Culture Maintenance

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Keeping Up With Culture in America

When immigrants arrive in America for a better future with more opportunities, they struggle with maintaining their culture. The definition of culture is describes as “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.” While the immigrant generation is resistant to change, their children are adapting to the new American values, which causes disagreements within the family. In their stories, authors Monfong Leung and Frank Chin writes about different aspect of the Chinese culture that immigrant families face. In his stories, Monfong Leung writes about internal or spiritual connection within family generations. Considering that the author has never been to China, his knowledge is general perceptions about Chinese Americans is based on the Chinatown immigrants that he interacts with. It is similar to how students nowadays learn about their own ethnic culture. Only American history and culture is taught in school; if we want to learn about other cultures we have to learn it from family and friends. In “New Year for Fong Wing,” Leung discusses spiritual connection and lineage continuity. Fong Wing, the family man, has three sons who died from war and one daughter. Since all his sons are dead, the family linage has ended. Acknowledging this problem, Fong Wing is sad during New Year. “The coming of the New Year had brought sharply to his mind and to his heart the realization that he could hope for no new beginning, for no grandchildren of his own name.” On the other hand, Fong Wing’s friend Lee Mun is a bachelor with no family to worry about. He is self-less and enjoys life. In the story, Lee Mun takes Fong Wing to a gambling house for Fong Wing to stop his everyday worries and stress over lineage continuity. At first impression, Fong Wing hates the young operator for wasting his life at the gambling house. Fong Wing says, “My boy died so he can waste life running bean game.” Later on, Fong Wing finds out the young operator has no choice but to work in the gambling house because he lost his legs in the war. As soon as Fong Wing finds out the boy fought in the war, Fong Wing feels a connection with him. In Chinese culture, the son is favored more since he is able to continue the family lineage. A daughter however is an expense because she will marry off thus leaving her own family and belonging to her husband’s family. In the second story “Number One Son,” Leung writes about the son becoming head of household, which the author describes as “… tying it in chains of traditional responsibility.” Ming Kwong is mad at his father for leaving him a family to support. Ming comes across resentment when he goes around the community to collect money for his father’s funeral. As one community member said: Man is fool to have such big family when cannot make money for them. … He was a failure as father and failure as man. Must depend on other even when he is dead. I would be fool to give money.

However Ming soon changed his perception of his father. He finds out the reason his father was a “failure” was because his father was a kind-hearted man that helped his friends. As Widow Loo describes Ming’s father “He had little money but much heart.” When Ming finds out that his father left him a watch, he felt connected to his father as if his father is part of him. At the end, instead of being angry at his father, Ming respected the old man and took the role of head of household. In the third story “A Good Burial,” Leung talks about an unfavorable subject to the Chinese – death. With funeral as the last expense, the Chinese will not bargain as they do while shopping. The more it cost, the higher it is means better resting place with a great view. Throughout the story, Wing wants a nice, beautiful plot with good view for his aunt while Uncle Kim is shopping around for a cheap plot. Uncle Kim is...
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