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Where is your identity? 你从哪里来?


I just came back from the IABD conference which was held in Long Beach, CA this year. When people asked me “where are you from?”, I needed to give them a long answer that “I come from China, but now I study in Boston.”

Today, the advancement of information technology, globalization, and the disappearing of ethnic boundaries make personal identity has become a vague topic. The question of “where are you from” is not easy to answer any longer. I am a person strongly keep my identity. I closely keep in touch with Chinese things everyday during the two years I stay in America: news, TV programs and books. I still do not like eating American food too much and cook Chinese food at home or eat in Chinatown. When I travel, I always say I come from China though Boston is where I am living now.

But for others, especially the second generation of immigrants, they usually struggle with unclear identities. Jennifer W. Jay of University of Alberta interviewed some American and Canada Born Chinese (CBC/ABC) students in her paper of “Rapper Jin and ABC: Acquiring Spoken Cantonese and Transnational Identity Through Restaurant Culture and Hong Kong TV”. She found that a number of CBCs and ABCs acquired some proficiency with spoken Cantonese through mimicking their parents and watching Hong Kong TV at home. Their first spoken language was Cantonese and they could sing the theme songs of television series but could not read or write Chinese. As their social circle broadened outside the home, they began losing both fluency in Cantonese and interest in their parents’ background except for Chinese food. Mostly the parents and grandparents accept the loss of fluency and criticize them as hollow bamboo kids (of Chinese ethnicity but empty of Chinese substances) or Banana Kids (of yellow skin but of all white culture inside).

(Refer to http://chinalinks.osu.edu/naccl-20/proceedings/20_jay-j.pdf)

The video I attached below is an interview to Gene Yang, creator of a graphic novel American Born Chinese. He shares his struggle to reconcile his Chinese heritage with his American homeland. On the cover of the novel, he asks himself a question which is “Am I the Monkey King or a Transformer?” Monkey King and Transformer are representatives of Chinese and American culture. Which cultural identity do you belong to? I think this is a question to most of second generations of immigrants to America.


1. When you are asked the question “where are you from?”, what will be your answer?

2. Have you ever been through identity struggling?

3. Do you think it is important to keep one’s identity or not? What are the advantages and disadvantages?


P.S.  This is my last assignment at Emerson College. My life experience in the US will be end. I am very very glad to have Dr. CJ and all of you be my friends in the past two years. I hope all you guys good luck in the future!

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