My dad walked up to me yesterday as I was teaching piano and laid a book down in front of me. “These are your roots,” he told me. I could barely get through the last fifteen minutes of the lesson; I wanted to pick that book up right away.
Boat People: Personal Stories from the Vietnamese Exodus 1975-1996 is a collection of survival stories from the boat people of Vietnam. It is edited by Carina Hoang, who escaped from Vietnam with her sister and brother in 1979. The book includes first person stories, extracts from diaries and letters, and even testimonies from former UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) officers. Photographs and original illustrations are also included. According to Hoang’s website, the book’s first objective is to “preserve the historical record for the education of future generations of the global boat-people diaspora.”
The Vietnamese exodus was barely covered in my high school history classes, so this is the first time I’ve seen photos of the boat people and of life in the refugee camps. I’ve only been able to flip through the pages so far, but I will definitely take the time to finish it. These are, as my dad says, my roots, my history, and my people.