By Thien Huynh
Thien Huynh is the first ever Vietnamese-Canadian nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and TV reporter. His award winning articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Huffington Post, and Thoi Bao Newspaper.
When I was just a kid, my dad bought me a book called “Pride of the Vietnamese” for my birthday. I tossed it away. I wanted a dog instead. Weeks later, there was nothing to watch on TV except the Canadian Football League so I finally picked up the red-covered book and opened it for the first time. I was amazed and inspired by what I read…and it changed my thinking about what it meant to be Vietnamese.
There were pages and pages of stories about Vietnamese all over the world accomplishing things that a young child like me could only dream of. I read about powerful Viet politicians in the U.S. like Viet D. Dinh, successful actors such as Dustin Nguyen, talented athletes such as football star Dat Nguyen, and famous reporters such as Betty Nguyen. My eyes were opened to the vast potential of our people.
I never got to see another edition of that book, but it inspired me to become a reporter and tell others, outside of our Vietnamese community, about our successes, achievements, and culture. Now over 20 years later, Huy Pham has taken on the mantle to assemble a different collection of stories. These new stories explore what it means to be Vietnamese — and come from writers across various continents, diverse cultures, and backgrounds.
I can’t think of anyone more perfect to lead an initiative like this. On paper, Huy is everything a “prototypical” Vietnamese-American young professional wishes to be. I call him the Triple Threat: MIT degree, Northwestern Law degree, Kellogg MBA – all before the age of 30. He is every Viet mother-in-law’s wet dream.
But what makes him “untypical” is an ambition for wanting to push benchmarks and expectations. Not just for himself, but for all Vietnamese. I will always respect him for walking away from several high paying corporate jobs to chase his dream of becoming a National Basketball Association (NBA) executive. Huy has always dreamed big. And why shouldn’t he? The Chinese have point guard Jeremy Lin and executive Richard Cho representing them in the NBA. The South Asians can look to Vivek Ranadivé as owner of the Sacramento Kings. Where is our Jeremy, Richard, or Vivek? That’s the question that burns at Huy’s heart and inspires him to continually redefine how others, including his own friends and family, assume what being Vietnamese should be.
On the other hand, why are some of us utterly content to get a degree, get a job, get married and never be heard from again? What is it about our culture that causes some of us to be afraid to take risks and dream bigger beyond what it typically means to be Vietnamese in our adoptive countries? Throughout this book, you’ll feel the restlessness of an entire generation of Viets from across America, Canada, Australia, and Europe — who all want more and took the chances to accomplish more in their careers and their communities. You’ll also see personal stories, humorous essays, and intricate poems offering insight into Vietnamese trying to establish their cultural identity through their everyday lives.
I encourage Vietnamese from around the world to share and support this book for three reasons:
First, all proceeds go to charities such as the Vietnamese Culture and Science Association, Sunflower Mission, and Vietnamese American Scholarship Foundation — all well established for years of directly helping Vietnamese youth in need.
Secondly, this project is a great opportunity to share our culture outside of the Vietnamese community. It is a chance to let our non-Vietnamese friends, media, and decision makers realize the contributions that we have made to our adoptive countries.
Finally, this book acts as an inspirational and educational blueprint for the next generation of Vietnamese raised outside of Vietnam. Projects such as this will not only remind our youth of who they are, but also dare them to dream big and become the pride of the Vietnamese.