“Remember, you're not half of anything, you're twice of everything.”
― Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer
Growing up, I didn't have a lot of people that looked like me in my school classes or neighborhoods - mixed race, half Vietnamese, with a funny last name no one could pronounce. I didn't know where to look for stories about folks like me as a young child, though my mom, an avid reader, found several books that mirrored or helped me understand my experiences - most notably among those, The Land I Lost by Quang Nhuong Huynh and Angel Child, Dragon Child by Michele Maria Surat. Even through high school, I was still the "token" in most of my classes. I was frustrated and confused that I was the "other" and yet my voice was not one that was encouraged to be heard.
"I realized staying authentic to myself and my feelings was the best thing I could ever do for myself."
It wasn't until I lived one summer with some of my Vietnamese relatives in Boston - which followed an undergrad history class on the relationship between the US and Vietnam since 1945 - when I really felt that I came into my own as a half Vietnamese, fully American girl. I was working at a publishing company, and except for my family, I was alone in Boston - and I did a lot of reading on the MBTA during my long commute. I began to read about Edward Said's theories of Orientalism and the model minority myth, and I realized that my feelings of duality were valid. I could be of Vietnamese descent, I could be of Caucasian descent, I could be everything I was feeling - simply, I could be me, and I realized staying authentic to myself and my feelings was the best thing I could ever do for myself.
I still struggle daily with my identity - especially with the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes up exponentially over the past year and a half. However, finding books about the Vietnamese diaspora and from the Vietnamese-American viewpoint have helped me realize that representation matters. There are some great Vietnamese-American writers out there who can show you different perspectives - or maybe, show you that you're not alone.