For my assignment, I interviewed my mother, Jacqueline “Jackie” Avritt, a strong, intelligent woman of French Vietnamese decent. Born and raised in Vietnam, she migrated to the United States at age 10 with her family in 1963, making her part of the 1.5-generation. Despite the challenges of poverty, Jackie and her siblings defied the odds and became very successful, well-incorporated citizens; their mother, however, struggled to adapt for most of her life.
On a day in January 1963, Thinh Brown stepped onto the docks of San Francisco with her four children, some luggage and a large bag of rice (just in case they didn’t have that in America) in tow. Several years earlier back in Vietnam, Thinh, my grandmother, met an American traveling physician named James Brown after he helped perform an operation on her in a Saigon hospital, and soon fell in love. They married and had a daughter, Jane. Eventually James’s work took him back to the United States, and so he began preparing the way for his new family to come over, though it took two years to gather the paperwork. As this was before the Hart-Cellar Act and Mr. Brown was not a soldier, it was a difficult process only hindered by governmental policy.
Though the Browns chose to migrate mostly for family reunification, it was not their sole motivation. The dark clouds of war were moving ever closer to Saigon and the family feared prejudice and harm to their family should the Communist regime succeed, as they were not full-blooded Vietnamese, but part French. There was also the promise of the Land of Opportunity, the hope for a better life full of success in America.
Upon arriving in America, the family first moved to Oregon, where they stayed for 2 years. Mr. Brown worked as the first aid man for a heavy construction company, and so the family later moved from town to town following the construction of buildings and bridges. After Oregon, they moved throughout Northern and Central Cal…