About Before Me
Our friend Tracey Nguyen Mang, host of the Vietnamese Boat People Podcast, goes behind the scenes with Lisa Phu in this conversation — about how to document the lives of our parents, when that process can feel overwhelming. This episode, recorded live online, is the Season 6 Premiere of The Vietnamese Boat People, a podcast and nonprofit project that preserves the story of the Vietnamese diaspora community — and provides spaces where people can share their experiences. This latest season of their podcast follows the theme, “Ba, Mẹ ơi” (which roughly translates to "Dear Dad and Mom"). You can listen to more stories from the season by searching for “Vietnamese Boat People” where you get podcasts, or on their website.
Please take our listener survey to tell us what you think of Before Me! The survey is anonymous, takes 5 minutes, and is incredibly important for helping us take our next steps as an independent studio for stories by and about Asian Americans. We use your answers to better understand your needs as a listener — but we also use your feedback to show how we’re making an impact as we raise funds for our next new podcast season or storytelling program.
Just before I gave birth to my daughter Acacia, I turned 36. And on my birthday my mom sent me a birthday card that was full of heartfelt words — more than she’d ever written to me before. On the last night of her visit to help me take care of Acacia, as she read the card aloud, I realized how I was — and still am — a part of the lives that came before me. Full show notes, photos, credits, and transcript on our web site.
At the moment my mom steps onto a small fishing boat off the coast of Cambodia, headed for a refugee camp in Thailand under cover of night, she becomes the head of our family. It takes her less than a year to make it safely to her new home in New York, give birth to me, and learn how to be a single parent in the U.S. But it will end up taking her decades to process what she’s overcome, what she’s become, and what she’s left behind on the beaches of Cambodia. Full show notes, photos, credits, and transcript on our web site.
Reunited with my cousin Lynn, my mom becomes a gold dealer to support her growing family — and realizes that the charmed childhood she had in Cambodia is nowhere to be found for her own kids. She recounts the joyful memories that helped her hold on for more than five years as a refugee in Vietnam, before making the decision to leave both countries for good. Full show notes, photos, credits, and transcript on our web site.
When I became a parent, my mom flew across the country to help me take care of my firstborn child. And opened up to share a story I’d never fully heard, about her firstborn child — the sister I’ve never met. (Content Warning: Descriptions of death during war, acts of genocide, family separation) Full show notes, credits, and transcript here.
For most of my life, I told a story about how my mom first came to the United States. Some of it was right, some of it was wrong; none of it was actually ever told to her by the people who had lived it. After I gave birth to my first daughter, my mom flew across the country to meet her first grandchild. And during that visit, she finally shared the real story with me. About growing up in Cambodia, fleeing genocide by the Khmer Rouge, surviving as a gold dealer in Vietnam, building a home in America while navigating the fallout and traumas of war… and carrying the future of her children throughout the journey. This podcast is a 5-part story that follows one woman’s life, from Cambodia to America, over the course of decades. But it’s also a long overdue conversation between my mom and me about our family’s history — through war and violence, separation and loss, endings and beginnings. Because while we may never fully understand the reality of those who came before us, every story is a chance to get closer. And in listening, find meaning in what’s been preserved. Listen on your podcast app or at beforemepodcast.com Learn how to conduct an oral history interview with your loved ones at selfevidentshow.com/history