Roger Pao has an interesting blog entry on variations of the question, "Where are you from?" so often posed to Asians living in America, Canada, Australia, Europe, etc. Check it out. I responded that an even more annoying question (to me) is when someone asks "What are you?"
I responded that I sometimes think of saying "I'm about to smack you."
On a related matter, it's discouraging how few people can even pronounce basic Asian sounds. Sure, some people can't roll their r's while speaking Spanish, but at least they know the r is supposed to be rolled! We have a long way to go as this relates to Asian languages, myself included. Languages are challenging. For example, in Mandarin, the Q makes the "ch" sound (as in chimney). So, that great city on the coast, Qingdao, is pronounced "Ching dow." And the great beer from that city, Tsingdao, was Westernized in spelling in fear that no one would be able to pronounce it, making it harder to sell. But this isn't really about beer. It's about names, languages, cultures, and power, and ultimately, probably money.
Can't we make some progress here? Why don't more middle and high schools offer Mandarin? Why are Asians still so exoticized (or absent) in nearly every major media market? Did I read correctly that among the regular television programs on all of CBS, one report showed there wasn't a single Asian actor/actress with a regular part on the whole damned network? (Please don't slam me with posts correcting me if that statistic is wrong; it may be inaccurate, but would it surprise you if it were true?) Please know I am asking these questions rhetorically. Believe me, I have my own ideas as to why these things are the way they are.
Well, I've vented again. I feel better. But I'm thinking of this because my oldest and closest friend is currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand and loves it. He's especially enamored with the food, which I told him might be the best food in the world. And he is planning to teach an Asian American Literature course at the college where he teaches (northern California), which doesn't have such a course, if you can believe it. He's not Asian, but he wants to teach it. I think the students there could use it. I've been giving him suggestions on reading--great work that speaks to many people, asks them to look at their own lives and shines light on others', as great literature will. So with Roger's blog entry in mind and in the spirit of names, language, and culture, I will recommend he start with "How I Got That Name," one of my favorite poems by Marilyn Chin.