Kim Hoang Miller is a 73 year old US immigrant from Vietnam who lives in Sacramento. She fled Vietnam in 1975.
Was your family born in Vietnam?
Yes, majority of my family was from Saigon, Vietnam. I had grandparents, mother, father, six brothers, 2 sisters and many cousins.
Did you suffer from poverty?
Yes, my family was very poor and my father worked in the markets selling vegetables for a living. We come from a long line of farmers. I grew up in a grass hut with dirt floors where we fished for food and were always hungry. Many times, I would give my food to my younger brother and sisters. We had a small school but not many books and I learned only a little bit.
How did you survive during the war?
The North was taking over the South and killing so many people and me and my family had to flee to find safety for almost 9 months. We saw many of our people and land bombed and left devastated. You cannot even imagine how horrible it was. We had to sneak on a boat and it was horrible on the boat, very crowded, crying children and very dirty. Many people drowned because of conditions being so bad. We then had pirates come steal all our valuables and food. We were always scared and hungry but somehow, we made it.
Where did you originally settle when you arrive in the U.S.?
When I first arrived in America, we came into Orange County where the people make you stay in a refugee camp until they find somewhere for you to go and work or live. My father was able to get hard labor job in factory, (can’t remember name) but then they let us go to to San Jose where we stay for about 10 years. My parents died and I meet my husband who was in the Navy and he helped me with my youngest siblings.
Did you speak English?
I only spoke very little English when I arrived but was able to go to school and I loved learning.
What schooling do you have?
I was able to finish high school but I faced a lot of criticism from Americans because I was different and talked funny. I was called many names but we were known as boat people. I did eventually make it to college and get a teaching degree.
Do you still have family in Vietnam?
Yes, I have many family members still in Vietnam. They are farmers and very poor.
What work did your family find in the U.S.?
When we came to America, I met my husband who was in the Navy at that time and I go to school and get teaching job. My husband got out of Navy and went to work in driving truck. Then we had 3 girls and 1 boy who are grown now and have their own kids, (my grandkids) and then my husband died in 2005 to cancer.
Do you visit Vietnam?
I have visited Vietnam only 2 times to see family who are still alive. Some have made a life for themselves but others are very poor. It’s very hard to go there.
How did you end up in Sacramento?
I ended up in Sacramento after many years in the Bay Area because it was so expensive. I am retired and my kids are grown so now I relax.
Kim Hoang-Miller was interviewed by Robert Parrill, a student at Foothill Community College.