Strangers from a Different Shore

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An Essay on the book Strangers from a Different Shore by Ronald Takaki

Concerning the question:

“In what ways did the experience of Asian immigrant women differ from that of Asian men? Use examples from at least two different Asian ethnic groups in your answer.”

February 8, 2008

CES 302

Book Essay

Strangers from a Different Shore by Ronald Takaki

Since the beginning of time there has been a distinct division between the sexes. Through sheer definition there is a physical difference between the two but as time has passed there has been an indisputable recognition of the differences in personality and cognition. There are also undeniable differences in the life experiences had by the two sexes that transcends across all ethnicities and cultures worldwide. Struggles shared by each gender are unique. The experiences shared by Asian immigrant women differed greatly from that of Asian men.

One of the greatest things a woman can become is a mother. Bringing a life into the world, caring for it, and then nurturing it into a productive member of society is a full time and sometimes trying job. Asian women who immigrated to America were women who took part in this life role. These women had not only one job, as mother, they had three. Playing the triple role of being a wife, mother, and moneymaker proved to be more of a challenge then they had ever expected. In Chinese culture, family and home are synonymous. They even shared the same character in Chinese. Women in all classes were regarded as inferior to men and were expected to remain at home, attentive to family and domestic responsibilities (Takaki, 36). After their immigration to America, Asian women found themselves thrust into a position in which they had never truly been before. While still in Asia, they remained in the home making sure to upkeep an honorable household and to take care of the family. In the new world, they were forced to join the working society, the position in which their husband most commonly took care of. The women gravitated towards jobs that gave them the flexibility they needed to fill their domestic roles and support other family members. Due to the fact that these Asian women were unable to speak English they had no choice but to work in factories as seamstresses. Most of them would try to find a factory in which they could bring their babies to work with them and let them sleep near them while they worked (Takaki, 427). Simply because they now needed to help support the family financially did not mean that they could neglect their cultural duties as wife and mother. The women did not generate income for themselves, but for the benefit of the family as a whole and especially for the younger family members. In Asia, these women were taken care of by their husbands financially but after their move to America they were thrust into a position in which they had never been in before. With a mentality that women were extensions of men and has no existence apart from fathers and husbands and oldest sons (Takaki 261), it’s hard to not see that experiences between the genders were different.

An outstanding difference between Asian men and women of all ethnic groups is the mentality toward their journey to America. Asian men were encouraged to take the journey to make money for their families. Chinese laborers, hopeful that as sojourners they would be able to work in a America and return home rich in three to five years. (Takaki, 31). The young men back in their homelands heard of other men from their country growing rich in a very short time. Many of the younger, more impatient and courageous men left their villages for the distant lands. The migrants were generally illiterate or had very little schooling, but they dreamed of new possibilities for themselves inspired by stories about the “gold hills.” (Takaki, 33). On the other hand were single women who did not travel alone to distant places and married women...
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