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Oral Histories

In 2015 individuals and member organizations of the Asian community in Troy and Oakland County, Michigan in partnership with the Troy Historical Society conducted an Oral History project to document the stories and experiences of 12 first and second generation Asian immigrants who arrived in Troy Michigan and Oakland County following enactment of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965

This digital Asian American Oral History Collection is provided to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges, accomplishments, and impacts of first and second generation Asians as they develop their personal and professional lives in the United States and to enhance and improve cultural sensitivity.

This project was made possible through generous financial support from the Michigan Humanities Council and Asian Pacific Islander American Vote- MI (APIA VOTE-MI).

Historic Background

The Hart Celler Act of 1965 resulted in significant new patterns of immigration and migration in the US. The Act was a watershed event for the Asian community as it liberalized over 70 years of restrictive legislation that had regulated and at times halted migration from Asia. The racial, cultural and ethnic composition of local communities, including Troy, MI, changed as a result of the arrival of post-1965 first generation Asian immigrants and adoptees from Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong who arrived following the first wave of transnational adoptions from 1945 onwards. These immigrants encountered challenges while acclimating to their new surroundings due to their lost cultural traditions, language barriers, the introduction of new customs, and racial and ethnic insensitivity in the US. Collectively, these oral histories provide a snapshot of the insights, attitudes, and behaviors of the Asian American community that can be compared with other groups and different eras. This information, combined with data from other studies, is made available for research, to provide or improve services and support for immigrants, and to empower them as they build their lives in America.

Many Stories…


Amin Hashmi

Amin Hashmi has been a resident of Troy for 16 years. His Troy story begins in 1990. After attaining undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Karachi, Pakistan he served in the Merchant Marines (seafarer) and travelled around the world. He was married in 1993 and soon decided to settle down and chose Michigan, not only for graduate studies but to raise his family in a safe and stable environment. …
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Mahendra Kenkre

Mahendra was born in Goa, India during the time of the Portuguese colonialism. His family was close-knit and always focused on work hard, study hard, and education. He attended college in India, and then went to the University of Maine for his graduate work in Engineering and Computer Science. He arrived here in August of 1982. In 1986 he went back to India to visit, and while there, his marriage to Shama was arranged. …
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Shama Kenkre

Shama was born in Goa, India. Her grandfather was a well-known lawyer and ally to the freedom fighters seeking to free Goa from Portuguese colonial rule. In 1987 her marriage to Mahendra was arranged, and following the wedding she joined him in the United States. She is an engineer, is the chair for the Indian Caucus of Michigan Democratic Party, vice president for the Troy Foundation of Educational Excellence,   …
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Makito Mori

Makito was born in Japan. He moved around in Japan quite often growing up, following his father’s work. He graduated for Tokyo Institute of Technology with a degree in Architecture. After working for several years in Japan, he moved to Michigan to attend U of M Ann Arbor to work on his master’s degree. In 1991 he married his wife Mina in Texas, and together they moved to Troy where they have raised four children in Troy schools. …
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Manlan Liu

Manlan was born in China. She came to Michigan in the fall of 1992 to study statistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She started to work for the U of M after graduation. She experienced problems obtaining the H-1 visa when her initial temporary working permit (OPT) was expiring. She experienced racial discrimination in terms of pay at U of M that planted the seeds for her to fight discrimination of any kind.  …
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Margaret Yee

Margaret Yee was born in Canton, China in May 1955. Her immigration story starts years before when her grandfather came to the United States as an indentured servant working to build the railroad. After working off his debt to the railroad company, he worked in restaurants. While working in Birmingham he met a congressman who agreed to help him bring his family out of Communist China and into the United States.  …
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Mina Isaacs Mori

Mina Isaacs Mori is half Japanese and half American.  She was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan, where she attended a private American school.  After graduating from high school, she moved to Texas to be with her father and his side of the family.  In 1991, she married her husband, who is Japanese and lived in Michigan.  After their youngest child entered elementary school, she received a call from the principal of Wass Elementary School,  …
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Padma Kuppa

Padma Kuppa is a Hindu American and community activist working for social justice and understanding. Born in India, she arrived in the U.S. to start kindergarten in 1970 on Long Island. Returning to India with her family in 1981, she finished high school and college while living in a mainstream Hindu culture. Returning to New York in 1988 as a foreign student, she, her husband,  …
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Parker Decraene

Parker Decraene was born on May 27, 1997 in Gunsan, South Korea. His birth mother at the time was eighteen years old and could not provide for her son, so she entrusted Parker to an adoption agency.  He was adopted through Bethany Christian Services into the hands of Rob and Cheryl Decraene- who have been his parents ever since. Parker is in the process of locating his birth parents in South Korea, and plans to meet them. …
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Sung Eun Son

Sung was born in South Korea and came to the US in 2006 and has resided in Troy ever since. Her husband’s research job at Wayne State University brought her and her family to the area. She has a son who is a junior in Troy High and a daughter, 8th grade in Boulan Park Middle School. She has been a stay-at-home-mom since her son turned two years old. She is very involved with volunteering at her children’s school, …
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Swarn Rajpal

Swarn comes from the Punjab region of India, in an area he refers to as the “boondocks”. One of his earliest memories is playing on a man-eating tiger his father had hunted, and learning from a family servant how to use a bow and arrow. He spent much of his young life at boarding schools. When he left India for the United States, he had a plane ticket that had him transferring all over Europe, and $8 in his pocket. …
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Van Nguyen

Van Nguyen’s (pronounced Von Winn) family came to the United States from Vietnam. Her father left Vietnam before the war ended- her mother is one of the “boat people” who left Vietnam by boat and hoped for passing ships to pick them up and take them to a better place. Her mother spent time in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Australia for a time, before her father was able to do the paperwork to have her brought to the United States in 1981. …
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