A Fisherman’s Daughter

Art by Patrick Driscoll

By Sundra Lam


“Chào mẹ” I said as I walked by my mother,

the usual aroma of cá chiên-fried fish and rice filling the room.

The floors felt damp, soaked in pine-sol and dishwater.


My mother,

who cleaned the floors with her working hands and feet

after chopping the heads of fish

my father lined up


My father,

whose eyes were red

from the 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift on the waves

with cracked hands and body reeking of the sea.


When I was young,

I felt shame —

my friends’ parents were lawyers or managers,

occupations society would consider real jobs.


I’ve never felt proud;

I was ashamed of my parents’ way of living.

Felt as if we were not good enough

to be seen as hard-working Americans ,

And not seen as uneducated, lazy, and just as immigrants.

My parents didn’t have the opportunity to receive a good education.


They endured backbreaking labor and the smell of the sea

to send my sisters and me to college, to achieve the American Dream,

that they didn’t have a chance to get.

To my friends the fish smelled horrendous,

but to them that smell meant money and opportunity.


The pain they had to physically endure was for us,

So that our family could have a better life in America.

I now realize how much they sacrifice for our family.

I am proud to be


A fisherman’s daughter

-cảm ơn

Thank you.

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