Singing ‘En Mi Viejo San Juan’. Sisters Sylkia and Libby Juliá. Logan Square, Chicago, 1981. #livingdiaspora
I’m in the mood for sunsets, not nostalgic rain. Its happened before so I’m careful now. I’m playing the game again, and all I can see are rainbows. I don’t feel the same about it all anymore, but the guilt and stain remain.
So when I talk about the concept, I’m harsh, hard and cold. I’ll come off demanding and with high expectations. Perhaps I’ve manage to camouflage into my habitat at last. Just know that those requirements are for her who deserves to wear the white, not one who simply hides herself behind it.
The subculture of immigrants had nothing much to do with the rest of America. When the girls took sick, Mom would get a concoction from a local Korean pharmacy where they never asked for a prescription. When Dad lost his appetite, he would visit an herbalist in Astoria for a dose of bear’s galls. When her parents had some money they could put away, which was hardly ever, they would turn not to a bank but to a gae, which was a communal-savings pool where a monthly lottery was drawn to grant the winner a lump sum. It was beyond Suzy’s understanding why her parents, like most Korean elders, preferred Maxwell House instant coffee to fresh coffee, or why they wouldn’t touch grapefruits or mangoes, though they kept boxes of dried persimmons at home. Had she stayed in just one neighborhood long enough, had she been allowed to build intimacy with one friend, one neighbor, one relative, then perhaps this perpetual Korea, which hovered somewhere in the Far East, might have seemed more relevant. She kept up with the language. She followed the custom. But knowing about a culture was different from feeling it. She would bow to the elders without the traditional respect such bows required. She would bite into the pungent spice of kimchi without tasting its sad, sour history. She would bob her head to the drumbeats of the Korean folk songs without commiserating with their melancholy. But how could she? She recalled nothing of the country.
Yet American culture, as Suzy was shocked to discover upon leaving home, was also foreign to her. Thanksgiving dinners. Eggnogs. The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Monopoly. Dr. Seuss. JFK. Such loaded American symbols meant nothing to her. They brought back no dear memory, no pull of nostalgia. Damian hailed her as the ultimate virgin. […] A blessing, he said, to be raised in such a cultural vacuum. But the blessing came with its price. Being bilingual, being multicultural should have brought two words into one heart, and yet for Suzy, it meant a persistent hollowness. It seems that she needed to love one culture to be able to love the other. Piling up cultural references led to no further identification. What Damian had called a ‘blessing’ pushed her out of context, always. She was stuck in a vacuum where neither culture moved nor owned her. Deep inside, she felt no connection, which Damian seemed to have understood.
—Suki Kim, The Interpreter
Diaspora Kid: Punjabi Edition
- Yo ma
- Kiya (what)
- Munnu Punjabi nei anndi (I don't know Punjabi)
- Tunu andi hai (You know it)
- Tussi munu Pubjabi nei sikhai (you never taught me Punjabi)!
- Your family is Punjabi, it's in the blood.
Anonymous asked: What do you think of Gary Locke being described as a "rotting banana" by China News Service (includes the stirring line "您祖上要是知道，可要把您逐出门户了")and bashed for not speaking Mandarin. I kind of identify with him because it feels like I get bashed by one side for being of immigrant stock and the other for coming from an "anti-China country" or whatever all the time.
in general i think there’s a lot of hostility towards overseas chinese in china, especially those who do not speak mandarin.
A very dependable feature of people who live abroad is finding them huddled together in bars and restaurants, talking not just about their homelands, but about the experience of leaving. And strangely enough, these groups of ex-pats aren’t necessarily all from the same home countries, often the mere experience of trading lands and cultures is enough to link them together and build the foundations of a friendship. I knew a decent amount of ex pats — of varying lengths of stay — back in America, and it’s reassuring to see that here in Europe, the “foreigner” bars are just as prevalent and filled with the same warm, nostalgic chatter. (via What Happens When You Live Abroad | Thought Catalog)
what does it mean to curate an identity?
(mild spoiler alert)
the smithsonian indian americans exhibit played this song.
The trouble with public humanities is that any narrative you tell has consequences. If you call an experience “indian american”, you leave out the rest of a subcontinent with stories that run parallel. If you call certain religions endemic to a region, you implicitly call the other ones imported and other. You can’t tell our stories in one mouthful without mumbling some portion of it. You need acres of museum to do justice to this experience.
Which is why, on the one hand, it was absolutely touching to see such a familiar history at the smithsonian, to hear pyar kiya to darna kya in a public place and see family photos framed on purple walls, to look up at a life size image of dalip singh saund smiling down at me and look down at balbir singh sodhi’s turban with unease. But on the other, there were silences and gaps, as I wondered where ayad akhtar’s plaque was oh wait he’s pakistani, why spelling bees took up a corner without any mention of arangetrams and bhangra teams, and where is fareed zakaria’s mention, where is aziz ansari, aasif maandvi? And maybe being muslim makes you more invested in a pan-south asian identity than others, but I couldn’t help wonder how difficult it would have been to call the exhibit “desi-american”. Can we really not stand to be lumped together that much? Because in that case, folks, we have a problem on our hands.
And I looked around, surrounded by this shrine to south asian excellence and felt that it was so lacking in showcasing our beauty—not because it was too problematic (the curators did their very very best given the constraints of the project), but because even with its deliberate, painstaking efforts to showcase the community, it simply could not do justice to our rich histories and struggles. There is not space nor dimension to showcase each foreign medical or engineering graduate’s hours spent mugging formulae, or to illustrate the redness of each taxi driver’s eye at the midnight hour, or the yuba city punjabi muslim’s tears when his mosque was burned down (a story not told here, by the by).
You realize the extent to which a museum exhibit cannot do your experience justice when you suddenly hear Anoushka Shankar in the music box, pulling at your heart and remember the snowy afternoon when you first heard that song, after having possibly failed the first exam in your life at university and not caring, too, for the first time, caring suddenly about things like snowfall and heartbeats, which makes you feel bad, anoushka makes you feel bad, she reminds you of the checks written for music lessons by parents trying to craft the perfect diaspora daughter, the instrument in a case catching dust, but singing the song of your heart, apparently, at least when a shankar plays it.
what does it mean to curate an identity?
I’m immensely thankful that we have a space in the Smithsonian, however flawed. I hope we use it as a way to begin elucidating and complicating our narrative.
All types of African and African diaspora music will be here and is welcomed.
and whatever else is out there and you know about. If we are missing anything just submit us something!
We’ve been colonized, brutalized, traded, denigrated, made to seem inherently inferior and evil, and taught to hate ourselves, but we not only survive, we THRIVE.
If nothing else about me is ever known, please know that I love all of my brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter if you’re American, an Islander, Nigerian, Kenyan, or anything else. Our collective struggle binds us together. That is a bond that cannot be broken. Not all of us have been reunited with the Motherland just yet, but she lives in us all. With love, peace.
The confrontation between Russia and Ukraine reverberated on Sunday through New York City’s tight-knit ethnic enclaves, from southern Brooklyn to the pulpits of Ukrainian church services in the East Village to the Russian consulate on the Upper East Side, where protesters shouted their opposition to Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine at the four-story building’s drawn curtains and silent…
Sometimes, I feel permanently displaced.
China’s policies and cultural traditions led to my abandonment.
And in America, Asians have a long history of being oppressed by the heirarchy of race and subsequent systems of power and privilege.
In both countries, I don’t feel like I have a claim to belonging. And sometimes out of resentment or stubbornness, I don’t want a claim, but then I wonder where I have left to go…
I feel like this is why I struggle with a sense of belonging every day.
Our LAST poster of the #livingdiaspora series. We are honored to have received the wedding photo of Soraida Arocho and Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez, two important figures in Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. This picture was taken in #PuertoRico on Nov. 19, 1977, demonstrating that the island has a special place in the hearts and memories of the Boricua Diaspora.
The Townhouses - Tokyo
When James I Salamba left Kenya to study in the US 17 years ago, mobile phones were a preserve of the rich, rural areas were mostly inaccessible and mobile money was non-existent.
Three years ago he moved back home to run his IT business, Jamo Designs, which focuses on digital marketing, strategy and training, as well as app development. Salamba says coming back home to participate in a nascent industry gives him the opportunity to “shape the rules of the game”.
“In the western world the rules have already been defined. Here it is a new territory and that is where the opportunity is,” he says. “I like being an outlier, not swimming where everything is happening but swimming where it is much tougher. You can really make it big here.”
The 37-year-old entrepreneur told How we made it in Africa that “opportunities here are endless”.
“We haven’t done half the things that have been done in developed economies. We are just now building highways. The beauty of it all is that here even the small accomplishments and the small miracles are indeed huge miracles.”
Ed’s note: Salamba offers some really insightful advice for diasporans thinking to move back, particularly in the creative industries, do click through and read the whole article.