Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wow, I saw this very cool book today:

It is made up of portraits and funny, poignant little handwritten sidenotes by each subject about being Hapa, or half Asian. There are folks in this book who span the spectrum of the human melting pot, but the one thing that unites them all is their Hapa-ness. It is really a beautiful book. One thing that really stood out for me was a woman in her 50s who said she never felt like she fit in, until she moved to the Bay Area when she was 30. She said she had finally found a place where she felt comfortable, like a whole new world opened up to her at 30 years of age.

I actually almost teared up at this. I felt the same way before I moved to the Bay Area, with the feelings of being different and, of course, dealing with racism. First epiphany was when I moved out of my little bitty hometown to go to college, because I was no longer one of the few Asians in town. I still felt like an outsider, because I think I was still trying to find myself, and deal in some way with some part of me that I had rejected for being non-white. Second and more intense was when I moved to the Bay Area. Suddenly the last thing that mattered was my race (now it was just what I did for a living -- LOL -- trading old prejudices for new ones). It did feel like a whole new world. A vibrant, refreshing, nourishing world where I felt like I could finally release the breath I had been holding in for so long.

Check out _part Asian, 100% Hapa_, even if you're not Hapa. I think you'll agree that all of us really don't look the same.


Blogger bunny said...

Interesting. I'm going to have to take a look at this book. I know Hapa's been appropriated by Californians or Western US folks (it's not used in the East except by Westerners) to apply to half- or multi-racial people, but the original meaning was "half-white," usually half-white, half Hawaiian. I tend to fall on the side of not agreeing with the cultural appropriation but don't think it's out of any sense of history of the word (purely emotional). It still sits funny with me, though. Funny how what I was brought up with seems to stick and niggle around even when I understand that meanings of words change.

I've had a blog entry on the back burner for, um, 4 years now, about cultural identity which addresses this hapa word. Maybe I should dust it off and look at finishing it.

BTW, have you seen All Look Same? ( )

March 16, 2006 at 5:27:00 AM PST  
Blogger saudade said...

bunny, thanks for your comments. I never knew the etymology of 'Hapa' -- it was originally in a Hawaiian context? I had never even heard it until I moved to the Bay, and ironically very often it was from "full Asian" folk. Another big one here is 'Halfer.'

'Tis true how the meanings of word change. To me, it is sort of like 'queer.' When I was growing up this was a gay slur, but now I can honestly say when someone uses that word I always think of it in a positive light. So much happened for the GLBT community when people began to appropriate hurtful words and use them unilaterally in a postive, affirming, strengthening way.

I admittedly don't have the cultural or emotional background to appreciate or disapprove of this word being appropriated -- I only know my positive experiences with it. So I am really curious to read your thoughts on this. Please do dust it off.

March 16, 2006 at 11:29:00 AM PST  

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