Becoming Other

A note from the author:

This poem is about me growing up Asian in a predominantly white community and the feelings of a pervasive isolation from not fitting into white American culture. I wanted to express how this sense of “otherness,” which I now understand as a function of cultural imperialism, shaped not only the perception of my own identity, but harmed many people of color and first-generation immigrants who were considered simply not American.

i was eleven

the day I came home


tears cut like broken shards

my ribs ached

the taste of gravel still fresh

the word chink bounced hollow

against my skull

it was what they saw


slanted eyes painted with dirt

i wanted blue

black hair straight but stubborn

i wanted auburn curls

skin tinged a dull amber

i hated every inch

“to look at one’s self

through the eyes of others”

the mirror has little use

alone in a conscious of doubt

why must i be adrift

it is the burden we pay, my father says

to live this american dream

you must endure

the cracks in his face say elsewise

you must endure

there were days

that I hoped

white suburbia would lay in embers


where I longed for a picket fence

no longer behind the two-way mirror


recall how

mom read poems of dynasties past

dimly alit among photos of my grandfather’s village

incense burned its sweet singe

you felt


there is a loneliness

to live within hyphenated space

distinctly american

distinctly other

stretched between

i am


i think i am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *