Every month, we feature a different member of our blog team as a /present Voice to formally recognize the value of his/her voice and their commitment to the blog.
This December, we are so pleased to announce that Linh Chuong is our /present Voice of the Month! From her treatise on nail salon conditions to her unguarded reflection on the meaning of her scholarship, Linh has been consistently real, honest, and inspirational. But before you go off and read all of her previous posts, you must first read her moving interview below —
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a dreamer, nerd, feminist, activist, and aunt to three feisty kids. Some of the things I love best are the feel and smell of books, dinner parties, witty jokes, traveling, conversations, cuddly animals (humans included), and social justice. Most recently, I’ve started my year-long Walker-Odyssey Fellowship with the Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia-Taiwan (CAMSA-Taiwan), an organization started by and serving Vietnamese-Taiwanese women, their families, and migrant workers. We work on everything from teaching children how to sing Vietnamese songs to handling transnational human trafficking and labor exploitation cases. I am also on the Content Crew for 18 Million Rising.
By Linh Chuong, APIASF/GMS Scholar
When I won the Gates Millennium Scholarship, I thought they had the wrong person. Wrong name. Address. Something. I was elated, excited, ecstatic, but I also felt guilty and lonely. These mixed emotions still well up after four years.
I grew up Chinese urban poor. Grew up playing Chinese jump rope with elastic bands from our mothers’ garment factory excess materials. Grew up raised by my sisters because my parents were always working. Grew up calculating costs in the hours my father worked for it so that everything seemed unaffordable. All around me were reminders of labor and poverty, so my dreams of graduate school seemed impossible. Even so, I loved learning and reading so much that I made a pact with my father: he would not die until I held my doctorate degree in my hands. I decided then, in middle school, that I would pay for college myself. I would not burden them.
Growing up poor also means I grew up feeling inadequate, like a constant disappointment to society. I struggled against everything naysayers said young poor women of color were: sexually available, dependent, unmotivated, welfare queens. I was loud and abrasive, dressed conservatively, told guys that I was asexual, worked hard, and kept myself busy with a flurry of student activities. I seemed stubborn and strong, but internally I harbored a longstanding fear that no matter what I did one day my mask would slip and they would discover me for the fraud I was. I was afraid I would go to college to drop out.
This womyn continually inspires me through her passion, vulnerability, and being.
An old man and a little kidling are gonna show you how to fall in love with your own life.