Dallas Mom Writes ‘Pho-Nomenal' Book to Teach Sons About Vietnamese Heritage

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We find something good in the pages of a children's book and the motivation behind it.

"The Pho Team" is a book written, illustrated and self-published by a woman in Dallas. It's about a boy who finds himself hungry for the Vietnamese food pho and meets some friends along the way.

"I have two little boys. One is 11 months old, and the other is 3 years old. And I married a Honduran man, so our family is a big mix, hodgepodge of different cultures," said Susan Do Zuniga, a lawyer, wife and mom, who wrote the book to connect her sons to their Vietnamese culture.

"It started off as a passion project because I wanted my two boys who, as I mentioned, who are both Honduran and Vietnamese, to know their roots and appreciate all the goodness that comes with it. So, what better way to do it than through food because that's what really connects families together? So what started out as something small, ballooned into something bigger than I could have ever imagined."

Zuniga wrote, illustrated and published the children's book herself. She relied on her husband's entrepreneurial background along with online suppliers and YouTube videos to produce a book that sold out in less than a month.

"I had to reorder a new batch. So, there's a new batch coming in January," Zuniga smiled.

"I'm very humbled and overwhelmed by the response," she said. "And so, that's when I realized, okay, it's not just about my two little boys. It resonates with other Vietnamese American families and maybe others who also appreciate the Vietnamese culture, and so I'm already thinking about my second book about our Vietnamese culture."

Susan Do Zuniga wrote, illustrated and self-published "The Pho Team" to teach her sons about their Vietnamese culture. Photo Credit: Susan Do Zuniga

Zuniga says there's a lot of joy in raising her sons in a diverse household. She and her husband are from New Orleans and trips back to Louisiana to see relatives, especially for holidays and celebrations, are a multicultural affair.

"I'll go home to my parent's house and you'll have pho or Vietnamese food, and then you go to my husband's house and you'll have enchiladas and Honduran types of food," she said. "The way that we interact is also very different. So, I love that my two boys are exposed to those two different cultures."

Zuniga says the cultural education includes teaching her sons Vietnamese, Spanish and English, but it's the food and the book that are making a big impression on her older son.

"So, when we go and eat pho, or I have pho at home, he'll see a Sriracha bottle and say, "That's the pho team," and it makes me so happy, like, 'yes, you know!' So, the purpose of my writing the book really resonated with him," Zuniga smiled.

That excitement about pho mimics the journeys of the little boy in Zuniga's book.

"This boy encounters the pho team. And, it's a group of ingredients that make up this hearty, Vietnamese soup of goodness called pho. And it consists of noodles, chicken, beef, the savory broth and many other pho ingredients that come to life in the book. And Tan, he gets so excited about meeting the pho team that he wants to share this with his family," Zuniga explained.

Along with the theme for the book, Zuniga's sons also inspired the name of the title character in the book. Tan is a combination of their Vietnamese names.

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