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The weighing of competing or complimentary identity lenses is explored in Timothy Liu’s “Looking for Parnassus in America”, and he quarrels with himself in exploring why one might be privileged in his work over another.
In America, as an Asian American, I am among other things a model minority, an eternal outsider. The absence of any ESL or fresh-off-the-boat accent (which both of my parents had) might tip someone off that I was born here, but then again, I’ve gotten used to being asked the question, Where are you from?, and when I say the Bay Area or California or South San Jose or Almaden Valley (depending on my many moods), I often wait for the other shoe to drop: But where are you really from? So I repeat myself while adding: And you, where are you really from? Nine times out of ten, I get the Oh! I didn’t mean anything by that, to which I respond, No worries, neither did I.
In Hong Kong, when I lived there as a Mormon missionary, my Cantonese was so atrocious that the natives thought that I was either 1) retarded; 2) Japanese (and very ambitious in trying to learn how to speak Cantonese!); 3) Korean (on account of my moon-like face); 4) or Hawaiian (because I butchered Cantonese like an American).
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