This is the time of the year where millions of people are celebrating the Year of the Horse. Families have cleaned and decorated their homes from top to bottom, altars have been constructed, special New Year’s meals have been cooked and consumed. Everybody is doing whatever they can to ward away evil spirits. Traditions run deep during these celebrations. But there is one tradition I want you to break…please take “Chinese” out of Chinese New Year.
I moved to South Florida after finishing college in New Orleans. In New Orleans, you couldn’t walk a couple of feet and not bump into another Asian. Not the case down here. Every once in awhile I would spy another Asian and then a slightly awkward exchange occurs. First there’s that moment of disbelief. Did I just see another Asian? Or was it a mirage, like when you’re driving and you swear the road looks wet.
Millions of Asians worldwide and I just happen to look like every one of them. People see my eyes, my hair, my skin color and instantly I’m the Asian they’ve seen on TV, the Asian they work with or the Asian they went to school with. I never knew I had the universal Asian face. This must be the reason why I’m the subject of so many cases of mistaken eye-dentity.
I have an admission.
It’s not something I am proud of but, as the old adage goes, the first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one.
So here it is. I laugh when people fall.
Even though the theme of the book is centered around tragedy, the book doesn’t bog you down in pity or deep reflection. Structurally, it reads more like a fairy tale and an adventure novel. By telling the story in brief, fragmented spurts, it keeps the reader’s attention and builds tension along the way. As each scene unfolds, I found myself quickly turning the pages. Her words, like morsels of good food, made me want to consume more.
Other, the catchall category that combines together every ethnicity other than black and white. It’s the closet you hide all your junk in when you want to do a fast clean up. I hated the word other. It always connoted something that wasn’t a first choice: the other women, the other friend, the other child. I didn’t want to be other.
I remember a poignant scene from the movie What’s Love Got to Do With It? where Tina Turner is divorcing Ike Turner and she’s willing to give up everything as long as she gets to keep her name. œAll I want is my name, she said proudly. Her name meant more to her than all her riches or her royalties. I sat there watching this scene thinking would I do that? Would I give up everything for my name?
On occasion, the accompanied letter would sometimes describe grief stricken family members trying to crawl in the casket of the deceased. Whenever we got those letters, it would always spark a debate among the children as who in the family would be the casket crawler. Somehow I was always chosen being that I have a flair for the dramatics.
Asian mothers have the ability to change kernels of guilt into full-blown stalks of blame and penitence. When Asian mothers are in this mode, it’s best to lay supine on the floor and act dead. Hold your breath for as long as you can and stay still because if she detects you survived the initial blow of guilt, she will go after the jugular.
Powerless to stop it, my mother and the rest of the family stood on the perimeter clutching each other for comfort. She watched in anger and disbelief at his defilement. He didn’t cry out or lash back. He knelt in complete silence accepting the fate delivered to him.