Minerva C.



Growing up in Portland, Oregon, no one told me outright to feel embarrassed of my Chinese heritage. But surrounded as I was by blonde haired and blue eyed families — in my neighborhood and also on TV — I always felt out of place.

Worse than that, I felt like the things that made me Chinese  were the same things that kept me from fitting in, making friends, and feeling like I belonged.

I was ashamed of my parents, who spoke in heavy Chinese accents, and who sometimes needed me to translate for them. When I had friends over, I would ask my mom to leave the room because I didn’t want other kids to hear her stumble over her English.

And when kids in school would ask me about certain Chinese words, or certain Chinese traditions, I would pretend not to know. Sometimes, I would even call myself “white washed” because it made me feel proud that, for a Chinese person, I wasn’t that Chinese.

It wasn’t until last fall, when I gave birth to my mixed-race daughter, that I started to unpack a lot of the shame and fear and loneliness that I associated with my Chinese heritage.

I started to look at her Chinese features with love and pride. I started to think about Chinese traditions with excitement — knowing that I could pass down to my daughter what my mother passed down to me. And I started to feel gratitude and appreciation for my mom that I had never felt as a child.

For all of the struggles she must have gone through — immigrating to the U.S., leaving behind everything she knew, and learning the English language and American culture from scratch.

Since having my daughter, I have learned to love the parts of myself — and the parts of her, and the parts of my mother — that used to bring me shame.

Now, every time I eat Chinese food, or speak Cantonese, or cook the same foods I used to eat growing up, I see it as an act of love: not just for my daughter, but for the younger version of myself.