Learning with the Vietnamese Boat People

Quynh interviewed Duc Le, who left Vietnam a few days prior to the fall of Saigon in 1975, observed by students from Quynh’s course in AAPI Oral History in the DMV area.

In the crisp sunlight and windy days of late spring, Quynh H. Vo visited and interviewed nine individuals who are militarized refugees from Vietnam. As war survivors and social, political, and aesthetic activists in the DMV area, the Vietnamese refugees sat down with Quynh in their homes. Between sips of tea and poignant moments, they shared their complex and emotional stories of ocean crossings, perilous flights, and countless ordeals as they struggled to resettle in the US. Their reminiscences reminded Quynh and themselves of April 30th, 1975, when Saigon fell. This year marks the 49th anniversary since the Vietnam War ended; its legacy still haunts generations of the displaced. In some of the interviews, Quynh brought her students from the upper-level course on “AAPI Oral History in the DMV area” with her and engaged them in conversations with the Vietnamese refugees. Their stories illuminated the students’ understanding and awareness of imperial wars, forced migration, and the minor feelings of the displaced, culminating in the students’ midterm projects that will turn into an academic panel at the American Studies Association Annual Meeting in November 2024.

Duc Le (the Vietnamese refugee), Quynh and students.
We will also be partnering with the Vietnamese Boat People to record more oral histories with the Vietnamese diaspora community in Northern Virginia in April. The Vietnamese Boat People, established in 2018, is dedicated to the preservation and continuation of the narratives within the Vietnamese diaspora community. The organization seeks to empower the community to share their stories in their own authentic voices. Through these narratives, they aim to illuminate the rich tapestry of histories and lived experiences, fostering education and meaningful connections. The Humanities Truck and the Vietnamese Boat People are holding a “Vietnamese Boat People: Food & Conversations, A Community Gathering” on April 20th. The event will include food and conversations, AU student zine presentations, community building, and readings and book signings by authors including Amy M. Le, Eric Nguyen, Len Tran, and Hanh Bui. This event is free and open to the public, please RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/vietnamese-boat-people-food-conversations-a-community-gathering-tickets-861212809697?aff=oddtdtcreator.
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