Interviewing a 1st-Generation Asian American

Topics: Asian American, United States, Model minority Pages: 5 (1729 words) Published: June 16, 2010
Inyoung Irene Lee
Professor Azuma
Introduction to Asian-American History
26 April 2010
Professor Azuma’s Stories Come Alive with an Interview
As an international student at University of Pennsylvania, I have an opportunity to experience lots of moments and incidents that I would not have had if I just went to a college in my home country. Although I have spent a total of almost seven years in the United States as a student, I am amazed at how much I am unfamiliar to many cultural aspects of Americans. I am surprised by new findings almost every single day. I was surprised at how Americans actually work as hard as other ethnicities to achieve something they want. Also, how was I supposed to know I would get sexiled within the first week of college? Because I spent two years in the U. S. when I was little, I may pronounce English as if I was born in the U. S., making some people to think that I am an Asian American. Every time people ask me whether I was born in the U. S. or not, I wonder what it would be like if I really were an Asian American. Applying for U. S. citizenship has been in my thoughts for some time, especially since a lot of my personal cultural values and ideologies have been shaped by the education I received in the U. S. My cultural identity also grew amongst my American friends and teachers, and it now differs strikingly from that of my parents and friends back in South Korea, my home country. This proximity to becoming an Asian American must be what makes it easier for me to bond with Asian Americans on campus. I recently joined an Asian-interest sorority, comprised mainly of members of Asian-American heritage. Although Asian on the outside, speaking their Asian language, have a taste for Asian food, and many else, they are basically Americans who had spent most of their lives in the U. S. or even a second- or a third-generation Asian American. I interviewed one of the members in order to learn about Asian-American history on a more personal level. Amy C Aw, one of the members in my sorority, graciously agreed to be interviewed by me. Her western facial features, such as a small face and big eyes, and her English free of accents deceived me to view her as a hapa between an Asian and a Caucasian. However, both of her parents are Cantonese, and she was born in California on November 23, 1991. Because of her fluent English and absence of an Asian accent, which is usually very obvious in first-generation Asian Americans and slightly present in second-generation ones, I assumed that she would be a third- or fourth-generation Asian-American. However, her parents were first-generation immigrants who came to America in 1990. I asked her to trace back the history of her parents, way before they came to the U. S. Her parents’ home town was Shantou, Guangzhou in Southern China. She told me that although exact date is unclear, she knew that her parents fled from China to Cambodia, a country in the Indochina region close to Shantou when Mao declared China to be “People’s Republic of China” “under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party” (Takaki 414). It is known that a lot of anti-communists fled after Communist Party of China (CPC) gained control of China from 1949, so I inferred from what Amy told me that her parents’ families must have been supporters of Kuomintang, the opposing party of CPC, and fled to another country sometime after 1949. One could imagine how bad the living conditions were for anti-communists in mainland China when it was already disastrous for those in the U. S. As Takaki mentions in his book, “the conflict in China was violently extended to Chinese America” (414). There were incidents in which the pro-Communist and anti-Communist parties interacted and showed their opposition for each other physically, disturbing one another’s celebrations and events (414-415). The difference between mainland China and Chinese America, however, was that while CPC triumphed in mainland China, the...

Cited: Aw, Amy. Personal interview. 21 April 2010.
Azuma, Eiichiro. Introduction to Asian-American History. University of Pennsylvania. Graduate School of Education, Philadelphia, PA. 19 April 2010.
Azuma, Eiichiro. Introduction to Asian-American History. University of Pennsylvania. Graduate School of Education, Philadelphia, PA. 21 April 2010.
Takaki, Ronald. A History of Asian Americans: Strangers from a Different Shore. New York: Back Bay Books, 1998.
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