I grew up in the northern Orange County town of Westminster, California, in an area nicknamed "Little Saigon." I went to La Quinta High School, which despite its Hispanic-sounding name had a student body that probably was 75% Vietnamese Americans or recent Vietnamese immigrants. In fact, so many kids shared my last name that 3 counselors were assigned exclusively to Nguyens!
I was surrounded by people who looked like me, and I always was meeting and hearing stories about alumni who'd graduated and gone on to college and successful careers in fields such as engineering, medicine, and even astrophysics. It was very affirming. It all had the effect of implanting these words in my head as a Vietnamese American: