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Oral Histories of the Post-1965 Lives of Asian Americans in Idaho

The “Oral Histories of the Post-1965 Lives of Asian Americans in Idaho” project began in 2020 and currently contains 16 interviews. All of the interviewed narrators and/or their families came to Idaho after 1965, the year of the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which abolished racially restrictive quotas that, for most of the twentieth century, excluded nonwhite migration to the United States. Since then, immigrant populations in the United States have grown to unprecedented levels in both size and diversity—particularly so for Asian American communities.

 Graph of Asian American Population in Idaho, 1870-2019
A graph of the Asian American Population in Idaho, 1870-2019. Data is from the U.S. Censuses of 1970-2010, the American Community Survey of 2019, and Campbell Gibson and Kay Jung, “Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals by Race, 1790 to 1990, and by Hispanic origin, 1970 to 1990, for the United States, Regions, Divisions, and States.

In the summer of 2020, Kathy Mae Min, a Chinese American woman who was born in Nampa, Idaho, began to collect oral histories from Asian Americans and Asian immigrants in Idaho who could trace their family histories to the “post-1965” era. In these interviews, historical themes that define the “post-1965” era of Asian American history—including American militarism in Southeast Asia, transnational adoption, and chain migration—interact with Idaho-specific histories, such as the growth of Micron and Hewlett-Packard, the development of Idaho’s refugee programs, and the legacies of the Aryan Nations. Taken together, the interviews reflect a rich and complex history of race, identity, migration and contested belonging in Idaho’s late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The interviewees, also called narrators, represent a wide range of ethnicities and migration backgrounds. Most of the narrators are from Boise and were born after 1995. Some are students with dreams of curing cancer and directing movies with people of color at the center; others shared the joy of watching drag shows and finding queer community. In a state known for homogeneity, narrators detailed Cambodian-owned donut shops, Laotian and Vietnamese Buddhist temples, and Bharatanatyam dance practices. While historians and commentators have often overlooked these Asian Americans’ contributions to Idaho, the oral history interviews thus reveal a much more interesting and dynamic account of Asian Americans in Idaho in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

All the interviews were conducted in English; summaries and links to full interview transcripts can be found below. More information on this oral history collection can be found in Kathy Min’s undergraduate history thesis: “‘So are you Chinese or Japanese?’: An oral history analysis of Asian American migration and regional racial formations in Idaho, 1965–2020,” which is also linked below. Special thanks to Branford College at Yale University and the Branford College Mellon Senior Research Fund for their support of this research.

This is an ongoing research project. If you would like to participate and/or ask for more information, please contact Renae Campbell or Kathy Min. If you would like to listen to or view the recordings, please contact the AACC.

Alex Bounyavong was born in 1995 in Boise, Idaho. His parents came to the U.S. as Laotian refugees; his father came first to Las Vegas and then Boise in the mid-1980s, and his mother came to Boise in 1988. At the time of his interview, he was a dance instructor and restaurant worker at his family’s restaurant.

Topics of Alex's oral history include:

  • American militarism in Southeast Asia
  • The Pathet Lao
  • Refugee resettlement in Boise
  • Boise's Lao Buddhist community
  • Lao American entrepreneurship
  • Boise's Lao community

Full Transcript

Arnie and Awi are married. Awi was born in 1981 in Tanjung Raja, South Sumatra, Indonesia. Arnie was born in the 1980s in Bandung, Indonesia. Awi and Arnie in 2005 and 2007, respectively, immigrated to the U.S. as graduate students to Ohio University, where they met. They moved to Boise in 2018 after HP recruited Awi. At the time of their interview, Awi was a data scientist at HP and Arnie was a contractor at a healthcare analytics company. (Arnie and Awi are pseudonyms.)

Topics of Arnie and Awi's oral history include:

  • STEM-related immigration
  • Indonesian American community in Boise
  • Indo Idaho Inc.

Full Transcript

Arun Gupta was born in 1950 in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, India. He first migrated to Manhattan, Kansas, as a student in January 1969, and moved to Boise in 1986 to work at Hewlett-Packard (HP). In 1999, he and his wife founded the Hare Krishna temple in Boise. At the time of his interview, Arun was retired.

Topics of Arun's oral history include:

  • STEM-related immigration
  • Indian American community in Boise
  • Hare Krishna community in Boise

Full Transcript

Brittany Yann was born in 1997 in Oakland, California. Her parents came to the U.S. as Cambodian refugees; her father came to California in the late 1970s and her mother came to New Jersey in 1985, then California shortly after. Brittany, her brother and her mother moved to Meridian, Idaho, in 2008. Brittany moved back to the Bay Area in the late 2010s. At the time of her interview, Brittany was working at KQED radio station in the Bay Area.

Topics of Brittany's oral history include:

  • Southeast Asian American community and identity
  • Khmer community and identity
  • the Khmer Rouge
  • Refugee resettlement
  • Pan-Asian American culture

Full Transcript

Eric Nguyen was born in 2001 in Boise, Idaho. Eric's father’s side of the family, including his father, migrated to Boise in the early 1990s as a result of Eric's grandfather’s assistance to the U.S. military during the American War in Vietnam. His mother came to Boise in 2001. At the time of his interview, Eric was a student at Yale University. (Eric's cousin Janny Bui is also part of this project.)

Topics of Eric's oral history include:

  • American militarism in Southeast Asia
  • Asian American masculinity
  • The nail salon industry
  • Boise's Vietnamese Buddhist community
  • The model minority myth.

Full Transcript

Geneve Lau was born in 1999 in Boise, Idaho. After one of Geneve’s paternal uncles first migrated to Boise, Geneve’s parents came to Boise in 1996 or 1997 and opened a Chinese restaurant shortly thereafter. At the time of her interview, Geneve was a student at Boston University.

Topics of Geneve's oral history include:

  • Chinese American entrepreneurship
  • Chain migration
  • English Language Learner (ELL) experiences
  • The model minority myth
  • Bullying
  • Interactions with the Church of Latter-day Saints
  • Misogyny
  • Eurocentric beauty standards
  • COVID-19-related racism

Full Transcript

Himani Patel was born in 1998 in Gujarat, India. After her extended family members came to the U.S. (including to Idaho), Himani and her parents migrated to Portland and then Boise in 2001. Shortly after, Himani’s family owned an Indian grocery store, and more recently now co-own a motel in Idaho. At the time of her interview, Himani was a master’s student at University of Denver.

Topics of Himani's oral history include:

  • Indian American entrepreneurship
  • Boise's Gujarati community
  • Boise's Indian community
  • Chain migration
  • English Language Learner (ELL) experiences
  • Bullying
  • Interactions with the Church of Latter-day Saints
  • Queer identity and community

Full Transcript

Jack Min and Sarah Wu were born in Sichuan, China, in 1969, and they married in 1993. Jack migrated to Montana in 1994, then Sarah joined in 1995. They moved to Idaho in 1998. Their oral history describes the history of Boise Modern Chinese School, which was founded in 1998.

Full Transcript

Janny Bui was born in 1996 in Fountain Valley, California. Janny's mother’s side of the family, including her grandfather, migrated to Boise in the early 1990s as a result of her grandfather’s assistance to the U.S. military during the American War in Vietnam. Janny's mother moved from Boise to California in the 1990s, then moved back to Boise by 2003. At the time of her interview, Janny was a content creator at a startup marketing company based in Boise. (Janny’s cousin Eric Nguyen is also part of this project.)

Topics of Janny's oral history include:

  • American militarism in Southeast Asia
  • Vietnamese re-education camps
  • Asian American women
  • Vietnamese American women
  • Micron's Southeast Asian workforce
  • English Language Learner (ELL) experiences
  • COVID-19-related racism.

Full Transcript

Lois Naftzger was born in 1967 in Taichung, Taiwan. Because her father was a pastor, her family moved to Dumaguete, Philippines, in 1978, and then were sponsored by then-Congressman Leon Panetta to immigrate to Monterey, California, in 1984. Lois and her husband moved to Boise in 1991, and moved to Newbury Park, California, in 2014. At the time of her interview, Lois was a health and group benefits director at AECOM.

Topics of Lois's oral history include:

  • Taiwanese history
  • Hakka history
  • Christianity in Asia
  • Religious-based immigration
  • Aryan Nations
  • Mixed-race families
  • Boise's Chinese American community

Full Transcript

Manuel ("Manny") Jimenez was born in 1950 in Baguio City, Philippines. Manny migrated to Hawai‘i as a student in 1969, served in the Navy during the War in Vietnam, and moved around the U.S. until MicronPC recruited him to work in Boise in 1996. He then worked for HP from 1999 until he retired. At the time of his interview, Manny was retired.

Topics of Manny's oral history include:

  • Philippines history
  • Ferdinand Marcos
  • STEM-related immigration
  • Asian military service
  • Aryan Nations
  • Boise's Filipinx American community

Full Transcript

Paige was born in 2001 in Yangzhou, China. Paige was adopted in 2002 by a family in Boise, Idaho. At the time of her interview, Paige was a student at Boise State University.

Topics of Paige's oral history include:

  • Transracial/transnational adoption
  • Chinese adoption
  • Adoptee community in Boise
  • Activism
  • Queer identity and community

Full Transcript

Puja Batchu was born in 2001 in Boise, Idaho. Her father, who is from a village near Hyderabad, India, first migrated in 1991 to New Orleans, Louisiana, as a student. Her mother is from Chandrapur, India. Her parents married in India in 1995 or 1996, then migrated together to Detroit and at some point lived in Memphis, Tennessee. They settled in Boise around the late 1990s or early 2000s. At the time of her interview, Puja was a student at Utah State University.

Topics of Puja's oral history include:

  • Indian American community in Boise
  • STEM-related immigration
  • Asian American women
  • Indian American women

Full Transcript

Trinh was born in 1999 in Boise, Idaho. Trinh’s paternal grandparents and father migrated to Boise around 1979 or 1980 as Vietnamese refugees. Trinh’s father and mother met in Vietnam in 1998, and they came to Boise together the same year. At the time of their interview, Trinh had recently graduated from University of Idaho. (Trinh is their last name and the name they suggested to use, although they are comfortable being addressed as Erica as well.)

Topics of Trinh's oral history include:

  • American militarism in Southeast Asia
  • Refugee resettlement in Boise
  • Vietnamese American entrepreneurship
  • Conservatism in the Vietnamese diaspora
  • Queer identity and community

Full Transcript

Yul Kim was born in 1964 in Boston, Massachusetts. Yul’s father served as a liaison to the U.S. military during the Korean War. His parents married in 1957, his father migrated to the U.S. in 1958, and his mother migrated in 1959. After moving around, they settled in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Yul grew up. At the time of his interview, Yul was a software engineer at Boise's Hewlett-Packard (HP) division, where he had been working since 1992.

Topics of Yul's oral history include:

  • American militarism in Korea
  • Military service-based immigration
  • The model minority myth
  • Asian American masculinity
  • Activism
  • Mixed-race families

Full Transcript

Cheyon was born in 2000 in South Korea. Because her family are Latter-day Saints, Cheyon's family migrated to Utah when Cheyon was young. They then moved to Rexburg, Idaho, in 2009 or 2010, and then Twin Falls, Idaho, by the time Cheyon was in middle school. At the time of her interview, Cheyon was a student at Boise State University. (During Cheyon's interview, she used the pseudonym "Yun.") 

Topics of Cheyon's oral history include:

  • Latter-day Saints in Idaho
  • Religious-based immigration
  • Immigration precarity
  • Korean American community in Twin Falls

Full Transcript

This zine was created in 2020 by Asian American and Pacific Islander students at Boise State University in honor of Asian & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.

Download Zine (80MB)

Asian American Comparative Collection

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