A few weeks ago a friend texted me about dim sum, using only Chinese characters. Hold on," he continued before he translated his order into English for me. I'm "only" half-Asian, something the world feels the need to remind me of at every turn, like when the guy at dim sum hands me a fork and I hear my dad say my name as he's speaking Cantonese to my nainai. Henry Golding , the male lead, and supporting actress Sonoya Mizuno are both half-Asian—and thus, according to some critics, not Asian enough to star in the movie.
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Growing up in Vancouver, WA a predominantly white area , I remember feeling a discomfort toward my features. This adjective was supposedly meant as a compliment, but the meaning of that word is "introduced from another country, not native to the place where found. We are not anchored in the same way, making it easy for us to lose our identities or feel lost trying to navigate the intersection between our cultures. This photo project has been on my mind since coming to Los Angeles because I finally lived in a place where there were people who looked like me. Growing up, most of the celebrities I wanted to emulate were white, with features that didn't match mine.
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My aunt and uncle, who live in Long Island, had gone there on an early date decades ago. My mom and her sister were visiting from out of town. None of them were of Asian descent, and yet almost immediately, the Asian jokes started: Asians are bad drivers. Asian men are undesirable. Asian men have small penises.
Those three short words have followed me around since childhood. And while the words may look harmless on paper, the question they form has carried a surprising amount of weight over the years. What are you? Instead, people are wondering about my ethnicity. They want to know exactly what I am.