excerpt from Lee Chang-rae’s Native Speaker
This is an excerpt from Lee Chang-rae’s Native Speaker. In the novel, the main character’s white wife leaves the Korean-American main character with a note. The note speaks to the foreignness that many first-generation Americans relate to. Despite being born and raised in America, there is a perpetual feeling of an impostor and an outsider. Growing up in a white Southern town, I felt this gap was more tangible through my otherness.
to add to
When I was in third grade, some (white) kids commented on how flat my face was and they encouraged me to press my face against the table, how it would fit. I remember that it was in art class, I remember what the tables looked like, but I honestly don’t remember how I felt when they said it. I didn’t do it when they asked, but I remember going home and tentatively pressing my face against the wall and asking my parents if it fit. This object reminds me of how the weird space I knew I occupied in my majority white town, but also reminds me of how nebulous these memories are. There’s a lot of instances I think back on and have shaped me in ways I didn’t expect.
“The note speaks to the foreignness that many first-generation Americans relate to. Despite being born and raised in America, there is a perpetual feeling of an impostor and an outsider. Growing up in a white Southern town, I felt this gap was more tangible through my otherness.
“ This is actually very helpful because I didn’t even think about the “gap” I always just thought the gap was nothingness. It didn’t exist. You were always one thing or another. But it’s nice to know that the gap is an actual place that people experience. It exists. It’s just undefined.
This excerpt describes the feeling first generation Americans, more specifically those who grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods/towns, feel. There is a clear line of separation between the two which almost always makes you feel like you don’t completely
I’m not entirely sure I can make sense of this list, but maybe it’s because I don’t have the full text. The “false speaker of language” phrase hit hard because I was bullied for being the only Asian in my American school, but bullied for being the “외국인” at my Korean school (I was called 외계인). I felt like no matter where I was, I would stick out – if I hang out with my white friends, my Korean friends label me as “the Asian kid who’s only friends with white people/only dates white boys/isn’t in touch with Korean pop culture”; if I hang out with my Korean friends, I’m “one of those Asians who only is friends with Asian people.” There’s never a balance and I can never not be labeled some way or another. B+ student of life hit HARD lol
Being at a party where no one is talking to you was my primary experience with my persian family. Everyone always spoke farsi and i felt so isolated. I would smile and nod but i didn't know anything that was said to me. Broken english or jokes with belated translations was my only way of understanding. Salam. Chatori. Khoubi. Joonam. Merci. Khahesh mikonam. Azizam. Khodahafez. Bathroom mirrors. Couches in corners. Tops of stairs. Those were my childhood friends. But I'm so proud of that childhood. Because i at least met other kids leaving those bathrooms, sitting on those couches, hanging out by those stairs who knew what good food was and what it meant to be made fun of in school.