Suzanne-EngAs a child born to Chinese Immigrant parents, and whose grandparents made it to America despite the Exclusion Act. I am proud to be part of a heritage that inspires strength, wisdom, and tenacity. Born in 1957 in New York City, I was never always proud to be Chinese. I did not want to be defined by the color of my skin nor by the culture of my ancestors. I did not want my culture to dictate to me what Chinese women should or could not do, yet I found that that is exactly what Americans were doing when they looked at me. I was a foreigner to them and no matter how I tried to convince them I was American, I was not.

This has led me to understand, why my ancestors pushed us to be doctors, lawyers and gifted in music so that Americans can no longer oppress us, which historically they have. When civil rights were given to “colored” people, those rights did not transcend to us – the other “colored” people.

So how do I as a first generation Chinese American woman defines for herself who she is? Do I pull from the fabrics of my two cultures, ready-made materials of both American AND Chinese? But how do I do this when I am constantly pulled to meet my parents’ expectations and Americans’ assumptions? I am knitted in a quilt defined by both my Chinese and American cultures; however those cultures also say, if I am not Chinese, I am nothing.

What has worked for me is I have taken the very fabric that was given to me and embrace it. I reflect upon where I have been, and where I am now, where I am heading does not seem that important anymore. I have started to honor all of me, Chinese and American. I found that I like myself no matter what society or culture thinks or try to impose on me! I embrace All of me…the American side, Chinese side, Christian, woman, mother and wife side. I am pretty special and there is NO ONE like me. No one can have the experiences I’ve had; no one can do me as well as I can do me.

So go about being you, my fellow first, second, etc…generations, no one can tell you, you are doing it wrong ;)
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