This American Life

When I was 16, I competed in the National American Miss pageant for the title of Junior Miss Virginia. Of the 67 contestants, 3 were Asian-American–which is a surprisingly accurate reflection of the demographics of the state, which is 5.5% Asian (so doing the math, 5.5% of 67 comes out to a little over three). If we were going solely off statistics, the likelihood than an Asian would place in queen’s court–also known as the top 5–is unlikely. However, there I was in the final round.

Queen's Court

(one of these things is not like the other)

From that point onward, I began examining this term “American” more critically. As a first-generation immigrant, born in Shenyang, China, could I, too, be an “American”? As a daughter of two parents raised during the Cultural Revolution, who had endured the One Child Policy, and had exalted Chairman Mao, could I also live the American Dream? What is the role of my parents sociological imagination in my life? And how relevant are their experiences, if I am not living in the same country or in the same era?

Statistics have shown that people who are a product of divorced families are much more likely to get divorced themselves. In the case of my family, divorce is not a relevant topic, but marriage and family very much are. If this statistic speaks to human nature and the impact of those who raise us, how much of our family-life choices our own? If we are a product of our times and our locations, how much does our past and present influence our future?

In this project, I seek to uncover the significance of my parents’ traditional Chinese upbringing in this American life that I share with my sister. Though I was born in China, and she in America, how much will our parents’ experiences dictate what we want from our own futures? These are topics I seek to explore as a first-generation Chinese-American seeking out the American Dream.