Children of the Dust

The first time Nguyen Thanh Hien encountered the dragon lady he was walking dejectedly away from the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. In his pocket he carried a letter from U.S. officials that stated, incredulously: "You do not have the physical appearance characteristic of Amerasians." That contradicted sharply with what Hien saw in the mirror when he shaved his thick stubble, or looked at the dense hair on his arms and chest. It also contradicted what Vietnamese society saw—and widely disparaged. Almost from the moment he was born, Hien had been reviled as a bui doi or "dust child,"...

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