Hollie Ha is a second-generation Chinese Canadian who is on the journey of learning and connecting more deeply with her heritage and family.
She is the host of the Holding Heritage podcast in the Comox Valley, focusing on refugee stories, family relationships and bridging generational gaps while keeping the understanding and appreciation of Chinese-Vietnamese heritage in North America.
In the upcoming edition of Off The Page, Ha describes what it was like growing up in the Comox Valley following her parent’s immigration to Canada from North Vietnam when they were in their early teens.
“That’s when the refugee, the boat people crisis happened. And my family, we are ethnically Chinese, but they lived in Vietnam. During that time, it was kind of difficult for them because there was a lot of political turmoil.”
Ha recalled attending elementary school in Comox and being one of the only Asian students in the school. Her lived experience along with discovering more of her parents’ past and their respective histories are part of the reason why she decided she wanted to start a podcast exploring the subject.
“Since my family kept so much of their culture - they speak both languages, we do all the traditional celebrations and things like that - but when I was younger, it was more just kind of going through the motions,” she noted.
“So it’s only now that I’ve gotten older that I realize how it has affected me and I love it now. But in hindsight, you know, it was a little bit more like, ‘oh, well, I feel a little bit different.’ And it was maybe a little confusing. But I think that’s really common for second-generation kids.”
Ha has been creating podcast episodes for about a year and uses the term 1.5+ generation in some of her episodes - a term she explained is a generation of people who have come to a new country during their early teen years.
She noted looking at her parents and their generation - the 1.5+ - they came at a time when they were very vulnerable, and they were still processing everything that happened to them.
“Talking with them sometimes about it, you see they’re vocalizing things that they’ve never even thought about before. It helps them kind of process what they have gone through and why they are the way that they are, and that it’s OK that they have these things that happened a really long time ago. That was hard … but it doesn’t define (who you are).”
Despite the Valley being a predominantly Caucasian community, Ha noted she does see change, and there is a more diverse range of different cultures and ethnicities in the area.
“I hope that immigrants that come here or newcomers who are coming to our communities can feel more welcomed - that they can look around the communities, whether it’s that they’re going to school, or they’re going to places where they’re applying for jobs and things like that, and they can see more people who either look like them who they can relate to.”
New episodes of Off The Page drop every Wednesday.
To submit podcast topics or guest ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.