For those of you who have been reading my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know that in my more recent posts, I’ve been discussing my Asian American background a little more than usual. It was even the topic of my last post (I’m not counting my Updates post). So, in my normal fashion for whenever I discuss major topics (at least, major in my mind), I’ve turned it into a mulitple part post. I don’t know how many parts it’ll be. This could very well be just a two part post or I might have more to say after this. I don’t know. We’ll see.
As I was saying, I’ve been discussing my Asian American background more than usual. This hasn’t been because I’ve experienced this sudden surge in Asian Pride (or AzN PrYdE) or anything like that. It’s more of that I’ve just become much more aware of the Asian part of my Asian American background. There’s no way in denying that it’s because I’ve moved to a place where the Asian/Asian American population is less than four percent as opposed to back home where it ranges from eight (Snohomish County) to thirteen percent (King County).
This isn’t a bad thing. That’s not what I’m trying to say. It really is just a matter of geography. There’s a reason why there’s so many of us on the West Coast. It’s because when you take the boat, that’s the first land you hit–members of my family were actually planers but it’s pretty much the same concept. And really, once you hit land, there’s no point in going any further right? I mean, it’s a long journey from Asia to the States. Why wear yourself out even more? Anyway, I’m getting off topic. As I was saying, it’s all a matter of geography. There just aren’t many Asians–outside of the major cities–once you move inland.
Since I’ve arrived in Idaho Falls, I’ve picked that up. Almost immediately. This area is a predominantly Caucasian area and so when you’re a minority, you are truly a minority. I never really felt that before back home but I like to think that I’ve been adjusting well. It’s just going to take some getting used to being the only Asian person when you walk into a restaurant or bar (happened to me last week) and one of the only Asian people in your workplace (I’ve only met one more). I’m going to have to get used to feeling conspicuous and like everybody is staring at me like I’m some exotic animal. The last part hasn’t really been true. I don’t feel like people stare at me. I do notice that people give me more second glances than I’m used to, though and I’m pretty sure it’s not because I’m just so damned hot. Because I’m not, really. I’m probably average. Half my face is at the top of this page–you be the judge. (By the way, I’m so not fishing for compliments…just saying it how I see it)
Because we’re such a rarity, I feel like I’ve explained and discussed my race and ethnicity more in the last two and a half weeks I’ve been here than the rest of my life combined (probably a gross exaggeration, but maybe not). Again, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that since there aren’t many of us around, people are curious. That’s totally fine. People who want know more, I completely understand and support. It’s the other people that ask these questions to mock or condescend or whatever. Again, haven’t really come across that since I’ve been here, but I have come across it in my lifetime.
I’ve just finished reading American Knees by Shawn Wong. I’m not going to go into detail about it because this isn’t a book review. I’m just going to say that it’s kind of a romance novel about the relationship between a Chinese American man and a half Japanese, half Irish woman who is ten years his junior. This being said, a lot of the novel’s plot is spent on the two main characters after they’ve broken up. It was pretty interesting to read for several reasons. One was just the fact that it was a romance revolving two Asian American characters. That NEVER happens. But also, there’s a lot of talk throughout the book about racial, ethnic and cultural identity. Sometimes it was a bit too heavy for me–you can totally tell that Wong is an academic (he’s a professor at University of Washington)–but I was able to relate to a lot of it.
Like the characters in this book (both main and minor) I’ve had to deal with what I’m going to call The Questions:
What are you? Human, female, daughter, sister, friend, college graduate. The list goes on. I know where you’re going with this and what you want to know and I’ll usually give it to you. But seriously? How would you answer this if I asked you? What are you? Think about it.
Where are you from? Seattle, or I guess Mountlake Terrace would be correct since that’s where I grew up. Clarifying to ask where my parents are from won’t do much either. They’re from there as well and have been for about thirty years. If you ask where my parents are originally from, that might get you to the answer you’re looking for but it doesn’t make me feel any less foreign even though I’m not.
What nationality are you/your parents? American. We’re all American citizens either by birth or naturalization.
What ethnicity are you? This is the question you want to ask. It’s straight to the point and doesn’t cause any unnecessary confusion (not really on your part since I know exactly what you’re going for, but depending on what kind of mood you’re in, I might mess with you with the above answers to the above questions).
Okay, so I think that’s enough Asian America 101 for today. Combined that with my discussion from last week, I think I’ve said what I need to say (at least for now) on the subject. I think I’m going to try and go for something a bit more lighthearted next time.