Genre: Non-Fiction, Race and Culture, Japan, Mixed Identity
Published by Stanford University Press
Puerto Rican, Chinese, African American. Afro-Chino. Mestiza. A not-so-serious Catholic. Who am I?
This whole book is Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu and a load of other similar writers who struggled with this one question, “Who am I, exactly?” The author is Japanese and Irish, sometimes he calls himself the “Celtic Samurai.” He was born in Japan and lived in the U.S. and then went back to Japan as an adult. Everybody in this book talks about their life experiences as a mixed race East Asian person. The author struggled with growing up in two worlds where he is not accepted fully. In Japan, he’s a foreigner that speaks Japanese, in the United States, he’s a Japanese that looks somewhat White, but is still not accepted because he isn’t “White enough.” Then there’s a Mexipino, a Blackinawan, a Korean Jewish adoptee, and many others who feel foreign wherever they go. This book covers a lot of history about post-World War II Japan and Okinawa that I highly suggest people should read, it really opened up my mind and cleared up a lot of the skewed perceptions people have about other countries. A lot of people don’t want to see both sides when people hear about xenophobia.
The perspectives I can relate to the most was the Mexipino, Rudy, and the Blackinawin, Mitzi. Rudy’s was close because I’m Puerto Rican, I don’t speak Spanish and I can’t dance, in this case it’s salsa, to save my life and I am too timid to do so. So of course, right away, I know that I don’t fit in with most Puerto Ricans. Despite that Mexican and Puerto Rican cultures are different, they do share similarities, like how Japanese and Chinese culture share some similarities but they are all different, and they are vastly different from Filipino culture. Mitzi’s story relates to me because like most African Americans, I struggled a lot with the “bad hair” complex, and both of us are not visibly Asian looking, knowing that colorism and anti-Blackness is so prevalent in Asian communities. We constantly have to prove who we are. Being Black, but also Asian and Latinx at the same time means receiving Asian microaggressions despite not being full Asian, getting yelled at for speaking Spanish like a gringo and for actually not knowing Spanish at all, and feeling awkward because I literally do not know most of what it’s popular in Black pop culture. It also doesn’t help that my first and last name is Chinese and for some reason I’m constantly mistaken as Filipino. This is what this book is all about, healing, accepting, and exploring one’s self.
One aspect of a culture doesn’t represent a people as a whole. You don’t need to speak fluent Spanish or Mandarin to be “authentic” Puerto Rican or Chinese, you don’t need to know the latest hip hop hits to be an “authentic” African American. Actually African Americans have invented so much of our American culture, way more than hip-hop, that I honestly get confused when people say that rock music is White people’s music. However, the reason for that is two words, White supremacy and cultural appropriation. There was an article by Zoë Kravitz that was very relatable to me, but I can’t find it at the moment. (I would like to talk more about identity and stuff, but then this review will get too long.)
And now here’s some points I didn’t like about this book:
– Too many books about mixed race Asian experiences focus too much on East Asians, especially Japan. I know that since the author is half Japanese, he will automatically gravitate toward everyone who is Japanese. But in general, there is little representation of mixed-race Asians who aren’t East Asian and are non-White. Afro-Asians are always the least represented. What about Latinx Japanese people? What about Afro-Arabs? What about Arab Chinese? What about Afro-Vietnamese or Afro-Indians?
– Possibly by pure coincidence and because of the generation the writers were born in, too many books about mixed race Asians have military parents. Not all of us have parents from the military or are military kids. My Singaporean Chinese father was a chef and my mother is a teacher. I am aware that most are from the military, but not ALL of us are.
There needs to be more from those who are American born. A lot of these essays tend to be from people who were born on their native lands and moved here or elsewhere. (Does this make sense what I’m saying?) I read this point over and realized how underdeveloped and silly it sounded. Thank you Melanie Page, for bringing up a good point. One of the people Murphy-Shigematsu covered was a woman, I can’t recall her name at the moment, who is a second or third generation Japanese American. Of course, I mean I want stories that are not only U.S. centric. I meant that I wanted to hear more stories about people like the woman I just mentioned, who were disconnected with their culture over the generations, and decided to reconnect. But I also want to hear about the diasporas that take place in other countries like let’s say Ireland or somebody like how Kazuo Ishiguro who is Japanese, not mixed race or mixed ethnicity, but lives as a British Japanese who is British all the way through. But since the author is American, of course, he will have more American experiences.
P.S. Some people misinterpreted the title of this book and thought that it was about mixed race Asians identifying as Full Asian. No, he’s saying that mixed race Asians are becoming whole, becoming whole as in accepting both sides. Not just the Asian side, not just the other side. What he means is taking all of you and becoming whole. No fractions.