by Melanie Tom
Growing up, I felt like an outsider. When holidays like Chinese New Year came around, I would panic. My Taiwanese friends would talk excitedly about how they would spend their New Year money and compare their plans for the holiday. As for me, I had nothing to say. Instead I would go home, wishing that my parents were hiding their special knowledge of how to be Chinese and that this was the year they were finally going to teach me. That never happened.
My parents don’t even know when Lunar New Year is. Their annual reminder is not the lunar calendar but when the ads for the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade hit the local television. And without fail, when they see the first ad pop on television, their reaction is utter surprise, “Hmmm, it’s Chinese New Year again?”
My mom (far right) in front of our family store in Tucson, AZ
As a child, celebrating Chinese New Year seemed like tangible ways to be authentically Chinese. Like a checklist, if I was able to acquire enough items, I would finally gain membership in a special club. From my perspective, being ABC (American Born Chinese) was just too amorphous. I didn’t belong anywhere.
Me and my Chinese Costa Rican roomate, Lily
I went back to Taishan, my hometown, where I learned that almost every country has at least one Taishan migrant who lived or is living there. In fact, one person observed that every family in that area probably has at least one relative living abroad. I also discovered the Chinese language to be incredibly inclusive and found that I could state my identity as a Chinese American or member of the Chinese diaspora in words that everybody understood.
Posted with permission from author, originally posed on ACRJ, reproductivejusticeblog.org.
Place of Origin
Place of Settlement