In My Family’s American Dream, Bootstraps Met Blocks of Government Cheese

After an Arduous Journey Emigrating from Vietnam in the ‘70s, the Author Benefitted from Both Personal Resilience and Public Assistance

I spoke my first words on a boat: “milk,” “cockroach,” and “itchy.” An unusual toddler vocabulary perhaps, but not surprising considering that I spent the second year of my life on a freighter with thousands of other people, a floating petri dish of equal parts vomit, diarrhea, desperation, and hope. Every inch of that boat teemed with refugees: the cargo hull, hallways, and deck. Even the captain’s steering room had ceased to be a sanctuary.

I am an immigrant from Vietnam. I left the land of my birth in …

More In: American dream

How Watts Provided the Foundation for a Family’s Rise in America

Baseball, Small Business, and Legal Status Helped a South L.A. Clan Develop Deep Community Roots

It’s as nostalgic a scene as you can get: young boys gathering in the streets, playing summertime baseball into the night, dreaming of the big leagues. “We would be out …

The Surprisingly Modest Start to McMansion Sprawl

Builders Like the Campanelli Brothers Helped Fuel Midcentury Suburban Desire, from Massachusetts to Moscow

After V-J Day—August 14, 1945—millions of World War II veterans came home and began to look for a place to live. New highways, cars, and government-sponsored mortgages encouraged them to …

Manifest Destiny Behind Home Plate

Tabitha Soren’s Photos Examine America’s Grand Ideas Mixed in With the Dirt and Sweat of the Baseball Diamond

Tabitha Soren isn’t a fan of baseball—and yet, she’s attended more than 100 games across the U.S., stood outside dozens of dugouts, and sifted through stacks of trading cards. It’s …

From Head Start to Harvard

How the Federal Program Connected a Nebraska 4-Year-Old, And Her Immigrant Parents, to the Country

“Did anyone here go to Head Start?”

It was an innocuous question, asked by my statistics professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. It might have been a rhetorical question, …