Connect with us


Into the Heart of Immigration In America: One Vietnamese Family's Journey

Despite the heated controversies, a recent book about one family's journey from Vietnam reminded me of the rich benefits of America's immigration traditions.



The cover of Aline Nguyen's book features a cherished family photo taken in November 1982. (©Yoshihisa Komori via Aline Nguyen)

A massive influx of illegal immigrants is currently disrupting American society. The immigration issue is even dominating the US presidential election campaign. However, I was reminded that fundamentally the United States is a nation of immigrants with a rich tradition. Amid this tumult, a book arrived at my home in Washington, DC. It was a gift from Vietnamese-American physician Aline Nguyen

Friendship Through War and Peace

Half a century ago in the turmoil of war-torn Vietnam, I knew De and Nhung, Aline's parents. American troops had already pulled out, leaving North and South Vietnam engaged in raging conflict. All the fighting was taking place within the territory of South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam). Meanwhile, I was a Japanese newspaper reporter stationed in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). 

In January 1974, I embarked on undercover reporting in areas of the South controlled by revolutionary forces from the North. These forces had clandestinely invited me as a Japanese journalist to demonstrate their control of the territory.

I met Dr De Nguyen during my ten-day stay in the revolutionary-controlled mountainous region of Bình Định Province in central Vietnam. Originally a physician in the South, De was captured by the revolutionary forces and compelled to work as their doctor. I had learned about his situation from his wife Nhung, a pediatrician whom I had met in Saigon.

In the revolutionary enclave, Dr De proclaimed to me his allegiance to the "just cause" of the revolution. He had therefore decided not to go back to the South Vietnamese side, he said. Yet it was clear to me that his words while surrounded by revolutionary soldiers and cadres, were a forced facade.

Then, nine months later during a typhoon, Dr De took a daring leap into the river and swam continuously until he reached freedom. Soon after, he managed to get back to Saigon. However, Saigon fell half a year later in a major offensive by the North Vietnamese army. Shortly before the city's collapse, the Nguyen family managed to escape to the United States as refugees.

Aline Nguyen with the author, August 29, 2022 in Washington, DC (©JAPAN Forward)

Making a Life in the Land of Immigrants

In the ensuing years, the Nguyen family achieved exemplary success in the United States, a land of immigrants and refugees. Both De and Nhung earned their US medical licenses and found work in hospitals in Florida and Pennsylvania. 

Their eldest daughter, Doan, graduated from a prestigious medical school, becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Aline, their second daughter, followed suit, earning her medical degree from George Washington University in the nation's capital. She pursued a career as an anesthesiologist. Their son, Nhat, became an entrepreneur.


I had stayed in touch with the Nguyen family, getting together with them every few years. When Dr De tragically died of sudden illness during a tourist trip to Russia in 2012, Aline sought me out. She was eager to uncover more about her father's life in Vietnam, particularly his time in the revolutionary zone. She gathered many of my books and articles about Dr De and painstakingly translated them into English.

Over a decade, Aline meticulously compiled these materials as well as her own thoughts and feelings into a book titled I Always Miss My Family. Actually, these were Dr De's own words in a poignant message to his family from the revolutionary-controlled territory. He had secretly asked me to record it in Vietnamese. 

Book cover (©Yoshihisa Komori via Aline Nguyen)

Chronicling the Journey

Aline's book chronicles her father's arduous life in the revolutionary zone, drawing from various sources, including my articles. It also describes the family's life in South Vietnam before and after his capture. 

She then vividly depicts the family's journey of adapting to diverse cultures across the United States in a compelling narrative. Her book recounts the immigrant couple's challenges as physicians from another country as well as their relentless pursuit of higher education for their children. 

The success achieved by immigrants like the Nguyens is primarily the result of their own hard work and talent. However, their accomplishments are buoyed by the inherent openness of the United States, which provides fertile ground for immigrants from around the world to flourish.


Title: I Always Miss My Family

Author: Aline Nguyen

ISBN: 237-0-015-69323-7

Publisher: Self-published, to be available to the public soon (watch here for updates)



Author: Yoshihisa Komori, Associate Correspondent, Washington, The Sankei Shimbun

Our Partners