Interview with Dai Pham Schroeder

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Dai Pham Schroeder

Subject

Dai Pham arrived in the United States as a toddler, traveling with her family as refugees at the end of the Vietnam War. After spending time in various refugee camps including Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, her family was sponsored and resettled in Richardson, Texas. Pham recounts her childhood experiences in North Texas and her reflections on her family's experiences.

Creator

Betsy Brody

Date

2019-06-30

Format

audio

Identifier

2019oh012_btba_012

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Betsy Brody

Interviewee

Dai Pham Schroeder

OHMS Object Text

5.4 Interview with Dai Pham Schroeder, June 30, 2019 2019oh012_btba_012 1:16:44 ohbtba Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans btba001 Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans Dai Pham Schroeder Betsy Brody mp3 oh-interviews_schroeder-d_2019-06-30_bdg_acc.mp3 1:|27(6)|47(12)|64(4)|76(14)|86(7)|115(4)|134(15)|149(14)|164(16)|178(4)|200(4)|218(9)|231(6)|245(4)|259(16)|276(11)|293(7)|317(14)|334(10)|352(4)|368(6)|380(1)|400(1)|421(6)|434(13)|455(11)|471(1)|489(3)|503(10)|519(12)|536(2)|558(8)|573(17)|587(2)|607(9)|623(6)|641(5)|653(12)|672(2)|686(7)|708(3)|725(12)|742(5)|756(2)|776(3)|796(2)|809(15)|823(1)|839(2)|854(5)|868(10)|883(9)|894(12)|914(10)|929(1)|946(11)|962(5)|976(5)|994(11)|1018(3)|1029(8)|1043(1)|1055(1)|1070(13)|1087(11)|1103(2)|1115(16)|1133(15)|1159(4)|1185(13)|1214(6)|1231(6)|1244(2)|1259(2)|1271(12)|1284(13) 0 https://betsybrody.aviaryplatform.com/embed/media/117361 Aviary audio 0 Interview Introduction BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is June 30, 2019. I am interviewing, for the first time, Mrs. Dai Schroeder. This interview is taking place at Mrs. Schroeder’s home in Addison, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History and is part of the “Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans” project. Thank you so much for meeting me and letting me interview you Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans 25 Childhood Memories To start out with, tell me about what you remember of your life in Vietnam. SCHROEDER: Actually, I don’t remember any of my life in Vietnam. I came when I was two, so there is zero recollection of Vietnam. BRODY: So what are your first memories of—at all? SCHROEDER: I guess the only memory I have coming or migrating here—this is totally random. We were on the plane. I think I was two at the time, my brother was three, and I remember my brother asking where the bathroom was, and that is the only recollection as a childhood during that time. BRODY: Have you pieced that together? Where was the plane going? Where were you coming from? SCHROEDER: No, but I assume that that would be on the flight to America because I think that was our only plane trip since we left the country. |00:01:14| BRODY: Where did your family land? SCHROEDER: Gosh. I think I have to talk to my dad. Was it in—believe it was in Arkansas is where we landed, because that’s where—we came here and then we were—I think we were sponsored by a church here in Richardson, but I can’t remember if they sponsored us. I think they sponsored while we were still in—what was it? Where were we? There was some island that we were at where all the refugees were, and I can’t remember if they sponsored us from there and then we went to Arkansas and then came, and there’s, maybe, some orientation or training-type stuff before we came to the States, but—yeah. It was probably to Arkansas. Or you know what? Maybe it could’ve been the flight from Arkansas from Dallas. I’m not sure which one it was. BRODY: In any case, you were so young that it makes sense that you wouldn’t remember all of that. What are your first memories, then, just as a child, unrelated even, to your experiences getting here? SCHROEDER: Well, as far as—I guess I remember more of once we were in Richardson or moved to where we were going to be. I don’t even remember what age I was. It’s all childhood. It’s all the same memory. And the order in which I’m remembering this—I don’t know which came first. It’s not a linear order. I remember we went to church every Sunday. I’m sure it’s with the First Presbyterian Church of Richardson. So the folks—I guess there’s a bunch of families that sponsored us, so they probably—we went to, maybe, Sunday school? I don’t remember anything about Sunday school, but I remember that we were somewhere else while the parents were in the service. I remember they did put us into a preschool. I can’t remember the preschool. I remember the exact location. I mean, we drive by it every day. It’s off Belt Line [Road], and it’s between Hillcrest [Road] and Preston [Road], and I believe there is now a Jewish church there, but there’s a little—and it wasn’t a big church. It’s a little house or whatever. That was the preschool. And people who know me now to this day, and even then, I was afraid of dogs, and I vividly remember this one lady—because the ladies at the church were the ones that drove us to preschool every day, because my mom didn’t drive. My dad couldn’t take me. He was working. And so she would come pick up, and she had this little dog sitting in the car, and so every day I’m just fearful, in the car with this dog, going to preschool. So I vividly remember that incident. I remember stories from preschool where, I guess, the teachers would ask me some—I don’t know. I would come home crying, and I guess I didn’t know why. I guess maybe I was trying to communicate with them in Vietnamese or something. My mom didn’t know what it was, so I guess there was incidences of that. And then my mom would say, “Oh, yeah, you were—they needed something and you didn’t know what it was,” so there was a communication at a young age and, I guess, the frustration of that. I remember one time—the school was small. I remember there was probably two or three rooms in the building ; at least that’s all I remember. Walk into this one room, when I went to the wrong room on accident. It was an empty room. It had a big floor-to-ceiling mirror, and I think it was the first time I exposed to a mirror. I’m not sure, (laughs) but I looked at it. I freaked out, like, “Who is that?” Then when I moved, this other image moved with me, so I’m like, “What is that?” So I think I kept it inside. I was really scared of that room for quite some time, but it was because of that mirror. I mean, now that I know what it is, it was really just a mirror, but it was floor-to-ceiling, for this little two-year-old who never experienced that before. So I remember that. So yeah, those were—I guess some of those memories all fell into the preschool. I don’t know why that’s stuck in my head. Recounts childhood memories of migrating from Vietnam to America, attending church, and attending preschool. America ; Arkansas ; church ; Dallas ; First Presbyterian Church of Richardson ; leaving Vietnam ; refugees ; Richardson ; sponsors ; Texas ; Vietnam ; Vietnam War 306 Family Dynamics BRODY: You've mentioned that your dad was working and your mom still wasn’t proficient in English. How did that come about? What was your dad doing? SCHROEDER: At that age, I probably didn’t know, just in talking to him later. I guess at the time he was a security guard, but as far as at that younger age, I wasn’t that involved in what they were doing to—you know. BRODY: Did you have siblings? SCHROEDER: I did. I have—okay. I have a brother. He’s a year older, so we basically were each other’s rock, I guess, or you can call it that. So at that time, there’s just the two of us. BRODY: Right. And was he in the same preschool? SCHROEDER: He was, but I don’t remember him—we weren’t in the same class, so he wasn’t there to (Brody laughs) be my rock in those moments of when I’m on my own. BRODY: So the sponsor families, were they part of your life for the whole time that you were growing up? SCHROEDER: I think they were very involved with our family, and I think when we came to America there was eleven of us, my brother and I being the youngest, and the rest of them were—because it was my grandfather and my grandmother, and then my brother and half of his siblings, and then us, so they—I think they were more involved with my aunts and uncles. They were more of the grade school age and middle school age. We were just little preschoolers. They were involved in the sense that they put us in preschool, they took us to school, stuff like that, but as far as everything else, I think they were probably more involved with them, or if they were involved with me, I don’t remember. Discusses the position of family members as well as the role sponsor families played. employment ; family ; jobs ; preschool ; school ; siblings ; sponsor ; sponsors 403 Schooling BRODY: Right. You were very young. So you got here, you went to preschool and at some point, I guess you went to elementary school, right? How was that? SCHROEDER: I don’t remember. At this point, I think we felt like we were just—we did what was the next step, right? But I do remember—I just know that we grew up—I mean, my mom worked really hard to try to assimilate us. I can—looking back, I know it was a step for her. I remember when it was our birthday and she would make a cake. I don’t think she ever made a cake before, you know? I think that was because everyone did it, and you bake a cake, and you blow a candle. I don’t think they did that back then in Vietnam, so that was something new for her. And you know, I mean, bless her heart, it was like—it wasn’t the best cake in the world, but she tried. I think that was something different that when we came here. I remember in school when they said, Oh, you need to bring something for your child’s birthday, and my favorite dessert was creampuffs, but I guess back in nineteen—how old would I have been at five? So if I was ’73—so 1978, so I was in kindergarten, so my mom would make my creampuffs that I love so much and would bring it to school. And I just remember the reaction of all the kids, like, Ew, what is this? They didn’t even touch it. They seemed so disgusted by it. They didn’t even try it, because it’s—I mean, they’re kids, and I think in today’s world, people are more open to trying more ethnic and cultural foods. Back in 1978, I don’t think that was the case. I mean, people were like, Ew, what is that? So I never had my mom bake creampuffs ever again for school! (laughs) I mean, because it was kind of like—I was kind of embarrassed, like, Okay, we didn’t bring the normal cupcakes, and what was wrong with us? We brought this cream. So I think my mom was doing what I—she knew what I liked, but then culturally or within the school, the kids—I mean, kids are kids, right? Discusses schooling in America. assimilation ; birthday parties ; creampuffs ; culture ; immigrant ; school 517 Culture and sexism BRODY: Did you experience a lot of that, of trying to navigate how to be, as you said, normal, and sort of your home life or being different? SCHROEDER: Yes and no. I think part of it came naturally. Part of it was just kind of— and I think with anybody, whether it was a—coming to America as an immigrant, I’m sure that people who live here have their own battles and struggles too, so whether it was a result of being an immigrant or the cultural difference, or it was just part of childhood, growing up. So based on the experiences that come about—you know, social cues—you kind of react a certain way. Whether those social cues, like I said, are based on cultural differences, I don’t know. But, I mean, yeah, there’s things like—there’s been differences growing up. I mean, as later in life, it’s like—we had friends ; friends would sleep over. They had slumber parties and stuff like that. Well, my mom was like, “Nope.” And it was kind of a double standard. I mean, I guess in America, we’re so—everyone’s conscious of the individual and treating everyone the same. Well, you know what? Vietnamese, back then—I don’t know—boys and girls are treated differently. Boys can do certain things that girls can’t do, and there’s no—I grew up. I felt kind of like in a sexist world where my older brother, who’s only one year older—he gets to go over to people’s sleepovers, slumber parties, have all this fun, and guess what? I can’t. And what’s the reason? “You’re a girl.” That is the only reason. There was no other reason. And then all my other friends could, so I remember slumber parties, my mom was like, “Oh, yes, you can go, but we’ll pick you up at ten o’clock,” and so I’d go and they’d pick me up at ten. So that was a difference compared to all the other girls that were there. BRODY: (both speaking at once) What were they afraid of, in your opinion? SCHROEDER: Oh, girls don’t sleep at other people’s house. It’s just this—there’s not afraid of anything. It’s just, “Girls do not sleep at other people’s houses,” period. BRODY: But your brother did all those things. Okay. SCHROEDER: Oh, yes. I could have a friend sleep over, but I could never do it. I could have one friend sleep over, so my best friend growing up—she would be the one that would sleep over, but I never could sleep at anyone else’s house. And to me, I didn’t see the big deal, and then I saw it as, “Yes, great, I can go and stay until ten,” but it seems like all the stories I heard the next day, all the fun stuff happened at late night when you’re laying down! And the stories over the next morning at breakfast, that’s when all the—you know? And so I felt I kind of missed out on that, but I mean, as a kid growing up, you’re just kind of like, “Wow. Why can’t I do these things, especially if he can do it?” So that’s probably where I’ve—that difference is, and my brother didn’t care because he was able to do what he wanted to do, so he wasn’t up to bat for me. (laughs) Recounts the double standards placed on her and Pham-Schroeder's brother's lives. childhood ; cultural differences ; double standards ; equality ; friendships ; immigrants ; immigration ; sexism ; sleepovers ; slumber parties 693 Grade School BRODY: What was grade school like for you here as a—having recently learned English and sort of adjusting to—having the whole family adjust to life in the United States? SCHROEDER: I don’t think mine was any different than anyone else growing up, because since I came at two, I was so young. So by the time I went to grade school, my English was like anybody else’s, so I don’t think I had any language barrier. So that piece, I felt was fine. I mean, academically, fine. Learning was fine. I just remember stories of handwriting and stuff. We would write real nice. I remember one story where I was in school and this teacher—I think I had great handwriting, but she would come and try to correct the way I had my paper. It was kind of on the side instead of straight— horizontal, and she would come and try to make it right, and I couldn’t write. I’m like, “I need to turn it.” And so she finally just figured out that, “Okay, we’ll let you write this way.” I would tell my mom the story. She goes, “You know what? You’re lucky because in Vietnam back then, if you’re left-handed, they would sit there and hit your hand and force you write right-handed.” So even with the stories, there was just more flexibility in America. That teacher finally learned, “Hey, she can write. She can do fine. We’re not going to force this and make it worse,” but just knowing culturally, elsewhere, that my mom is like, “That’s not a big deal. I mean, you can adapt to that.” So it’s like, we should be able to adapt better, because in Vietnam they’re forced to conform to the standards of the way things should be done. Talks about the differences in teaching in America and Vietnam. adapting ; elementary school ; English ; handwriting ; language ; language barrier ; language learning ; learning English 797 Assimilation BRODY: With your parents, it sounds like your mom really wanted you guys to assimilate and helped you in that way. Were there examples of you and your brother maybe sort of educating your parents about how things are here, because you were in school? SCHROEDER: You know, if there was, I don’t remember. I think my parents probably did the best they could. I just knew there were times—I remember in grade school when they did gymnastics. Friends were taking gymnastics classes, but I never asked my parents of that because I knew we couldn’t afford it, so what’s the point of asking for something—because they were trying to raise us—and so there are things that I wanted to do, but I knew we just never would ask for it. I remember going to the grocery store and going, “Mom, can I have some Pockys(??)?” “No, you can’t have that. We can’t_______(??).” So I knew off the bat, of what to ask of them and what not, so we really didn’t ask much. We just knew it was expected of us to go to school, do well, don’t get in trouble, and that’s what we did. And so I guess knowing what the expectation was or not to bother them with any more burdens, we didn’t—the brain never went further to try to go, “Okay, what about this, this, and this?” We just did what was kind of expected. Recounts the lack of money and understanding of what was expected as a child. assimilation ; childhood ; money ; school 880 Food BRODY: Right. So at home, tell me about your food life, right? Did your mom cook a lot of Vietnamese food still or did she move into cooking American food? SCHROEDER: You know, it’s so funny that you mention that, because I didn’t even think about that until now. She cooked Vietnamese food a lot, but I remember there was—as we got in middle school, my aunt—she learned how to make spaghetti and meat sauce. Oh my gosh! Then Mom learned how to make that, so that was what she made, and my mom would sit there—I was kind of a picky eater, you know, and I would tell her, “I’m not hungry.” She goes, “There is a whole table full of food. You’re not eating,” and all I wanted to eat was probably spaghetti, meatballs, and pizza! So we did have that once in a while, but that would be—I know spaghetti meat is not the American food, but that’s not Vietnamese food, so that was the one meal that was not Vietnamese, but then along comes the day of learning about Velveeta cheese and SPAM, and we thought that was delicatessen! (both laugh) Looking back now, I’m like, Maybe it was best that we stuck with Vietnamese food, but back then, I remember my mom goes, “Oh, I was at a friend’s house and they had this, and this stuff’s really good!” So she goes and buys SPAM, and cooks it. I’m like, “Wow, this is the best thing over!” So the things that we got into with the American culture that I laugh at now was probably more of the processed food and not real foods, but that’s when we kind of went away from the Vietnamese food. As a grown up now, I kind of wish I would have stuck more with it—I mean, because now I want the Vietnamese food and Mom doesn’t make it anymore because there’s not a house full of kids and people. BRODY: What were your favorite things that your mom cooked growing up? SCHROEDER: Oh, gosh. I remember it changed. At one time, it was Bun Rieu, which is kind of like a rice noodle soup that had crab meat and eggs and stuff, and then later, it became pho, but the beef pho, and things like that. Oh, but I remember—oh, this is even a better story. When I was a kid—and this may sound disgusting for those here—my mom would make pork feet, and she would caramelize this really good. I didn’t know what I was eating and I loved it, until one day I grew up and I realized what it was. I was so disgusted, I never ate it again! (Brody laughs) Only because I knew what it was, the thought of what it was—but that was one of my favorite until I realized that—what I was eating. BRODY: What was that called? SCHROEDER: I was—well, khô—it’s kind of, like, the way you cook it, so I don’t know. Heo khô, but it was the foot, but I never—it was just— BRODY: So that was an end to your— SCHROEDER: It was an end, because I liked that collagen and all—but now, thinking about that—it’s sometimes best to not know what you’re eating if you’re enjoying it. (laughs) BRODY: Did your mom teach you how to cook Vietnamese food? SCHROEDER: I think she tried. My mom is very much a perfectionist, so I remember growing up, and girls were supposed to learn how to cook and what have you. I did a lot of mincing garlic and stuff for all her marinades, but as far as chopping and cutting, I think she tried, and it’s like, “Oh, it wasn’t cut thin enough and it’s not the same size,” and so I just learned to—if she don’t like it—if Dad’s running somewhere, I just kind of jumped and I’d go, “Oh, Dad! Where are you going?” I’d just hop on with him before Mom can stop me and keep me in the kitchen. But I wish I would have stuck it through and learned some more of those Vietnamese dishes and cuisines—but no, she tried. BRODY: Do you cook now—Vietnamese food? SCHROEDER: I do. I remember, when I started going back to that it was in college, and I’m like, “Remember how to make that gâ kho?” which is a caramelized fish or whatever, and it’s made with fish sauce and it really—fish sauce, if you’re not used to the smell, it really—a lot of people don’t like it. The funniest story is in college I’m like, “Mom, how do you make that?” So I would—so I made it one time, and it turned out good. I mean, in my mind, I thought it tasted great. Mom was like, “Oh, it’s missing this, this, and this,” but to me, eighty-twenty, I got the gist of the flavor, it’s all good. And my roommate in college, she would walk in and go, “What are you making? That stuff really stinks!” I’d go, “It’s gâ kho. You’ll like it. I mean, trust me.” So I did—she tried this, “Oh my God, this is the best thing!” And so when her parents came to visit during parents’ weekend, she’s like, “Oh, Mom, Mom, Mom! You’ve got to have this!” She goes, “It stinks so bad, but it’s so good!” I had this other friend in college who’s Vietnamese, and we had the challenge with roommates—because we both had a non-Vietnamese roommate—in trying to convert them to eating some Vietnamese food, so that— BRODY: Did it work? SCHROEDER: Like I said, especially gâ kho and some other dishes. I didn’t make a lot. I asked my mom, “How do you make egg rolls?” And so I attempted to make this stuff, and what I’ve learned is that a lot of these foods are very labor-intensive, and it’s—now I know why, when we’re growing up, the aunts and the moms are sitting there in the kitchen all day, and it tastes really good, but when I try to make it myself, I’m like, “This really takes a lot of time. Is the labor worth the treat?” I finally go, “You know what?” For me, it wasn’t worth it. I can just go buy it at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street. Maybe not as good as Mom’s, but surely better than wasting all the time to prep all that. So I did learn and get the recipes of some of them, but the only Vietnamese food I do make is the one that I kind of dumbed it down to the basics to keep it simple, but to make it the true authentic way was too much labor than what I really had the time to do. Talks about favorite Vietnamese dishes, learning to cook from Pham-Schroeder's mother, and cooking in college. American food ; Bum Rieu ; cook ; cookikng ; cuisines ; egg rolls ; food ; gâ kho ; khô ; meatballs ; pho ; pizza ; pork feet ; spaghetti ; Spam ; Vietnamese food 1227 Childhood activities BRODY: Right. Well, let’s backtrack and go back to school age. Tell me about your childhood and moving on into middle school and high school. What did you do? What were you involved in? SCHROEDER: Okay. This is where I’m, maybe, atypical, because I consider myself kind of like the black sheep of the Vietnamese girl. As much as I couldn’t do certain things, I was really—I hung out with my brother a lot. We lived in the apartments and all played outside with the kids in the neighborhood, and they were all boys, so I hung out with boys and I was pretty much a tomboy. As you can tell from my mom and my parents, they’re more traditional, so having a girl that more of a tomboy, who’s not doing the girly things, that may have been not up their alley. So I remember in third grade, I played soccer, and so—and then, that was one year, then my mom was like, “I’m not doing this drive, and girls don’t play soccer.” And so I remember—so I still played soccer. Not formal organized sports, but I played soccer in the backyard with all the neighborhood boys and my brother, and so I learned to play street soccer, I guess you could call it. I remember when I—so that’s only soccer, and I really enjoyed that, and when we went to high school, you can try out for sports, and I knew I couldn’t try for the other sports ; one, because they all would require—I mean—and I’m looking back now, I didn’t realize. I mean, the school does provide the uniforms, but there’s certain things that required parental expenses, so there’s other sports that I couldn’t do. Well, guess what? Soccer didn’t really require that. They give you a uniform and you go and play, so I tried out for the soccer team and, at first—so I got cut. So they didn’t have enough players for a JV team, and I didn’t make the varsity team—so this is ninth grade—and by luck of the universe, they told the coach, You cannot cut people. You need to create a JV team. So he created a junior varsity soccer team. BRODY: And this was at Richardson? SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) This was at Richardson High School. And so I played. My brother goes, “Okay,” so my brother watched me play, and the first thing his advice was, “Okay. I saw you playing out there. You were playing like a girl. You need to play soccer the way you play with us.” And so he goes, “Stop playing like a girl, and play the way you play when we’re out there playing soccer.” So I started doing that, and so even by the end of the year, I made the varsity team. I got bumped up or whatever. I mean, it wasn’t—but it’s like—but I did. That was the sport that I did because—I’ve said, the awareness of what we would afford or not. I just didn’t want to add any expectation, so I did soccer, did well in school, made the Honor Society—the usual suspects, but I feel like back then a lot of the Vietnamese kids did that. We all knew kind of what our role— school had an agenda. It’s to graduate, to get to college, to make a living, to support yourself, and so that was always the initial agenda. Discusses playing soccer with neighborhood boys as well as breaking the norms of what was expected. childhood ; education ; gender ; high school ; junior high ; middle school ; Richardson High School ; school ; Soccer ; sports ; Tomboy 1407 Family Friends and Activities BRODY: Right. So you mentioned a lot of the Vietnamese kids. Was there a large Vietnamese community that you were involved in? SCHROEDER: No, I wasn’t so much. I think my parents—I know growing up they had their friends, so we had some friends that we grew up as family friends. BRODY: Did they mostly live in Richardson? SCHROEDER: They didn’t live in Richardson. Some of them lived in, like, Garland or whatever. I remember one of the friends that we really hung out with, both my brother and I, with his family, they—I remember in middle school, all of a sudden, it was like, “Wow. Why is Mom and Dad hanging out with the parents, and why aren’t we going along anymore?” I mean, when we grew up, it was like a close family-knit weekends and stuff. And so I guess at that point, during that time, there was a lot of Vietnamese gangs that were brewing and in the neighborhood, so I guess—later found out they got caught up in the gang, and that’s when my parents kind of segregated us because they didn’t want us to get involved in that. At that point, we didn’t know what’s going on. We’re like, Why aren’t we hanging out with them anymore? Why aren’t we going with them? So my parents—so there’s a lot of kids getting into wrong, so they did the helicopter parenting and kind of, you know, We don’t want to get into in this mess, we don’t want to expose them. So they kind of did their own separation to keep us out. And within the school community there were a few Vietnamese, but I don’t think there was tons like some schools. I think back then, Richardson—I was at Richardson High School. I think Berkner had more of the Vietnamese community than Richardson, but the ones that were in Richardson—I mean, I think we all kind of intermingled just fine within the school, culturally, so I don’t— BRODY: Were there functions that your family attended, or—you mentioned that you went to the church and continued going to the church. Was that something that you stayed involved in as a family? SCHROEDER: No. I think that kind of died down, probably more in middle school. I think at that point, I think my mom did appreciate what the church did for us, but her true calling was probably Buddhism, and so I think at that point, more—there were some temples that were coming up, so I think she started going more to that, but that was more of her personal thing. Dad’s more not as religious, and so, no, we weren’t as involved. BRODY: And so as kids, you didn’t— SCHROEDER: Not so much. Yeah. I think Mom did what she needed to do, but as far as—she’s really—I think she kind of watched not to get integrated so much, and this, that, and the other. I think a lot of the families that we knew—that they knew that more of the Catholic families probably were more involved in the community with the churches and stuff like that, but my mom kind of was more of stand-back kind of person ; didn’t want to—kind of kept her distance, I think, for whatever reason. Discusses the Vietnamese community, family friends, and the families religion. Berkner High School ; Buddhism ; Catholic ; church ; churches ; gangs ; Garland ; middle school ; religion ; Richardson ; Richardson High School ; Vietnamese community 1576 Gangs BRODY: That’s interesting. So the gangs that you were talking about before, what kind of—do you remember? Can you tell me what they were doing? SCHROEDER: Oh, yeah. So we knew families, like some of my parents’ friends. I mean, they would rob. I guess they would rob. Basically, everyone that they—the gangs would basically target other Vietnamese families, so they don’t target people outside the Vietnamese community. They would target a Vietnamese family, rob them, or do whatever, and they would threaten them that, If you report this, then we’re going to kill this other member of your family, so they kind of knew the ins and outs of everybody. They would rob people in their weddings—their wedding days. There was people getting shot. I mean, so a lot of this stuff was going on, but it was really under the radar, from what I understand—but like I said, because a lot of them were threatening that, If you say anything or report or whatever, we will target your family members. BRODY: Wow. That sounds really scary, actually. What do you think drove those people into that type of life? SCHROEDER: I don’t know. I don’t know. But I think they were targeting the younger kids. Maybe a sense of belonging? I’m not sure, because I think when parents came to America, a lot of them—both parents were working. Lot of the moms—so everyone’s working, and those teenage years, you never know. They’re easily influenced. Discuss the tactics and influence of Vietnamese gangs. belonging ; crime ; gangs ; murder ; poverty ; robbery ; Vietnamese gangs 1670 Housing BRODY: Right. Earlier when you were talking about soccer, you mentioned that you guys lived in an apartment initially. Tell me about your experience in housing. Did you— how long did you stay in the apartment? SCHROEDER: Okay. So from what I recall, when we first came to America, the church helped sponsored us and got us a place to live, an apartment for all eleven of us. I think it was, like, a three-bedroom apartment. So it was like—my grandparents got a room. I think my family, the four of us, and then all the other siblings—so I think they helped us the first month or two, and kind of get us started with donations and things like that. At that point, they kind of helped my dad and grandfather find a job, and at that point, you’re kind of left to take care of yourself. So I think we all stayed together for a while, and then at some point—I don’t know when, I don’t remember what age I was—we moved into our own apartment—my parents—my family of four. We got a two-bedroom apartment right around the corner in a different complex not too far from there. BRODY: (both speaking at once) Where was—still Richardson. SCHROEDER: It was still in Richardson. It was over there in—no. Well, it’s over there off, like, Spring Valley [Road] and Whatever, and the address—I remember the address: 8636 Lazy Acre Circle. That’s where we lived, and I think at some point, my grandparents probably got into, maybe, some government housing, and so they moved further away. In retrospect, it’s really not that far now that I’m driving, but so it was like—it was my grandparents and then the siblings—or my dad’s siblings. There was four of them, and so they stayed with my grandparents, and like I said, my parents and I were in our place, and then as well as my aunt, who kind of was—I call her my aunt, but she kind of—she was adopted by my parents, so she was kind of like a child laborer in Vietnam that was there to play with us and help out with the kids, so she came to America with us, so she chose to come with us. When I say “our family of four,” it was the four of us plus her. And so my grandparents lived somewhere else—not too far, still in Dallas. And then I think I was in fourth or fifth grade where we moved into the house that they’re at now. That was a big thing for them that, Hey, we made something of ourselves and we were able to put money away to buy a house. The funny thing is, their biggest thing was, We want to buy in a good school district, and in their mind, all they knew was Richardson, and Richardson’s a good school district, so they just wanted to make sure they buy in a Richardson school district, so that was their focus on where we’re buying a home. BRODY: That’s a huge accomplishment to have come and started from scratch and buy a home, right? The American dream. Tell me about that house and the neighborhood and how moving into the house changed your life. SCHROEDER: My parents—it wasn’t far from where we were. I guess it was kind of neat because at that point my aunt has already moved out and so it was just my parents, and then I got my own room and my brother got his own room. So that was kind of a neat thing, like, Oh, we have our own rooms! So that was—I think that’s all I really recall. BRODY: How’d you decorate your room? SCHROEDER: Okay. The whole decorating thing—that’s not part of the—there was no decorating, really. I mean, it’s kind of like, “Hey, I got my own room,” which is more than enough, right? So really, it’s just your bed—and oh, I remember shopping for a desk, and so that was a big thing, is I get to pick my own desk. I got one of those with the rolling tops. (laughs) Now that I look back, it was kind of hideous, but I really liked it back then. And then my brother picked out his, so our big purchase for the room was probably our desk for school, and as you can tell, education was really big for my parents. Discusses childhood housing. American dream ; apartments ; church ; Dallas ; employment ; government housing ; home owndership ; houses ; housing ; Richardson ; sponsors ; Spring Valley Road 1901 Growing up with an immigrant family BRODY: How did they communicate that to you, that education was your priority? What were—when you think about that? SCHROEDER: You know, I don’t even know. I just think that it was embedded in us. We just kind of knew. We just kind of knew that this is—you go to school, you make good grades, you do this, and you—and that’s how you go to college and make a better living, I guess. BRODY: Do you feel like you had a pretty typical American childhood? SCHROEDER: No. There was nothing typical about it. I mean, I felt like I was caged. I mean, for me—and you know what—and it’s—but not really. I mean caged in a sense like, hey, everyone can do this, everyone can do—you know, and I had my guidelines of what I could and couldn’t do. We had our expectations, which is probably normal for most people—like, you know, we got up on Saturday mornings, mowed the lawn, weed the grass, we did the dishes, we did the—but that was our role in the house. Mom and Dad had to go to work, make a living. That’s their time of rest. Dinners, we cook and clean. I remember cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming—those were just kind of all the normal things that we had to do, but looking back, I’m grateful for that because part of life isn’t just about school and isn’t just about your work, it’s about also maintaining the daily functions that keep things nice and orderly. If you don’t do your part, everything becomes a mess. But like I said, the sleepovers, the parties, the slumber parties, the—and things that I had to learn all on my own. If I look back, it’s like when I went to junior high. There was a couple girls that, “Oh, we’re trying out for athletics!” “What’s athletics?” I didn’t know that. I just got the schedule. “Here, you sign up for these classes, and then you do PE.” I think if I knew then something differently, I probably would’ve tried out for athletics. I think there’s some things that we had to learn with the limited knowledge—we did the next steps of what’s being provided, but I think all the extra stuff I was unaware of. But that’s to be said. Some people just kind of know more about the system, what goes on, and others didn’t, but we did what we knew. So there’s things I would’ve done. I may have tried out for athletics. I may have done these other things. BRODY: So high school in Richardson during the 1980s—what was that—can you describe what you remember of that time? SCHROEDER: Um—(pauses to think) BRODY: How did you spend your time? SCHROEDER: Yeah. My time was so boring. (Brody laughs) Like I said, I played soccer, had friends from that. I didn’t go to a prom or any of the dances because you’re not supposed to. I didn’t go to football games because Mom was like, “You’re not going to go to a football game. What if you get shot? Some gangs are there.” So she’s really—I think part of this, I wouldn’t say, is a cultural thing. I think part of it is the type of parents I had. She was just overly protective in that regard, so I’m going to account that to her personality, versus my—a cultural thing, because I had friends who could that were Vietnamese—could do these things. But no, I did what I was supposed to do. That’s why soccer was my outlet, because guess what? I have to go to a soccer game. “Sorry Mom, got to go. We’ll be home later.” That was kind of like my outlet to get out the door, and it was related to school, so I could do that. I can’t remember which organizations I was in, but just doing all the things—the protocol stuff that school required, but really nothing extra outside of that. Recounts childhood education, as well as role in her family. American Dream ; assimilation ; Athletics ; Childhood ; chores ; College ; Education ; expectations ; high school ; immigrants ; School ; success 2130 College Application and College BRODY: Given that your parents didn’t go to college in this country, how did you navigate the sort of getting in and figuring out where you wanted to go to college? I mean, you’d worked hard in your grades, but how did you figure out what to do next after high school? SCHROEDER: There wasn’t much thought process into that. I mean, my uncles were older, so they just went through. One went to UT [University of Texas], one went to [Texas] A&amp ; M. My brother was already at UT. So I didn’t think much more about where I wanted to go, or we didn’t do college visits or anything like that. It was pretty much, like, the next step. Like, here you went from junior high to high school, and the next step was probably going to be UT. Why? Because it’s familiar. My uncle went there. My brother went there. It was the familiar thing to do, and UT had that, what, top whatever percent gets in, so really, there—I didn’t have to navigate the SATs and all that. I got automatic admissions, so it was pretty much the next step. The thought process? There wasn’t much. It was kind of the next thing to do, which sounds kind of not very exciting, but it is what it is, right? BRODY: It is exciting to go to college, so what—did your parents take you? Did you just— SCHROEDER: Oh, no. No. They didn’t. It was pretty—I remember—like I said, my brother was already there, so my uncles did provide some guidance. They were saying, Okay, if you guys take some of this community college and do it there, so we did. After I graduated from high school, that summer I did take some college at Richland College, like the English classes or whatever, just to knock those out, and we—my brother and I— I remember leaving. I was excited to go to college, and put our stuff in the car, and then we drove off, and that’s it. Parents didn’t come. My parent’s didn’t come with me. They never moved me in, ever. So went off to college, we moved in a dorm, moved myself in, my brother moved himself in, and that was that. And I guarantee—then that’s when the sadness hits, and not in the sense of that. It’s just kind of like, Oh my gosh, because you’re in a new place, new people, and you haven’t formed your people yet. I came back and visited the next month, and I was bawling leaving. I was like, Oh my gosh! But after the first semester, you’re fine. But they never came to UT ever while I was there in the four years, but my friends who were there that I met—parents’ weekend, I hung out with them and their families, so I was kind of like the adopted child because Dai’s parents aren’t there, (laughs) but they didn’t—that just wasn’t them, right. It’s like, that was the next step. You go. But they did show up on graduation day when I graduated, so that’s the first time they were there for me when I was in college. There were there for my brother when he graduated, went to graduation, and then went to my graduation, but that’s—otherwise, they were never there my whole college years. BRODY: What did you study? SCHROEDER: I studied pharmacy, but that’s kind of a funny story. I tell the kids this story all the time. I actually got into the business school, which is what I was going to do, and like I said, I have an older brother who thinks I’m always trying to follow in his footsteps. So one day he goes, “Oh, you’re going to go to business school? Why do you always do everything I do and follow in my footsteps?” I’m like, “Oh, seriously?” So being me, that kind of rebellious—you know, that trait that I had, I was like, “Fine. Then, I won’t go to business school.” Knowing now, I should’ve stuck with business school and taken the pre-pharmacy school as electives, and then applied to pharmacy school, but instead, I’m like, “Okay, fine. I’ll let them know that I’m not going to go to business school, and I’m going to get into another one of the schools.” That was kind of stupid because the business school’s harder to get into than all the other schools, but whatever. So I’m like, “Fine. I’m not going to do that,” and so my dad, being that my dad— remember, their goal is to go to school so that you can get a career to take care of yourself. The passion part of it doesn’t ring in the head. To follow your passion of what you want to do was not an option—plus, I didn’t know what my passion was. I remember him going, “Well, what about this?” and, “What about this?” and, “What about this?” I go, “I don’t like that. Don’t like that. Don’t like that,” and then he finally just goes, “Of all those things we listed, which one do you least hate, and pick that.” So that just kind of shows you how it’s not about passion but, Okay, we know you don’t like these things but, okay, pick the ones that you least hate. But no, it wasn’t that. So after my brother was telling me, “Oh, you’re just following in my footsteps,” my mom and I happened to be at Tom Thumb that day. (laughs) She was picking a prescription at the pharmacy, and I’m like, “Oh! That’s a job! Huh. Maybe I could do that.” And that was the day I was like, “Fine. I’ll be a pharmacist.” There was no other thought into that whatsoever but, “Okay, I’ll be a pharmacist,” and the rest is history. (laughs) BRODY: Right. So you graduated with a pharmacy degree. SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) Degree, yeah. I then switched my school over to natural sciences, and then applied into pharmacy school. BRODY: So are you working as a pharmacist? SCHROEDER: I was. The funny thing is, all the pharmacy students and classmates I had—and of all the people who would least likely be a pharmacist five years after we graduate, they probably could have picked me as being that person. As today, I’m no longer a pharmacist. I’m doing more IT in pharmacy, which is—I need my pharmacy—it all worked out, but it’s just kind of funny how life takes you on this journey to where you are. But that’s how it came about. There wasn’t a thought like, I love pharmacy. It was just a matter of not doing business because my brother told me I was following his footsteps. (laughs) Discusses journey to and in college. business ; college ; education ; Pharmacy ; pharmacy school ; SAT ; University of Texas ; UT 2467 Vietnamese Community, Race, and Racism BRODY: That’s pretty funny. You mentioned earlier that you introduced your roommate in college to some Vietnamese food and that you had another friend who was also—was Vietnamese and had a roommate who was not Vietnamese. Was there a large population at UT of Vietnamese students? SCHROEDER: I think there was. There’s a Vietnamese Student Association. I never got involved with that. I don’t know. There was a part of me that just didn’t want to feel like, Hey, I’m Vietnamese, I’m going to try—so maybe, as I said earlier, I didn’t think I was trying to assimilate, but I guess sometimes part of me was like, I’m just going to be like everyone else and not be so—so I didn’t join VSA or anything like that, but there was a huge community of that. I met her just through one of the classes and, lo and behold, she grew up in—her parents had a place in Irving, so we got—but her family was so different from my family. Her family has more of that community feel and they did more of that, so that just kind of made me realize that it’s not—all Vietnamese families aren’t the same. It’s just like in America. Not all families are the same. Every family operates, have different—how they want to raise their families and things like that, so that’s where I realized it’s not just a cultural thing, it’s an individual thing. BRODY: Right. So on that note, you didn’t—you were trying to assimilate with different experiences and trying different things. Did you experience or observe any discrimination or racism as you were either growing up or since then? SCHROEDER: You know, I don’t—I would say yes, I guess it’s there, and whether I block it out or not, I don’t know. I mean, I know that people use the word chink and all that stuff, or F-O-B, but I never took it to offense of, Oh, you’re—that didn’t bother me so much. I guess it’s just a matter of fact of like, Okay, yeah. Well, we’re Asian, and you’re not. I mean—but it’s just, when you hear it enough, I guess it’s—everyone takes it differently, right? I mean, you can take it and be like, Yeah, we are Asian. We are different. But we’re not different. So at the end of the day, if I say that you’re Indian or someone else is black, it’s a fact, so why should I take offense to the fact that—well, “chink”—okay, I do say something with “chink” because chink is Chinese and I’m Vietnamese, so there’s—you kind of categorize that, but I’m just—I think that, Yeah, we are Asian, so why would I take—I guess I see it more like, Okay, yeah. That’s a fact, but why don’t you get over that fact and just look at us as people? BRODY: Do you think that there were ever examples or instances where you didn’t get to do something or you were kept out of something for those reasons? SCHROEDER: I don’t think so. I think my mom kept me on such a tight leash that I think she was the one that kept me from things before I get a chance to feel it from other people. I mean, I’m sure maybe I would have. I think my brother probably felt more like—that he worked harder to not be that way, but I guess my mom had me on a different rein than he was, and we’re also different people in how we react, but I think she restricted me so much that (laughs) no one could restrict me any more than what she had. BRODY: Growing up, did you have friends that were all different cultures, races, ethnicities? SCHROEDER: Yeah. Most of the friends I met were within school, and so whoever was at school, those were the friends. Whether—it wasn’t based on any ethnicity or what have you. BRODY: Right. You were kind of engaged with lots of different groups in terms of just having a—like we talking about before, just a normal American life. Yeah. SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) Normal. It was what you called “normal.” If I weren’t Vietnamese and I was still the same—a different race, it probably would’ve been the same. Discusses racism and the impact of it. assimilation ; chink ; college ; Community ; culture ; discrimination ; family ; FOB ; food ; friendships ; Racism ; values ; Vietnamese culture ; Vietnamese Student Association 2700 Identity BRODY: That brings me to another set of questions about your identity. How do you think about yourself in terms of your identity? I mean, your experience has been in two different countries—even though you were very young when you first came, but your parents as refugees and immigrants assimilating and trying to fit into a new life here and building a new life here, their experience is different than yours as a child growing up here. How do you think of yourself in terms of your identity? SCHROEDER: Hm. That’s a tough—well, hm. As far as from a individual or racial perspective or what? BRODY: (both speaking at once) Just your own, when you think about who you are. SCHROEDER: Well, I think with that, it’s kind of a self-discovery every day, because I think for so long as a child growing up, I think all the way even through college or up until college, I kind of was like, Be the person that your parents expect or want you to be. I think for so long it wasn’t about me or what I wanted. It was more about, This is what you need to do. So I think, as I started to get—even though I was kind of rebellious, I still was rebellious within constrained limits of what you should or shouldn’t do. I think as I got into college—I think there was some more of a self-discovery. I mean, I remember—I mean, this is a funny story—not that funny—but I grew—I studied well, did well in school, and so I think when I went to college I’m like, Everyone knows me as being a good student. I wonder what would happen if I’m not a good student. (laughs) And so I didn’t study as much. I didn’t do that, because I didn’t want to be—I felt like—I don’t know how people view me, so don’t—but my own perception is people just thought, Okay, she does well, she studies, she’s smart, and I didn’t want to be known for that, so I kind of studied a little less, kind of slacked off. I kind of figured out that I was probably wrong all along. People probably didn’t see me that way, but I felt like maybe that’s how I was viewing myself and I portrayed that and how others may see me, so I kind of laid back in that regards. I think there’s a time where—when my mom always did this whole thing. “Hey, Mom. Can I do this?” “Well, you know what the right answer is.” It’s kind of like the right expectation of, Yeah, I know what her answer’s going to be, but I was going to ask, “Can I do this?” because I really wanted to do this other thing. So I guess in college, I finally kind of—there was—they had a group of friends who were going skiing over Christmas, and I’m like, “Hey, Mom. Can I do this?” Okay, she did not want me to go, and then she would go, “Well, ask your father,” and he didn’t want to give the answer, so he goes, “Ask your mother.” It went back and forth for a while. He goes, “Well, you know what you should do,” or, “Do what you want to do.” So for the first time in my life I finally said, “You know what I want to do, and that’s what I’m going to do if you’re not going to give me an answer.” And so they didn’t give me an answer. So along come Christmas. It was a very tense Christmas, (Brody laughs) and then I needed someone to drop me off where they were going to pick—the charter bus was going to take all of us, so it was silence all the way through. They know I was going, but I think it was the first time where I’m kind of like, “You know? If I want to do something enough, then sometimes they’re just going to—I’m going to have to disappoint them.” And what I’ve learned is, there’s—they may expected me to do certain things, but there’s some choices I need to make myself, and yeah, they might be disappointed, but I learned that they’ll get over it. So once I’ve learned that they’ll get over it, there’s some things that, if I want it bad enough, I’ve learned to kind of not let that hold me back. That’s kind of a self-discovery. As I got older, just be able to let them know—because I guess—thinking back now, talking about this, I guess I did let them have a lot of control over what I did or didn’t do, always thinking about my choices, How are they going to react to it? So now, that takes—it’s still in the back burner, but that still takes precedent, like, Okay, what would they want? But you know what? Their thoughts and viewpoints are different than mine, and so it’s okay to be—to make my own choices that, Hey, I can see where they’re coming from with that, but here’s why I’m doing this choice, so to be able to evaluate those type of decisions as I’m older. I guess that’s more of a self-discovery. And then there’s things that it’s like, Okay. Well, I don’t want to go there with them, so we’ll just kind of let that be. But I think as an adult and getting older, I think that’s one of the biggest lessons and discoveries. So I think, to me, it seems like more of navigating the parentals than it is the rest of the world. BRODY: I mean, I’m curious how—and maybe you don’t know the answer to this question because maybe you can’t know it, but—how much of that is informed by your family’s whole journey and experience as refugees, and how much of that is just being the person that you are and the parents that you have? SCHROEDER: I think maybe a combination of both. I think a combination of both, because I just know that I was so young that I probably wasn’t as impacted about the immigrating over here as maybe someone a little bit older or my parents, because I think I look back and go, Wow, my parents were in the twenties when that happened. What was I doing in my twenties? I’m like, Wow. What choices would I have made if that were me? How would have impacted me? And I just think there’s such a huge—it’s a very traumatic experience, now that I think about it, to uplift your family, going somewhere you don’t know. So I think with the experience that they had, it makes me wonder, Would my life or would their mindset on raising people—raising us would have been different, they didn’t have that experience? I mean, granted, it’s a different country, but just that traumatic experience and how you view life from that standpoint, I think that—I can’t see how it can’t impact people and affect them in their decisions later in life, so I kind of wonder, would my mom been a different mom, if it wasn’t for that experience? I don’t know—and where we are. So I think it’s a combination of experience in life and what happens. Discusses discovering own identity and rebelling against Schroeder's parents. American identity ; Asian American identity ; assimilation ; ethnicity ; expectations ; friendships ; holidays ; identity ; immigrants ; parents ; race ; rebellion ; refugees ; self discovery ; trauma ; Vietnamese identity 3090 Family and Marriage BRODY: I know you mentioned your kids, so you’re married and you’ve got two kids. Tell me about that part of your journey. SCHROEDER: Okay. I remember growing up, and (laughs) this sounds so bad, but my mom is very—my dad is more of an open-minded person. Life is good. Mom is more of, like, images, how people perceive you and things like that, so I think I got a combination of both. I just think—engrained, I got a combination of both good and bad traits. I remember just growing up, knowing that my personality is so much more—not your typical Vietnamese girl, I guess—that I was more outspoken. Like, rules in a household, it’s like as kids, you’re not supposed to talk back to your elders. That’s just—you don’t do that. I didn’t view it as talking back. I viewed it as, Okay, you spoke your stance. Let me tell you my side of the story. That’s considered being rude and disrespectful, and I didn’t think that’s fair because I felt like I want to give you my side of the story. And so I remember my mom—my mom was kind of judgy. I think she’s come a long way, but back then she was kind of judgy. I think the reason why her Vietnamese didn’t expand as quickly is because she was afraid that if I say it wrong—she’s a perfectionist. That’s kind of a trait I kind of have, but I’ve learned to not let—try to not let that hold me back in growing. And so she’s afraid to say it wrong, so she never would speak it, and afraid that someone might laugh at her for saying it the wrong way. BRODY: Oh, you mean her English? SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) My mom. Yeah, her English. My dad, on the other hand—man, his English wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t afraid to speak it, so his English kind of progressed better because he used it. But she would make comments— and then she grew up—had a different background than my dad, but she’s—kind of has a little bit more of a, “This is how things should be,” so I remember, she used to make a comment going—I think she knew of a lady who came to America and remarried a non- Vietnamese person, and so she made a comment about that. And I remember as a kid, I just really didn’t like her making comments like that, and I just kind of go, Well, you better be careful because your daughter might be one of those people! Well, guess what? (Brody laughs) To answer your question, I was one of those people because I married outside of the race, and I knew that it was going to be a shocker for them, but the one thing I have to say for my parents, and maybe a lot of parents of that generation—they did come over here for so long stuck on a certain way. You’ve got to marry—they had a vision of what you’re supposed to marry. If you don’t do that, you kind of got nixed from the family. It did happen to some of the friends where they met somebody, she wasn’t from the same part of the country or—I mean, so then they kind of broke ties, and the parents and the child doesn’t speak anymore. So I think that they’ve come a long way in the sense of recognizing that that’s kind of stupid, so kudos to them for that, but— BRODY: So you mean that Vietnamese families who were all over here had a preference as to who their kids married, as to what part of Vietnam their family was from? SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) Or of same religion, or some like that. It was like, they’ve got to—if their Catholics, you want to marry Catholics only, or if they’re Buddhist, then Buddhists only, or, Oh, he’s from this small town. He’s not from this. So they’re very— BRODY: Even though they’re all living over here? SCHROEDER: Yes. So they would go, Oh, well, that family’s from whatever. They would look down. I mean, it’s just kind of very judgy, so—even though they’re Vietnamese, so I finally just realized, You know what? If I were to find a Vietnamese guy, he probably won’t be from the same part of the country. He probably won’t be the— they’ll find something wrong with him, so why does it matter? So I’ll just marry whoever I want! So I met Jerry, so we got married. My parents were like—Dad, as open-minded as I thought he was, he wasn’t as open-minded. I mean, he acted like he was fine but he wasn’t, because we didn’t talk for a while once we met. I mean, we talked, but we didn’t talk about that. But he—so one day—I mean, this is really funny. Jerry would laugh about this. So Dad just goes, “Well, I don’t know anything about him,” and stuff. “I need his social security number to do a whole background check and everything on him.” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me? This is so wrong!” I mean, Jerry gave his social security number! (laughs) He didn’t have anything to hide! My dad is like, “Oh, he’s Canadian, and so who’s to say he doesn’t have a wife and kids somewhere up in Canada? You don’t know anything about him, so I need his social security to do a whole background check.” So Jerry openly—he gave it to him. Like I said, he didn’t care. And I finally one day just went to my dad. I’m like, “You know what? I really have a problem with you doing that. What are you going to do with his social security number?” He’s like, “Well, I want to check.” I’m like, “Okay. My uncles got married, or they met someone. Did y’all do a background check on them?” I go, “You’re only doing it because he’s not Vietnamese,” and he goes, “No, that’s not why.” I go, “Bologna. That is why you’re going behind my back complaining about him, because he’s not—you’re not saying he’s not Vietnamese because you’re assuming. You don’t think you are, but you are. It’s because he’s not Vietnamese. I’m just going to point.” I go—because this is at a point, because my dad and I were really close, and so that’s just the one thing that—so I just had to just put it out there, because the silence—we knew what we were avoiding. And so I go, “What about Uncle So-and-So, and he—did y’all go and do a background check on her?” And “Did you go do this?” “No.” I go, “Why?” He goes, “Well, they’re Vietnamese, so we can kind of know within their family all this other stuff and get the information that we need.” I go, “I’m really sure that you went through that much detail to make sure that she wasn’t this and this. That is bologna, of why you’re doing that.” So I called them on that. So then once we got past that conversation, it was all in open. We were all good. So he did do that and he didn’t realize it, that he was being that way—because, like I said, he’s usually open-minded, but I think it’s just that whole unknown. But it’s also because—and then later, as we got married, some of their other friends’ kids got married, they married non- Vietnamese, it seemed to be more acceptable, but at that time people weren’t. And so as it’s become that there’s interracial marriages, it became more acceptable to them, but I think they have a hard time with it, even though they don’t want to admit it. BRODY: How did you meet, and how did you first introduce Jerry to your parents? SCHROEDER: Okay. So Jerry will have a different story than my story. When Jerry and I met through an acquaintance, and then we ran into each other again at Chuy’s or whatever and just had a conversation, and we just—the rest is history. But my mom was in Vietnam visiting my mother and stuff, and so Dad and I went to dinner at Cheesecake Factory, and then Jerry was around so I invited Jerry to come with us. I introduced him as my friend because we were just dating. We weren’t girlfriend and boyfriend yet. Well, I guess Dad went off and got all upset and was talking to the aunts and uncles, telling them, “How rude that she introduced him—she didn’t introduce him as a boyfriend. It’s just a friend, blah, blah, blah.” Well, I guess I never introduced him to anybody else, so I guess I never put the two and two together that, Oh, he thought this was more than it is. I didn’t think anything of it, but yeah, that’s how he was introduced. It was “a friend,” and he was not pleased with the fact that I didn’t introduce him as my boyfriend, which I didn’t see him as a boyfriend at the time. He was just a friend. So that was the—and so, that kind of started off that bumpy road, I guess. (laughs) BRODY: (laughs) Sounds like it. SCHROEDER: It was a miscommunication, but it led down this bumpy road for a while. BRODY: So all these years have passed. You’ve got two kids. Tell me about the kids. SCHROEDER: I have two boys, so they’re growing up in an interracial marriage or what have you—two different—I thought Jerry and I had more of the similar raising, but it’s different. I just think the Asian ways of raising children is very different than the Western culture. BRODY: How so? SCHROEDER: Well, now that I understand Jerry’s parents and family better—I mean, they’re more easy-going—live life, enjoy it, academics is fine, you go to school, and everything will fall into place, kind of thing. Like, everything just works out, which is a very nice, relaxed mentality, but my innate nature and what I grew up with and still part of, to the core, that I am—I mean, I try to be more relaxed, but yes, I believe that education is important, you got to do well in school, these are your responsibilities. You’ve got to nurture the work ethics and things, and just not let it just all—“it will all work out.” I mean, that’s a great mentality. I just think there’s a happy medium in the middle, but it’s kind of like the battling of this, “It’ll all work out,” to—I agree that the Asian way or—it’s very kind of rigid, where I’ve learned—I’ve recognized that and recognizing that. And I think the biggest part of that was, I would’ve turned completely into my mother, if it wasn’t for—we discovered Montessori when the kids were younger. I didn’t know what Montessori was. It just happened to be like, “Oh!” When my oldest was two, I was like, “He needs to socialize with other kids,” so we were just kind of, “Oh, look, there’s this nice school in the neighborhood. Let’s go check it out,” and we realized we liked the way the kids were behaving and the manners and what they were teaching them, so I’m like, “Hey. Why not put them in here so he can socialize, learn daily skills, and then eventually just go move off into public school and move to a different neighborhood?” So we got caught up in this whole Montessori, but I think that as good as it was for the kids, I think it was probably more helpful for me without even recognizing it. They taught me—because I think the Asian person, we tried to do so much for our kids. We want to raise him. We want to—everything’s got to be done right, like there’s a regimen. And they taught me, Oh, what? My eighteen-month-old can hold a cup and drink it by himself without a sippy? What? They can do this? I didn’t recognize what these little beings are capable of and Montessori showed me that. They taught me this whole other side of letting a kid be their kid without suffocating them, which I guarantee I would have been. I know I would have been. My mom’s kind of like that. It’s all I know. And it taught me to recognize this other way, but it also taught me to recognize my natural instincts and how to catch that, and so that’s where I felt like, Okay, easy-going. That makes sense to a certain degree, but you can’t let them loose in that—I can’t let my kids loose in that world because I’m just not like that. I still feel like I need to control that. So I think that, to me, is where that balance is, and I think Jerry, on the other hand, still doesn’t get why I’m so concerned—like, It’ll all come in place. Well, no, because then I try to point out—trying not to be mean, but certain things—“Well, look at this, this, and this. How did that turn out for So-and-So? How did that?” I’m not saying that what I’m doing is right, but I’m trying to provide them the tools that hopefully—I know this doesn’t work and this doesn’t work, so at least what I’m trying maybe is better than those two things. I guess that’s where it is in raising the kids that’s a little bit kind of different and challenges the totally-free-for-all versus the other. BRODY: (both speaking at once) Right. So there’s two different sides of personality and culture, but speaking of culture, are the kids—have you taught them a lot about Vietnamese culture? Or how have you balanced that? SCHROEDER: Unfortunately not, because I don’t think my parents did too much of that, which, looking back, I wish they would have. But I think for them, they were just trying to assimilate into a new country and getting us assimilated. I think their goal was, How do we get them to best fit in? So I think they kind of let that piece go, and I think it’s quite unfortunate. I just—but I don’t—how are you supposed to know? How are you supposed to know that, Hey, I can still keep these cultures and these standards as they move forward into this other culture? Because other families have done it, but that was because they were so in that community, but I think they were just like, Hey, how do we make them adjust the best into this new world? So they kind of assimilated as much into that that I think we lost this piece. BRODY: What—I mean, if you could think of a few things that are—to you, that distill what it means to be Vietnamese, what would you say? SCHROEDER: I would say family. The family unit is probably the big thing. I mean, no matter how—I just think that the eleven of us that came—I mean, even though we’re dispersed throughout the US—I mean, I have cousins now that were born in the US. My little brother was born in the US. I just feel like there’s a connection between the eleven of us that came, even though the age difference. My grandparents have passed away, but the aunts and uncles—I think the core of the eleven that came—I think there’s just a bond and a history that can’t be taken away, and just—but I think it’s not just about being Vietnamese, I think it’s just the—when we came here, because I think Vietnam has changed a lot since we left too, so the culture over there—I think everyone’s just trying to survive and make the best, but as a culture, I just think the family unit of sticking together when it matters. Even though everyone’s gone doing their own thing, but when something happens and we need the family together, I think we still have that core. I think that’s what I take away from it, whether it’s being Vietnamese, or just my family itself. Discusses marriage, disagreements on marriage, family, and kids. children ; culture ; English ; English as a Second Language ; family ; famiy ; learning English ; marriage ; parenting ; religion 3941 Grandparents/Improvising Vietnamese ingredients for cooking BRODY: I didn’t ask you about this earlier, but your grandparents were with you when you came over. What was their life like once they got here? SCHROEDER: I think my grandfather ended up getting a job at the bank. I’m not sure what he did. Was he maintenance? I’m not sure. My grandmother—oh my God. She was raising the kids, but I remember living—this is funny, because I think a lot of the older women did. So a lot of what they did was, they made—so when we came to America back in ’75 and in those early—the late seventies, there weren’t really Vietnamese restaurants—or Vietnamese grocery stores to have the Vietnamese food, and for them, they wanted their Vietnamese food. And so I remember Grandma would—on the weekends, my aunts—their—I’m just a kid so I’m playing, but the older folks—she’s making rice paper. She is cooking on the little burner, whatever—the rice flour, whatever—and she’s making rice paper. They would get the screens from the windows, so they’d take off the windows of the apartment because that’s—and so they would clean that, and they would get the rice paper and they would make it, and they would lay it out into the fields to dry—“fields”—we’re talking about the green space in the apartments (laughs)—and they would lay—and that’s, like, in the sun to dry, and then once it dries, everyone sit there and pick off—and she would sell the rice paper. I remember her making rice papers. I mean, that’s—people like rice papers, and the rice paper they had was—you would then cook it on a burner, and it would pop kind of like popcorn, so it’s a nice, crunchy rice paper. So that’s—I remember her making that. I remember her—and then they would—once they had an apartment, they grew greens and vegetables. Oh, she would grow bean sprouts. Bean sprouts—I mean, I remember—I don’t know if you need—but they would get clean, new rug—carpets, and they would grow the bean sprouts in, like, ten gallon tubs, and then, when it grows—so they would sell that to people. BRODY: (both speaking at once) To other Vietnamese people. SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) To other Vietnamese families. Yeah. So she did a lot of that, so it was kind of like her own in-house growing. That’s what I remember about her trying to make a living, is that kind of stuff. BRODY: Right, because she didn’t speak English. SCHROEDER: No. She didn’t speak English at all. BRODY: Did your grandmother play a large role in raising you? SCHROEDER: Not really. I think my mom did most of that, and my aunt who played with us. So my grandma—no. I think she was helping with her own kids that she had to do. But we were close. I mean, our schedules were routine. I just—there’s some things that I miss that I—to me, I value now. Every Sunday morning when we got up, we went over to the grandparents’ house. All of us would hang out, whether we’re just sitting in the little apartment doing whatever—they’re doing their rice paper. Every Sunday, we would go see the grandparents. BRODY: That was a tradition. SCHROEDER: That was a tradition. It was a good one, though, I think about, that we kind of lose in today’s world—that everyone’s so busy, they don’t have time or make the time. But back then, guess what? The stores weren’t open. Nothing was open on Sundays, so Sunday, really, you couldn’t go anywhere but to spend time with family, so maybe the American culture is doing the same thing. Who knows? Maybe they went to church to spend time with family, and we kind of did our thing too, because there was nothing— you were kind of—which is kind of nice. I remember when that kind of went away, when that mall came in and you could—the malls could open on Sundays. BRODY: Right, that Blue Law. SCHROEDER: Yeah. Retells life of Schroeder's grandparents in America, Blue Law ; cooking ; cuisine ; employment ; family ; food ; grandparents ; groceries ; immigration ; jobs ; restaurants ; rice paper ; stores ; Vietnamese food 4157 Learning and speaking Vietnamese language Brody: Do you still speak Vietnamese? SCHROEDER: I speak broken Vietnamese. BRODY: Where do you most often have the opportunity to speak it? SCHROEDER: I’ll speak it to my parents or just within the family, like if I’m with—if my family from Vietnam came to visit—they don’t come very often—or we’re with family or the elders. Like, if we get together as a family and it’s people that are my parents’ age, I would try to speak Vietnamese to them—or broken Vietnamese—because I feel weird speaking English to them. But of course, I throw in English words because I don’t know too much of it. But yeah, I did grow up—I didn’t even mention this. I grew up watching a Vietnamese Chinese soap opera on TV. (laughs) BRODY: What was it called? SCHROEDER: I can’t remember, but you know how they have—like, there’s Bollywood and stuff like that? Well, Vietnamese had their own where they’re Chinese actors dubbed in Vietnamese, but I kind of laugh because I think that’s how I learned a lot of Vietnamese. BRODY: (both speaking at once) Right. Was it on TV here? SCHROEDER: No, no. They’re on VHSes. Everyone had VHS and we’ll watch it. It was kind of like one of those romance, drawn-out saga, but I remember—because surprisingly, my Vietnamese is better than my brother’s, and a few others were like, How do you—? Like, “I think it’s from watching those soap operas.” I mean, because I would sit there and rewind and go, “Mom, what does that word mean? Mom, what does that mean?” And so I watched a bunch of that too. (laughs) BRODY: That’s so interesting. SCHROEDER: (laughs) So that’s where I got my Vietnamese culture—from watching soap operas. No, but they were—yeah, but that’s what they were all watching, and my brother did watch some, but he watched more of the fighting ones, and I watched more of the romantic ones, but the fighting ones didn’t have as much speaking, so he didn’t learn as much. But that’s what they do. They watch—we grew up watching Chinese soap operas. When we go over on Sundays, we’re watching Chinese soap operas in Vietnamese. And now, I think the older generation watches these Vietnamese musicians—their concerts and stuff on TV all the time now, which I never got into that— the Asian concert scene. I think, in high school, some kids got into that, but I never did. BRODY: That wasn’t you, right? SCHROEDER: No. That wasn't me. Talks about Vietnamese speaking abilities. Elders ; English ; learning Vietnamese ; soap opera ; television ; Television ; TV ; VHS ; Vietnamese ; Vietnamese language 4282 Reflections about what it means to be American and preserving Vietnamese heritage BRODY: Thinking about your kids, they were born here, they’ve grown up here, and it sounds like it’s been not as easy to transmit some of the Vietnamese culture to them. What would you like them to know about your story and about your family’s story? SCHROEDER: I think more of how we got here and how—where we are today. I think, for me, is for them to learn that it doesn’t matter what happens to you and what circumstances. What you make of yourself is the big thing. At some point, I wouldn’t mind taking them back to Vietnam to see the countryside and the beauty. I’ve been back once, but we were there more to visit family, but just to see the country, which I haven’t seen myself—but as far as that—I mean, part of it, it’s sad to say, is kind of lost, but if we can keep whatever history we have—because I think when my parents came here, too, everything was kind of left back—like, no pictures, no this—there’s part of it that kind of got severed and lost, which is life, and the rest of it is just kind of what you remember. So if we can just keep that history, which is what you’re doing—I think it’s valuable. Whether or not they care for it now, I think it’s good to have. But yeah, just kind of where they came from—how we all ended up here. As far as the cultural, the—I think it’s kind of lost. It’s sad to say, but I think for us it’s kind of lost, but I think that they’re kind of in a whole different—this generation’s totally different for us too, for them. Now, I kind of laugh because they’re half Vietnamese and half white, but if they were to see themselves, I don’t think they see themselves as white or Vietnamese, but I think they probably see themselves more of a Westerner, than as an Eastern. You know, like, the whole—I remind them, I go, “Hey guys, you’re half Vietnamese in there,” you know, so I just think—but I think that doesn’t have to do with anything else. It’s just the fact that we live in America and in the Western world. I think, if we—if Jerry and I met and we lived in Vietnam, they’d probably see themselves more as Vietnamese. So I just think because we happened to grow up here, they kind of see them as that. But as I look around, America now is all full of—it truly is a melting pot. BRODY: What does it mean to you to be American? SCHROEDER: I think, to be American—I think it’s the freedom ; the freedom to be able to make your choices. I feel like America allows us to—if you really want something bad and you work hard at it, you can achieve it, but you’ve got to put in the work. You can’t just assume that people are going to hand things to you, and I think that sometimes that gets lost. But for me, I feel like America is the land of opportunity if people choose to take advantage of what the government and what America provides you. I mean, America is a place where it says, Hey, we are going to educate your children. We’ve got laws that your children can’t work so that they can educate and better themselves. I think it saddens me to see that people here sometimes don’t take advantage of that, whereas when you come from a place like Vietnam—like I said, I didn’t grow up there, but seeing how— listening to the stories—my dad, he grew up from a poor family. He wanted an education and had to work to get himself to where he can get an education. It wasn’t given to you. It wasn’t for—and you had to work at it, and just to see that other countries—like, if the kids were given the opportunity to get an education, how much better they could be, or food—and here in America, wow. We provide the education. We provide the free food service. We provide all this, and it saddens me that people don’t look at that as an opportunity to be able to do something better with theirself, and America provides that. I think most immigrants coming over here seize that and can appreciate that and value that. I think sometimes, when you’re here on this land for so long, you take it for granted, and it makes me worry about the future generation, not just of my generation—of kids growing—grandkids, and stuff like that. Are they going to become this that take that so much for granted, that we saw as an opportunity? As long as we can keep these from appreciating—knowing that this is an opportunity, and if you do what you need to do, you can be anything. I guess that’s my biggest piece on that. Discusses what it means to be an American and Vietnamese, as well as the importance of family history. America ; American identity ; assimilation ; children ; culture ; Easterners ; ethnicity ; heritage ; history ; identity ; melting pot ; race ; values ; Vietnam ; Vietnamese identity ; Westerners 4567 Interview Conclusion BRODY: That’s great. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about today or that I have forgotten to ask that you’d like to add? SCHROEDER: No. (laughs) I think I’m good with that. If I—no, I haven’t—no. I don’t think so. I think we’ve covered it. BRODY: Well, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I’m so honored to have been able to record it for this collection, so thank you so much. SCHROEDER: Well, thanks for documenting it for me. I think, when I’m ninety, I’ll listen to it again and remind my old, dementia self (laughs) what all this is all about. BRODY: Well, thank you so much. end of interview Conclusion of the interview Baylor University Institute for Oral History Dai Pham Schroeder Oral History Memoir Interview Number 1 Interviewed by Betsy T. Brody June 30, 2019 Addison, Texas Project -- Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans: The Making of the Vietnamese Community in North Texas BRODY: This is Betsy Brody. Today is June 30, 2019. I am interviewing, for the first time, Mrs. Dai Schroeder. This interview is taking place at Mrs. Schroeder&#039 ; s home in Addison, Texas. This interview is sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Oral History and is part of the &quot ; Becoming Texans, Becoming Americans&quot ; project. Thank you so much for meeting me and letting me interview you. To start out with, tell me about what you remember of your life in Vietnam. |00:00:30| SCHROEDER: Actually, I don&#039 ; t remember any of my life in Vietnam. I came when I was two, so there is zero recollection of Vietnam. BRODY: So what are your first memories of--at all? SCHROEDER: I guess the only memory I have coming or migrating here--this is totally random. We were on the plane. I think I was two at the time, my brother was three, and I remember my brother asking where the bathroom was, and that is the only recollection as a childhood during that time. BRODY: Have you pieced that together? Where was the plane going? Where were you coming from? SCHROEDER: No, but I assume that that would be on the flight to America because I think that was our only plane trip since we left the country. |00:01:14| BRODY: Where did your family land? SCHROEDER: Gosh. I think I have to talk to my dad. Was it in--believe it was in Arkansas is where we landed, because that&#039 ; s where--we came here and then we were--I think we were sponsored by a church here in Richardson, but I can&#039 ; t remember if they sponsored us. I think they sponsored while we were still in--what was it? Where were we? There was some island that we were at where all the refugees were, and I can&#039 ; t remember if they sponsored us from there and then we went to Arkansas and then came, and there&#039 ; s, maybe, some orientation or training-type stuff before we came to the States, but--yeah. It was probably to Arkansas. Or you know what? Maybe it could&#039 ; ve been the flight from Arkansas from Dallas. I&#039 ; m not sure which one it was. |00:02:03| BRODY: In any case, you were so young that it makes sense that you wouldn&#039 ; t remember all of that. What are your first memories, then, just as a child, unrelated even, to your experiences getting here? SCHROEDER: Well, as far as--I guess I remember more of once we were in Richardson or moved to where we were going to be. I don&#039 ; t even remember what age I was. It&#039 ; s all childhood. It&#039 ; s all the same memory. And the order in which I&#039 ; m remembering this--I don&#039 ; t know which came first. It&#039 ; s not a linear order. I remember we went to church every Sunday. I&#039 ; m sure it&#039 ; s with the First Presbyterian Church of Richardson. So the folks--I guess there&#039 ; s a bunch of families that sponsored us, so they probably--we went to, maybe, Sunday school? I don&#039 ; t remember anything about Sunday school, but I remember that we were somewhere else while the parents were in the service. I remember they did put us into a preschool. I can&#039 ; t remember the preschool. I remember the exact location. I mean, we drive by it every day. It&#039 ; s off Belt Line [Road], and it&#039 ; s between Hillcrest [Road] and Preston [Road], and I believe there is now a Jewish church there, but there&#039 ; s a little--and it wasn&#039 ; t a big church. It&#039 ; s a little house or whatever. That was the preschool. And people who know me now to this day, and even then, I was afraid of dogs, and I vividly remember this one lady--because the ladies at the church were the ones that drove us to preschool every day, because my mom didn&#039 ; t drive. My dad couldn&#039 ; t take me. He was working. And so she would come pick up, and she had this little dog sitting in the car, and so every day I&#039 ; m just fearful, in the car with this dog, going to preschool. So I vividly remember that incident. I remember stories from preschool where, I guess, the teachers would ask me some--I don&#039 ; t know. I would come home crying, and I guess I didn&#039 ; t know why. I guess maybe I was trying to communicate with them in Vietnamese or something. My mom didn&#039 ; t know what it was, so I guess there was incidences of that. And then my mom would say, &quot ; Oh, yeah, you were--they needed something and you didn&#039 ; t know what it was,&quot ; so there was a communication at a young age and, I guess, the frustration of that. I remember one time--the school was small. I remember there was probably two or three rooms in the building ; at least that&#039 ; s all I remember. Walk into this one room, when I went to the wrong room on accident. It was an empty room. It had a big floor-to-ceiling mirror, and I think it was the first time I exposed to a mirror. I&#039 ; m not sure, (laughs) but I looked at it. I freaked out, like, &quot ; Who is that?&quot ; Then when I moved, this other image moved with me, so I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; What is that?&quot ; So I think I kept it inside. I was really scared of that room for quite some time, but it was because of that mirror. I mean, now that I know what it is, it was really just a mirror, but it was floor-to-ceiling, for this little two-year-old who never experienced that before. So I remember that. So yeah, those were--I guess some of those memories all fell into the preschool. I don&#039 ; t know why that&#039 ; s stuck in my head. |00:05:04| BRODY: You&#039 ; ve mentioned that your dad was working and your mom still wasn&#039 ; t proficient in English. How did that come about? What was your dad doing? SCHROEDER: At that age, I probably didn&#039 ; t know, just in talking to him later. I guess at the time he was a security guard, but as far as at that younger age, I wasn&#039 ; t that involved in what they were doing to--you know. |00:05:33| BRODY: Did you have siblings? SCHROEDER: I did. I have--okay. I have a brother. He&#039 ; s a year older, so we basically were each other&#039 ; s rock, I guess, or you can call it that. So at that time, there&#039 ; s just the two of us. BRODY: Right. And was he in the same preschool? SCHROEDER: He was, but I don&#039 ; t remember him--we weren&#039 ; t in the same class, so he wasn&#039 ; t there to (Brody laughs) be my rock in those moments of when I&#039 ; m on my own. |00:05:58| BRODY: So the sponsor families, were they part of your life for the whole time that you were growing up? SCHROEDER: I think they were very involved with our family, and I think when we came to America there was eleven of us, my brother and I being the youngest, and the rest of them were--because it was my grandfather and my grandmother, and then my brother and half of his siblings, and then us, so they--I think they were more involved with my aunts and uncles. They were more of the grade school age and middle school age. We were just little preschoolers. They were involved in the sense that they put us in preschool, they took us to school, stuff like that, but as far as everything else, I think they were probably more involved with them, or if they were involved with me, I don&#039 ; t remember. |00:06:45| BRODY: Right. You were very young. So you got here, you went to preschool and at some point, I guess you went to elementary school, right? How was that? SCHROEDER: I don&#039 ; t remember. At this point, I think we felt like we were just--we did what was the next step, right? But I do remember--I just know that we grew up--I mean, my mom worked really hard to try to assimilate us. I can--looking back, I know it was a step for her. I remember when it was our birthday and she would make a cake. I don&#039 ; t think she ever made a cake before, you know? I think that was because everyone did it, and you bake a cake, and you blow a candle. I don&#039 ; t think they did that back then in Vietnam, so that was something new for her. And you know, I mean, bless her heart, it was like--it wasn&#039 ; t the best cake in the world, but she tried. I think that was something different that when we came here. I remember in school when they said, Oh, you need to bring something for your child&#039 ; s birthday, and my favorite dessert was creampuffs, but I guess back in nineteen--how old would I have been at five? So if I was &#039 ; 73--so 1978, so I was in kindergarten, so my mom would make my creampuffs that I love so much and would bring it to school. And I just remember the reaction of all the kids, like, Ew, what is this? They didn&#039 ; t even touch it. They seemed so disgusted by it. They didn&#039 ; t even try it, because it&#039 ; s--I mean, they&#039 ; re kids, and I think in today&#039 ; s world, people are more open to trying more ethnic and cultural foods. Back in 1978, I don&#039 ; t think that was the case. I mean, people were like, Ew, what is that? So I never had my mom bake creampuffs ever again for school! (laughs) I mean, because it was kind of like--I was kind of embarrassed, like, Okay, we didn&#039 ; t bring the normal cupcakes, and what was wrong with us? We brought this cream. So I think my mom was doing what I--she knew what I liked, but then culturally or within the school, the kids--I mean, kids are kids, right? |00:08:36| BRODY: Did you experience a lot of that, of trying to navigate how to be, as you said, normal, and sort of your home life or being different? SCHROEDER: Yes and no. I think part of it came naturally. Part of it was just kind of-- and I think with anybody, whether it was a--coming to America as an immigrant, I&#039 ; m sure that people who live here have their own battles and struggles too, so whether it was a result of being an immigrant or the cultural difference, or it was just part of childhood, growing up. So based on the experiences that come about--you know, social cues--you kind of react a certain way. Whether those social cues, like I said, are based on cultural differences, I don&#039 ; t know. But, I mean, yeah, there&#039 ; s things like--there&#039 ; s been differences growing up. I mean, as later in life, it&#039 ; s like--we had friends ; friends would sleep over. They had slumber parties and stuff like that. Well, my mom was like, &quot ; Nope.&quot ; And it was kind of a double standard. I mean, I guess in America, we&#039 ; re so--everyone&#039 ; s conscious of the individual and treating everyone the same. Well, you know what? Vietnamese, back then--I don&#039 ; t know--boys and girls are treated differently. Boys can do certain things that girls can&#039 ; t do, and there&#039 ; s no--I grew up. I felt kind of like in a sexist world where my older brother, who&#039 ; s only one year older--he gets to go over to people&#039 ; s sleepovers, slumber parties, have all this fun, and guess what? I can&#039 ; t. And what&#039 ; s the reason? &quot ; You&#039 ; re a girl.&quot ; That is the only reason. There was no other reason. And then all my other friends could, so I remember slumber parties, my mom was like, &quot ; Oh, yes, you can go, but we&#039 ; ll pick you up at ten o&#039 ; clock,&quot ; and so I&#039 ; d go and they&#039 ; d pick me up at ten. So that was a difference compared to all the other girls that were there. |00:10:30| BRODY: (both speaking at once) What were they afraid of, in your opinion? SCHROEDER: Oh, girls don&#039 ; t sleep at other people&#039 ; s house. It&#039 ; s just this--there&#039 ; s not afraid of anything. It&#039 ; s just, &quot ; Girls do not sleep at other people&#039 ; s houses,&quot ; period. BRODY: But your brother did all those things. Okay. SCHROEDER: Oh, yes. I could have a friend sleep over, but I could never do it. I could have one friend sleep over, so my best friend growing up--she would be the one that would sleep over, but I never could sleep at anyone else&#039 ; s house. And to me, I didn&#039 ; t see the big deal, and then I saw it as, &quot ; Yes, great, I can go and stay until ten,&quot ; but it seems like all the stories I heard the next day, all the fun stuff happened at late night when you&#039 ; re laying down! And the stories over the next morning at breakfast, that&#039 ; s when all the--you know? And so I felt I kind of missed out on that, but I mean, as a kid growing up, you&#039 ; re just kind of like, &quot ; Wow. Why can&#039 ; t I do these things, especially if he can do it?&quot ; So that&#039 ; s probably where I&#039 ; ve--that difference is, and my brother didn&#039 ; t care because he was able to do what he wanted to do, so he wasn&#039 ; t up to bat for me. (laughs) |00:11:32| BRODY: What was grade school like for you here as a--having recently learned English and sort of adjusting to--having the whole family adjust to life in the United States? SCHROEDER: I don&#039 ; t think mine was any different than anyone else growing up, because since I came at two, I was so young. So by the time I went to grade school, my English was like anybody else&#039 ; s, so I don&#039 ; t think I had any language barrier. So that piece, I felt was fine. I mean, academically, fine. Learning was fine. I just remember stories of handwriting and stuff. We would write real nice. I remember one story where I was in school and this teacher--I think I had great handwriting, but she would come and try to correct the way I had my paper. It was kind of on the side instead of straight-- horizontal, and she would come and try to make it right, and I couldn&#039 ; t write. I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; I need to turn it.&quot ; And so she finally just figured out that, &quot ; Okay, we&#039 ; ll let you write this way.&quot ; I would tell my mom the story. She goes, &quot ; You know what? You&#039 ; re lucky because in Vietnam back then, if you&#039 ; re left-handed, they would sit there and hit your hand and force you write right-handed.&quot ; So even with the stories, there was just more flexibility in America. That teacher finally learned, &quot ; Hey, she can write. She can do fine. We&#039 ; re not going to force this and make it worse,&quot ; but just knowing culturally, elsewhere, that my mom is like, &quot ; That&#039 ; s not a big deal. I mean, you can adapt to that.&quot ; So it&#039 ; s like, we should be able to adapt better, because in Vietnam they&#039 ; re forced to conform to the standards of the way things should be done. |00:13:19| BRODY: With your parents, it sounds like your mom really wanted you guys to assimilate and helped you in that way. Were there examples of you and your brother maybe sort of educating your parents about how things are here, because you were in school? SCHROEDER: You know, if there was, I don&#039 ; t remember. I think my parents probably did the best they could. I just knew there were times--I remember in grade school when they did gymnastics. Friends were taking gymnastics classes, but I never asked my parents of that because I knew we couldn&#039 ; t afford it, so what&#039 ; s the point of asking for something--because they were trying to raise us--and so there are things that I wanted to do, but I knew we just never would ask for it. I remember going to the grocery store and going, &quot ; Mom, can I have some Pockys(??)?&quot ; &quot ; No, you can&#039 ; t have that. We can&#039 ; t (??).&quot ; So I knew off the bat, of what to ask of them and what not, so we really didn&#039 ; t ask much. We just knew it was expected of us to go to school, do well, don&#039 ; t get in trouble, and that&#039 ; s what we did. And so I guess knowing what the expectation was or not to bother them with any more burdens, we didn&#039 ; t--the brain never went further to try to go, &quot ; Okay, what about this, this, and this?&quot ; We just did what was kind of expected. |00:14:40| BRODY: Right. So at home, tell me about your food life, right? Did your mom cook a lot of Vietnamese food still or did she move into cooking American food? SCHROEDER: You know, it&#039 ; s so funny that you mention that, because I didn&#039 ; t even think about that until now. She cooked Vietnamese food a lot, but I remember there was--as we got in middle school, my aunt--she learned how to make spaghetti and meat sauce. Oh my gosh! Then Mom learned how to make that, so that was what she made, and my mom would sit there--I was kind of a picky eater, you know, and I would tell her, &quot ; I&#039 ; m not hungry.&quot ; She goes, &quot ; There is a whole table full of food. You&#039 ; re not eating,&quot ; and all I wanted to eat was probably spaghetti, meatballs, and pizza! So we did have that once in a while, but that would be--I know spaghetti meat is not the American food, but that&#039 ; s not Vietnamese food, so that was the one meal that was not Vietnamese, but then along comes the day of learning about Velveeta cheese and SPAM, and we thought that was delicatessen! (both laugh) Looking back now, I&#039 ; m like, Maybe it was best that we stuck with Vietnamese food, but back then, I remember my mom goes, &quot ; Oh, I was at a friend&#039 ; s house and they had this, and this stuff&#039 ; s really good!&quot ; So she goes and buys SPAM, and cooks it. I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Wow, this is the best thing over!&quot ; So the things that we got into with the American culture that I laugh at now was probably more of the processed food and not real foods, but that&#039 ; s when we kind of went away from the Vietnamese food. As a grown up now, I kind of wish I would have stuck more with it--I mean, because now I want the Vietnamese food and Mom doesn&#039 ; t make it anymore because there&#039 ; s not a house full of kids and people. |00:16:16| BRODY: What were your favorite things that your mom cooked growing up? SCHROEDER: Oh, gosh. I remember it changed. At one time, it was Bun Rieu, which is kind of like a rice noodle soup that had crab meat and eggs and stuff, and then later, it became pho, but the beef pho, and things like that. Oh, but I remember--oh, this is even a better story. When I was a kid--and this may sound disgusting for those here--my mom would make pork feet, and she would caramelize this really good. I didn&#039 ; t know what I was eating and I loved it, until one day I grew up and I realized what it was. I was so disgusted, I never ate it again! (Brody laughs) Only because I knew what it was, the thought of what it was--but that was one of my favorite until I realized that--what I was eating. BRODY: What was that called? SCHROEDER: I was--well, khô--it&#039 ; s kind of, like, the way you cook it, so I don&#039 ; t know. Heo khô, but it was the foot, but I never--it was just-- BRODY: So that was an end to your-- SCHROEDER: It was an end, because I liked that collagen and all--but now, thinking about that--it&#039 ; s sometimes best to not know what you&#039 ; re eating if you&#039 ; re enjoying it. (laughs) |00:17:24| BRODY: Did your mom teach you how to cook Vietnamese food? SCHROEDER: I think she tried. My mom is very much a perfectionist, so I remember growing up, and girls were supposed to learn how to cook and what have you. I did a lot of mincing garlic and stuff for all her marinades, but as far as chopping and cutting, I think she tried, and it&#039 ; s like, &quot ; Oh, it wasn&#039 ; t cut thin enough and it&#039 ; s not the same size,&quot ; and so I just learned to--if she don&#039 ; t like it--if Dad&#039 ; s running somewhere, I just kind of jumped and I&#039 ; d go, &quot ; Oh, Dad! Where are you going?&quot ; I&#039 ; d just hop on with him before Mom can stop me and keep me in the kitchen. But I wish I would have stuck it through and learned some more of those Vietnamese dishes and cuisines--but no, she tried. BRODY: Do you cook now--Vietnamese food? SCHROEDER: I do. I remember, when I started going back to that it was in college, and I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Remember how to make that gâ kho?&quot ; which is a caramelized fish or whatever, and it&#039 ; s made with fish sauce and it really--fish sauce, if you&#039 ; re not used to the smell, it really--a lot of people don&#039 ; t like it. The funniest story is in college I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Mom, how do you make that?&quot ; So I would--so I made it one time, and it turned out good. I mean, in my mind, I thought it tasted great. Mom was like, &quot ; Oh, it&#039 ; s missing this, this, and this,&quot ; but to me, eighty-twenty, I got the gist of the flavor, it&#039 ; s all good. And my roommate in college, she would walk in and go, &quot ; What are you making? That stuff really stinks!&quot ; I&#039 ; d go, &quot ; It&#039 ; s gâ kho. You&#039 ; ll like it. I mean, trust me.&quot ; So I did--she tried this, &quot ; Oh my God, this is the best thing!&quot ; And so when her parents came to visit during parents&#039 ; weekend, she&#039 ; s like, &quot ; Oh, Mom, Mom, Mom! You&#039 ; ve got to have this!&quot ; She goes, &quot ; It stinks so bad, but it&#039 ; s so good!&quot ; I had this other friend in college who&#039 ; s Vietnamese, and we had the challenge with roommates--because we both had a non-Vietnamese roommate--in trying to convert them to eating some Vietnamese food, so that-- |00:19:26| BRODY: Did it work? SCHROEDER: Like I said, especially gâ kho and some other dishes. I didn&#039 ; t make a lot. I asked my mom, &quot ; How do you make egg rolls?&quot ; And so I attempted to make this stuff, and what I&#039 ; ve learned is that a lot of these foods are very labor-intensive, and it&#039 ; s--now I know why, when we&#039 ; re growing up, the aunts and the moms are sitting there in the kitchen all day, and it tastes really good, but when I try to make it myself, I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; This really takes a lot of time. Is the labor worth the treat?&quot ; I finally go, &quot ; You know what?&quot ; For me, it wasn&#039 ; t worth it. I can just go buy it at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street. Maybe not as good as Mom&#039 ; s, but surely better than wasting all the time to prep all that. So I did learn and get the recipes of some of them, but the only Vietnamese food I do make is the one that I kind of dumbed it down to the basics to keep it simple, but to make it the true authentic way was too much labor than what I really had the time to do. |00:20:26| BRODY: Right. Well, let&#039 ; s backtrack and go back to school age. Tell me about your childhood and moving on into middle school and high school. What did you do? What were you involved in? SCHROEDER: Okay. This is where I&#039 ; m, maybe, atypical, because I consider myself kind of like the black sheep of the Vietnamese girl. As much as I couldn&#039 ; t do certain things, I was really--I hung out with my brother a lot. We lived in the apartments and all played outside with the kids in the neighborhood, and they were all boys, so I hung out with boys and I was pretty much a tomboy. As you can tell from my mom and my parents, they&#039 ; re more traditional, so having a girl that more of a tomboy, who&#039 ; s not doing the girly things, that may have been not up their alley. So I remember in third grade, I played soccer, and so--and then, that was one year, then my mom was like, &quot ; I&#039 ; m not doing this drive, and girls don&#039 ; t play soccer.&quot ; And so I remember--so I still played soccer. Not formal organized sports, but I played soccer in the backyard with all the neighborhood boys and my brother, and so I learned to play street soccer, I guess you could call it. I remember when I--so that&#039 ; s only soccer, and I really enjoyed that, and when we went to high school, you can try out for sports, and I knew I couldn&#039 ; t try for the other sports ; one, because they all would require--I mean--and I&#039 ; m looking back now, I didn&#039 ; t realize. I mean, the school does provide the uniforms, but there&#039 ; s certain things that required parental expenses, so there&#039 ; s other sports that I couldn&#039 ; t do. Well, guess what? Soccer didn&#039 ; t really require that. They give you a uniform and you go and play, so I tried out for the soccer team and, at first--so I got cut. So they didn&#039 ; t have enough players for a JV team, and I didn&#039 ; t make the varsity team--so this is ninth grade--and by luck of the universe, they told the coach, You cannot cut people. You need to create a JV team. So he created a junior varsity soccer team. BRODY: And this was at Richardson? SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) This was at Richardson High School. And so I played. My brother goes, &quot ; Okay,&quot ; so my brother watched me play, and the first thing his advice was, &quot ; Okay. I saw you playing out there. You were playing like a girl. You need to play soccer the way you play with us.&quot ; And so he goes, &quot ; Stop playing like a girl, and play the way you play when we&#039 ; re out there playing soccer.&quot ; So I started doing that, and so even by the end of the year, I made the varsity team. I got bumped up or whatever. I mean, it wasn&#039 ; t--but it&#039 ; s like--but I did. That was the sport that I did because--I&#039 ; ve said, the awareness of what we would afford or not. I just didn&#039 ; t want to add any expectation, so I did soccer, did well in school, made the Honor Society--the usual suspects, but I feel like back then a lot of the Vietnamese kids did that. We all knew kind of what our role-- school had an agenda. It&#039 ; s to graduate, to get to college, to make a living, to support yourself, and so that was always the initial agenda. |00:23:26| BRODY: Right. So you mentioned a lot of the Vietnamese kids. Was there a large Vietnamese community that you were involved in? SCHROEDER: No, I wasn&#039 ; t so much. I think my parents--I know growing up they had their friends, so we had some friends that we grew up as family friends. BRODY: Did they mostly live in Richardson? SCHROEDER: They didn&#039 ; t live in Richardson. Some of them lived in, like, Garland or whatever. I remember one of the friends that we really hung out with, both my brother and I, with his family, they--I remember in middle school, all of a sudden, it was like, &quot ; Wow. Why is Mom and Dad hanging out with the parents, and why aren&#039 ; t we going along anymore?&quot ; I mean, when we grew up, it was like a close family-knit weekends and stuff. And so I guess at that point, during that time, there was a lot of Vietnamese gangs that were brewing and in the neighborhood, so I guess--later found out they got caught up in the gang, and that&#039 ; s when my parents kind of segregated us because they didn&#039 ; t want us to get involved in that. At that point, we didn&#039 ; t know what&#039 ; s going on. We&#039 ; re like, Why aren&#039 ; t we hanging out with them anymore? Why aren&#039 ; t we going with them? So my parents--so there&#039 ; s a lot of kids getting into wrong, so they did the helicopter parenting and kind of, you know, We don&#039 ; t want to get into in this mess, we don&#039 ; t want to expose them. So they kind of did their own separation to keep us out. And within the school community there were a few Vietnamese, but I don&#039 ; t think there was tons like some schools. I think back then, Richardson--I was at Richardson High School. I think Berkner had more of the Vietnamese community than Richardson, but the ones that were in Richardson--I mean, I think we all kind of intermingled just fine within the school, culturally, so I don&#039 ; t-- |00:25:06| BRODY: Were there functions that your family attended, or--you mentioned that you went to the church and continued going to the church. Was that something that you stayed involved in as a family? SCHROEDER: No. I think that kind of died down, probably more in middle school. I think at that point, I think my mom did appreciate what the church did for us, but her true calling was probably Buddhism, and so I think at that point, more--there were some temples that were coming up, so I think she started going more to that, but that was more of her personal thing. Dad&#039 ; s more not as religious, and so, no, we weren&#039 ; t as involved. BRODY: And so as kids, you didn&#039 ; t-- SCHROEDER: Not so much. Yeah. I think Mom did what she needed to do, but as far as--she&#039 ; s really--I think she kind of watched not to get integrated so much, and this, that, and the other. I think a lot of the families that we knew--that they knew that more of the Catholic families probably were more involved in the community with the churches and stuff like that, but my mom kind of was more of stand-back kind of person ; didn&#039 ; t want to--kind of kept her distance, I think, for whatever reason. |00:26:18| BRODY: That&#039 ; s interesting. So the gangs that you were talking about before, what kind of--do you remember? Can you tell me what they were doing? SCHROEDER: Oh, yeah. So we knew families, like some of my parents&#039 ; friends. I mean, they would rob. I guess they would rob. Basically, everyone that they--the gangs would basically target other Vietnamese families, so they don&#039 ; t target people outside the Vietnamese community. They would target a Vietnamese family, rob them, or do whatever, and they would threaten them that, If you report this, then we&#039 ; re going to kill this other member of your family, so they kind of knew the ins and outs of everybody. They would rob people in their weddings--their wedding days. There was people getting shot. I mean, so a lot of this stuff was going on, but it was really under the radar, from what I understand--but like I said, because a lot of them were threatening that, If you say anything or report or whatever, we will target your family members. BRODY: Wow. That sounds really scary, actually. What do you think drove those people into that type of life? SCHROEDER: I don&#039 ; t know. I don&#039 ; t know. But I think they were targeting the younger kids. Maybe a sense of belonging? I&#039 ; m not sure, because I think when parents came to America, a lot of them--both parents were working. Lot of the moms--so everyone&#039 ; s working, and those teenage years, you never know. They&#039 ; re easily influenced. |00:27:48| BRODY: Right. Earlier when you were talking about soccer, you mentioned that you guys lived in an apartment initially. Tell me about your experience in housing. Did you-- how long did you stay in the apartment? SCHROEDER: Okay. So from what I recall, when we first came to America, the church helped sponsored us and got us a place to live, an apartment for all eleven of us. I think it was, like, a three-bedroom apartment. So it was like--my grandparents got a room. I think my family, the four of us, and then all the other siblings--so I think they helped us the first month or two, and kind of get us started with donations and things like that. At that point, they kind of helped my dad and grandfather find a job, and at that point, you&#039 ; re kind of left to take care of yourself. So I think we all stayed together for a while, and then at some point--I don&#039 ; t know when, I don&#039 ; t remember what age I was--we moved into our own apartment--my parents--my family of four. We got a two-bedroom apartment right around the corner in a different complex not too far from there. BRODY: (both speaking at once) Where was--still Richardson. SCHROEDER: It was still in Richardson. It was over there in--no. Well, it&#039 ; s over there off, like, Spring Valley [Road] and Whatever, and the address--I remember the address: 8636 Lazy Acre Circle. That&#039 ; s where we lived, and I think at some point, my grandparents probably got into, maybe, some government housing, and so they moved further away. In retrospect, it&#039 ; s really not that far now that I&#039 ; m driving, but so it was like--it was my grandparents and then the siblings--or my dad&#039 ; s siblings. There was four of them, and so they stayed with my grandparents, and like I said, my parents and I were in our place, and then as well as my aunt, who kind of was--I call her my aunt, but she kind of--she was adopted by my parents, so she was kind of like a child laborer in Vietnam that was there to play with us and help out with the kids, so she came to America with us, so she chose to come with us. When I say &quot ; our family of four,&quot ; it was the four of us plus her. And so my grandparents lived somewhere else--not too far, still in Dallas. And then I think I was in fourth or fifth grade where we moved into the house that they&#039 ; re at now. That was a big thing for them that, Hey, we made something of ourselves and we were able to put money away to buy a house. The funny thing is, their biggest thing was, We want to buy in a good school district, and in their mind, all they knew was Richardson, and Richardson&#039 ; s a good school district, so they just wanted to make sure they buy in a Richardson school district, so that was their focus on where we&#039 ; re buying a home. |00:30:33| BRODY: That&#039 ; s a huge accomplishment to have come and started from scratch and buy a home, right? The American dream. Tell me about that house and the neighborhood and how moving into the house changed your life. SCHROEDER: My parents--it wasn&#039 ; t far from where we were. I guess it was kind of neat because at that point my aunt has already moved out and so it was just my parents, and then I got my own room and my brother got his own room. So that was kind of a neat thing, like, Oh, we have our own rooms! So that was--I think that&#039 ; s all I really recall. BRODY: How&#039 ; d you decorate your room? SCHROEDER: Okay. The whole decorating thing--that&#039 ; s not part of the--there was no decorating, really. I mean, it&#039 ; s kind of like, &quot ; Hey, I got my own room,&quot ; which is more than enough, right? So really, it&#039 ; s just your bed--and oh, I remember shopping for a desk, and so that was a big thing, is I get to pick my own desk. I got one of those with the rolling tops. (laughs) Now that I look back, it was kind of hideous, but I really liked it back then. And then my brother picked out his, so our big purchase for the room was probably our desk for school, and as you can tell, education was really big for my parents. BRODY: How did they communicate that to you, that education was your priority? What were--when you think about that? SCHROEDER: You know, I don&#039 ; t even know. I just think that it was embedded in us. We just kind of knew. We just kind of knew that this is--you go to school, you make good grades, you do this, and you--and that&#039 ; s how you go to college and make a better living, I guess. |00:32:04| BRODY: Do you feel like you had a pretty typical American childhood? SCHROEDER: No. There was nothing typical about it. I mean, I felt like I was caged. I mean, for me--and you know what--and it&#039 ; s--but not really. I mean caged in a sense like, hey, everyone can do this, everyone can do--you know, and I had my guidelines of what I could and couldn&#039 ; t do. We had our expectations, which is probably normal for most people--like, you know, we got up on Saturday mornings, mowed the lawn, weed the grass, we did the dishes, we did the--but that was our role in the house. Mom and Dad had to go to work, make a living. That&#039 ; s their time of rest. Dinners, we cook and clean. I remember cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming--those were just kind of all the normal things that we had to do, but looking back, I&#039 ; m grateful for that because part of life isn&#039 ; t just about school and isn&#039 ; t just about your work, it&#039 ; s about also maintaining the daily functions that keep things nice and orderly. If you don&#039 ; t do your part, everything becomes a mess. But like I said, the sleepovers, the parties, the slumber parties, the--and things that I had to learn all on my own. If I look back, it&#039 ; s like when I went to junior high. There was a couple girls that, &quot ; Oh, we&#039 ; re trying out for athletics!&quot ; &quot ; What&#039 ; s athletics?&quot ; I didn&#039 ; t know that. I just got the schedule. &quot ; Here, you sign up for these classes, and then you do PE.&quot ; I think if I knew then something differently, I probably would&#039 ; ve tried out for athletics. I think there&#039 ; s some things that we had to learn with the limited knowledge--we did the next steps of what&#039 ; s being provided, but I think all the extra stuff I was unaware of. But that&#039 ; s to be said. Some people just kind of know more about the system, what goes on, and others didn&#039 ; t, but we did what we knew. So there&#039 ; s things I would&#039 ; ve done. I may have tried out for athletics. I may have done these other things. BRODY: So high school in Richardson during the 1980s--what was that--can you describe what you remember of that time? SCHROEDER: Um--(pauses to think) |00:34:16| BRODY: How did you spend your time? SCHROEDER: Yeah. My time was so boring. (Brody laughs) Like I said, I played soccer, had friends from that. I didn&#039 ; t go to a prom or any of the dances because you&#039 ; re not supposed to. I didn&#039 ; t go to football games because Mom was like, &quot ; You&#039 ; re not going to go to a football game. What if you get shot? Some gangs are there.&quot ; So she&#039 ; s really--I think part of this, I wouldn&#039 ; t say, is a cultural thing. I think part of it is the type of parents I had. She was just overly protective in that regard, so I&#039 ; m going to account that to her personality, versus my--a cultural thing, because I had friends who could that were Vietnamese--could do these things. But no, I did what I was supposed to do. That&#039 ; s why soccer was my outlet, because guess what? I have to go to a soccer game. &quot ; Sorry Mom, got to go. We&#039 ; ll be home later.&quot ; That was kind of like my outlet to get out the door, and it was related to school, so I could do that. I can&#039 ; t remember which organizations I was in, but just doing all the things--the protocol stuff that school required, but really nothing extra outside of that. |00:35:29| BRODY: Given that your parents didn&#039 ; t go to college in this country, how did you navigate the sort of getting in and figuring out where you wanted to go to college? I mean, you&#039 ; d worked hard in your grades, but how did you figure out what to do next after high school? SCHROEDER: There wasn&#039 ; t much thought process into that. I mean, my uncles were older, so they just went through. One went to UT [University of Texas], one went to [Texas] A&amp ; M. My brother was already at UT. So I didn&#039 ; t think much more about where I wanted to go, or we didn&#039 ; t do college visits or anything like that. It was pretty much, like, the next step. Like, here you went from junior high to high school, and the next step was probably going to be UT. Why? Because it&#039 ; s familiar. My uncle went there. My brother went there. It was the familiar thing to do, and UT had that, what, top whatever percent gets in, so really, there--I didn&#039 ; t have to navigate the SATs and all that. I got automatic admissions, so it was pretty much the next step. The thought process? There wasn&#039 ; t much. It was kind of the next thing to do, which sounds kind of not very exciting, but it is what it is, right? |00:36:33| BRODY: It is exciting to go to college, so what--did your parents take you? Did you just-- SCHROEDER: Oh, no. No. They didn&#039 ; t. It was pretty--I remember--like I said, my brother was already there, so my uncles did provide some guidance. They were saying, Okay, if you guys take some of this community college and do it there, so we did. After I graduated from high school, that summer I did take some college at Richland College, like the English classes or whatever, just to knock those out, and we--my brother and I-- I remember leaving. I was excited to go to college, and put our stuff in the car, and then we drove off, and that&#039 ; s it. Parents didn&#039 ; t come. My parent&#039 ; s didn&#039 ; t come with me. They never moved me in, ever. So went off to college, we moved in a dorm, moved myself in, my brother moved himself in, and that was that. And I guarantee--then that&#039 ; s when the sadness hits, and not in the sense of that. It&#039 ; s just kind of like, Oh my gosh, because you&#039 ; re in a new place, new people, and you haven&#039 ; t formed your people yet. I came back and visited the next month, and I was bawling leaving. I was like, Oh my gosh! But after the first semester, you&#039 ; re fine. But they never came to UT ever while I was there in the four years, but my friends who were there that I met--parents&#039 ; weekend, I hung out with them and their families, so I was kind of like the adopted child because Dai&#039 ; s parents aren&#039 ; t there, (laughs) but they didn&#039 ; t--that just wasn&#039 ; t them, right. It&#039 ; s like, that was the next step. You go. But they did show up on graduation day when I graduated, so that&#039 ; s the first time they were there for me when I was in college. There were there for my brother when he graduated, went to graduation, and then went to my graduation, but that&#039 ; s--otherwise, they were never there my whole college years. |00:38:15| BRODY: What did you study? SCHROEDER: I studied pharmacy, but that&#039 ; s kind of a funny story. I tell the kids this story all the time. I actually got into the business school, which is what I was going to do, and like I said, I have an older brother who thinks I&#039 ; m always trying to follow in his footsteps. So one day he goes, &quot ; Oh, you&#039 ; re going to go to business school? Why do you always do everything I do and follow in my footsteps?&quot ; I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Oh, seriously?&quot ; So being me, that kind of rebellious--you know, that trait that I had, I was like, &quot ; Fine. Then, I won&#039 ; t go to business school.&quot ; Knowing now, I should&#039 ; ve stuck with business school and taken the pre-pharmacy school as electives, and then applied to pharmacy school, but instead, I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Okay, fine. I&#039 ; ll let them know that I&#039 ; m not going to go to business school, and I&#039 ; m going to get into another one of the schools.&quot ; That was kind of stupid because the business school&#039 ; s harder to get into than all the other schools, but whatever. So I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Fine. I&#039 ; m not going to do that,&quot ; and so my dad, being that my dad-- remember, their goal is to go to school so that you can get a career to take care of yourself. The passion part of it doesn&#039 ; t ring in the head. To follow your passion of what you want to do was not an option--plus, I didn&#039 ; t know what my passion was. I remember him going, &quot ; Well, what about this?&quot ; and, &quot ; What about this?&quot ; and, &quot ; What about this?&quot ; I go, &quot ; I don&#039 ; t like that. Don&#039 ; t like that. Don&#039 ; t like that,&quot ; and then he finally just goes, &quot ; Of all those things we listed, which one do you least hate, and pick that.&quot ; So that just kind of shows you how it&#039 ; s not about passion but, Okay, we know you don&#039 ; t like these things but, okay, pick the ones that you least hate. But no, it wasn&#039 ; t that. So after my brother was telling me, &quot ; Oh, you&#039 ; re just following in my footsteps,&quot ; my mom and I happened to be at Tom Thumb that day. (laughs) She was picking a prescription at the pharmacy, and I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Oh! That&#039 ; s a job! Huh. Maybe I could do that.&quot ; And that was the day I was like, &quot ; Fine. I&#039 ; ll be a pharmacist.&quot ; There was no other thought into that whatsoever but, &quot ; Okay, I&#039 ; ll be a pharmacist,&quot ; and the rest is history. (laughs) BRODY: Right. So you graduated with a pharmacy degree. SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) Degree, yeah. I then switched my school over to natural sciences, and then applied into pharmacy school. |00:40:29| BRODY: So are you working as a pharmacist? SCHROEDER: I was. The funny thing is, all the pharmacy students and classmates I had--and of all the people who would least likely be a pharmacist five years after we graduate, they probably could have picked me as being that person. As today, I&#039 ; m no longer a pharmacist. I&#039 ; m doing more IT in pharmacy, which is--I need my pharmacy--it all worked out, but it&#039 ; s just kind of funny how life takes you on this journey to where you are. But that&#039 ; s how it came about. There wasn&#039 ; t a thought like, I love pharmacy. It was just a matter of not doing business because my brother told me I was following his footsteps. (laughs) |00:41:07| BRODY: That&#039 ; s pretty funny. You mentioned earlier that you introduced your roommate in college to some Vietnamese food and that you had another friend who was also--was Vietnamese and had a roommate who was not Vietnamese. Was there a large population at UT of Vietnamese students? SCHROEDER: I think there was. There&#039 ; s a Vietnamese Student Association. I never got involved with that. I don&#039 ; t know. There was a part of me that just didn&#039 ; t want to feel like, Hey, I&#039 ; m Vietnamese, I&#039 ; m going to try--so maybe, as I said earlier, I didn&#039 ; t think I was trying to assimilate, but I guess sometimes part of me was like, I&#039 ; m just going to be like everyone else and not be so--so I didn&#039 ; t join VSA or anything like that, but there was a huge community of that. I met her just through one of the classes and, lo and behold, she grew up in--her parents had a place in Irving, so we got--but her family was so different from my family. Her family has more of that community feel and they did more of that, so that just kind of made me realize that it&#039 ; s not--all Vietnamese families aren&#039 ; t the same. It&#039 ; s just like in America. Not all families are the same. Every family operates, have different--how they want to raise their families and things like that, so that&#039 ; s where I realized it&#039 ; s not just a cultural thing, it&#039 ; s an individual thing. |00:42:20| BRODY: Right. So on that note, you didn&#039 ; t--you were trying to assimilate with different experiences and trying different things. Did you experience or observe any discrimination or racism as you were either growing up or since then? SCHROEDER: You know, I don&#039 ; t--I would say yes, I guess it&#039 ; s there, and whether I block it out or not, I don&#039 ; t know. I mean, I know that people use the word chink and all that stuff, or F-O-B, but I never took it to offense of, Oh, you&#039 ; re--that didn&#039 ; t bother me so much. I guess it&#039 ; s just a matter of fact of like, Okay, yeah. Well, we&#039 ; re Asian, and you&#039 ; re not. I mean--but it&#039 ; s just, when you hear it enough, I guess it&#039 ; s--everyone takes it differently, right? I mean, you can take it and be like, Yeah, we are Asian. We are different. But we&#039 ; re not different. So at the end of the day, if I say that you&#039 ; re Indian or someone else is black, it&#039 ; s a fact, so why should I take offense to the fact that--well, &quot ; chink&quot ; --okay, I do say something with &quot ; chink&quot ; because chink is Chinese and I&#039 ; m Vietnamese, so there&#039 ; s--you kind of categorize that, but I&#039 ; m just--I think that, Yeah, we are Asian, so why would I take--I guess I see it more like, Okay, yeah. That&#039 ; s a fact, but why don&#039 ; t you get over that fact and just look at us as people? BRODY: Do you think that there were ever examples or instances where you didn&#039 ; t get to do something or you were kept out of something for those reasons? SCHROEDER: I don&#039 ; t think so. I think my mom kept me on such a tight leash that I think she was the one that kept me from things before I get a chance to feel it from other people. I mean, I&#039 ; m sure maybe I would have. I think my brother probably felt more like--that he worked harder to not be that way, but I guess my mom had me on a different rein than he was, and we&#039 ; re also different people in how we react, but I think she restricted me so much that (laughs) no one could restrict me any more than what she had. |00:44:34| BRODY: Growing up, did you have friends that were all different cultures, races, ethnicities? SCHROEDER: Yeah. Most of the friends I met were within school, and so whoever was at school, those were the friends. Whether--it wasn&#039 ; t based on any ethnicity or what have you. BRODY: Right. You were kind of engaged with lots of different groups in terms of just having a--like we talking about before, just a normal American life. Yeah. SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) Normal. It was what you called &quot ; normal.&quot ; If I weren&#039 ; t Vietnamese and I was still the same--a different race, it probably would&#039 ; ve been the same. |00:45:05| BRODY: That brings me to another set of questions about your identity. How do you think about yourself in terms of your identity? I mean, your experience has been in two different countries--even though you were very young when you first came, but your parents as refugees and immigrants assimilating and trying to fit into a new life here and building a new life here, their experience is different than yours as a child growing up here. How do you think of yourself in terms of your identity? SCHROEDER: Hm. That&#039 ; s a tough--well, hm. As far as from a individual or racial perspective or what? |00:45:49| BRODY: (both speaking at once) Just your own, when you think about who you are. SCHROEDER: Well, I think with that, it&#039 ; s kind of a self-discovery every day, because I think for so long as a child growing up, I think all the way even through college or up until college, I kind of was like, Be the person that your parents expect or want you to be. I think for so long it wasn&#039 ; t about me or what I wanted. It was more about, This is what you need to do. So I think, as I started to get--even though I was kind of rebellious, I still was rebellious within constrained limits of what you should or shouldn&#039 ; t do. I think as I got into college--I think there was some more of a self-discovery. I mean, I remember--I mean, this is a funny story--not that funny--but I grew--I studied well, did well in school, and so I think when I went to college I&#039 ; m like, Everyone knows me as being a good student. I wonder what would happen if I&#039 ; m not a good student. (laughs) And so I didn&#039 ; t study as much. I didn&#039 ; t do that, because I didn&#039 ; t want to be--I felt like--I don&#039 ; t know how people view me, so don&#039 ; t--but my own perception is people just thought, Okay, she does well, she studies, she&#039 ; s smart, and I didn&#039 ; t want to be known for that, so I kind of studied a little less, kind of slacked off. I kind of figured out that I was probably wrong all along. People probably didn&#039 ; t see me that way, but I felt like maybe that&#039 ; s how I was viewing myself and I portrayed that and how others may see me, so I kind of laid back in that regards. I think there&#039 ; s a time where--when my mom always did this whole thing. &quot ; Hey, Mom. Can I do this?&quot ; &quot ; Well, you know what the right answer is.&quot ; It&#039 ; s kind of like the right expectation of, Yeah, I know what her answer&#039 ; s going to be, but I was going to ask, &quot ; Can I do this?&quot ; because I really wanted to do this other thing. So I guess in college, I finally kind of--there was--they had a group of friends who were going skiing over Christmas, and I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Hey, Mom. Can I do this?&quot ; Okay, she did not want me to go, and then she would go, &quot ; Well, ask your father,&quot ; and he didn&#039 ; t want to give the answer, so he goes, &quot ; Ask your mother.&quot ; It went back and forth for a while. He goes, &quot ; Well, you know what you should do,&quot ; or, &quot ; Do what you want to do.&quot ; So for the first time in my life I finally said, &quot ; You know what I want to do, and that&#039 ; s what I&#039 ; m going to do if you&#039 ; re not going to give me an answer.&quot ; And so they didn&#039 ; t give me an answer. So along come Christmas. It was a very tense Christmas, (Brody laughs) and then I needed someone to drop me off where they were going to pick--the charter bus was going to take all of us, so it was silence all the way through. They know I was going, but I think it was the first time where I&#039 ; m kind of like, &quot ; You know? If I want to do something enough, then sometimes they&#039 ; re just going to--I&#039 ; m going to have to disappoint them.&quot ; And what I&#039 ; ve learned is, there&#039 ; s--they may expected me to do certain things, but there&#039 ; s some choices I need to make myself, and yeah, they might be disappointed, but I learned that they&#039 ; ll get over it. So once I&#039 ; ve learned that they&#039 ; ll get over it, there&#039 ; s some things that, if I want it bad enough, I&#039 ; ve learned to kind of not let that hold me back. That&#039 ; s kind of a self-discovery. As I got older, just be able to let them know--because I guess--thinking back now, talking about this, I guess I did let them have a lot of control over what I did or didn&#039 ; t do, always thinking about my choices, How are they going to react to it? So now, that takes--it&#039 ; s still in the back burner, but that still takes precedent, like, Okay, what would they want? But you know what? Their thoughts and viewpoints are different than mine, and so it&#039 ; s okay to be--to make my own choices that, Hey, I can see where they&#039 ; re coming from with that, but here&#039 ; s why I&#039 ; m doing this choice, so to be able to evaluate those type of decisions as I&#039 ; m older. I guess that&#039 ; s more of a self-discovery. And then there&#039 ; s things that it&#039 ; s like, Okay. Well, I don&#039 ; t want to go there with them, so we&#039 ; ll just kind of let that be. But I think as an adult and getting older, I think that&#039 ; s one of the biggest lessons and discoveries. So I think, to me, it seems like more of navigating the parentals than it is the rest of the world. |00:49:50| BRODY: I mean, I&#039 ; m curious how--and maybe you don&#039 ; t know the answer to this question because maybe you can&#039 ; t know it, but--how much of that is informed by your family&#039 ; s whole journey and experience as refugees, and how much of that is just being the person that you are and the parents that you have? SCHROEDER: I think maybe a combination of both. I think a combination of both, because I just know that I was so young that I probably wasn&#039 ; t as impacted about the immigrating over here as maybe someone a little bit older or my parents, because I think I look back and go, Wow, my parents were in the twenties when that happened. What was I doing in my twenties? I&#039 ; m like, Wow. What choices would I have made if that were me? How would have impacted me? And I just think there&#039 ; s such a huge--it&#039 ; s a very traumatic experience, now that I think about it, to uplift your family, going somewhere you don&#039 ; t know. So I think with the experience that they had, it makes me wonder, Would my life or would their mindset on raising people--raising us would have been different, they didn&#039 ; t have that experience? I mean, granted, it&#039 ; s a different country, but just that traumatic experience and how you view life from that standpoint, I think that--I can&#039 ; t see how it can&#039 ; t impact people and affect them in their decisions later in life, so I kind of wonder, would my mom been a different mom, if it wasn&#039 ; t for that experience? I don&#039 ; t know--and where we are. So I think it&#039 ; s a combination of experience in life and what happens. |00:51:32| BRODY: I know you mentioned your kids, so you&#039 ; re married and you&#039 ; ve got two kids. Tell me about that part of your journey. SCHROEDER: Okay. I remember growing up, and (laughs) this sounds so bad, but my mom is very--my dad is more of an open-minded person. Life is good. Mom is more of, like, images, how people perceive you and things like that, so I think I got a combination of both. I just think--engrained, I got a combination of both good and bad traits. I remember just growing up, knowing that my personality is so much more--not your typical Vietnamese girl, I guess--that I was more outspoken. Like, rules in a household, it&#039 ; s like as kids, you&#039 ; re not supposed to talk back to your elders. That&#039 ; s just--you don&#039 ; t do that. I didn&#039 ; t view it as talking back. I viewed it as, Okay, you spoke your stance. Let me tell you my side of the story. That&#039 ; s considered being rude and disrespectful, and I didn&#039 ; t think that&#039 ; s fair because I felt like I want to give you my side of the story. And so I remember my mom--my mom was kind of judgy. I think she&#039 ; s come a long way, but back then she was kind of judgy. I think the reason why her Vietnamese didn&#039 ; t expand as quickly is because she was afraid that if I say it wrong--she&#039 ; s a perfectionist. That&#039 ; s kind of a trait I kind of have, but I&#039 ; ve learned to not let--try to not let that hold me back in growing. And so she&#039 ; s afraid to say it wrong, so she never would speak it, and afraid that someone might laugh at her for saying it the wrong way. |00:53:07| BRODY: Oh, you mean her English? SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) My mom. Yeah, her English. My dad, on the other hand--man, his English wasn&#039 ; t perfect, but he wasn&#039 ; t afraid to speak it, so his English kind of progressed better because he used it. But she would make comments-- and then she grew up--had a different background than my dad, but she&#039 ; s--kind of has a little bit more of a, &quot ; This is how things should be,&quot ; so I remember, she used to make a comment going--I think she knew of a lady who came to America and remarried a non- Vietnamese person, and so she made a comment about that. And I remember as a kid, I just really didn&#039 ; t like her making comments like that, and I just kind of go, Well, you better be careful because your daughter might be one of those people! Well, guess what? (Brody laughs) To answer your question, I was one of those people because I married outside of the race, and I knew that it was going to be a shocker for them, but the one thing I have to say for my parents, and maybe a lot of parents of that generation--they did come over here for so long stuck on a certain way. You&#039 ; ve got to marry--they had a vision of what you&#039 ; re supposed to marry. If you don&#039 ; t do that, you kind of got nixed from the family. It did happen to some of the friends where they met somebody, she wasn&#039 ; t from the same part of the country or--I mean, so then they kind of broke ties, and the parents and the child doesn&#039 ; t speak anymore. So I think that they&#039 ; ve come a long way in the sense of recognizing that that&#039 ; s kind of stupid, so kudos to them for that, but-- |00:54:35| BRODY: So you mean that Vietnamese families who were all over here had a preference as to who their kids married, as to what part of Vietnam their family was from? SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) Or of same religion, or some like that. It was like, they&#039 ; ve got to--if their Catholics, you want to marry Catholics only, or if they&#039 ; re Buddhist, then Buddhists only, or, Oh, he&#039 ; s from this small town. He&#039 ; s not from this. So they&#039 ; re very-- BRODY: Even though they&#039 ; re all living over here? SCHROEDER: Yes. So they would go, Oh, well, that family&#039 ; s from whatever. They would look down. I mean, it&#039 ; s just kind of very judgy, so--even though they&#039 ; re Vietnamese, so I finally just realized, You know what? If I were to find a Vietnamese guy, he probably won&#039 ; t be from the same part of the country. He probably won&#039 ; t be the-- they&#039 ; ll find something wrong with him, so why does it matter? So I&#039 ; ll just marry whoever I want! So I met Jerry, so we got married. My parents were like--Dad, as open-minded as I thought he was, he wasn&#039 ; t as open-minded. I mean, he acted like he was fine but he wasn&#039 ; t, because we didn&#039 ; t talk for a while once we met. I mean, we talked, but we didn&#039 ; t talk about that. But he--so one day--I mean, this is really funny. Jerry would laugh about this. So Dad just goes, &quot ; Well, I don&#039 ; t know anything about him,&quot ; and stuff. &quot ; I need his social security number to do a whole background check and everything on him.&quot ; And I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Are you kidding me? This is so wrong!&quot ; I mean, Jerry gave his social security number! (laughs) He didn&#039 ; t have anything to hide! My dad is like, &quot ; Oh, he&#039 ; s Canadian, and so who&#039 ; s to say he doesn&#039 ; t have a wife and kids somewhere up in Canada? You don&#039 ; t know anything about him, so I need his social security to do a whole background check.&quot ; So Jerry openly--he gave it to him. Like I said, he didn&#039 ; t care. And I finally one day just went to my dad. I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; You know what? I really have a problem with you doing that. What are you going to do with his social security number?&quot ; He&#039 ; s like, &quot ; Well, I want to check.&quot ; I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Okay. My uncles got married, or they met someone. Did y&#039 ; all do a background check on them?&quot ; I go, &quot ; You&#039 ; re only doing it because he&#039 ; s not Vietnamese,&quot ; and he goes, &quot ; No, that&#039 ; s not why.&quot ; I go, &quot ; Bologna. That is why you&#039 ; re going behind my back complaining about him, because he&#039 ; s not--you&#039 ; re not saying he&#039 ; s not Vietnamese because you&#039 ; re assuming. You don&#039 ; t think you are, but you are. It&#039 ; s because he&#039 ; s not Vietnamese. I&#039 ; m just going to point.&quot ; I go--because this is at a point, because my dad and I were really close, and so that&#039 ; s just the one thing that--so I just had to just put it out there, because the silence--we knew what we were avoiding. And so I go, &quot ; What about Uncle So-and-So, and he--did y&#039 ; all go and do a background check on her?&quot ; And &quot ; Did you go do this?&quot ; &quot ; No.&quot ; I go, &quot ; Why?&quot ; He goes, &quot ; Well, they&#039 ; re Vietnamese, so we can kind of know within their family all this other stuff and get the information that we need.&quot ; I go, &quot ; I&#039 ; m really sure that you went through that much detail to make sure that she wasn&#039 ; t this and this. That is bologna, of why you&#039 ; re doing that.&quot ; So I called them on that. So then once we got past that conversation, it was all in open. We were all good. So he did do that and he didn&#039 ; t realize it, that he was being that way--because, like I said, he&#039 ; s usually open-minded, but I think it&#039 ; s just that whole unknown. But it&#039 ; s also because--and then later, as we got married, some of their other friends&#039 ; kids got married, they married non- Vietnamese, it seemed to be more acceptable, but at that time people weren&#039 ; t. And so as it&#039 ; s become that there&#039 ; s interracial marriages, it became more acceptable to them, but I think they have a hard time with it, even though they don&#039 ; t want to admit it. |00:57:55| BRODY: How did you meet, and how did you first introduce Jerry to your parents? SCHROEDER: Okay. So Jerry will have a different story than my story. When Jerry and I met through an acquaintance, and then we ran into each other again at Chuy&#039 ; s or whatever and just had a conversation, and we just--the rest is history. But my mom was in Vietnam visiting my mother and stuff, and so Dad and I went to dinner at Cheesecake Factory, and then Jerry was around so I invited Jerry to come with us. I introduced him as my friend because we were just dating. We weren&#039 ; t girlfriend and boyfriend yet. Well, I guess Dad went off and got all upset and was talking to the aunts and uncles, telling them, &quot ; How rude that she introduced him--she didn&#039 ; t introduce him as a boyfriend. It&#039 ; s just a friend, blah, blah, blah.&quot ; Well, I guess I never introduced him to anybody else, so I guess I never put the two and two together that, Oh, he thought this was more than it is. I didn&#039 ; t think anything of it, but yeah, that&#039 ; s how he was introduced. It was &quot ; a friend,&quot ; and he was not pleased with the fact that I didn&#039 ; t introduce him as my boyfriend, which I didn&#039 ; t see him as a boyfriend at the time. He was just a friend. So that was the--and so, that kind of started off that bumpy road, I guess. (laughs) BRODY: (laughs) Sounds like it. SCHROEDER: It was a miscommunication, but it led down this bumpy road for a while. |00:59:14| BRODY: So all these years have passed. You&#039 ; ve got two kids. Tell me about the kids. SCHROEDER: I have two boys, so they&#039 ; re growing up in an interracial marriage or what have you--two different--I thought Jerry and I had more of the similar raising, but it&#039 ; s different. I just think the Asian ways of raising children is very different than the Western culture. BRODY: How so? SCHROEDER: Well, now that I understand Jerry&#039 ; s parents and family better--I mean, they&#039 ; re more easy-going--live life, enjoy it, academics is fine, you go to school, and everything will fall into place, kind of thing. Like, everything just works out, which is a very nice, relaxed mentality, but my innate nature and what I grew up with and still part of, to the core, that I am--I mean, I try to be more relaxed, but yes, I believe that education is important, you got to do well in school, these are your responsibilities. You&#039 ; ve got to nurture the work ethics and things, and just not let it just all--&quot ; it will all work out.&quot ; I mean, that&#039 ; s a great mentality. I just think there&#039 ; s a happy medium in the middle, but it&#039 ; s kind of like the battling of this, &quot ; It&#039 ; ll all work out,&quot ; to--I agree that the Asian way or--it&#039 ; s very kind of rigid, where I&#039 ; ve learned--I&#039 ; ve recognized that and recognizing that. And I think the biggest part of that was, I would&#039 ; ve turned completely into my mother, if it wasn&#039 ; t for--we discovered Montessori when the kids were younger. I didn&#039 ; t know what Montessori was. It just happened to be like, &quot ; Oh!&quot ; When my oldest was two, I was like, &quot ; He needs to socialize with other kids,&quot ; so we were just kind of, &quot ; Oh, look, there&#039 ; s this nice school in the neighborhood. Let&#039 ; s go check it out,&quot ; and we realized we liked the way the kids were behaving and the manners and what they were teaching them, so I&#039 ; m like, &quot ; Hey. Why not put them in here so he can socialize, learn daily skills, and then eventually just go move off into public school and move to a different neighborhood?&quot ; So we got caught up in this whole Montessori, but I think that as good as it was for the kids, I think it was probably more helpful for me without even recognizing it. They taught me--because I think the Asian person, we tried to do so much for our kids. We want to raise him. We want to--everything&#039 ; s got to be done right, like there&#039 ; s a regimen. And they taught me, Oh, what? My eighteen-month-old can hold a cup and drink it by himself without a sippy? What? They can do this? I didn&#039 ; t recognize what these little beings are capable of and Montessori showed me that. They taught me this whole other side of letting a kid be their kid without suffocating them, which I guarantee I would have been. I know I would have been. My mom&#039 ; s kind of like that. It&#039 ; s all I know. And it taught me to recognize this other way, but it also taught me to recognize my natural instincts and how to catch that, and so that&#039 ; s where I felt like, Okay, easy-going. That makes sense to a certain degree, but you can&#039 ; t let them loose in that--I can&#039 ; t let my kids loose in that world because I&#039 ; m just not like that. I still feel like I need to control that. So I think that, to me, is where that balance is, and I think Jerry, on the other hand, still doesn&#039 ; t get why I&#039 ; m so concerned--like, It&#039 ; ll all come in place. Well, no, because then I try to point out--trying not to be mean, but certain things--&quot ; Well, look at this, this, and this. How did that turn out for So-and-So? How did that?&quot ; I&#039 ; m not saying that what I&#039 ; m doing is right, but I&#039 ; m trying to provide them the tools that hopefully--I know this doesn&#039 ; t work and this doesn&#039 ; t work, so at least what I&#039 ; m trying maybe is better than those two things. I guess that&#039 ; s where it is in raising the kids that&#039 ; s a little bit kind of different and challenges the totally-free-for-all versus the other. |01:03:18| BRODY: (both speaking at once) Right. So there&#039 ; s two different sides of personality and culture, but speaking of culture, are the kids--have you taught them a lot about Vietnamese culture? Or how have you balanced that? SCHROEDER: Unfortunately not, because I don&#039 ; t think my parents did too much of that, which, looking back, I wish they would have. But I think for them, they were just trying to assimilate into a new country and getting us assimilated. I think their goal was, How do we get them to best fit in? So I think they kind of let that piece go, and I think it&#039 ; s quite unfortunate. I just--but I don&#039 ; t--how are you supposed to know? How are you supposed to know that, Hey, I can still keep these cultures and these standards as they move forward into this other culture? Because other families have done it, but that was because they were so in that community, but I think they were just like, Hey, how do we make them adjust the best into this new world? So they kind of assimilated as much into that that I think we lost this piece. |01:04:22| BRODY: What--I mean, if you could think of a few things that are--to you, that distill what it means to be Vietnamese, what would you say? SCHROEDER: I would say family. The family unit is probably the big thing. I mean, no matter how--I just think that the eleven of us that came--I mean, even though we&#039 ; re dispersed throughout the US--I mean, I have cousins now that were born in the US. My little brother was born in the US. I just feel like there&#039 ; s a connection between the eleven of us that came, even though the age difference. My grandparents have passed away, but the aunts and uncles--I think the core of the eleven that came--I think there&#039 ; s just a bond and a history that can&#039 ; t be taken away, and just--but I think it&#039 ; s not just about being Vietnamese, I think it&#039 ; s just the--when we came here, because I think Vietnam has changed a lot since we left too, so the culture over there--I think everyone&#039 ; s just trying to survive and make the best, but as a culture, I just think the family unit of sticking together when it matters. Even though everyone&#039 ; s gone doing their own thing, but when something happens and we need the family together, I think we still have that core. I think that&#039 ; s what I take away from it, whether it&#039 ; s being Vietnamese, or just my family itself. |01:05:41| BRODY: I didn&#039 ; t ask you about this earlier, but your grandparents were with you when you came over. What was their life like once they got here? SCHROEDER: I think my grandfather ended up getting a job at the bank. I&#039 ; m not sure what he did. Was he maintenance? I&#039 ; m not sure. My grandmother--oh my God. She was raising the kids, but I remember living--this is funny, because I think a lot of the older women did. So a lot of what they did was, they made--so when we came to America back in &#039 ; 75 and in those early--the late seventies, there weren&#039 ; t really Vietnamese restaurants--or Vietnamese grocery stores to have the Vietnamese food, and for them, they wanted their Vietnamese food. And so I remember Grandma would--on the weekends, my aunts--their--I&#039 ; m just a kid so I&#039 ; m playing, but the older folks--she&#039 ; s making rice paper. She is cooking on the little burner, whatever--the rice flour, whatever--and she&#039 ; s making rice paper. They would get the screens from the windows, so they&#039 ; d take off the windows of the apartment because that&#039 ; s--and so they would clean that, and they would get the rice paper and they would make it, and they would lay it out into the fields to dry--&quot ; fields&quot ; --we&#039 ; re talking about the green space in the apartments (laughs)--and they would lay--and that&#039 ; s, like, in the sun to dry, and then once it dries, everyone sit there and pick off--and she would sell the rice paper. I remember her making rice papers. I mean, that&#039 ; s--people like rice papers, and the rice paper they had was--you would then cook it on a burner, and it would pop kind of like popcorn, so it&#039 ; s a nice, crunchy rice paper. So that&#039 ; s--I remember her making that. I remember her--and then they would--once they had an apartment, they grew greens and vegetables. Oh, she would grow bean sprouts. Bean sprouts--I mean, I remember--I don&#039 ; t know if you need--but they would get clean, new rug--carpets, and they would grow the bean sprouts in, like, ten gallon tubs, and then, when it grows--so they would sell that to people. |01:07:41| BRODY: (both speaking at once) To other Vietnamese people. SCHROEDER: (both speaking at once) To other Vietnamese families. Yeah. So she did a lot of that, so it was kind of like her own in-house growing. That&#039 ; s what I remember about her trying to make a living, is that kind of stuff. BRODY: Right, because she didn&#039 ; t speak English. SCHROEDER: No. She didn&#039 ; t speak English at all. |01:07:59| BRODY: Did your grandmother play a large role in raising you? SCHROEDER: Not really. I think my mom did most of that, and my aunt who played with us. So my grandma--no. I think she was helping with her own kids that she had to do. But we were close. I mean, our schedules were routine. I just--there&#039 ; s some things that I miss that I--to me, I value now. Every Sunday morning when we got up, we went over to the grandparents&#039 ; house. All of us would hang out, whether we&#039 ; re just sitting in the little apartment doing whatever--they&#039 ; re doing their rice paper. Every Sunday, we would go see the grandparents. BRODY: That was a tradition. SCHROEDER: That was a tradition. It was a good one, though, I think about, that we kind of lose in today&#039 ; s world--that everyone&#039 ; s so busy, they don&#039 ; t have time or make the time. But back then, guess what? The stores weren&#039 ; t open. Nothing was open on Sundays, so Sunday, really, you couldn&#039 ; t go anywhere but to spend time with family, so maybe the American culture is doing the same thing. Who knows? Maybe they went to church to spend time with family, and we kind of did our thing too, because there was nothing-- you were kind of--which is kind of nice. I remember when that kind of went away, when that mall came in and you could--the malls could open on Sundays. BRODY: Right, that Blue Law. SCHROEDER: Yeah. |01:09:17| BRODY: Do you still speak Vietnamese? SCHROEDER: I speak broken Vietnamese. BRODY: Where do you most often have the opportunity to speak it? SCHROEDER: I&#039 ; ll speak it to my parents or just within the family, like if I&#039 ; m with--if my family from Vietnam came to visit--they don&#039 ; t come very often--or we&#039 ; re with family or the elders. Like, if we get together as a family and it&#039 ; s people that are my parents&#039 ; age, I would try to speak Vietnamese to them--or broken Vietnamese--because I feel weird speaking English to them. But of course, I throw in English words because I don&#039 ; t know too much of it. But yeah, I did grow up--I didn&#039 ; t even mention this. I grew up watching a Vietnamese Chinese soap opera on TV. (laughs) |01:09:54| BRODY: What was it called? SCHROEDER: I can&#039 ; t remember, but you know how they have--like, there&#039 ; s Bollywood and stuff like that? Well, Vietnamese had their own where they&#039 ; re Chinese actors dubbed in Vietnamese, but I kind of laugh because I think that&#039 ; s how I learned a lot of Vietnamese. BRODY: (both speaking at once) Right. Was it on TV here? SCHROEDER: No, no. They&#039 ; re on VHSes. Everyone had VHS and we&#039 ; ll watch it. It was kind of like one of those romance, drawn-out saga, but I remember--because surprisingly, my Vietnamese is better than my brother&#039 ; s, and a few others were like, How do you--? Like, &quot ; I think it&#039 ; s from watching those soap operas.&quot ; I mean, because I would sit there and rewind and go, &quot ; Mom, what does that word mean? Mom, what does that mean?&quot ; And so I watched a bunch of that too. (laughs) BRODY: That&#039 ; s so interesting. SCHROEDER: (laughs) So that&#039 ; s where I got my Vietnamese culture--from watching soap operas. No, but they were--yeah, but that&#039 ; s what they were all watching, and my brother did watch some, but he watched more of the fighting ones, and I watched more of the romantic ones, but the fighting ones didn&#039 ; t have as much speaking, so he didn&#039 ; t learn as much. But that&#039 ; s what they do. They watch--we grew up watching Chinese soap operas. When we go over on Sundays, we&#039 ; re watching Chinese soap operas in Vietnamese. And now, I think the older generation watches these Vietnamese musicians--their concerts and stuff on TV all the time now, which I never got into that-- the Asian concert scene. I think, in high school, some kids got into that, but I never did. BRODY: That wasn&#039 ; t you, right? SCHROEDER: No. That wasn&#039 ; t me. |01:11:22| BRODY: Thinking about your kids, they were born here, they&#039 ; ve grown up here, and it sounds like it&#039 ; s been not as easy to transmit some of the Vietnamese culture to them. What would you like them to know about your story and about your family&#039 ; s story? SCHROEDER: I think more of how we got here and how--where we are today. I think, for me, is for them to learn that it doesn&#039 ; t matter what happens to you and what circumstances. What you make of yourself is the big thing. At some point, I wouldn&#039 ; t mind taking them back to Vietnam to see the countryside and the beauty. I&#039 ; ve been back once, but we were there more to visit family, but just to see the country, which I haven&#039 ; t seen myself--but as far as that--I mean, part of it, it&#039 ; s sad to say, is kind of lost, but if we can keep whatever history we have--because I think when my parents came here, too, everything was kind of left back--like, no pictures, no this--there&#039 ; s part of it that kind of got severed and lost, which is life, and the rest of it is just kind of what you remember. So if we can just keep that history, which is what you&#039 ; re doing--I think it&#039 ; s valuable. Whether or not they care for it now, I think it&#039 ; s good to have. But yeah, just kind of where they came from--how we all ended up here. As far as the cultural, the--I think it&#039 ; s kind of lost. It&#039 ; s sad to say, but I think for us it&#039 ; s kind of lost, but I think that they&#039 ; re kind of in a whole different--this generation&#039 ; s totally different for us too, for them. Now, I kind of laugh because they&#039 ; re half Vietnamese and half white, but if they were to see themselves, I don&#039 ; t think they see themselves as white or Vietnamese, but I think they probably see themselves more of a Westerner, than as an Eastern. You know, like, the whole--I remind them, I go, &quot ; Hey guys, you&#039 ; re half Vietnamese in there,&quot ; you know, so I just think--but I think that doesn&#039 ; t have to do with anything else. It&#039 ; s just the fact that we live in America and in the Western world. I think, if we--if Jerry and I met and we lived in Vietnam, they&#039 ; d probably see themselves more as Vietnamese. So I just think because we happened to grow up here, they kind of see them as that. But as I look around, America now is all full of--it truly is a melting pot. |01:13:48| BRODY: What does it mean to you to be American? SCHROEDER: I think, to be American--I think it&#039 ; s the freedom ; the freedom to be able to make your choices. I feel like America allows us to--if you really want something bad and you work hard at it, you can achieve it, but you&#039 ; ve got to put in the work. You can&#039 ; t just assume that people are going to hand things to you, and I think that sometimes that gets lost. But for me, I feel like America is the land of opportunity if people choose to take advantage of what the government and what America provides you. I mean, America is a place where it says, Hey, we are going to educate your children. We&#039 ; ve got laws that your children can&#039 ; t work so that they can educate and better themselves. I think it saddens me to see that people here sometimes don&#039 ; t take advantage of that, whereas when you come from a place like Vietnam--like I said, I didn&#039 ; t grow up there, but seeing how-- listening to the stories--my dad, he grew up from a poor family. He wanted an education and had to work to get himself to where he can get an education. It wasn&#039 ; t given to you. It wasn&#039 ; t for--and you had to work at it, and just to see that other countries--like, if the kids were given the opportunity to get an education, how much better they could be, or food--and here in America, wow. We provide the education. We provide the free food service. We provide all this, and it saddens me that people don&#039 ; t look at that as an opportunity to be able to do something better with theirself, and America provides that. I think most immigrants coming over here seize that and can appreciate that and value that. I think sometimes, when you&#039 ; re here on this land for so long, you take it for granted, and it makes me worry about the future generation, not just of my generation--of kids growing--grandkids, and stuff like that. Are they going to become this that take that so much for granted, that we saw as an opportunity? As long as we can keep these from appreciating--knowing that this is an opportunity, and if you do what you need to do, you can be anything. I guess that&#039 ; s my biggest piece on that. BRODY: That&#039 ; s great. Is there anything that we haven&#039 ; t talked about today or that I have forgotten to ask that you&#039 ; d like to add? SCHROEDER: No. (laughs) I think I&#039 ; m good with that. If I--no, I haven&#039 ; t--no. I don&#039 ; t think so. I think we&#039 ; ve covered it. BRODY: Well, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I&#039 ; m so honored to have been able to record it for this collection, so thank you so much. SCHROEDER: Well, thanks for documenting it for me. I think, when I&#039 ; m ninety, I&#039 ; ll listen to it again and remind my old, dementia self (laughs) what all this is all about. BRODY: Well, thank you so much. 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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Portrait of Dai Pham by Byrd Williams, IV


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Betsy Brody, “Interview with Dai Pham Schroeder,” Becoming Texans Becoming Americans, accessed February 5, 2023, http://becomingtexansbecomingamericans.org/items/show/66.