2nd gen Asian American writing re: parents and family
April 26, 2013 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for something written from a second generation Asian American perspective that starts with this premise: [My parents/family treat(ed) me badly] But does NOT end with this conclusion: [...but they are immigrants and don't know the culture so I can't really judge them, and they sacrificed so much for me and I feel guilty and they just wanted the best for me, so therefore, I love them to pieces].

Any other conclusion or lesson is acceptable. Can be fiction or nonfiction. Could be a book, article, blog post, comment or scribbles on a napkin. It doesn't have to be specifically about the Asian American experience (although that is preferred); it could be about conflict between 1st and 2nd immigrant generations from any culture or country if it follows the same kind of arc.
posted by dede to Human Relations (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Angela's Ashes?
posted by 256 at 10:51 AM on April 26, 2013


Check out "The Concubine's Children" by Denise Chong, it's an engaging story. It's a multi-generational, complicated story of families on two continents. There's obedience and some guilt on the part of the daughter, but it definitely doesn't end with your premise above.
posted by Melismata at 10:54 AM on April 26, 2013


I Love Yous Are For White People
posted by Fairchild at 11:11 AM on April 26, 2013


The Joy Luck Club? Or is that too "parent respecting" considering it intermingles the stories of both the immigrant mothers and the American-born daughters?

Reading it as a total outsider to Chinese-American culture I definitely didn't think that the "lesson" of the story was that you should respect your long-suffering immigrant mother who sacrificed everything for you. The takeaway I got was that it's complicated, and there's no "right" answer to this conflict.

The Woman Warrior might also be worth looking at, though I don't think it deals only with the immigrant mother/American-born daughter relationship. But it's one of the classic pieces of Asian-American writing and does seem to deal with some of the issues you're interested in. This is another one with no clear "moral" of the story.
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 AM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think Amy Tan's memoir my fit this criteria: http://www.amazon.com/Opposite-Fate-Memories-Writing-Life/dp/0142004898

Also, pretty much everything Jhumpa Lahiri writes is about second generation immigrants and much of it has to deal with how those characters relate to their parents. In some cases the parents are kind and some cases not, but it's definitely worth a read if you are looking to explore that topic.
posted by bananafish at 11:25 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chang-Rae Lee's Native Speaker
posted by vespabelle at 11:30 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


pretty much everything Jhumpa Lahiri writes

Warning: the theme of The Namesake is basically exactly what you're NOT looking for. The upshot of the whole thing is that the dude's name symbolizes the fact that his dad sacrificed everything for him and by trying to establish his own identity he is shitting all over his dad.

(I mean, that's an exaggeration, but I think if you're prone to notice those types of themes you might not like The Namesake.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:36 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just read this yesterday! (Maybe even linked from MeFi?) Mary H. K. Choi, "My Mom." "I love her and it’s a secret. I love her so much it kills me, and you bet I’d sooner die than tell her." (Sorry, on rereading the OP, there's no "treated me badly" except for some "embarrassed because she was so foreign.")
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:49 AM on April 26, 2013


The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet dances this line nicely, though there is some reconciliation - he doesn't hate his parents, and he does sort of forgive them, but there is never a sense that their choices were in any way okay.
posted by Mchelly at 12:13 PM on April 26, 2013


It doesn't have to be specifically about the Asian American experience (although that is preferred); it could be about conflict between 1st and 2nd immigrant generations from any culture or country if it follows the same kind of arc.

Though not about the Asian American experience at all, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is all about this.
posted by cairdeas at 1:29 PM on April 26, 2013


Apple Pie. 2-gen Asian kid ends up (partially) estranged from his family, though not all that upset about it.
posted by dzot at 1:35 PM on April 26, 2013


It's been a really long time since I read it, but I'm pretty sure Evelyn Lau's Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid doesn't have a a big warm ending.
posted by looli at 2:24 PM on April 26, 2013


Hanif Kureishi: Buddha of Suburbia (book), Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (film), My Beautiful Launderette (film) My Son The Fanatic (lovely film starring Om Puri), Weddings and Beheadings (film) My Ear at His Heart (memoir).

Pakistani-British. "“The way you think about your parents and their meaning to you changes all the time. It’s not a monument, it’s not done… memory is a river. He was a very needy dad. He was always a stranger in England in a way I never was. I’m very fond of my dad. Still am.” This doesn't mitigate Kureishi's caustic POV.
posted by glasseyes at 7:04 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


YES The Buddha Of Suburbia is all about this, and just lets the dad be a kind of sketchy dude with no moralizing about what the protagonist Should Be Grateful For.

Also it's a great book, and I feel like Kureishi is a hugely underrated author.
posted by Sara C. at 7:06 PM on April 26, 2013


I don't share Sara C's takeaway from Lahiri's The Namesake, at all. YMMV

I can also recommend Bapsi Sidhwa's An American Brat. Vikram Chandra's Red Earth and Pouring Rain is not about 2nd gen immigrants, but does deal with some of the themes you are interested in.

Vikram Seth can also be a rewarding read on immigrant experiences.
posted by bardophile at 8:02 PM on April 26, 2013


Hi - very belated addition to the thread, sorry about this.

I'm a second generation Indian American kid, and I share Sara C's interpretation of The Namesake. The book INFURIATES me. The film version by Mira Nair redeems it a little bit (mostly because she is a brilliant filmmaker), but I agree that you are going to find exactly the themes you are avoiding if you read the book.

I want to nth anything by Hanif Kureishi. Buddha of Suburbia is an excellent book. My Beautiful Laundrette and My Son the Fanatic are great films.
posted by thereemix at 10:20 AM on May 9, 2013


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