Uniquely American

July 5, 2006

Three daughters in an immigrant family were each born on July 4

BY CATHERINE HO
The Wichita Eagle

Michelle Doan, left, and her sister Julia, right, were born July 4, as was their sister Jenny. Their father came to the United States in 1975, their mother five years later.

Jeff Tuttle/The Wichita Eagle

Michelle Doan, left, and her sister Julia, right, were born July 4, as was their sister Jenny. Their father came to the United States in 1975, their mother five years later.

Most people get candles and a birthday cake if they’re lucky.

“We get fireworks,” says Michelle Doan, who was born on the Fourth of July, along with two of her sisters. “Not everyone gets that on their birthday.”

Michelle, 18, Jenny, 20, and Julia, 13, live in Wichita in a traditional Vietnamese household of nine children, whose ages range from 10 to 31.

Being the daughter of immigrants while having her birthday fall on an unmistakably American holiday has left Michelle torn between her Vietnamese roots and her American upbringing.

“The older siblings are a little more Vietnamese. They know the traditional dances and things like that,” she says. “We (younger siblings) are a little more American.”

The older Doan clan — Tim, 31, Tram, 25, Viet, 24, Nam, 22, and Amy, 21 — have retained more of the Vietnamese culture and language than their younger siblings, Michelle says.

She, Jenny, Julia and 10-year-old David struggle more with the language, she says.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Vietnam, but I’m scared because I don’t know the culture and might do or say something wrong,” she says.

Their father, Luan Doan , 64, flew from Vietnam to Kansas in 1975 after the communist government’s rise to power. His wife, Sau Truong, 50, joined him five years later.

Luan says it was hard to be away from his family because he had lost contact with his parents and eight brothers and sisters after enlisting in the Vietnamese army.

“When I left, I didn’t have time to say goodbye to my family,” he said in Vietnamese, with Michelle translating. He also speaks English.

Luan has since regained contact with his family in Vietnam and phones them at least twice a month.

He says the United States was a place to find the freedom that the Vietnamese government didn’t allow.

“Freedom, a lot of people come to the United States for freedom,” he says.

For the Doan family, that freedom includes celebrating American holidays with Vietnamese flair. Thanksgiving dinner means not only turkey, but rice and pho — noodle soup.

But when it comes to parenting, tradition still reigns supreme in the Doan household, Michelle says.

“They’re pretty strict,” she says. “To them, it’s God first, then education, then relationships. They don’t want us to get married until we’re 35.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: