For the longest time, I hesitated to write anything Chinese-flavored because I didn’t feel Chinese enough.
I hesitated to write anything Taiwanese because I didn’t feel like I understood the deep division between China and Taiwan well enough.
I felt deeply ironic writing from my love of European mythology because I’m definitely not white enough.
And I constantly felt a certain social responsibility — along with a healthy dose of guilt — to understand the other half of me, the half that faces outward, and the half I least understood.
So when I saw this thread on Twitter from Frankie Huang, about the American movie “The Farewell,” which features American actors, with a screenplay written and directed by an American woman, and yet was nominated in the Foreign Film category at the Golden Globes and is facing backlash and a lack of acceptance from Chinese viewers … well, it hit pretty close to home for me. Because I understood exactly the sort of struggle they’re having, in figuring out how to be accepted in the multiple communities you grow up in, when you’re an immigrant.
Latest from me: China & the US are the world’s largest movie markets, and no film has straddled both worlds in terms of narrative and identity quite like The Farewell.— Frankie Huang 💡 (@ourobororoboruo) December 30, 2019
For that reason it has a uniquely hard time finding acceptance in China. 1/https://t.co/7vDz51wbk6
It has taken me a while to figure out how to mash up the two — my love of Western mythology and my Eastern heritage — into a mix that better reflects who I am. The Chinese/Taiwanese myths might not be “the norm” or accurate or whatnot, but it’s what I grew up learning from my mother. It’s what she passed down to me, so it’s my version of Eastern folklore. And what I pass on is what I love, not what is expected of me, just because of the way I look or who I am or where I was born.
It was another writer on Twitter — one I have long forgotten the name of, I’m sorry to say, as I’m rarely on Twitter and only check in on it every so often in passing — who said, and I paraphrase: everyone in the Chinese diaspora has their “grandma stories,” the stories handed down by their grandmas in a new time, a new land, that may or may not necessarily 100% reflect their origins in the mother culture. But that’s okay. Because they’ve evolved, those stories, in a new time, a new land. And your grandma stories are your own, and you tell them the way you want to tell them. The diaspora is not about making sure the original culture stays pure. It’s about evolution and inclusion and making sure all of our grandma stories get heard.
That, in a nutshell, is how I started writing grandma stories. And if I piss off the Chinese who think I’m not Chinese enough to write them … well, too bad.
They ain’t my grandma. And this ain’t their story.