot more time (laughs) and effort into fixing a law. And so that was my first taste of seeing how politics and law affects everyday lives. I mean, in my practice I had another situation where there was a teenage boy who was eighteen at the time, same situation. He was a permanent resident, able to, you know--just never bothered to apply for citizenship, and he was facing deportation. And Lamar Smith, who was a congressman in Texas at that time, he was one of the proponents of this Immigration Reform Act that was passed in &#039 ; 95. His mom that this--this gentleman&#039 ; s mom lived in Lamar Smith&#039 ; s district. She went to his office and explained her son&#039 ; s situation, and their response was, &quot ; Well, why don&#039 ; t you write down all of your equities and present it before the immigration court?&quot ; I mean they had no idea that they had taken that relief away from this family. |01:05:09| BRODY: Yeah, the real-life impact of the law. TRAN: Exactly, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that we elect people to represent us, and we elect them to make sure that laws that are passed are going to benefit us as a society, yet a lot of these lawmakers are taking actions and doing things that they don&#039 ; t even understand the consequences of. BRODY: Yeah, how do you think that can be addressed? TRAN: Well, I mean, I think more education, but that&#039 ; s really hard. I mean, I think-- when I left law and went back to do occupational therapy, which was my second career, I thought there&#039 ; s always going to be somebody. I mean, I was very impressed with the bar at the time, I got to meet a lot of very articulate people, a lot of very driven people, especially in the immigration bar, and I always felt that they&#039 ; re always going to be there to fight the good fight. They were always going to be able to do it better than I can, because I&#039 ; m not as articulate as they are, I am not as capable as they are, and so there&#039 ; s always going to be people that are going to be able to fight and stand up in this area. But I&#039 ; m just ready to do something that&#039 ; s going to be a lot more--not as combative. That&#039 ; s going to be more in my own caregiving nature. |01:06:46| BRODY: So you&#039 ; re doing occupational therapy now? TRAN: Yes. (laughs) BRODY: Tell me what led you down that path. TRAN: Okay, so after my fourth child was born, you know, I guess I was going back to my roots in psychology, and I was--I kept looking at him and thinking, You know, he&#039 ; s going to be--eighteen years he&#039 ; s going to be gone, and what am I going to do? Am I going to continue sitting at my desk and writing these petitions and--yeah, it&#039 ; s great to talk. My favorite part of practice was being able to talk to people and talk to clients and consult with them but, you know, the work itself that I do for them is all paper-driven, and it was very isolating, because I do need that human interaction. And so after about seventeen years of it I said, you know, I need to do something else and I want to do something else. The more I looked to occupational therapy the more I really felt like that was field for me because, first of all, I just believe in the power of occupational therapy because it helps people be able to function in a better--you know, function with what needs that they have in their lives and what they desire to be able to--to do in their life, to make their life more satisfying. And with my background in health policy, I had studied, you know, all the different--you know, the different approaches to healthcare, not just in the US but in Europe too. And having a lot of healthcare professionals in my family that a lot of doctors--it was frustrating to see doctors patching people up and sending them home, but they&#039 ; re not giving any instruction or any assistance in what they--they still need to live their life, they still have a baby to feed, they still have kids to take care of, they still have a dog to walk, and doctors, they just, you know, operate on them or they give them medication and that was it. And so I did see that the more research I did, the more I saw that occupational therapy was a field that I could be able to be able to pull from both my health policy background as well as my law background and then, also, my own--I think my personal talents, because I have a talent for being able to identify when one of my kids was struggling with a task and helping them be able to practice that one step until they are able to master it. And so I&#039 ; m just a natural problem solver by nature. And so it&#039 ; s a great field for me. I mean, I love it. I worked really hard, harder than I have expected because education changed so much from the twenty- something years before when I had last gone to school, but my goal in the end is always to be able to at least practice a few years. And also occupational therapy gave me the freedom to do work that was more fungible than law. I mean, when I was doing law, I would have a client that I would stick with for months or years, you know? And it wasn&#039 ; t something that I could easily transfer to somebody else. Every time I had a baby, I was either working immediately afterwards or meeting clients a week later or consulting with another attorney on another client, so I never was able to get away from that work because my fingerprint was all over it. And it was very stressful to be able to know that that kind of responsibility hung on me while I had so many other responsibilities at home in raising my kids too, and helping Thai with his practice. So I saw occupational therapy--I went in knowing that I would only do PRN [pro re nata] work, and that would give me the flexibility to be able to do that work, and then when the kids are older, be able to go back and be able to speak with a lot more authority that I was in the clinical world and I could identify where all the problems are and be able to be a part of the solution for it. |01:11:08| BRODY: So you--that sounds like a good transition but a really different world that you went through, law to occupational therapy. (Tran laughs) You mentioned your family, so your husband and you have four kids. Tell me a little bit about your home life. TRAN: Oh gosh, it&#039 ; s very hectic, to say the least. (laughs) BRODY: So your husband is-- TRAN: Yes, he&#039 ; s also Vietnamese, he came to the US when he was ten, not in &#039 ; 75, but they left in &#039 ; 79. BRODY: How did you meet? TRAN: We met--he was a classmate of my sister&#039 ; s in medical school. So I met him through her. And so we dated--started dating after I graduated from law school. BRODY: Had you always thought that you would marry another Vietnamese person? TRAN: No, it&#039 ; s so funny, I grew up thinking that Vietnamese men were yucky, (laughs) because of the stories I told you earlier. You know, they were, you know, very chauvinistic and weren&#039 ; t very nice. I didn&#039 ; t think that they were very nice and didn&#039 ; t appreciate women and what they can bring to the table. And so I really didn&#039 ; t, all through high school, even, I didn&#039 ; t think that I would ever marry a Vietnamese person. It wasn&#039 ; t until college where I felt that I was able to come into my own and really identify with--I think in college, I was able to identify with more the--being away from my family, I think, also made me realize how homesick I was and how much I valued my family and my connection with my family. Through that, I was able to really know myself more, in that sense, and I realized that, you know, I probably would marry a Vietnamese person because they did share the same, I think, approach to family. |01:13:04| BRODY: Yeah, can you tell me about, like, how you would articulate that approach to family, or that mindset? TRAN: I think because family is not--at least the culture that I came from, family is not just the nuclear family, because I grew up with my uncle in the house, my grandmother in the house, my two aunts, and they didn&#039 ; t leave until they got married. And even when they got married, they were still very involved in our lives. We saw them weekly, all three of them had houses that were within two miles of us and we saw each other every weekend. BRODY: For meals? |01:13:42| TRAN: Yes. And so raising a family was not just the job of two parents, but it was also the job of the aunts and uncles too. And, you know, you have that support, and when you--when I was living away, for the first time, from my family in college--even though it wasn&#039 ; t that far, but just not being in the house anymore--was the first time I felt, like, true loneliness. And I think having family grounds you. You know, grounds you in a way that when you&#039 ; re facing all the changes that life will throw at you, you do have them to fall back on. You do have them as sounding boards to help guide you. My cousin, my aunt&#039 ; s daughter, got pregnant when she was sixteen. And what she--I really do think that if she had not been born in the family that she was born in--and then also the man--the boy that she was involved in, he was also Vietnamese--and she could&#039 ; ve easily been-- end up being another welfare mom, you know? But the whole family came together and problem-solved together how to address the situation, how to support her, and they always called on my dad, because they didn&#039 ; t have a dad around, so they always called on my dad for advice and guidance. And so she ended up having the baby and my aunt says, &quot ; You&#039 ; re not going to get married, even if you need to graduate from high school at least.&quot ; So she graduated from high school, and even after high school she goes, &quot ; You&#039 ; re not going to get married until you graduate from college, you need to go to college.&quot ; During that time, his mom took care of the baby for them, and my grandmother, my aunts, everybody was there for her when she needed. She always had somebody to help her with the baby because she had family on both sides, and she wouldn&#039 ; t have been able to have that, you know, if she had been born, I think, in a different situation or under different circumstances. |01:16:24| BRODY: Sure. That makes sense. So you went on a date, you were set up by your sister. TRAN: Oh, I wasn&#039 ; t set up. (laughs) So she--yeah, so my sister, you know, in the medical field, there were a lot more Vietnamese people, students, than in law school. And so she--when she started medical school, she got to know all the other Vietnamese students in her class. And she was making a Vietnamese noodle soup at our apartment, and I lived with her at the time. So she invited all of them over for dinner and that&#039 ; s how I met him. Yeah, but we didn&#039 ; t start dating until two years later. We would see each other at different social gatherings and whatnot, but didn&#039 ; t date until two years after we met. BRODY: Right. And then now it&#039 ; s been how many years? TRAN: (laughs) Wow. I think it&#039 ; s going to be twenty years anniversary next year, in 2019. So almost twenty-three years? |01:17:24| BRODY: Wow, and four kids. And so when you think about your life together and your kids, do you identify yourself more as Vietnamese, Vietnamese American? Do you notice differences between your perspective and your husband&#039 ; s perspective? TRAN: Oh yes, I think so. I mean, I think Thai is a lot more--he&#039 ; s more of a traditionalist in terms of Vietnamese values ; one, because he&#039 ; s older and, I think, two, because his family is even more traditional than mine. His family, on a whole, is older than my family. His parents are more than ten years older, and his oldest sister is a grandmother, his oldest sister. And so he is towards the younger end of his siblings, and he has an extended family that&#039 ; s very close, even closer than my family. And so they identify very strongly with their roots. And I understand that too. Like, his siblings, all eight of them are married to Vietnamese. His brother was involved with a girl who was Filipino and he has a son from that relationship, but he eventually married a Vietnamese girl. And so they have a child. And on my side, three of our siblings are married to Vietnamese and three are married to Caucasians, Americans. And we were much younger ; the oldest sibling in my family was six when we came over, and I was four. And I think being a girl, I don&#039 ; t know if it&#039 ; s just--I don&#039 ; t know if it&#039 ; s more cultural--as I&#039 ; ve gotten older, I don&#039 ; t know if it&#039 ; s more cultural or it was more the fact of the gender that makes a difference in how close you stay to your family, because both my brothers, one&#039 ; s married to an American Caucasian girl and one is married to a Vietnamese, but both of them, I think, are not as close and as attentive as the daughters are--including the daughters who are not married to Vietnamese. So as I&#039 ; ve gotten older, I think my perspective has gotten broader in that sense, because in my own experience as a daughter, you know, when my grandmother was towards the end of her life and she was on her deathbed, all the granddaughters, every single one of the granddaughters--I think the youngest granddaughter, at that time, was high school or even early college. All the granddaughters were there. Not only all the granddaughters were there, but each granddaughter&#039 ; s either husband, fiancé, or boyfriend was present. And the boyfriends were of all different types of ethnic background. But there was only one grandson that was there, and he was the one who was not dating anybody or married at that time. |01:20:59| BRODY: So it&#039 ; s hard to parse out gender, culture, and so on. I don&#039 ; t know. So do you think of yourself as American? TRAN: I think of myself as--I think I think of myself as Vietnamese American, for sure. BRODY: And what does that mean to you? TRAN: I think it means that I&#039 ; m an immigrant, you know? First of all, I&#039 ; m an immigrant who comes from an ethnic culture that has a specific taste in food, they share certain traditions and perceptions in life. But then I&#039 ; m also very, I think, Americanized. I&#039 ; ve always been--you know, it was kind of hard because the Vietnamese kids that I knew growing up all the way through school always considered my sister and me too Americanized, but then we were never Americanized enough for our American friends. (laughs) But the reason why is because I think we weren&#039 ; t--my dad did not raise us-- he&#039 ; s traditional, but I think his mindset and his outlook on our development encouraged us to be--to, I think, express ourself and pursue interests that probably wouldn&#039 ; t even be on the mindset or even be in the reality of some of my peer. I mean, I didn&#039 ; t realize until I was in--probably in college--that some of my friends, some of my Vietnamese girl friends have been told by their parents, had been made to feel that they were less because they were girls, or they were discouraged from pursuing higher educational opportunities or higher education because they were girls. BRODY: Wow, by their parents. TRAN: By their parents. |01:22:57| BRODY: Growing up, even though they were growing up here in the United States. So your dad was not like that? TRAN: Not at all, and I didn&#039 ; t even--I wasn&#039 ; t even aware of that until I started talking more to my other Vietnamese girl friends as we&#039 ; ve gotten older. I had a friend who--her dream was always to go to medical school, and she was the second oldest, but her dad told her that she had to go to pharmacy school because she would be too old to get married if she went to medical school. So her older brother went to medical school. Her baby sister went to medical school, and her younger brother went to medical school. But she was the only one who went to a pharmacy school. BRODY: That&#039 ; s a sad story. TRAN: Yes. (laughs) |01:23:39| BRODY: So as a mom of daughters--I know you have daughters as well as a son--you know, who grew up here, how do you approach those types of issues? TRAN: I think I&#039 ; ve become a lot--I&#039 ; ve found my feminist voice a lot more since having daughters. I try to let them know that I&#039 ; m not one to, I think, sugarcoat the world for them. I&#039 ; m not going to say, &quot ; Oh, you could be the best that you can be.&quot ; Yes, I tell them, I encourage them all the time, you can be whatever you want with a lot of hard work. And that&#039 ; s part of the reason why I decided to go back to school, because I felt that the time that I was put into going to school and--versus the time that I would spend being with them and raising them, I think what--if I had lived by example, it could show them that they can do whatever, they do have the strength to do whatever they want if they-- with enough hard work. But then I also am very realistic to let them know all the--I think, all the dynamics in our culture and our society still that are still working against that. |01:24:57| BRODY: What do you mean by that? TRAN: To be a country as we are now and never having had a female leader is just--I think it speaks volumes to the culture. The American culture is a lot more misogynist than, I think, I thought and, I think, what most people had thought, and so we&#039 ; re right at this point where there&#039 ; s the turning point of &quot ; #MeToo.&quot ; We still have a long way to go, I think, in changing people&#039 ; s perceptions, and I think it&#039 ; s turning towards the right way, in the right direction, but I always tell our girls that, you know, it&#039 ; s up to their generation to bring it even further along. |01:25:50| BRODY: Right. That&#039 ; s hopeful. When you think about your kids growing up as, obviously, American and yourself and your own experiences and your husband&#039 ; s experiences and your parents&#039 ; experiences, what--if you could in just a couple of words or one word, describe what it means to you to be American. What does that mean when somebody says, &quot ; I&#039 ; m American,&quot ; or, you know, sum up what that sort of means to you personally? TRAN: I think America, the US, has always been--has stood in a position of uniqueness in the opportunities. And I know it sounds very cliché-ist, but it&#039 ; s true that the opportunities that are available to immigrants here, to be able to be who they want to be and to be able to pursue their dreams or what they want to accomplish with enough work--and luck too, because that&#039 ; s not to say if you have no family support, how can you even go to school? I mean, if you have five kids and you have nobody to watch them, how can you even go to school? And so--but I still think that the US has more open doors and avenues, opportunities that will allow people who are willing to and able to, to be able to make something of themself, whatever that may be, more than other cultures. We have friends in Italy and I talk to them a lot about, you know, about the differences. And in Italy and in a lot of European countries still, there are still a lot of class-based barriers to advancement that are not available in the US because, you know, we were-- we&#039 ; re a hodgepodge of immigrants that came in with, you know, not a lot of distinction between class. And so I think being American is being able to--I think, being a beneficiary of that system, coming from that system where you think of the mindset of having that individual liberty to do what you want and accomplish what you want in your life and in your family&#039 ; s life and making those decisions. In a sense, that also adds to some of our problems in our--you know, because we give voice to everybody, even if it&#039 ; s a dissenter, then a lot of the policies that we want to be able to enact that--you know, in Europe you would think, oh yeah, it&#039 ; s unbalanced, it&#039 ; s going to be--that makes more sense, this is more pragmatic, it&#039 ; s going to benefit more people. But, you know, because we have to respect the religious liberty of a certain group of people, we&#039 ; re not able to provide the level of sexual education in our school as the majority of the people would want, and that&#039 ; s just one example. But I think being American is having to live with that reality-- BRODY: Compromise. TRAN: --is that you have to give voice and have to respect everybody&#039 ; s voice. I think it&#039 ; s a huge amount of freedom and liberty that people take advantage of and don&#039 ; t always use it in the right way and can hurt people through the exercise of their freedom, but at the same time, it opens you up to possibilities that are not available in other countries. |01:29:54| BRODY: That&#039 ; s true. I wanted to circle back just to one more thing, the Vietnamese community today. What are the main differences that you notice between when you first--your family first came, and what we have around us in North Texas today. TRAN: I think that&#039 ; s really interesting, because I left Dallas about ten years to go to law school and I was down there for ten years before I moved back. And so when I moved back I had--our first child was one, and I thought coming back, I&#039 ; m going to go back to the same community, it&#039 ; s going to be the same tight-knit community, both within my family and then within the larger Vietnamese community where I&#039 ; m going to raise my kids, and it did not--it has not turned out to be like that, surprisingly. |01:30:46| BRODY: Really? What are the differences? TRAN: I think, you know, back then the community was much smaller, so it was a lot-- we had to rely more on each other. And now the community is so large, it&#039 ; s not homogenous anymore. It&#039 ; s made up of people with--Vietnamese people with very many--with different backgrounds who came over through different avenues and, even now, is made of Vietnamese people who are here temporarily. You know, people who are here on student visas, people who have no intention of staying here but are just currently here to visit family, or currently here to get an education or are currently here to work a temporary job and go back to Vietnam. And so it&#039 ; s not as tight-knit, it&#039 ; s not as homogenous, and as our families have gotten older, my parents--you know, each individual family becomes their own family. Like my uncle has become the head of his own family with his four kids and eventually his grandkids, and my dad is the same way, and so within the aunts and uncles, we&#039 ; re not as close anymore either. BRODY: Is that due to time or distance? TRAN: I think it&#039 ; s time and distance, and then also the passing of my grandmother, because she was the one that tied everybody together. And then also because my husband did not grow up in a Vietnamese community, really. He&#039 ; s more Vietnamese than I am, but he grew up in El Paso with his uncle, so he didn&#039 ; t go to temple, he didn&#039 ; t have a traditional Vietnamese community, a greater Vietnamese community that he saw regularly. He had a bigger network of people because of his family being bigger and the people they knew. So he had interaction with the Vietnamese community through, I think, more family interaction. And he&#039 ; s also very anti-religious establishment, and so raising--he wasn&#039 ; t too keen on raising our kids in the Vietnamese Catholic church, but that was the only avenue we could go--it was only placement for them to be able to learn and interact with other Vietnamese kids. And then I thought, Well, why don&#039 ; t we go--if you&#039 ; re against the Catholic Church, let&#039 ; s put them in the temple. Because, you know, they also offer a lot of the same social activities. No, he&#039 ; s not--he didn&#039 ; t want to send them to a temple, (laughs) and so they have grown up with not as much interaction with Vietnamese-- |01:33:30| BRODY: Do they speak Vietnamese? TRAN: They don&#039 ; t. BRODY: Because those two avenues would&#039 ; ve been the way to learn the language. TRAN: Yes, exactly. Because we speak English, there&#039 ; s no need for them to speak Vietnamese, even though our oldest spoke Vietnamese until she started preschool and then after that, everybody else--all the other kids just spoke English because she spoke English. BRODY: Tell me about how that makes you feel, are you-- TRAN: I feel like that is my biggest failure as a parent, because my in-laws, they don&#039 ; t speak Vietnamese--I mean, they don&#039 ; t speak English. They came over when they were in their sixties, and so they resettled from Vietnam into Holland for many years. And they were there until they--until I started dating Thai. And so when they finally came to the US, they were much older, probably about my grandmother&#039 ; s age. So by then, it&#039 ; s too late to really pick up a new language. And English is a hard language to pick up when you&#039 ; re older, and so my kids cannot communicate with their grandparents on their dad&#039 ; s side. And I do feel a lot of guilt because of that, because it&#039 ; s--it really affects their ability to get to know their grandparents, and for the grandparents to get to know them, too. But they can speak to my parents, because my parents know English. BRODY: Sure. Yeah, language is an important piece of culture, for sure. TRAN: Yes, it really is. |01:34:55| BRODY: Well, I want to say thank you for this conversation. Is there anything that you wanted to add or anything that I did not ask you? TRAN: Oh gosh, I think that--I think I want to add, like, one perception that I was able to gain when I started working at Zale Lipshy [University Hospital], where I do my PRN work with occupational therapy. I was able to treat a patient who was Nigerian, and he belongs to a Catholic church, a Nigerian Catholic church. And seeing the men who would come and visit him from the church community, it reminded me of my family back in, you know, back when we first came to the US and how tight-knit they were, and it does make me sad, in a way, to see that every group of immigrants that have come to the US, eventually they end up integrating into the general population and then eventually phasing out in their cultural values until another group comes in. And so, you know, I think that&#039 ; s just the process of life. |01:36:14| BRODY: Do you think that&#039 ; s the melting pot? TRAN: Yeah, that&#039 ; s the melting pot. But we have to keep more metals (laughs) coming in to add to that pot, because that&#039 ; s what adds to the color of it. BRODY: That&#039 ; s really interesting, yes, and this area certainly has a lot of different immigrant groups melting together, so-- TRAN: Well, thank you so much for speaking with me to today. BRODY: Thank you, I really appreciate it, it&#039 ; s been fun. TRAN: Yeah, my pleasure. end of interview All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. audio Interviews may be reproduced with permission from the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. 0

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“Interview with Yen Tran,” Becoming Texans Becoming Americans, accessed February 5, 2023, http://becomingtexansbecomingamericans.org/items/show/56.