My Vietnamese Heritage

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As a child adopted from Vietnam at six months old, I had little interaction with my Vietnamese heritage. Growing up, my two moms infused a combination of their family traditions and cultures into our lives. Thanks to my mom Kate’s Irish background, I looked forward to watching the Irish dancers leap at the annual St. Patrick’s Day party. My mom Linda brought her Chinese-Filipina background into my life, too, making me lumpia, pork adobo, and halo-halo, a drink far better than boba tea. During San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, I would dance along as the red Chinese dragon snaked around the hills of the city, scrambling to find lai see, red envelopes of good luck for the new year. My moms did their best to incorporate my Vietnamese heritage …show more content…
I was the only new girl and Asian in my grade. I realized that the culture I grew up in that was so embracing of differences would not apply to my new school. Desperate to fit in, I began rejecting my identity and the embracing culture I was raised in, all so I could say that I had friends. I woke up at six every morning to straighten my hair, became obsessed over fashion trends to fit in, and soon I was the “whitest girl” my friends knew. One time at lunch, someone said, “lesbians are so weird,” and I just sat there laughing along, scared to defend my moms. I would often make fun of myself, exaggerating the slanted eyes and Asian accent, just to make people laugh. I was no longer proud to be Vietnamese and I was no longer proud to tell people I had two …show more content…
My ballet company gained new members, many of whom were Asian, and we all shared our experiences with Tiger Moms and being the rare Asian in our schools over platters of dim sum. Participating in the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project taught me about the diverse Asian-American community, the importance of self-love, and encouraged me to become more involved in my community to make meaningful change. Through learning languages, I met people from different backgrounds with unique perspectives on our world, and each interaction made me prouder of my Vietnamese identity and more appreciative of other cultures. In a way, I’m thankful for my middle school experience because in high school, I was able to take my negative experiences and develop a passion for human rights. Had I continued living in Silicon Valley, being Vietnamese would have just been a fact, but never something I really embraced. Being put in an environment where I’m different and not always comfortable forced me to examine and defend what is important to me, and now, as much as I appreciate the American culture I have learned to embrace, I could not be prouder to be Vietnamese-American with two

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