Contributions from Awkwafina, Miranda Barnes, Janicza Bravo, Ziwe Fumudoh, Cathy Lu, Hasan Minhaj, Mike Solomonov, Cristina Victor, Ocean Vuong, Maryam Yousif, Michelle Zauner, Jenny Zhang, and Nguan.
From The Editor
This year marks the 30th anniversary of my parents and I immigrating to the U.S. in 1989.
I happen to now be the same age my mother was when she left China—36. At 36, I have traveled all over the world. I think of my mother at my age, having never left her home country. I think of the significance of that one-way flight from Beijing to Miami. I think of what it would be like, at my current age, to move to a new country where I’d have to start over—to learn a new language, make new friends, and trade in my esteemed career for an entry-level job that regularly leaves me humiliated and demoralized. I think about what factors in my own life would justify such a drastic move. I can’t think of any, and I realize that’s the point.
My parents have always raised my brother and me to be American. When I asked my mother about this, she said it’s because she wanted us to feel whole here. “Not like us,” she said. “We have half of our life and heart in China, because we can’t remove the history we have over there: childhood, education, friends, parents.” She feels divided. “Half and half. That's hard. We don't want your life that hard.” I asked her if she felt like raising us to be American has created dissonance in our relationship, a constant negotiation between two worlds. “Of course,” she said. “But this is our sacrifice. This is first generation immigration, we have to sacrifice this. But you don’t want to make your children connect with you and ruin their life.”
I ask myself if I actually feel whole in America. In a country built on the backs of immigrants, who gets to claim wholeness? Who gets to have ownership over "Americanness"? I don’t have the answers. But I feel it’s incumbent on all of us to ask the questions. When I tell my mother this, she says, “That’s because you’re American.”