Growing up, we all face the challenge of trying to fit in to one group or another. Think back to when you were a child; how you wanted the coolest clothes, the newest shoes, whatever it took to be accepted by your peers. Now take that feeling and triple it. That’s how it feels to be the product of an immigrant family. All you want is to feel accepted by either culture you belong to but are accepted by neither. Like a child, you end up feeling isolated and torn between two vastly different worlds. It’s funny how adults can be just as neglectful as children in that way.
Someone who has spoken notoriously on this topic is Chinese-American author, Amy Tan. Based in San Francisco, California, some of her most famous works include The Joy Luck Club and The Opposite of Fate; wherein she illuminates this feeling of seclusion in the loveliest, most heart-wrenching way. Her novels include a few reoccurring themes such as a dual cultural identity, and the fluctuating bond between herself and her single immigrant mother. Before reading Tan’s novels, I hadn’t really put much thought into what it’s like to live with one foot in each culture. Growing up with a mother of dual cultural identity (half American- half Filipino), I found myself curious and confound by my culture. Since reading Amy Tan, my interest in my Filipino background has peaked; I’ve even gone as far as moving across the world in order to delve deeper into Asian culture to discover what it means to be Filipino. If you find yourself drawn to these matters like I did, Amy Tan is a must read.
Through the voice of dithering solitude, I was swept away by how brutally honest her story was. Consider this a fair warning to readers: Her writing is brutal. Plagued with vibrant tales of abuse, suffering, and struggle, Amy Tan is not for the light-hearted. Even through moments where I had to set the book down and physically walk away from the turmoil, I found my thoughts infatuated by the story. It is life-changing in that way. When Tan writes about the hardships her mother endured living in a toxic marriage in the early 1920’s rural China, and her lifelong journey to immigrate to the United States; it really forces you to stop and think about the same journey that millions of immigrants make every single day. Since moving from America to China, I have gained a massive amount of respect for immigrants. Imagine the utter strength it takes to come to a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know the people, don’t have a job, but you do it regardless for the security of your children. Those children then grow up in the United States just to be rejected for not looking “American” and rejected by their own race because they’re not “enough”. Not Chinese enough, not Filipino enough, not American enough. Even if you feel like these issues don’t speak to you, I urge you to reconsider; because not everyone may be bicultural, but everyone does have a say in how those individuals are treated. Amy Tan is for everyone who has ever felt like they were outcast because they were unqualified to be a member of their own society.
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Post by: Arianna Bennett
Arianna is a self-proclaimed travel photographer and adventurer. After her passion for travel took off in 2018, she made the decision to create a home base in Taizhou, Zheijiang, China. She now focuses on integrating into the true Chinese culture and experiencing the country as a local. You can read more of Arianna’s adventures on her blog, We Travel.