Growing Up Asian in Australia

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Growing up Asian in Australia
Stories for Study Growing Up Asian…
Here are the stories you must read over the holidays from Growing Up Asian… : Chinese Lessons
The Water Buffalo
Wei Lee and Me
Perfect Chinese Students
Conversations with My Parents
Five ways to Disappoint your Vietnamese Mother
Look for common themes and the relationship to identity and belonging! Everyone has their battle scars from primary school. One of my worst was turning up at my school, a newly arrived child-migrant, attending her first sports day. My problem was sartorial - I wasn't wearing shorts like everyone else in grade 3. My mother, in the Sri Lankan style, had insisted I wear a lovely short smock - garish green for my house - with a matching set of (handmade) knickers. It was the Age of Aquarius - the mid-1970s - but it wasn't exactly the outfit to perform the mandatory somersault in. Of course, I couldn't get out of it. The public humiliation lingers. Enduring such schoolyard challenges as well as the much bigger ones - language barriers, discrimination and a mother-lode of parental expectation - forms the basis for a new volume exploring what it is to grow up Asian in Australia. Despite the shrill call of some politician under the spell of elections, Australia has absorbed successive waves of migrants for more than 200 years. Asians have come in large different waves after the white-Australia policy was phased out through the late '60s and early '70s. Yet there's been a paucity of voices from Australians who claim an Asian background. Too many, perhaps, were being channelled into the doctor/dentist/lawyer and IT pathways to afford much public introspection about simply "being". It's an expression of assertiveness and confidence when the experiences of a group - hardships as much as triumphs and easy self-deprecations - are shared broadly. If you're going to be empowered as a community, it's surely as important to migrate into the public space as much as the surgical suite? In this anthology, editor Alice Pung has marshalled more than 50people - some known names, most not - who grasp the ambiguities, conflicts, gastronomic delights and, yes, parental missteps that come with having a dual cultural identity. These writers engage in the realm of the profound as much as the everyday: from living above a Chinese restaurant, another aspiring to be Wonderwoman in a super-modest Indian dress to someone else escaping from the trauma of family violence. There are more confusions than most for the gay-Asian contributors: Benjamin Law offers a wonderful wry perspective on his coming out - and his mother's take on the revelation. Xerxes Matza, a bloke boasting Philippine and Turkish descent, might even be the most "exotic" of the writers collective. Celebrating "exoticism", of course, is not the preoccupation of this project. It's really about "us" in the universal sense: capturing an Australian-ness that is rarely reflected on TV or radio but you'll spot on the train, at schools or next door. Today, according to the 2006 census, one in 30 Australians has Chinese ancestry. And more than 1.6million declared that they had Asian ancestry. This book is more heartful, however, than statistical. Pung, a fine writer (Unpolished Gem) who fulfilled the destiny of an accomplished Asian by completing a law degree, sounds a warning in her introduction that none of it is meant as sociological exposition, these being "deeply personal stories told with great literary skill". On the writing side, this is too ambitious a claim - some of the prose is excellent while other parts more pedestrian. A portion near the end featuring Q & A interviews with select tall poppies - Melbourne's Lord Mayor, John So, and actor-comedian Anh Doh are among those featured - might be consciousness-raising, but feels structurally uncomfortable. Being Asian, of course, is such an umbrella term it's probably best only served for cartography. After all, its area traverses from Japan...
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