We’re Not All Alike

"You are realistic, and others relate to you." I embrace the word Asian American. I like my cultural background, although it's taken years to embrace the duality of it. But we're not all alike. I can't tell you how many times I've been confused with someone else because we look "like twins"--and this still happens with my kids. (In fact, I heard a comment today!) Anyway, Asian Americans are a huge group comprising of people from over 48 distinct places. We're not all the usual "model … [Read more...]

My Bamboo Generation

"Sow melon, reap melon; sow beans, reap beans." -Chinese proverb Bamboo is hardy. It's one of the first plants I ever received and requires little care. Whether placed in soil or a vase of decorative stones, it revives with a douse of water. According to feng shui rules, it attracts good luck and fortune. In fact, I featured bamboo centerpieces at my wedding. However, in Cantonese, there's a term known as "jook-sing." It refers to a hollow bamboo pole used as a measuring tool. But really it's … [Read more...]

When Do You Call Yourself a Writer?

Louhcheut Mahgeuk: to reveal one's secret or fault (lit. to expose Mah's feet)The queen of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1328-1399) was surnamed Mah. Once, she was riding by on her sedan chair when a gust of wind blew aside the carriage's curtain. Everyone on the street could see that her feet were not bound, a daring break in the typical foot binding tradition for rich women.Sometimes I'm afraid of exposing my own faults. When confronted with a blank line for my occupation on a  … [Read more...]

Who Am I?

Hahmbahlaahng: allAncient Han language, dialects of northern China, and foreign languages collude to form Cantonese.  The word hahmbahlaahng came from the spoken language of northern China during the Yuan dynasty.  While "hahp" means all, "bala" is an empty morpheme, a sound without meaning tacked onto the end of an adjective.  What happens to our identity when we, like the Cantonese dialect, come from multiple origins?  Best-selling novelist Lisa See's lineage holds both Chinese and Caucasian … [Read more...]