Amira Noeuv, 30’s
San Diego, CA
Current Role: Graduate Student
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
My parents came to the US in the mid-1980's after the Khmer Rouge Genocide; I was born in San Diego, CA.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
As an Asian American, there is a stigma of socioeconomic success that can sometimes hurt the community and the opportunities available for us in this country. Within this broad categorization, the model minority further makes certain Asian groups (such as Southeast Asians who came to this country because of war) invisible because the depiction doesn’t account for the complex experiences we face.
A strength would include the expanded kinships, dynamic histories, sense of determination, perseverance, and diversity that exist. The sense of community, and richness of culture and knowledge we are exposed to come from navigating multiple identities in our daily lives.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment pertains to my academic achievements. As a first-generation college student, I sometimes feel unsure of how to pursue my goals, find (financial) resources, and experience moments of imposter syndrome when trying to navigate a space that makes me feel like I’m at a disadvantage compared to other students.
So, in addition to the difficulties that my community faces in obtaining higher education and my own personal obstacles, I still am amazed at the fact that I am currently pursuing my doctorate degree in Ethnic Studies. I remember there being a point in my life when it was questionable whether I would even graduate from undergraduate because these challenges were severely affecting my GPA. Getting a second chance to obtain my Master's Degree years after that inspired me to continue my academic pursuits.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
My parents influence how I view my positionality in the world. Though we face our own challenges in life, we should be compassionate and these problems shouldn’t eclipse our responsibility to alleviate the hardships that others face. We may have to try harder or face greater obstacles because of our position, but there are also instances in which we do have to acknowledge our privileges and use that to continue advancing our community.
My parents used to tell me there will be times in which my gender, race, or socioeconomic status will be used against me, but they shouldn’t be factors that deter me from achieving my goals. My dad used to tell me that just because someone is in a position of authority, it does not mean that they are always right (unless of course, the caveat is that the authority figure in question is my father himself lol) and that their actions and words should be questioned if they jeopardize others. Thus, I am innately passionate about promoting peace and human rights and inspire to continue contributing to social justice changes.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I grew up speaking Khmer as my first language even though both of my parents speak Khmer and English fluently. Since I didn't gravitate towards English until elementary school, they thought they might as well teach me how to write and read in Khmer. I got as far as "ka, kha, ko, kho, ngo." Now as an adult, I still can’t speak Khmer or English well (lol).
Over the last few years, I didn’t get a chance to practice Khmer in my daily life, so I am struggling to speak it fluently. For example, my grandma would ask me on the phone what I'm doing, and I would answer her in Khmerlish, "I'm ngam-ing bai." I desperately need to take a Khmer language course or participate in an immersion program!
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
I enjoy seeing and hope that we continue to honor our family and people's history, understand how we got here, and never forget the violence they have endured and survived. Simultaneously, I hope that we can continue to work in changing the negative narratives and statistics that are placed on Cambodian-Americans. Rather than comparing ourselves to others and competing against each other, I encourage all of us to support and celebrate one another.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Professionally, I continue to focus on promoting peace and human rights - not only because of my own family's survival stories of war, genocide, and diaspora, but because the consequences transcend physical borders and generations. I enjoy the ability to continue learning and re-learning in a way that is collaborative, productive, and impactful.
I appreciate that my work continues to connect me with diverse people with stories to be acknowledged, and communities that are resilient and determined in fostering a better future. In addition to wanting to contribute to pioneering research on identity, memory, trauma, and community healing, I also appreciate that I can simultaneously continue to commit myself to doing social justice work.
Personally, I enjoy indulging in random hobbies. Currently, dabbling in gardening, mindful journaling, cooking 2+ hour meals, and taking random adventures brings me great joy because when I hobby, I hobby hard.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
As mentioned previously, I am currently researching on transgenerational trauma and experiences of second-generation Cambodian Americans. I've implemented focus group discussions on topics of multiple identities, talking about difficult pasts, and community resiliency, and would like to continue holding this conversation with Cambodian American communities across the U.S.
I am also working on speculative fiction and writing short stories with Khmer (American) characters which consider stories that are influenced by genocide and trauma that is part of our history, but goes beyond simply retelling them. I wanted to explore what individual and collective trauma of the everyday life may look like, while still decentralizing the theme and steering away from personifying victimhood. I want to convey the humanness of the refugee/immigrant experience that is not only negative, but also full of humor, the complexity of intergenerational relationships, healing, and life.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
To be featured, read the directions and fill out this form. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome.
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