Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Being Asian.

Television show families always bother me, whether they're examples of the ideal family or the crazy, dysfunctional ones. I always thought it'd be cool to have a bizarre extended family like the Lamber-Foster clan in Step by Step or a typical sibling rivalry/bond like in Full House. Growing up without cable didn't provide me with much of a variety in what I saw as the perfect American family. At the top of the half hour, a child or two would encounter a problem or engage in an act of tomfoolery. Enter the parent or guardian who is fooled at first, only to discover the truth later. Insert humorous anecdotes, followed by a heart-to-heart and ending, finally, with a hug, a handshake or a picnic in the park. And scene.

Growing up, I was never able to step far back enough from my family to see where we fit into Hollywood's idea of family. When things went sour in our household, I chalked it up to us being Asian. There were no representations of Asian families on network television and I had no idea what my very few Asian friends' families were like. If we weren't perfect, then we were obviously incredibly flawed and to my childish mind, I saw it as a flaw on all Asian families. Whether that has affected my understanding and acceptance of my ethnicity and background is undeniable.

Obviously, things are different now. Since coming to UCI and becoming a part of the majority, I've gained a better appreciation of my ethnicity. I've always been proud of the family stories hidden in the past generations, but I'd never associated those stories with being a part of my Asian background. As I slowly head toward the daunting real world, I'm more aware of how disconnected I am from an essential part of my identity. I'm a first-generation ABC, the youngest of my large family, an alopecian, a feminine tomboy (oh, the paradox) and a terrible person to cheat off of in science and math classes. So what does it mean to "be Asian"?

I don't know, but I sure as hell want to find out.

1 comment:

  1. Being Asian is incredibly difficult to categorize, as many of us come from different subgroups of Asia. Even within China, we have varying cultures and values. Sure, stereotypes are enduring. How many of your friends were forced to learn piano or violin, or both, when they were 5 years old? How many Asians do you know, have one or both parents working in Asia? Do you eat steamed white rice as part of your normal diet? All of these things maybe true and may help connect you to the idea of being Asian, but being Asian really just comes down to how well you have integrated and/or assimilated into American culture. Yes, the Greater LA Metro Area has an incredible amount of Asian integration into the local life style, and as long as you avoid total assimilation into another culture, there should be no problem in identifying yourself as Asian.