Dorothy Chow, 20’s
Host of Death in Cambodia, Life in America Podcast.
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Chinese Cambodian American.
Tell us about your family story.
My parents were born in Cambodia and both escaped from the Khmer Rouge. My dad came over when he was 16, and my mom was probably around 10. My dad's sponsor was from Oregon, so that's where he originally landed from Cambodia. Both my grandparents knew each other in Cambodia, so that's how my parents met. I was born in San Bernardino, CA until I moved to Northern California when I was 1 years old. I went to college in UCSD, and came back up to help my dad run his business, B&H Bakery Distributors, located in Hayward CA.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Chinese Cambodian American?
I think everyone Asian born American goes through an identity crisis at some point in life. You either feel too Asian in society, or not Asian enough for other groups. There is a bit of a transition and a point where you have to learn how to be okay with who you are. I think this is different from growing up non-minority because it's almost as if you came into the world immediately feeling different and slightly outcasted - from no real fault of your own. This, however, builds strength, tenacity, and a broader perspective for humans. We know what it's like to feel different, giving us another layer of sympathy for others around us.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Just last month, I launched my passion project. A podcast called, "Death in Cambodia, Life in America." This is an interview style podcast where I ask my father about how he survived the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's. I had dreamt about creating a platform to let my father tell his story for a long time, but I just didn't know what medium. Being back at home now, and watching my dad age, only made me realize how short life truly can be. And with the COVID climate, there really is no better time to start than NOW. This podcast aims to give people a sense of perspective. And also, educate people on what life was truly like during the Khmer Rouge. In my opinion, there is just not enough content about what happened back in the 70's. It's so important to get these stories out there before it's too late.
Reflecting on how you grew up, what did you learn or appreciate from your family?
As you will learn in the podcast, my father is the hardest working person I have ever known. He gave up everything to make sure we had a better future. He also made sure that every single one of his kids knew the importance of hard work and sacrifice. I don't think I would be here today without those skill sets.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
No, unfortunately, I don't speak Khmer or Chinese fluently. I can understand Cantonese and a tiny bit of Mandarin and Khmer, but nothing fluent. My parents always spoke to me in English growing up. Actually, my father didn't want me to learn Khmer because he didn't think it would be useful.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Chinese Cambodian American?
I think there is a lot of responsibility for the young generation in the Khmer community. Our parents survived a genocide for us to have a better life and a better future. There is an interesting saying "Crabs in a Bucket," that is often used to describe the Cambodian community. There is an Instagram page called @Khmer_Renaissance that had a post about this earlier this month, and it described it perfectly. Khmer people are described as people who tear each other down, and it seems that the impacts of the Khmer Rouge are still seeped in our society today. Our current generation has the opportunity to change this narrative. We can do this by supporting one another, building each other up, sharing stories, and healing from our generational past. The change can start with us.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Living life to the fullest, adding value to the world, and sharing joy with the people I love.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
My Death in Cambodia Podcast.
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.
Charles Calvino Hang
Danielle Bopha Khleang
Emma S. Buchanan
Firda Amalia Herryanddhy
Grace Bora Kim
Justin Cardona (JCool)
Kaitlin Kamalei Brandon
Krystal M. Chuon
Lina (Spring Roll Fever)
Mei Mei Long
Melissa Khoeum Barnett
Note K. Suwanchote
Sam "Smushipig" Javier
Samrach Sar, Esq.
ចាប សាត Sath Chap
Sotheara Jeffrey Lim