My Google Alert on “Asian American Literature” brought me Dali Zheng’s blog article, “Outmarriage Is Cultural Failure”.
Even before I read it, I already had an idea of what I think the title might be leading to. And more than likely, it will not be what Zheng is writing about because it’s just a feeling growing up, as opposed to well thought-out researched hypothesis.
Growing up with nary a Chinese person in sight given the double-whammy of living in a small city and being sent to private school, I was more comfortable with non-Chinese people than I was with Chinese people. This was despite my mother’s Chinese language training and admonition to date and marry a Chinese boy. Chinese culture might be familiar to me through our household, but Chinese people were the “exotic”/rare species to me. I was tongue-tied around any Chinese person, wanting to talk about being Chinese because that was so fascinating to me and something we had in common. Awkward.
So it was far easier and comfortable for me to date someone, anyone, not Chinese. This, of course, devastated my mother who wondered how it could come to be, which is quite narrow-sighted. And when I dated someone who wasn’t Chinese, while in the throes of my prolonged identity crisis, I would punish him for not being Chinese–I never said I was fair. All the while, I felt like a huge failure of my upbringing, culture, and myself. Since I would have to wait longer, look further, and try harder to date a Chinese boy, dating non-Chinese was “the easy route”.
This is quite in contrast to my take-home message from the original Asian American literature where the female meets a Chinese man that makes her happy for a time and her family really happy but her destiny is to leave him because something is missing (or really wrong) and she finds her complete happiness with a Caucasian man. It’s as if it was easy for those girls who grew up in San Fransisco Chinatown with Chinese classmates and their mothers trying to set them up with their friends’ sons to date a Chinese male, and escaping expectations, going for what their heart wants (love) is the successful outcome.
Enough about my own take, I did find myself agreeing with Zheng’s article, and was quite pleased with his bold statements.
- “Asian America is a non-community. It exists in its current form solely because of the economic incentives for skilled immigrant labour and the prestige of certain American universities.” I’ve noticed in the past how different the Chinese community is from the Vietnamese community that I’ve had the fortunate to be welcomed into. What gives? Is the Vietnamese community a truer community? In general, I also feel that while it is convenient and inclusive-sounding to say “Asian American” the real communities are along country lines–each country traditionally is so different and still passes that thinking down such that my generation (the second generation) doesn’t believe in mixing so much. The constant flow of immigration of Asians with country-allegiance will ensure a continued supply of second generation Americans who also favour their own country over “Asian.”
- Zheng also performs a calculation of the fertility of Asian American women (slightly less than the national average of 2, replenishing) but points out that if half of Asian American women marry non-Asian and their mixed Asian children honestly don’t truly self-identify as Asian, then the non-mixed Asian American birth rate is under 1. Huh, a logical reason to contribute to replenishment when I’m currently loathed to have a child. I need more than logic.