My mother told me to stop reading articles people write about being Asian-American and to write my own story. Trust a Chinese mother to over-estimate her daughter's literary genius and scold her at the same time.
My mother has a romanticized vision in her mind about what it's like to be half Asian. "The best of both worlds," she says. "You are so lucky to look white, no discrimination," she says. But just as America-born Asians have deep-rooted, well-articulated questions of identity and belonging, so do those who are "half." Just the term "half" feels unsatisfying. It so fully expresses the push and pull of my conscience, my morals, my beliefs about the world around me - a battle that has been a platform in my thoughts since I was very young.
At six years old, I chastised my mother: "If only you had married a nice Chinese doctor, I wouldn't be having these problems." Though my mother laughed and said I sounded like Po Po, the "problems" I was referring to were the inarticulate confusion and divided loyalty that had already formed in my subconscious. You see, even then, I knew my parents' decisions shaped my destiny. Even then, I knew that it mattered.
And beyond the selfish, self-identifying queries, there is the anxiety over future generations. Surely I am not the only one who saw so clearly generation gap, the cultural gap just from parent to child. Surely I am not the only one who feels a responsibility to pass on as much of my mother's culture as possible. You may find me racist or narrow-minded, but I assure you my anxieties stem from the strong desire to protect my mother's culture rather than insult or dismiss my father's (the American side I doubt will ever be in danger of extinction among my future relatives). Is it strange - hypocritical, even - to already feel the loss of a culture that is familiar and foreign, the traditions my mother has fed me like Chinese porridge since birth? This loss you feel even further, the cultural gap stretched even farther should you choose to partner up (and procreate) with your "other half" - the Caucasian one, the American one.
And yet if you choose your Asian side, are you a fraud? Merely playing the racial game to preserve a culture that can never truly feel like your own? Respectfully (for what good Chinese daughter would I be if I were not respectful?), I must disagree with my mother. In this cruel, cold world, you must choose - one cannot eat both birthday cake and moon cake, can they?
Monday, January 23, 2012
Everyone and their mother has a blog these days. They're like celebrity memoirs - only worth reading if the writing gears less towards oneself and more towards the interesting time period in which we live. The trouble is, we do not live in interesting times, not by historical standards by any means. We are selfish, arrogant, and bored. I don't claim to be any different from my contemporaries, but I blame our society's general affluence and modern aversion to world wars. For these posts, please forgive me.
Posted by Mal at 6:57 PM