Have you ever been told you’re not Asian? Yeah me too. But I’m like half…so…I’m pretty sure that makes me Asian. You can’t deny that blood, yo.
I’ve been wearing glasses since I took that eye test in elementary school and they told me my eyes were inferior to other people’s who had 20/20 in both eyes. I only have 20/20 in one of my eyes (my right one—if you really need to know). The other eye (the left one—for those of your who were confused about which one I was talking about) is complicated. Because genetics. But it’s cool because it’s working better now (40/20 with glasses, which means I can drive legally). So getting to the point…when I wear my glasses, people think I’m 100% white, or they think I’m hispanic (which is very flattering…Thank you, thank you. *Blows a kiss*).
So yeah, if you saw me walking down the street, you might have the nerve to say, “Dat girl isn’t Asian.” But I am, and I’ll prove it.
Proof #1: I eat weird things.
Yes, you can buy me the shirt that goes along with this video. I accept. Also, didn’t these foods look delicious? Yum. I grew up visiting 99 Ranch and eating foods that I thought were normal. It’s okay I’m Asian. Did you see the “century egg” in the video? It’s basically a black egg that’s really salty, and you eat it with rice. So delicious. I grew up calling it thousand-year egg (probably because it’s black and looks kind of gnarly). Here’s my advice for you: when it comes to strange Asian foods, just eat them. You’ll be happy afterwards.
One time I asked my mom, “What is Chinese culture?” After a second of thinking she said, “Food.” Here’s a video of my family eating food. Yes, I know. My 17-year-old skills with a camera would put any professional photographer/videographer to shame.
Also, here’s a picture of mah-jái. I just took. Yum. What is it you ask? I don’t know. It’s just tasty.
Proof #2: Well, my birth mother is Chinese. Here we are about a year ago:
So I grew up here in America because my mom’s been here since she was 21 (sometime around then), so I am very American. My mom’s a little American-ized herself. Once my mom, sister, and I were in the car and my mom says, “Yeah, I’m a tiger mom!” My sister retorted, “Mom, you’re white-washed.” She just likes America—but that doesn’t mean that she’s no longer Chinese. Or that she doesn’t ramble in Chinese to us without noticing it sometimes. Or that she doesn’t quote Buddha. Or that she doesn’t make delicious smelly fish so we can eat it with our rice.
Proof #3: When I read The Joy Luck Club, I realized that I was Chinese.
When you live in America and you ask your mom what Chinese culture is (and her only response is “food”), you wonder what it is that makes you Chinese. When I was a senior in high school, I got to read the book The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. And I totally related to it. The story follows various mothers (from China) and their daughters (growing up in the United States). I remember that as I read it, I kept thinking, “I’m Chinese! I’m Chinese!”—as if I hadn’t known it before.
Here are the things I understood on a personal level:
- I call people who aren’t even related to me “auntie” and “uncle”
- I’ve watched my family members and “aunties” and “uncles” play mahjong for money
- I was always told that each grain of rice that I left in my bowl would be a pockmark on the face of my future spouse
- I grew up hearing stories about my grandmother being orphaned in WWII
While those are just little reasons, the stranger thing was that I felt what was happening in this book. It wasn’t just that I liked the characters, but I actually felt like I related in a way I hadn’t related to characters from other things I’d read. It was a strange experience to feel so connected to a book through a culture I thought was just all about food.
Other proof that I’m Chinese:
- We had Chinese lucky cats in our home.
- And we had a little zen sand and rock garden.
- And my mom has an ancestral shrine in her home.
- And my grandmother visits the Buddhist temple (and I’ve been with her).
- And ping pong. Asians play at family gatherings. I’ve played.
So even though I don’t look super Chinese, and I don’t speak the language (except for one semester of Cantonese and the Mandarin I know from “Sagwa”—the kids TV show about a Chinese cat), I’m still Chinese. I remember the songs my mom used to sing me in Chinese before I went to bed. I remember peeing my pants in front of a bunch of Japanese tourists when we were taking a boat on the way to the boat restaurant in Hong Kong when I was small. I’m Chinese and American, and that’s all there is to it.