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One Foot In, One Foot Out (In Honor of the 20th Anniversary of The Joy Luck Club)

Posted Apr 28 2009 11:59am

I have no Asian family.   I have no Asian family tree...not a branch, not a twig, not even a leaf.   I have no Asian roots.  

 

All I have is my Asian face.

 

Still, I am an unlikely first-generation immigrant of sorts.   I’m a Korean adoptee of unknown origins...found, fostered and foisted onto American soil, into the waiting arms of a caring, typically-Caucasian middle-class family.   T hat makes me a product of a typically-Caucasian middle-class suburban upbringing, except – somehow – I don’t feel typical at all.

 

I am American.   I have an American name.   My official family tree says I spring from Scotch, Irish, and English stock.

 

I am Korean.   I have a Korean name.   But my adoption papers say I have no Korean family.

 

Which is real?

 

Sometimes this dichotomy makes me feel free, unfettered, unbound by convention.   Sometimes it makes me feel confused, alone, dangerously ungrounded.   I have never quite found my "place."  Asians have rebuked me sharply for not responding in their native tongues.    Other ethnicities – usually Caucasian – have cracked derogatory racist jokes in my presence, overlooking my Asian heritage because I "fit in" so well.   World War II veterans have elbowed my husband knowingly and winked slyly, congratulating him on his choice of an Asian bride (I still haven’t figured that one out yet, but I suspect it has something to do with subservience).   I exist between two worlds, but fit comfortably in neither.

 

So this is my immigration experience –

 

made in

Korea,

 

but assembled in the

United States.

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