this is for mẹ

You speak to me in Vietnamese and encourage me to stamp my feet and walk towards you. Are you scared? You ask me. Come on, it’s okay, Ma is here. Ma is here. Thank you for always being there.
In this except of this is for mẹ, Tam Nguyen reflects on a phone call with her mother, exploring how this simple interaction can carry pregnant silences, anchored by words left unsaid, and a love that is textured, ferocious and complex.
While switching between my identities as Loan the Vietnamese refugee and Kim the American professional has sometimes been an emotionally draining, isolating experience, I have grown to become creative, resourceful, resilient, and empathetic as a result of navigating the in-between.
To my fourteen-year-old self, Years ago, when we first came to the U.S., remember how Mom used to take you with her to the houses she cleaned? You’d sit in the kitchens of these houses crammed full of wide empty spaces, feet dangling, too scared to touch anything in case you left a mark.
The frightening monoculture of China looms over Taiwan like hurricane clouds. But we have our own history, our own culture, our own ethnic makeup—many Taiwanese have Japanese and Aborigine blood—and our own way of making beef noodle soup. It’s not just niúròumiàn, 牛肉麵 — it’s Táiwān niúròumiàn, 台灣牛肉麵.
In this excerpt of this is for mẹ, Terri Le navigates the complex and loving relationship that she has with her mother - the woman who has made her who she is, but the woman she has also needed to step away from in order to define what kind of...