Celebrating My Roots As A Chinese American

I was born in California in 1999. After growing up in Southern California, I am not sure I could ever give up the food and culture here. Today, I am a student at UCLA, but that’s not all I am. I am also proud to be a Chinese American. And I am fortunate that here in Los Angeles, I have the ability to feel confident in my identity. I do not have to hide the parts of me that might make me different than the average American. I am also lucky that during the month of May, I can celebrate my heritage during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. My parents are both full Chinese. While my mother immigrated here from Taiwan when she was 12, my father was born in San Francisco and grew up in the United States. 

I had a pretty amazing cultural upbringing, but it did come with its own set of challenges. I remember noticing the differences in elementary school and wanting to feel “normal” like everyone else. My classmates had sandwiches or pasta for lunch while I had thermoses full of leftovers from dinner the night before. I cannot say I would have preferred their lunches (because I have never been one for the classic American foods), but my lunches remind me how grateful I truly am for my background. I love to watch my mother take out old recipe cards written in the Chinese handwriting of her parents and watch her cook some of my favorite dishes. I love the smells that come from the kitchen when she’s cooking and the taste of the food when it first comes off the stove. I love going to my grandmother’s home and eating her dumplings made from scratch. I love how family dinners mean Chinese food that will always leave me filled to the max.

Going out with my family for food also meant some more interesting foods that many of my friends could not stomach. For example, I was never one for stinky tofu. I cannot stand the smell. I remember hiding around the corner with my sister, cousin and father as the rest of the family ate their fill. Around the corner wasn’t always far enough to stay away from the smell, but as long as the wind wasn’t blowing the wrong way we were in the clear. I also remember having friends over and asking them to take off their shoes when they entered. Whenever I visited a friend and entered her home, it felt strange that I did not have to take off my shoes. 

I know that China and Taiwan have incredibly rich histories going back thousands of years, and I love learning more about my culture. When I was younger, I even learned traditional Chinese dances from a dance instructor. I cherish my cultural upbringing and I hope to continue celebrating my roots as a Chinese American!