The independent and community-driven media platform examines what it means to be Vietnamese, American, both...or neither.
By Jessica Boyd
April 13, 2017
Xin Chào magazine (XC) is a burgeoning media platform which sits at the intersection of Vietnamese and American identities. Regardless of how you identify with your Vietnameseness, whether you’re Vietnamese at all, or if like me, you’re a culturally confused Vietnamese Jew from England who lives in America and speaks Thai, XC gives you the opportunity to find yourself in others’ stories.
In the run up to the XC Spring Event: Quê Tôi (meaning “my homeland”), I sat down with Design Director, Chi Hoàng, and Editor in Chief, Bảo Nguyễn, to eat bread, drink tea and learn more about these storytellers’ stories.
In her own words, Hoàng grew up in Bellevue before Bellevue was Asian. As for Nguyễn, he lived in White Center, a neighborhood that was predominantly people of color with a considerable Vietnamese community. Hoàng spent her childhood trying to navigate her Vietnameseness, looking to her older siblings who had grown up in Vietnam. While Nguyễn, who spent his weekends at temple surrounded by Vietnamese community, grappled with what it meant to be American.
While they were exploring identity at different ends of the same spectrum, both were trying to reconcile their Vietnameseness and their Americanness. Their separate searches for a middle ground ultimately led them back into the communities where they began their journeys, and into Xin Chào magazine.
Hoàng’s path to the magazine had not been easy; some relatives had misinterpreted her hybrid Vietnameseness as abandonment of her ancestral roots. Though I’m a few years late, I beg to differ. Listening to Hoàng talk about the sanctity and importance of XC in the community, I realized that the magazine was in fact a way for her to hold commune with her ancestors. Rather than turning her back on tradition, she was in fact using her talent as a designer to honor both her heritage and family. In this way, the magazine has become a tangible tool to demonstrate to family members that medicine and law are not the only valuable pursuits (sorry mum!). By ensuring that creatives are recognized and appreciated, XC helps return value to creative fields.
During our conversation, we also realized that Vietnamese identity differs in England and the United States. In England, Vietnamese tend to think of themselves as Việt Kiều, or Vietnamese living abroad, whereas in America, Vietnamese typically describe themselves as Người Mỹ Gốc Việt, or Americans with Vietnamese roots. This idea of gốc, or roots, refers to the roots of a tree. When they speak of their roots, Vietnamese-Americans are describing an indelible connection to Vietnam. As a product of Người Mỹ Gốc Việt, Xin Chào magazine has these roots too – it is rooted in two Vietnams: the Vietnam of Asia, and the Vietnam forged by the diaspora in America. These roots provide XC with deep grassroots foundations which transform the printed word into a cathartic experience that gives minority voices the agency to tell their stories, be heard, inspire others and create community.
By the way, xin chào means “hello.” Goodbye.