June: Dissonant Harmony

I struggle to come up with a concise description of the aperture between my Asian immigrant mother and I. It’s an amalgamation of various gaps: cultural, generational, economic… So after hearing the raving reviews of Everything Everywhere All at Once (that the film is a true representation of the Asian-American experience, filled with seamless code-switching and a narrative that would open a floodgate of tears), I was eager to bond over it in theaters with her.

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April: Random Musings

It seems like every week brings us closer to a breaking point that we will never actually reach–an asymptote, if you will. The limit as x approaches infinity.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was only a debate argument until it was not. Even though it’s been almost two months since the headlines broke the internet, I’m still processing it. The clips of the Shenzhen and Shanghai quarantines seem like eerie dystopian filters. My relatives are locked in their homes and face difficulties securing food while some students at my university are hosting anti-mask protests.

So I’ve been trapped in my own thoughts. I’m trying to parse through them, trying to find some coherence and connection. A meta level takeaway that I can put into my pocket. But I haven’t been able to. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe what I’m experiencing. It’s like taking someone from a thousand years ago to the 21st century and asking them to describe what they see (analogy source).

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Being an Asian American woman means living through a series of dichotomies: sometimes the dragon lady and other times the China doll, seductive yet obedient, hypersexualized but innocent. She lives oscillating between visibility and invisibility: silenced when she wants to speak out, spectacularized when she wants to blend in. Hardly ever do people stop and ask her, what is it like navigating a world that tries to force her into predefined boxes? 

I had the delight of reading Oriental Girls Desire Romance by Catherine Liu for my Asian Americans in the Public Sphere course this semester. This novel explores the exogenous factors that set conflicting expectations for how Asian American women should behave, and how these expectations make it difficult for them to identify their supposed role in American society. Through a stream of consciousness style, the unnamed young Chinese American narrator takes us along in her struggle to find her place in the money-obsessed New York City of the 1980’s. 

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Reflections on a Culture of Detachment

With the ever-growing trend of media representation for Asian-Americans, I often fall into ruminations of how my own family culture has shaped who I am today, and how my parents are similar or different to those of my peers.

When I think of my family, instead of a certain smell or an emotion, I’m present to the sounds of my home. I hear the jabbering of my mother as she reprimands my brother for his grades slipping, the bickering between my brother and I at the dinner table, my father chuckling as he watches Pirates of the Caribbean yet again, and more of my mother yelling for who knows what reason this time.

What I never noticed until recently, however, was the lack of explicit affection in my home. We don’t buy each other gifts for holidays or birthdays. My mother says “I love you” to me once a year on my birthday, and I don’t recall that phrase ever leaving my father’s mouth. Sometimes, my mother opens her arm for a hug and I push her away before locking the door to my room. When I spend my summers away at summer camp, I never call my parents out of my own will; I don’t yearn for their presence, and instead I appreciate the fraction of independence I can get. At first I thought this was typical–that no one exchanged hugs with their parents, but even when I discussed with my other Asian-American friends, some of them were shocked at my family’s lack of affection.

I think I’ve become emotionally detached in some manners due to my home culture. For instance, on the last days of school or on the last day of summer camps, I find it uncomfortable to hug my friends goodbye. I don’t register that I may never see some of them again. It only hits me when I’m sitting alone at home on a random Tuesday afternoon, my chest aching with a lonely hollowness. I can text apologies and expressions of gratitude and affection, but when I try to speak them aloud, my lips freeze as I try to formulate indistinguishable words. Now don’t get me wrong–I’m not stone-hearted and emotionless. I can bawl my eyes out at a sad movie or laugh until I fall out of my chair. But when it comes to expressing how I feel about someone, I struggle.

It’s not easy, but we’re working on it. I saw my mother cry for the first (and second, and third) time while watching a movie together in China. My father asks how my days went as I send him to work every morning. Even my brother shows me fragments of his life; he has finally started to respond to my inquiries about his teachers and friends. Maybe I’ll stop rejecting my mother’s embraces. Maybe we’ll watch movies together and unapologetically cry. Maybe…

A Space of Belonging – AAPI month

My very first post on this blog was: “What does it mean to be Asian-American?” Now, almost 18 months later, while some of the ideas in this blog post has stuck with me, others I have discarded. In honor of May, AAPI month, I would like to reflect on my experiences as a second-gen immigrant and how I have begun to form an answer to this question.

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What does it Mean to be Asian-American?

​(also found on my studyblr)
“Growing up, I thought I was white. It didn’t occur to me I was Asian-American until I was studying abroad in Denmark and there was a little bit of prejudice.”
―Maya Lin
What does it mean to be Asian-American? is a question I often ask myself in the rare moments of spare time as a teenager still figuring out my identity. It used to just be a passing thought, a small part of myself that I didn’t care too much about. But the more mature I become, the less I can ignore this blatant label plastered onto my face. Everything I did became “Asian-American,” and I learned to embrace this identity, passion surging through my veins every time I heard the hyphenated word.
The first time I truly stopped to search “Asian-American” on Google Images was for a project in freshman year. We had to create a memoir, and I chose to draw a self-portrait, but ran out of ideas how to portray my “Asian-Americaness.” What I found was typical – the picture-perfect family, a few pictures of the legendary show Fresh Off the Boat, countless students with graduation caps and gear from prestigious universities, Whiz Kids, The Rise of Asian Americans – I know it all.

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