Interviewee: Xuyen Pham

Role: Oyster shucker in New Orleans and wife of shrimper

Date of Interview: 5/25/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Xuyen Pham, of New Orleans' Versailles community, grew up in a small village near Haiphong in the north of Vietnam when the country was divided. Her family made boats from bamboo, fished on stilts, and dried fish and shrimp to make nuoc mam sauce to sell. Xuyen has shucked oysters in New Orleans since 1977, until the decimation of the Louisiana oyster industry as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. She describes the personal impact of the disaster as it unfolds and contemplates the future. Interview was conducted in Vietnamese. The English transcript follows.


The factory opened whole year, before the oil spill, I worked 3-4 days/weeks or 4-5 days/weeks, but they had to close because of the spill. They just reopened today, but I have an appointment with my doctor, so I can't go. I don't know for tomorrow. I have to wait for the phone. My boss had to close his factories for 8 months, then reopen it. He needs new customers. We just work 1 day, 2 days/week, maybe no working day. Depends on the order, we have to follow it. Just 5-6 baskets/day.

There are hard to find oysters when Texas closed to harvest during year time, oysters in New Orleans has too much water and oil in it, in Houma, they had to move during the storm. They got all the oil spill and all the freshwater. And the Houma oysters are going through the flooding [Mississippi River], too, now, so? If they try to harvest oyster, they will pay for a fine. [because oyster season is currently closed] They just gave me $5-6,000 and my husband about $7-8,000 in oil spill, so it isn't enough for us to live. Then we receive no news from them. Finally, they needed us to fill out the applications for another payment. It's going to be $13,000 if it's true. My husband's profile has been messing up, so he just needs to wait for another application. I don't know what I'm going to do in my future, maybe stay at home and plant something because we are old. If they still have oyster to do, we may do it until we retire.

To listen to Xuyen's interview, click here.