Viet Stories: Vietnamese American Oral History Project at the University of California, Irvine actively assembles, preserves, and disseminates the life stories of Vietnamese Americans in Southern California. The project contributes to expanding archives on Vietnamese Americans with the primary goal of capturing first generation stories for students, researchers, and the community. Launched in 2011, Viet Stories is housed in the Department of Asian American Studies in the School of Humanities and collaborates with the UCI Libraries Southeast Asian Archive.
These recorded life stories (audio and video) include Vietnamese and/or English-language transcripts of the interviews, brief summaries, time logs, and photographs of narrators. Some narrators have also contributed additional materials such as their own photographs and documents to be preserved with their stories. Aligned with the purpose of training future generations of leaders, faculty train UC Irvine students to conduct oral histories in their courses, such as in Linda Trinh Vo’s Research Methodologies /Field Research class and Tram Le’s Vietnamese American Experience class. These comprise a number of the “sub-collections” within Viet Stories.
There are over 1.8 million Vietnamese Americans in the United States, with the largest concentration of Vietnamese residing in Southern California. They are among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, while constituting the largest population of overseas Vietnamese living outside of Vietnam. Even though the Vietnamese are the largest resettlement of refugees in contemporary U.S. history, they were not initially welcomed by the American public because of the controversy of the war and residual fears that stemmed from U.S. involvement in a civil war. There was public anxiety about admitting foreigners and their ability to integrate into U.S. society as well as suspicions about their racial background, subversive political ideologies, and cultural practices.
To alleviate the economic and cultural burden on any one state, the U.S. government dispersed the refugees to all 50 states, which was actually counterproductive to the refugees. They later relocated to find jobs, housing, and be reunited with family and friends, so ultimately they formed cluster communities for support. While some are doing well, many struggle with the trauma of war and escape. The media often portrays refugees as faceless and nameless; therefore, we want to highlight the humanity of the people behind these headlines by showing the consequences of war and what happens to refugees over 40 years after a war ends.
Dr. Linda Trinh Vo is the Director of Viet Stories and Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies. Tram Le is the Associate Director of Viet Stories. Viet Stories Advisory Committee members include Dr. Vicki L. Ruiz, Professor, Department of History and Chicano/Latino Studies; Dr. James Kyung-Jin Lee, Associate Professor of the Department of Asian American Studies; Dr. Thuy Vo Dang, Curator, Orange County and Southeast Asian Archive Center; Audra Eagle Yun, UCI Libraries’ Head of Special Collections; Christina J. Woo, Research Librarian for Chicano/Latino Studies, Linguistics, Women’s Studies, and Athletics; Robert Escalante, Management Services Officer for the Department of Asian American Studies; Linh Kochan, Principal Software Engineer at Dell EMC Technologies; and Daniel Do-Khanh, Esq., former President, Vietnamese American Community Ambassadors (VACA)-UCI alumni chapter. Viet Stories is grateful for assistance by multiple staff from the UCI Libraries, including Mark Vega, Programmer, and Sylvia Irving, Graphic Designer.
We wish to thank Michelle Light, formerly UCI Libraries’ Head of Special Collections, and Matthew McKinley, former Digital Projects Specialist, for their contributions to the digitalization of the interviews as well as Caroline McGuire, Kasey Ning, and Rina Carvalho, former Department Managers, Department of Asian American Studies.
If you would like to learn how you could volunteer for this project, to recommend an individual whose story should be preserved, or would like to know about how you can collaborate with Viet Stories, please contact Tram Le at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viet Stories is supported by generous donations from individual donors and foundations. We welcome your donations to sustain and expand our collection.
The resources on our site are available for your research and scholarship. If you use any of the material, please acknowledge Viet Stories: Vietnamese American Oral History Project at UC Irvine as the copyright holder and the UC Irvine Libraries Southeast Asian Archive as the source of the material. We appreciate receiving a copy of any published work that features our material.