Friday, February 1, 2008

Honk if You Love Reneé Tajima-Peña

I saw Reneé Tajima-Peña when she came to Brown to speak at the opening event for Asian/Asian-American History Month. It was so inspirational to hear her story and see her work, a welcome contrast to the usual images of Asian-Americans who have "made it"-- actors, businessmen, scientists, the occasional Amy Tan. I started thinking that night about the difference between navigating the preexisting notions about one's ethnicity and defining it on one's own terms. Attempting to do the latter takes more courage, I think, but is also pretty problematic. Isn't a conscious rebellion against a stereotype in itself a recognition of that stereotype?

More than anything, watching "My America" made me itch to take a huge road trip across the U.S. The title's spot-on; this is my America as much as it is anyone else's. And, as limited exposure as Asian have gotten in mass media, there *is* a definite Asian-American presence in this country (how awesome is Yuri Kochiyami??). Reminds me of something an Asian spoken word poet (was it Beau Sia?) said once: "This, too, is what American English sounds like."

Watching the film made me realize how narrow my definition of Asian-American is (second-generation, middle class, East Asian). I hope this class will help me broaden that perspective.


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