Annie Phan

Annie Phan’s Oral History Interview

Throughout the interview with Annie Phan, she describes her upbringing as an Vietnamese American woman growing up in the US, raised by her parents who endured the hardships of being refugees. Annie begins by reflecting on her parents history, and her relationship with them, which has impacted her life tremendously. Both Annie’s parents’ refugee experiences affected her upbringing, in particular transitioning from cultural differences. Annie further questions her identify regarding whether or not she truly identifies with the 1.5 generation. The topic of mental health also arises, about how often times for Asian Americans, seeking mental health services is stigmatized. Annie concludes by describing the transition from different schools, the detriments of the model minority myth, and why it is important to resist such a notion.

Key Words

    1. Model Minority – a demographic group whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average. This success is typically measured by income, education, low criminality, and financial stability.
    2. Mental Health – emotional, psychological, social well-being, which helps us determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices which is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
    3. Refugees – a person who has been forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Most likely, they cannot return home or afraid to do so.
    4. Immigrants –  a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country and are motivated to leave their former countries of citizenship, or habitual residence, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of local access to resources, as desire to economic prosperity, to find or engage in paid work.
    5. War Trauma/Intergenerational Trauma – trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations of offspring of the survivors via complex Post-traumatic stress disorder mechanisms.
    6. Intergenerational cultural dissonance – conflicts between parents and children over cultural values that may weaken parent-child bonding.
    7. Diaspora – people who moved from their home countries to any other nations.
    8. Boat People – Vietnamese refugees who fled by boat, following the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. The highest migration was through the 1970s to 1990s.
    9. 1.5 Generation – immigrants who were born in foreign countries and arrived in the United States as children.
    10. Internalization – in the context of the model minority myth, internalization is the identification with the stereotypical characteristics of achievement and upward mobility.
    11. Ethnic Identity – feeling of belonging to a specific ethnic group; related to a feeling of attachment to cultural values and traditions, language, religion, etc.

Annotated Bibliography 

  1. BANKSTON, CARL L., and DANIELLE ANTOINETTE HIDALGO. “The Waves of War: Refugees, Immigrants, and New Americans from Southeast Asia.” Contemporary Asian America (Third Edition): A Multidisciplinary Reader, edited by Min Zhou and Anthony C. Ocampo, NYU Press, 2016, pp. 129–154. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18040wj.11.

After the new immigration policy in 1965, US involvement in the war in Vietnam led to a massive refugee program that led the country to resettle many refugees. After the war in Vietnam, common forces mainly South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fell to communist forces whereas the North Vietnamese forces took control of what had been South Vietnam. Many of what was left in South Vietnam, including hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese associated with the American war effort, fled by boat into the China Sea. This led the Americans to create a program known as “Operation New Life,” which moved refugees into American military bases that prepared them to move temporarily in the U.S. As this went on, it created a diaspora that led many Vietnamese to move in different locations away from their own such as Vietnamese who left by boat or foot across Cambodia to Thailand. Eventually, this created a legislation signed by President Carter in 1977 that permitted the three main Indochinese: Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to become permanent residents, who could eventually establish eventual citizenship. Refugee policies began to fluctuate as it began limiting the total number of immigrants allowed in the United States, such as with the Refugee Act of 1980, however this did not hinder the rapid growth of immigrants flowing in. This source is very reliable because it helps us identify the specific routes as to how Vietnamese refugee migration occurred after the Vietnam War, leading up to the aftermath of the event and the process of how the U.S. enabled resettlement for many of the Southeast Asian communities.

  1. McFarlane, A. “Trauma, PTSD and the Longer-term Mental Health Burden amongst Vietnamese Refugees.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 42.6 (2007): 467-76. Web.

This research article “Trauma, PTSD and the longer-term mental health burden Amongst Vietnam refugees by Derrick Solve, Zachary Steel including other authors assessed the contributions of trauma and PTSD to overall mental disorder amongst Vietnamese refugees over a decade in Australia. They drew in a sample of Vietnamese refugees (n=1,161) in which the results show that trauma had made the largest contribution to mental disorder for Vietnamese. Approximately only one in ten Vietnamese with PTSD sought for help from mental health professionals.  Overall, this shows that Trauma and PTSD continues to affect mental health for Vietnamese refugees. They looked at survey instruments such as diagnostic assessments on where they score based on a Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI), disability and its effects on how it reduces to carry out normal duties, services utilization on whether they use professional counselors, and specific designed interviews created by Harvard questionnaires that maps out trauma events based on 10 CIDI categories that pertains to their past events. Some of these include being attacked or injured, sexually molested, or other stressful events, which breaks down into more categories. This source is a detailed comparison of trauma vs PTSD events affect Vietnamese refugees, which helps us take a look at certain categories that may relate to our interview subjects experience.

  1. Yook, Eunkyong Lee. Culture Shock for Asians in U.S. Academia: Breaking the Model Minority Myth. 2013. Web.

“Culture Shock for Asians in U.S. Academia: Breaking the Model Minority Myth” by Eunkyong Lee Yook explains the model minority impact it has on Asian Americans because of the Confucianist work ethic placed upon individuals as well as high values placed on education. There are many false stereotypes suggesting that Asians don’t need assistance because they excel in education even as far as grouping Asian groups by the model minority myth, that they are all “successful” therefore they do not need financial support or educational guidance. These problems are often invisible due to cultural patterns, which impacts many young Asian communities due too so much pressure placed upon the youth on achieving high standards in education. Some students are able to achieve these standards, whereas other Asian Americans may not live up to those expectations which could cause long term mental health. As Asian immigrants increase more in numbers in the US, it is also important to keep in mind that Asian students not only are adjusting to a culture shock in terms of learning a new language, but also adjusting to the American education system way of thinking. For example, the US values student participation at a young age and encouraged to speak up, however Asian cultural norm dictates should show respect to teachers/professors by listening carefully and not necessarily having to speak up. Otherwise this is considered rude behavior or disruptive to other peers in the class. This book can be beneficial as it provides a great overview on Asian cultural background, and what it means for a lot of Asian Americans as they transition migrating to the US and the impacts of the model minority myth.

  1. Choi, Yoonsun, et al. “Intergenerational Cultural Dissonance, Parent–Child Conflict and Bonding, and Youth Problem Behaviors among Vietnamese and Cambodian Immigrant Families.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, no. 1, 2008, p. 85+.       Web.

In this article authors examines how the intergenerational cultural dissonance (ICD) affects Vietnamese parent-child relationship and further affect parent-child bonding and youth’s problem behaviors. Parents in an immigrant family usually want to preserve their original culture and try to enforce it on their children, who prefer mainstream culture. This difference over culture values results in parent-child conflicts. After conducting experiments, the authors states that the conflict over culture values between immigrant parents and their 1.5 or 2nd generation children have direct and indirect effects on parent-child relationship, as positive conflict will weak the parent-child family relationship and cause more problem behaviors of youth. In addition, the authors suggests that a secure family-child bonding will enhance the family relationship and decrease the potential problem behaviors. This article can be useful as it defines the possible cause of conflicts between parent and children in immigrant families. Conflicts that affect family relationship may further affect youth’s mental health. This article also emphasize the importance of discovering and resolving such conflicts. It also help us to form question “What conflicts over culture values do you have in you family and how does it affect the relationship between you and your parents?”

  1. Fu, Hongyun, and VanLandingham Mark J. ”Mental Health Consequences of International Migration for Vietnamese Americans and the Mediating Effects of Physical Health and Social Networks: Results From a Natural Experiment Approach” Demography 49.2 (2012): 393-424. Web.

This article explains the study done of Vietnamese immigrants to conduct research focusing on the mental health consequences of migration. The overall goal was to discover long-term effects on the mental health of Vietnamese immigrants. The population based experiment compared those who arrived in the US before the policy change, Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), those who attempted to emigrate after the policy change and were sent back to Vietnam, and those never attempted at all to emigrate. In various cases it is reported of mental health problems amongst Vietnamese immigrants including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The article explains how Vietnamese immigrants seem to access mental health care at lower levels that the general US population. It is assumed that the Confucianist tradition does not approve of openly displaying emotion as to avoid an appearance of weakness. The numerous studies that focus on Vietnamese mental health suggests that their mental health problems usually lead back to the trauma during their migration from Vietnam as well as attempting to adjust to the way of life in the US.

  1. Ho, Joyce, and Dina Birman. “Acculturation Gaps in Vietnamese Immigrant Families: Impact on Family Relationships.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations : IJIR, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 2010.

In “Acculturation Gaps in Vietnamese Immigrant Families: Impact on Family Relationships”, Joyce Ho examines how Vietnamese immigrant families adjustment to life in the United States is negatively influenced by an acculturation gap. In a study they examined the acculturation differences between first generation Vietnamese immigrants and their children. Acculturation is described as changes in attitude and behavior when introduced to a new culture, in this case American culture. The example is brought up of parents oriented toward their native culture finding the traditional parenting styles not as effective with their children who have adapted to the American culture. It is troublesome for Vietnamese immigrants to have to settle for a middle ground between traditional collectivistic values and the American individualistic values. The foreign born children must then grow up maintaining their family’s traditional values while also implementing themselves to life in America. This can be seen similar to something the 1.5 generation generally must go through. The pressures of having to learn a new language and lifestyle can create a strain on the relationships within the Vietnamese immigrant family. In tests that were conducted with sample groups it was commonly found that Vietnamese identity is what impacted family adjustment more than language and behavior aspect. Recommending that families seek help to bridge the acculturation gap between parents and their children to better understand their cultural viewpoints. This article brings in the importance that an immigrant’s identity plays in attempting to start a new life in the US. Determining the balance of traditional values and American values is what determines the closeness that the Vietnamese American family will have implemented.

  1. Samura, Michelle. “Wrestling With Expectations: An Examination of How Asian American College Students Negotiate Personal, Parental, and Societal Expectations.” Muse, Sept. 2015, muse-jhu-edu.proxylib.csueastbay.edu/article/595559.

In this article Michelle Samura talks about the constant high expectations that Asian American college students have placed on them by their parents. Most of the studies showing that it will usually be immigrant parents with the higher expectations compared to non-immigrant parents. The studies conducted for this article examined both the internal and external expectations that the students struggle with. External expectations meaning the outside forces that shape the choices they make, most cases being their parents. With continued pressure at the college level many students have grown up since childhood with high expectations engraved in to their life. They find themselves in college following the model minority myth to fulfill their family’s expectations and gain their approval. In the article, Samura brings up the example of a second-generation Vietnamese student who explains how it was her parents who wanted her to pursue the medical field even though she didn’t really seem to have an interest for it. Her family expectations ended up being a significant factor in her choices. Although they have the external family factors that come in to play, they also face situations where students are looking to better themselves socially and fit in by discovering who they truly are. They make the attempt of becoming more vocal and being able to express themselves at this new stage in their life instead of being the quiet and passive students in high school as it is the known stereotype among Asian American students. As a result of some of the pressures Asian American students face, in the article there is examples of students consciously diverting themselves away from STEM majors so as to avoid the “stereotypical Asian”. In the article we can see how Asian American students are being pressured by the model minority myth both within their family and society.

  1. Nguyen, Peter Viet, et al. “Bridging help-seeking options to Vietnamese Americans with parent-child conflict and depressive symptoms.” Children and Youth Services Review, vol. 33, no. 10, 2011, p. 1842+. Web.

This article discusses what cause the conflicts in Vietnamese immigrant family and how such conflicts may weaken parent-child bonding and cause depression in family members. The authors states that differential cultural expectations between parents and children create intergenerational cultural dissonance (ICD) along with authoritarian parenting style can create family conflicts and/or depression among family members. In addition, many Vietnamese immigrant families don’t seek mental health services from professionals even they have family conflicts. They believe such conflicts will resolved naturally over time. Even they want to seek for help, many factors such as language barrier and the ideas that believe utilizing mental health service is shameful, prevent they from doing so. In the end of article, the authors suggest several ways to promote services to vietnamese Americans who may need it such as increasing the availability of mental health service in local areas, hire Asian American professional with similar experience and creating workshop and stress the important relationship between mental health and academic success. This resource has certain limitations on conducting surveys and choosing the sample size, as stated by the authors. Nonetheless, this resource is useful to the project as it provides very specific insights into the mental health topic. Asian Americans’ suicidality has become significant issues. Thus, predicting behaviors of family conflict and depression and promote mental health services to those who need it is important. This article also helps us forming another question “Have you and your family members seeked mental health services because of the family conflict and/or depression? If not, what factors do you think that prevent you and your family members from seeking help?”

  1. Luu, Thang, et al.  “Help-Seeking Attitudes Among Vietnamese.” Social Work in Mental Health Volume 7, Issue 5 (2009) Web.

Luu et al. discuss how first-generation Vietnamese Americans underutilize mental health services. Though, the more acculturation they will undergo, the more receptive they will be to accepting western healthcare. One of the reasons mentioned for the underutilization is that having a healthcare provider who understands the refugee’s culture and language would give them trust in their ability to help. This is in part because their experiences with the war are something very complex and traumatic, and having someone who understands and can dialogue about these issues is invaluable. At the same time, because mental illnesses are stigmatized by the Vietnamese community, there is a fear that Vietnamese people in one’s community may find out about their illness. This is seen as a possibility by seeing a Vietnamese doctor. In this way, the one avenue that a first-generation Vietnamese person struggling with mental health issues needs, is one they are wary to see because of the potential for public shaming if the doctor leaks their information. Another reason mentioned is that many in this group attribute symptoms of mental illness to a sort of spiritual compromise rather than a more temporal phenomenon, so healthcare services might just seem redundant in this light. This understanding of first-generation skepticism of western healthcare is important to understand in the context of the interview we are to conduct. This is because the intergenerational trauma, discrimination, cultural dissonance, and so on that their second-generation children have to go through has potential to bring about mental health issues in these children as well. This attitude of skepticism may prevent them from helping not only themselves with these issues, but their kids as well. This is something to be explored by the interviewee if they have gone through something remotely similar to the article subject matter.

  1. Pham, Kelly T. “Trauma transmission between first-generation and second-generation Vietnamese refugees and immigrants in the United States: A study of mother and daughter” (2013) Web.

Pham discusses how past trauma may impart on to immigrants to America the inability to cope when faced with distress. This distress may hinder them from picking up on cues on the appropriate way to care for their child’s needs. The traumas they faced gave them a lens of the world as unsafe, and so they become overprotective toward their children as a result. Because mothers more-so than fathers commonly provide more care to their children, the study centralizes around the mother’s relationship to their daughter. Role reversal is cited as a problem for a mother’s children, since in certain scenarios they will rely on their children for support, which can take away from the child learning their own interpersonal skills and hinder their development. These practices of overprotection and role reversal are seen as practices that stem from trauma, and how they play a role in Vietnamese transmission of trauma is what is in question. Though the mothers who took part in the study were found to be experiencing a significant level of trauma, there was no firm relation on their trauma heavily affecting their daughters. This is counter to the initial hypothesis, and our own group assumptions. The limitations mentioned regarding the study were that the mothers were employed, had spousal support, and came from Catholic backgrounds, all indicative of strong support systems. This implies that the study may not account for a more broad immigrant experience and so the results are likely skewed as a result. Overall, it still cites two prominent practices that have been noticed in other groups who have experienced trauma which are worth examining in how they affect second generation Vietnamese people’s lives. With this in mind, it may be beneficial to ask if they might affect our interviewee.

  1. Vo-Jutabha, Easter Dawn, et al.  “A Qualitative Analysis of Vietnamese Adolescent Identity Exploration Within and Outside an Ethnic Enclave” J Youth Adolescence (2009) Web.

In this article, Vo-Jutabha et al. makes the case that identity formation for Vietnamese American youth is very nuanced due to the immigrant experience of their families, and the environments which they inhabit. It outlines that these identities are formed either in an enclave context, where Vietnamese culture, values, and history are brought to the limelight for adolescents to form identity around. Or, in a culture outside one of these enclaves, where this influence is there, but maybe not as pronounced. The bulk of the article is about career defining identity for youth, with those within the enclave having to deal with conflicting viewpoints about what trajectory to go on from Vietnamese adults in their communities. Here a particular case is cited where a girl must balance the idea of gauging if a career in healthcare actually aligns with her personal feelings, versus the idea of the profession defining her identity from the get-go because it is what her community is promoting. Contrasted with this, those outside of Vietnamese communities did not feel as much pressure and often stated they had a go with the flow approach in developing their careers. Also, it addressed how those within Vietnamese communities felt a stronger obligation to abide by familial expectations because they had an understanding of how the war played a part in forming these standards. Both those within and outside of these communities still expressed how they struggled with maintaining an idealized Vietnamese identity because they saw how restrictive of their personal interests it could be. This article is very telling of societal factors that can dictate how receptive Vietnamese adolescents will be to parental efforts to impart Vietnamese ideals into their identities. This gives us insight in how to ask our interviewee about their own identity formation in relation to environmental and parental pressure.

  1. Atkin, Annabelle L., et al. “Internalization of the Model Minority Myth, School Racial Composition, and Psychological Distress among Asian American Adolescents.” Asian American Journal of Psychology, vol. 9, no. 2, June 2018, pp. 108–116. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/aap0000096.

In the article, “Internalization of the Model Minority Myth, School Racial Composition, and Psychological Distress among Asian American Adolescents,” Atkin et al. discuss how the racial composition of a school might affect how Asian American students internalize the model minority myth. Atkin et al. then explain the definition of the model minority and how it has been utilized to undermine racial inequality. The model minority myth perpetuates the idea that there are no racial barriers to success and the myth doesn’t take into account the diversity and complexities of the Asian American community. Atkin et al. describe internalization as the process of identifying with stereotypical characteristics of the model minority myth. Such internalization assumes that Asian Americans emphasize stronger work ethics, perseverance and drive for success more than other races. Additionally, there is a burden that accompanies the myth in which Asian American students feel the need to live up to the model minority stereotype because that is what is dictated by society. Internalizing the model minority myth can affect Asian American youth mental health in the form of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression which in turn can affect their physical health as well. The study compares how Asian American students’ experiences in a predominantly Asian school and a predominantly non-Asian school in order to see if there is a correlation between how the model minority myth is internalized and its outcomes. Atkin et al. found that Asian American students in the predominantly Asian school internalized the model minority myth less than Asian American students in the predominantly non-Asian school. Atkin et al. suggest that this could be due to the fact that by interacting with other Asian American students, they were able to see that the model minority myth is false and that they were able to recognize the diversity of their Asian American peers. Additionally, they found that internalizing that students in the predominantly Asian school experienced increased psychological distress than those in the predominantly non-Asian school. At the end of the study, Atkin et al. advise against interpreting that the model minority myth is beneficial for the Asian American students and community.

  1. Nguyen, Annie T. “Never Good Enough: The Educational Journey of a Vietnamese American Woman.” Multicultural Perspectives, vol. 16, no. 3, July 2014, pp. 166–169. Web.

This article discusses the Model Minority Myth and its negative impacts on Asian Americans. Nguyen states that Model Minority Myth first appeared in the mid-1960s and describes Asian American as people who achieve their accomplishments through hard working. Although this myth has documentation and data supported, the documentation and data ignored several factors such as the huge difference among Asian Americans along with generational difference. The Model Minority Myth also make Asian American vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination and create conflicts between Asian American and other racial groups. In addition, the Myth sets unreasonably high standard upon Asian American students which negatively impacts their self-esteem and psychological well-being. Due to the Model Minority Myth, teachers and schools often overlook Asian American students’ needs for help. Nguyen further discusses the Model Minority Myth by using her own experience. Due to the Model Minority Myth, she always received high expectations from her family and other people. Her self-esteem was heavily negatively impacted because she could not live up to such high expectations. In addition, her needs for help on Algebra class was ignored because Asian American students are usually considered good at math. In the end of article, Nguyen suggests that debunking the Model Minority Myth is necessary to stop the discrimination against Asian Americans. This article relates to our project topic “Model Minority Myth. In addition to defining and explaining Model Minority Myth, the article uses personal experience for further elaborating. This article along with several articles above, help us to find our key words and form our questions.

  1. Endo, Rachel. “How Asian American Female Teachers Experience Racial Microaggressions from Pre-Service Preparation to Their Professional Careers.” Urban Review: Issues and Ideas in Public Education, vol. 47, no. 4, 2015, pp. 601–625.

In this article by Rachel Endo, she evaluates the experience of Asian American female teachers in the workplace, exploring the causes and effects of microaggressions on their experiences. Endo writes that Asian American women teachers’ experiences are not researched as in-depth as other POC teachers and that they face a number of intersections of microaggressions for being Asian American and for being women. Some of the issues they face have to do with making sense of Whiteness, encountering racialized sexualization, and being racialized as foreigners. Endo proceeds to investigate how such issues have impacted their careers, even causing some to leave the teaching industry completely. While student body demographics reflect a large number of students of color, the faculty reflects less diversity, leaving the students of color without role models and mentors who can relate to their experiences.  Asian American female teachers face being overlooked and invalidated because of society’s idea of the model minority myth and because they are women. It can be difficult for them to get the resources they need to teach, and they are faced with a burden of being a spokesperson for their entire race in a predominantly white culture. Because they are so often invalidated, overlooked, and ridiculed, it is easy for Asian American female teachers to feel as if they don’t belong, so they quit teaching entirely. Endo talked to ten Asian American women of varying ethnicities and years of teaching experience and found that they all shared many similarities in their experience as teachers. These women noted that many of the other POC adults at their schools were often clerical staff, maintenance staff, paraprofessionals, and security guards rather than faculty and administrators.

  1. Dinh, Khanh T., et al. “Parent-Child Relationships in Vietnamese Immigrant Families.” Journal of Family Psychology, vol. 8, no. 4, Dec. 1994, pp. 471–488. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/0893-3200.8.4.471.

This article examines the relationship between parents and their children in Vietnamese families and American families. Dinh et al. write that traditional Vietnamese families lie in the patriarchal system and that the mother is typically subordinate. However, after coming to the United States, the mother is forced to seek employment opportunities because of the underemployment or unemployment of the father. This can cause rifts in the Vietnamese family’s dynamic where husbands view their wives as a threat to the family structure. Additionally, family dynamics can be impacted by intergenerational conflict in which Vietnamese-born parents keep their traditional family values and their children learn and adopt Western values. Children of Vietnamese immigrants often face the dilemma of wanting to “be American” and also please their parents which can lead to high levels of conflicts as they question their parents’ authority. In the study, Dinh et al. compare Vietnamese-born and American-born college students’ views of their relationships with their parents, assessing for loneliness as a result of social isolation, students’ self-esteem, and their general perceptions of social support. They found that the mothers and fathers of Vietnamese-born students had lower levels of formal education than the American-born students’ parents. Additionally, they found that immigration and transitioning from such distinct cultures had negative, long-term effects on the families and on individuals. They also found that Vietnamese-born students’ perceived their parents to be overprotective and controlling which is line with Vietnamese cultural beliefs. There was also correlations between the gender of the students in relation to their relationship to their parents and Dinh et al. wrote that the paternal relationship between father and son was negative. Overall, this study aimed to provide evidence for future studies to take into account immigration and its impacts on family dynamics and relationships.