What It's Like To Be An Asian-American On The Fourth Of July

What It's Like To Be An Asian-American On The Fourth Of July

A personal essay on the disenfranchised feeling of being a first-generation Asian-American.
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It's the Fourth of July: There are fireworks at night. Celebrations begin with large BBQs, friends and family; and, some vague nationalistic pride permeates the country.

Although this is a personal essay from a very specific POC point of view, what I'm about to describe could easily ring true for all veterans of war and their affected loved ones.

My father was a refuge from the Vietnam War. From the stories he told me during my childhood, he had come here with his two brothers, a sister and his mother in a ship after the war. His older brother convinced the family to immigrate, filling my grandmother's head with lies of extravagance, free food and shelter, and jobs. When they arrived, she certainly saw that was not the case.

Shortly after my father married my mother, a Taiwanese immigrant who worked her way into moving to the United States and gaining citizenship, I was born as a first-generation Asian-American in sunny Southern California.

Saying that it was difficult growing up with my father's PTSD and my mother's ignorance towards American values is an understatement. They wanted me to grow up as American as possible, without knowing what that entailed. Instead of teaching me how to properly speak Chinese at home, they spoke to me in broken English, thinking it would help. Nowadays my father spends his time taking care of his ill mother who rents a room in a bedbug infested home because nobody in our entire family has the heart to convince her to live in a senior living facility. My mother (sometimes frustratingly) takes care of my father when he comes home. There is a lack of communication from everyone, but I've learned personally that compassion transcends language.




From the first of July each year, the neighborhood is kept awake by the sound of illegal fireworks in the dead of night. When I was young, I used to wonder why my father would lock himself in his bedroom during this time of year. Now that I'm older, I still imagine him silently coping from the trauma of being a child in war.

I cannot help but feel guilty for the lack of communication in our family, but then again, guilt complexes are a major aspect in families – especially Asian-American families. Asian parents, even if they are living in poverty, save up all they have in order to put their children through tutoring (even if they don't need it), giving others the impression that “Asians are smart.” What this also does is ensure that we feel a strong sense of duty to our parents, who expect us NOT to move out, but to move in with a significant other and take care of them when they are older.

We never hear about Asian-American life in the articles about POC because there's this false pretense that because we do “OK” in school, we will grow up to have great jobs and become billionaires. However, this is rarely true for Asian-Americans; most of *those* are immigrants from rich families from overseas, who actually make fun of us in this country for being American.

For an Asian-American, it is easy to feel like you don't belong in either group -- but that's another story that needs to be told. For now, enjoy your hot dogs and pretty light shows. You deserve it.

Cover Image Credit: Ben White

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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