As part of Quế Mai's U.S. book tour, on Sunday, March 19th 2023, a unique event featuring special performances, Vietnamese food and traditional music will take place at The Center at Founders Village 17967 Bushard St., Fountain Valley, CA 92708 to raise funds for disadvantaged Amerasians. They are children of US soldiers and Vietnamese women who were born in Việt Nam during the war and who suffered discrimination and other ill treatment afterwards. Beneficiaries of the fundraiser are Amerasians who live in Việt nam, who are illiterate and who have been struggling to make ends meet. The organisers of the fundraiser aim to generate sufficient proceeds to provide sustainable income and educational opportunities to a number of Amerasians in need as well as to buy DNA test kits to assist some of the tens of thousands of Amerasians in their ongoing search for family members. 

The fundraiser will showcase conversations and performances by award-winning writers and artists Nguyễn Phan Quế, Lệ Lý Hayslip, Quyên Ngô, and Jason Nguyễn. Our special guest will be Kirk Kellerhals (Trần Văn Kirk) who was forcefully taken away from his Vietnamese mother at birth, who found her after 48 years and whose documentary film “Intersections” recently won Best Inspirational Film from the 2022 Cannes World Film Festival. Another special guest will be Trista Goldberg, founder of Operation Reunite and DNA expert. 

Kirk Kellerhals (Trần Văn Kirk) says: “Having the opportunity to be a part of this event is a blessing that simply can’t be measured.  Having lived in the shadows of the war in Vietnam and experiencing the negative stigmas attached to it for most of my life is something that I never wanted my children or someday, my future grandchildren to experience.  The works of literature and acts of humanity being showcased by this event not only shine the spotlight on the resilience and beauty of the Vietnamese and Amerasian culture, it sends the universal message that every kind act, no matter how big or how small can make a positive difference in someone’s life.  I am honored to support this event and look forward to sharing stories that will inspire others to be proud of who they are.”

Trista Goldberg says: “After finding my Vietnamese birth family using DNA technology, one of my greatest experiences has been to launch a DNA testing project via the work of my non-profit Operation Reunite to help fellow Amerasians find their family members. It all started with the BBC documentary “Children of the Dust”. Uplifting Amerasians is so important and in the novel “Dust Child”, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai brings to light the character’s personalities and circumstances that kept them disconnected and impoverished. The author’s book is truly the voice for people whose stories have been under-acknowledged.”


SouthEastAsianCoast2Coast Foundation

Operation ReUnite

Amerasians Without Border

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai says: “During my years working with Amerasians in Vietnam, I have personally witnessed their struggles and courage and I can’t wait to highlight these during the event and encourage people to take action. I am honored to have my esteemed guests, our donors, sponsors and the audience joining me in uplifting Amerasians -  those who inherit the tragedy and trauma of the Vietnam War and who have shown me that they deserve love and respect.” 

Lệ Lý Hayslip says: “One of my life’s passions has been to help better the lives of disadvantaged people in Vietnam. My children are also Amerasian and the thought that they could have been treated this way kills me. I want to do events like this to uplift these Amerasians’ lives, give them and their children opportunities and hope, and if possible, reunite them with their American families.”

Quyên Ngô, who was selected by Hachette Audio to narrate the audiobook of Dust Child says: “The way I developed the characters for the narration of Dust Child was based entirely on real people -- real hopes, struggles, and dreams. I am so grateful that our first program in Southern California will be aimed toward helping in what little way we can those who the book is largely about. So much of our history is tragedy; to be able to band together, in joy and in service, is healing.”

Jason Nguyễn says:  “Vietnamese identity has always been fractious, even from the creation myth of “Fairy Princess” Âu Cơ and “Dragon Prince” Lạc Long Quân, in which half their children followed mother to the mountains while the other half followed father to the sea. The act of weaving together a coherent collective narrative across our differences—farmers and fishermen, northerners and southerners, Vietnamese and American—is foundational to being Vietnamese. This event, which supports Amerasians born during the Vietnam War so they can live their lives and share their stories, is a powerful step towards building a more complete tapestry of Vietnamese identity in a complex world. I am humbled to join this effort alongside such compassionate and thoughtful artists and thinkers.” 

Hồng Phúc, a key organiser, says: “I didn’t know Quế Mai personally, but after I read her debut novel, The Mountains Sing, I decided to put together a fundraiser in November 2020 to celebrate the book when Quế Mai visited Orange County.  Thanks to the help of the community and the organizational efforts of VAALA and our volunteers, we raised many thousands of dollars to assist Covid victims in Vietnam as well as to assist the removal of unexploded bombs in Quảng Trị.  I am looking forward to the success of this fundraiser.”

Shane Nguyễn, a key organizer, says: “As a young child in Vietnam, I was taught to view these Amerasian people as “others”, and to ignore and to look down upon them.  As a gay Vietnamese American adult, I too have experienced how painful it is to be viewed as an outcast.   I am proud to be a part of this fundraiser to bring awareness to the community’s younger generation, and to right the wrongs by raising money to help those impacted by this situation so we all can heal and move forward.”


The fundraiser is an initiative of Hồng Phúc, a philanthropist and founder of The Ravenous Couple – a platform that actively shares and preserves Vietnamese culture through food, as well as Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai – author of the new novel, Dust Child, which highlights the many challenges faced by Amerasians and their parents.

The fundraiser has received warm support from the Vietnamese business and restaurant community in Orange County who are donating food, drinks, services and products to the fundraiser.  Thanks to their help, those who attend the fundraiser will be able to enjoy authentic Vietnamese food and drinks. One hundred first buyers of a general ticket will receive a gift bag which contains high quality Vietnamese products.  The Global Village Foundation, a non-profit founded by Lệ Lý Hayslip, bestselling author and philanthropist, will manage the proceeds of the fundraiser and its effective distribution.

Ticket information:


Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is the author of the international bestseller The Mountains Sing, runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, the 2021 International Book Awards, the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for Fiction.  She has published twelve books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction in Vietnamese and English and has received some of the top literary prizes in Việt Nam.  Her writing has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in major publications including the New York Times.  She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University.  She is an advocate for disadvantaged groups in Việt Nam and was named by Forbes Vietnam as one of 20 inspiring women of 2021.  Dust Child is her second novel.  More information:

Lệ Lý Hayslip is an internationally known Vietnamese American author, philanthropist, peace activist, and speaker.  Her best-selling memoirs, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and Child of War, Woman of Peace record her painful and ultimately triumphant journey from a traumatizing childhood in war-torn Vietnam to her new life in America.  The books were adapted into the moving film “Heaven and Earth”, directed by Oliver Stone.  She is the founder of the Global Village Foundation non-profit and regularly travels to remote areas in Vietnam to assist those who are disadvantaged.   For the last 38 years (1986-2023), her goal has been to bring east and west together and to foster healing and reconciliation.  For more information:

Kirk Kellerhals is an award-winning film director, Co-Founder and President of The SouthEastAsianCoast2Coast Foundation which aims to unite Amerasians with their birth families. In 1969, during the peak of the Vietnam War, Kirk was born as Trần Văn Hùng from a relationship between a Vietnamese mother and an American soldier. Immediately after his birth, Kirk was forcibly taken from his mother and dropped off at an orphanage by his uncle on the orders of his Vietnamese grandfather, who felt shame from his teenage daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an American. His name was changed so she wouldn’t be able to find him. Growing up, Kirk was told that both his birth parents had died. Forty eight years later, on a whim, Kirk submitted a sample of his DNA test. The results changed his life forever: he learned that his birth mother had been searching for him for over 40 years. Kirk will join our event to share his personal story, in his own words. His film “Intersections", which documents stories of Amerasians like him, has won multiple awards including Best Inspirational Film from the 2022 Cannes World Film Festival. For more information:

Trista Goldberg is an International DNA Influencer, DNA Consultant and founder of Operation Reunite after finding her Vietnamese birth family in 2001. Over the last 20 plus years she helped make DNA mainstream. Operation Reunite became the beta pilot group that launched the autosomal DNA test in 2010. The miracles Trista has seen in her lifetime has been magnetized with DNA. She states, “There are so many blessings when you really know who you are and where you came from. This incredible journey continues to pick up momentum as the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War approaches and our network expands, shares and educates humanity to harness the technology of DNA." For more information:

Quyên Ngô is an actor, organizer, and trainer based in Los Angeles.  She is the narrator of Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s Dust Child, as well as her debut novel, The Mountains Sing, which was a Finalist of the Audie 2021 Best Audiobook of the Year Award.  She began her acting journey in middle school and continued training during her time at Brown University, where she also ventured into radio and voice acting.  She is a translator of Vietnamese poetry and prose and believes both narration and translation work are sacred arts.  For more information:

Dr.  Jason R.  Nguyễn is a celebrated musician of Vietnamese traditional music.  He holds a dual doctorate in Ethnomusicology and Communication & Culture from Indiana University, Bloomington.  He has collaborated with Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and Quyên Ngô in many performances to uplift Vietnamese literature.  Trained as one of the top virtuosos of the single string đàn bầu in the world, Jason is committed to using intergenerational dialogue to heal collective trauma.  Forging a unique path as an artist and scholar, Jason has adapted all he has learned to contemporary contexts and communities, while respecting the deep knowledge and experience of his hereditary, spiritual and intellectual ancestors.  For more information:


  1. All Children Dental Office
  2. Banh cuon Luu Luyen
  3. Bele Nguyen State Farm (banh cam)
  4. Cha2cha
  5. Charcuterie
  6. Chấm dipping source
  7. Cococane
  8. Dan Nhi flowers-
  9. Essential Oils - BST's Dầu Khuynh Diệp (SNP Centers)
  10. Good Vibes |Bar & Kitchen
  11. Hue Oi Vietnamese Restaurant
  12. Kei Concepts
  13. Lan Anh kitchen
  14. Nam Coffee
  15. Omsom Flavors
  16. SNP Centers
  17. Thanh Son tofu
  18. Teaspoon
  19. Red Boat Fish Sauce
  20. Skylight Books (who will supply books for the event and donate 20% of the book sales to the fundraiser)
  21. Stacy Nguyen Creative


  1. The Global Village Foundation
  2. VAALA (Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association)
  3. The Yên Foundation
  4. Skylight Books
  5. The Vietnamese Podcast

FOR MORE INFORMATION: contact Shane Nguyen: [email protected]; Tel: 213.926.7100