Published: \’in-glish\ in Brevity Magazine

Sep 13, 2016   //   by Christina   //   Latest News, Published, Thoughts  //  No Comments

I’m quite excited to have my piece, “\’iŋ-glish\” included in Brevity Magazine‘s special issue on race, racism, and racialization, along with many intriguing pieces written by a lot of talented people.

So many times, in discussions on race, I feel like the Asian perspective/experience is often relegated to the side. Nothing particular dramatic happens. It’s a strange place to be, where I feel as if I’m perceived differently because I’m Asian, but to say it out loud can seem silly and trivial.

I was born in America (though I learned to speak English when I went to preschool at the age of 2 and a half), but I’m quite often asked where I’m from. And when I say I’m from America, I’m often faced with a rolling of eyes and a “No, you know what I meant. What country are your parents from?” And I know what they want. They want me to say, “China.” How do I explain that my grandparents are from China, so they are Chinese; my parents are from Taiwan, and they are Chinese as well (not Taiwanese); and I’m from America, and while I am Chinese by ethnicity, I’m also American, and these things are the same to me? What about my ethnically Chinese friends who are 3rd or 4th generation American, who probably still get asked, “What country are your parents from?” How do they explain it? Why does it still matter?

Language is such a strong determinant of belonging. So many times, I hear people rail against immigrants, “They’re in America, they should learn how to speak English.” Language also plays a large part in my life. I’ve dedicated myself to the art of writing, which is all about stringing words together to convey a story in a pleasing way. When I’m not writing, I’m copyediting academic manuscripts, trying to wrestle with the intricacies of grammar and meaning. And I’ve realized recently that my struggle with belonging or not (whether I’m doing it in the right way) certainly has influenced my fascination with language.

I guess this is a just a long way of explaining my starting point with “\’iŋ-glish\” and how it played out in my own life. In a way, you don’t even have to read the piece from an Asian perspective, but from the perspective of any kid growing up in America with immigrant parents and a need to get it right.

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