Monday, July 10, 2006

Meme-ing Around the APA-Parent-Blogosphere

So, it's been two weeks since Eliaday and I launched our "APA Parenting Meme" into the blogosphere. We always intended it to be just a starting point for sharing, discussion, and more writing, to get people thinking and talking about how the intersection of race, culture, family and parenting plays out in our individual lives. It's been exciting to see the varied responses to our questions, to discover both the commonalities and the differences, and to watch dialogues start up.

One interesting conversation point was about terminology. Though we tried to spell out the meme's inclusivity in our introduction, our use of the term "Asian Pacific American" and the acronym "APA" confused some readers. I guess our ivory-tower backgrounds in Asian American and ethnic studies made us assume that everyone would understand that, but again, I guess that was one of the points of the meme—to discover the ways in which we have both common and divergent backgrounds and experiences. So, to make a long story short, we chose APA for its inclusivity, a term that includes in its panethnic umbrella Americans of (East, South, and Southeast) Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent. [For more on this, check out the Wikipedia entry for "Asian American" and this terminology style guide compiled by queer Pinoy activist/non-profit P.R. expert/comic book geek extraordinaire Loren Javier.]

We've gotten participation by first-generation immigrants and the great-grandchildren of immigrants, multiethnic and multiracial people (and parents of multiethnic and multiracial people) and people whose by-blood and by-marriage family members all share a common ethnic heritage, people who were adopted into non-Asian families and people who married into Asian families. We come from different parts of the country (from Hawaii to New England and everywhere in between), with different experiences growing up, good and bad, that inform the kind of parents we try to be now.

But even with all that diversity, there are commonalities. We value strong family bonds and sharing good food. We want to pass on to our kids the "good" things about our cultural and familial heritages and leave behind the "bad," though we don't always know how to do that. We worry about our kids having to deal with the kind of stereotyping and racism we may have gone through growing up, but we also want to leave them a legacy of standing up for themselves and for what they believe in. Oh, and the most common non-English language used in our homes? You guessed it: Spanish!

Interestingly enough, one common theme was people not being sure if the meme was for them. Lots of answers along the lines of "Well, I don't know if this is the typical/expected answer but..." or "This probably isn't what they meant/were looking for but...." And it wasn't only transracially adopted folks raised by white parents or hapas with quarter-Asian kids feeling out-of-place, either—lots of people raised by two parents of the same ethnic background wondered how they fit into this larger "APA" umbrella, or what it meant to them, or how, if at all, their ethnic background impacted their parenting.

And while, at least part of the time, our Asian Americanness doesn't always come to the fore in our lives or in our parenting, and while we know that there's more to being _______________ [fill in the blank: whatever you put down for #1 and #2] than just food and traditions on the one hand and battling racism on the other, we do, somehow, belong to a community together. That community is ever redefining itself, and that's just fine with us.

On a more serious note, though, this meme has made a lot of people think about why someone would even put these questions together like this. What do being APA and being a parent have to do with each other? For some, not a lot. For others, more than they thought. Some of us hardly ever talk about race, ethnicity or culture on our own blogs, while others of us make it a preoccupation. And though we take pains not to define ourselves solely in opposition to racism, thinking about our kids and their future experiences, we may come to the painful realization that yeah, sometimes this stuff still matters, sometimes too much. One respondant's tagging for this meme coincided with a painful experience for her daughter that was probably more painful for her as a parent, and she wrote about it by way of introducing her answers; if you read only one of the meme responses listed at the bottom of this post, I hope it will be this one.

At the bottom of this post, you will find a list of all the responses to this meme that I could find. To all of you who have participated, thank you. To all who have read, commented, or just found something to think about, thank you. We hope, again, that these questions may lead to more dialogue and more writing. If you've posted your answers to the meme (or are going to) and I didn't list them, please provide a link in the comments here. If you want to participate but don't have a blog, feel free to post your answers in the comments. And for those of you who've been tagged but haven't yet posted, you know who you are! [Yeah, Ji-in, didn't you know that I wrote in that whole "you can participate even if you aren't a parent yet" thing for you? ;) ]

Oh, and by the way, just for good measure, I tag Motherhood Uncensored, Superha, Sprogmamma, Liminal Musings, American Family, Papa2hapa, l.h., aqdoc, and of course, all my boyz, the Rice Daddies, InstantYang, F-Bomb, iDaddy, Mr. Maestro, and Papa Law. You're "it"!

City Mama
daddy in a strange land
Daddy Zen
Enoch Choi
Harlow's Monkey
Lissy Jo
Lumpyhead's Mom
Mama Nabi
Mother of Two
Poppa Large
Soccer Dad
Weigook Saram


Ji-in said...

*innocent blink* Yo. You talkin' to ME?

Welllll, as it would just so happen, I am putting the finishing touches on my adapted version of this beast right now, having also been tagged outright by Puka some time ago. Yeah, yeah! I hear ya!

Didi said...

Papa2hapa answered the meme over at , his blog about his recent trip back to Korea.

weigooksaram said...

Thanks for starting the meme. I've enjoyed following it around the blogosphere and reading all the different responses.

Chaesq of MC Estoppel ( and Lori of Third Culture Kids ( also did the meme.

honglien123 said...

Hmm, my blog sucks so I'll post my answers here:
1. I am:
First generation Vietnamese refugee, not quite American, not quite Vietnamese, citizen of nowhere. 100% Californian.

2. My kids are:
1/2 2nd generation Vietnamese, 1/4 3rd generation Korean, 1/4 5th generation Japanese; Americans. They're a combination that could probably only be conceived in America, having ancestors from the three Asian countries the US has fought major wars with, and who traditionally hate each other.

3. I first realized I was APA when:
In elementary school, the kids kept telling me I'd grow up to marry the only other Asian boy in our class because we're the "same".

4. People think my name is:
Unique. You can google how special I am by searching for Lien Nguyen (and my parents wonder why changed my name when I got married).

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:
A Vietnamese saying roughly translated: When you eat the fruit remember the person who planted the tree.
I hope my kids will remember their roots and their ancestors.

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:
The periodic mental breakdown.

7. My child's first word in English was:
The boy: "Nana!" (translation: banana)
The girl: "NO!"

8. My child's first non-English word was:
Both: Dao! (Vietnamse for head)

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:
Cho mommy! (Give it to Mommy!)

10. One thing I love about being an APA parent is:
Well, one thing I love about being a minority in general, is that I can teach my children how to appreciate other people's cultures and differences simply because they have so many in their background.

11. One thing I hate about being an APA parent is:
Dealing with prejudice and ignorance both inside and outside my ethnic community. (e.g. one relative continually calling my kids "Sushi") Being able to understand the nasty things Vietnamese people say while they're smiling at me thinking I'm Chinese or unable to understand.

12. The best thing about being part of an APA family is:
The food!

13. The worst thing about being part of an APA family is:
The limitations that my position on the family hierarchy place on me. I have to call second or third cousins who are my age "uncle" or "aunt" for example and have to treat them with a bit more reverance.

14. To me, being Asian Pacific American means:
To understand that when the world thinks of an American, they will never imagine a face like my son or daughter's and while I speak unaccented English, many Vietnamese will assume I don't speak Vietnamese, and people will continually ask if my husband whose great grandfather came to the US in 1901, if he speaks Japanese. Being Asian also means that I am expected to uphold the "model minority" and quiet, docile, and without an opinion female Asian stereotype. Being APA means that I am free to ignore those stereotypes and find my own way.

mamazilla said...

hi there :)

i posted my answers to the meme as well on my blog -

thank you for launching the meme out into the blogosphere!

Margie said...

I, too, wasn't sure if I should answer since I'm not APA - but my children are. For what it'they're worth, my thoughts are here:

Thanks for setting this in motion, I've enjoyed reading the many responses, and have learned a lot.

Lee Herrick said...

I finally did mine.