Nam Nguyen is an 11 year old boy whose family moved from Vietnam to the United States before Nam was born. He is Vietnamese-American and although his proper Vietnamese name is Nguyen Huy Nam (pronounced N-win Wee Nom), “Nam” is his first name and Nguyen is his last name.
The Nguyens had been planning to leave Vietnam for many years. Mrs. Nguyen was expecting their third child, Nam, when Mr. Nguyen announced that enough money had been saved to make the move possible. They gathered their belongings, said goodbye to their relatives, and embarked on a “new life” in the United States. Life was not particularly easy for the Nguyens when they first arrived; however, with the aid of the immigration assistance program and ESL (English as a second language) classes, they were able to adjust to this new life.
Over the years, more members of Nam’s extended family have come to the United States. His aunt and uncle live nearby in the city with their children. Recently, Nam’s grandparents have come to live with Nam and his family. Nam’s parents have made it a priority to raise Nam and his two older sisters, Lahn (18) and Yen (13), and his baby sister, Mai (age 3), with as many Vietnamese traditions as possible.
As a child of immigrant parents, Nam often feels torn between the two cultures with which he identifies. His family maintains strong ties with their Vietnamese culture, and Nam often feels that he must be American at
school and Vietnamese at home. Since Nam’s friends have shown an interest in learning more about his Vietnamese heritage, Nam’s sense of pride in that heritage has become more evident. Through Nam, children learn that cultural “differences” need not create barriers between people. Instead, by sharing and celebrating the differences in each of us, we come to a greater understanding of others and ourselves.
Nam is featured in The Kids on the Block program on multiculturalism.
Nam also appears in the programs about childhood cancer, diabetes, physical abuse, pool safety, and child abuse.