“America Ruined my Name”: Immigration, Assimilation, and Asian Personal Names

A modern story of immigration, assimilation, and the challenges that those with Asian personal names encounter through both, Beth Nguyen retells the account of her family arriving in America from Vietnam in the 1980s and the difficulties she encountered surrounding the general public’s perception of her first name. Those unfamiliar with the pronunciation of Beth’s birth name (Bich, pronounced “Bic”) might perceive it as homophonous with an English curse word, and her peers, teachers, and others often did. Beth speaks about the decision to change her name and the impact that personal names have on individuals in America, especially refugees.

Beth’s first book, published under her birth name Bich Minh Nguyen, is Stealing Buddha’s Dinner: A Memoir (Penguin, 2008).