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The Indian Woman

By: Sindura Vuppu

My mother was one of the first women in her conservative circle to defy gender norms and become financially independent. She wanted to be someone whose identity did not depend on anyone but herself. She became the first female engineer in her circle and had endless career opportunities at hand. She had it all. Until she got married.

As a woman from a conservative family who also married into another, her identity was tightly attached to her husband’s family. There are three roles assigned to a married woman in the patriarchal environment which she grew up in: a daughter-in-law, a wife, and a mother. For several years, her in-laws expected her to quit her job and dedicate her life to household chores and “womanly duties.” She fought for her career and continued doing what she was passionate about. But on the other hand, societal pressure to become a mother had started to fall upon her. First a wife, then a mother. The appreciation she deserved for building a career that seemed impossible to achieve at the time was never given to her. Her financial independence and individual identity were ignored since most people adapted to the belief that a career woman cannot be a good wife and a mother. 

As her career took off, she was offered a job in the US. She was the first woman in her circle to fly to the US on an employment-based visa. Once again, none of that mattered. According to the people around her, her familial duties were more important. Her husband had a job back in India and her stay in the US was temporary. Although her career and life in the US were going smoothly, his situation forced her to quit her job and return to India. Patriarchy expects the wife to compromise and make sure her husband is the priority, even if it is at the cost of her own happiness. To this day, she recalls the sacrifice that she’d made because of the countless expectations that society and her own family had placed on her. She was forced to choose between the career she had worked hard for and the unending familial responsibilities that were imposed upon her. She abandoned everything that she had established for herself in the US and went back home. 

She continued to work in India and never gave up on her career despite all the criticism. Having two daughters was considered difficult and sometimes even unfortunate. They believed that a working woman would not be able to “watch” her daughters or pay attention to their education and well-being because she would not have any time for them. Having a son, on the other hand, was not a problem at all because he “didn’t need protection.” The criticism and lack of acknowledgement of a woman’s professional life was and is still common in most conservative Indian families. 

As always, she proved them wrong. My mother has worked hard to make sure I study well and develop a strong sense of self. Her career was never a problem to our relationship. In fact, it inspired me to work hard for what I am passionate about and prioritize my desires. She instilled in me the confidence to be what I want to be and never let anything or anyone bring me down. She has always believed that women need to develop an unbreakable spirit and a strong sense of self, especially in a society that is constantly trying to limit, restrict, and belittle them. I was never restricted, unappreciated or blamed. She let me explore, make mistakes, and learn from them. 

Three years ago, she flew back to the US. This time it was less for herself and more for her daughters. Once again, she abandoned everything that she has worked so hard to establish back in India just so we could get a better education and a better life free of the societal pressures that have affected her. Even after all these years, she is judged based on her non-professional “responsibilities”: how well she is taking care of her husband and daughters. But this time, I make sure to tell her that she is an inspiration to many young girls like me and that she is appreciated for making the choices that she has made in her life. 

Although Indian society has seen much progress since my mother’s time, it is still not enough. Women are now encouraged to have financial independence and live for themselves, but many conservative families still view a married woman as the mere extension of her husband and his family. Any slight deviation from the societal norm results in criticism and degradation of her choice. The wrong notion that a career woman cannot live up to her familial responsibilities has to be questioned. In fact, splitting women’s role as either a “family woman” or a “career woman” is misogynistic and unnecessary. They can be both or none at all, and that has to be their choice. Only then can a woman live her life on her own terms and be free of society’s judgement.

My mother once told me something that I believe will always stay with me: “They judge a woman who chooses to prioritize herself because her worth is somehow measured by how much she sacrifices for others. They think of her as intimidating and scary because she is “too strong” or “too rebellious”. In reality, she just wants to live for herself and not give in to unreasonable judgement. So if someone says you’re intimidating even though you’re just being yourself, it means you’re doing it right”.

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Setting the Record Straight: Cultural Appropriation

By: Christina Lee

The next time I sit down on a chair, I should think about “cultural appropriation.”

That’s the message writer Bari Weiss relays in her 2017 op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation.”

Weiss misses the point in some spots, failing to examine the impact of colonialism, i.e. the inherent power play that does exist within the broad concept of “cultural appropriation,” and claiming that cultural appropriation is what “makes America great” in an eerie echo of hackneyed Trump-isms. Nonetheless, the takeaway that “cultural appropriation” is everywhere, even in the chair I’m sitting on, may seem far-fetched, but it’s essentially an idea that has shaken my worldview ever since, making myself doubt my own stance toward this hot, new term “cultural appropriation” and what it really means for someone bicultural like me to grapple with the ways people are abusing this new phrase.

In her article, Weiss writes that cultural appropriation “is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism—the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones”. To discuss the term as it’s commonly abused especially by young, outspoken social media users today, I would have to say that Weiss has a point: American singer Jessye Norman specializes in the Italian opera and performs pieces written by German composer Richard Wagner; one of the most popular Greek yogurt companies is run by a Kurd born in Turkey who now lives in America; and as for me, Koreans rarely used chairs until they were most likely introduced to them via foreign nomadic tribes who had already made use of stools. This exchange and adoption of various cultures into our own lives is inevitable.

With the prevalence of social media and online communication today, we’ve created an environment in which we learn to empathize with, gain awareness of, and implement new ideas faster than ever, and it’s only appropriate that we have learned to do so considering the abundance of resources at our disposal. However, the consequence emerges where these “advocates” begin to misuse their newfound power, wielding their social media accounts as a weapon to present their indignantly self-righteous cries for restoring justice in niche spaces, only to validate their self-created sense of virtue.

These are the people who blur the lines between assimilation, cross-cultural exchange, Weiss’s so-called “syncretism,” and true cultural appropriation that suggests actually harmful notions of racism, colonialism, and discrimination in the given context (e.g. naming an American sports team “Redskins,” a white individual donning Afrocentric hairstyles without facing the same consequences in the workplace). In that same sense, before examining the dangers of misusing the term “cultural appropriation,” it’s crucial to establish that nuances to this discussion indeed exist. Specifically, this issue extends to the implications of white privilege and the hypocrisy of a dominant culture misrepresenting and exploiting the cultures of ethnic groups that have been systematically discriminated against throughout history. Essentially, context matters. In the United States, where issues surrounding race have continuously marred the country, it’s important to note that “cultural appropriation” can quickly escalate into a denial of an entire ethnic group’s past struggles, the establishment of imperialist sentiments, and blatant racism.

But in examining the pros and cons of being aware of “cultural appropriation” as it’s thrown around these days, it seems that the negatives outweigh the positives.

Following the “logic” of some of these advocates of cultural appropriation’s dangers, I should have been considered guilty of appropriating culture—I’ve been copying and using the cultural items valuable to these nomadic tribes without knowing about their origins because I literally Googled the history of a chair just to write this article.

In this same manner,  the commonly misunderstood version of cultural appropriation results in a slippery-slope argument that could leave me posing endless examples: white people shouldn’t listen to R&B, jazz, or even rock music—if they don’t know the comprehensive history behind these music genres, starting from where and when they originated, their characteristics, and key figures, they should probably just stick to Bach or Mozart.

I exaggerate, but that’s essentially the dangerously flawed message that these advocates portray. These same advocates choose not to speak out so vocally about the exploitation of slaves who worked in unimaginable conditions in salt ponds during the 1800s whenever they pick up a container of salt to season their food, and these same people indulge in music genres that, surprise, have been appropriating the sounds that originates within cultures of people of color.

Perhaps we’re just picking and choosing our own battles for our own convenience and self-conceited sense of righteousness and entitlement without acknowledging the hypocrisy of our flawed logic.

A lurking sense of discomfort emerges whenever someone points out an instance of “cultural appropriation” and calls for the restoration of that particular cultural practice or item to its original place in a context that doesn’t hint at racist and imperialist sentiment. Realistically, the idea of “exoticism” and “otherness” is perpetuated instead, where we enforce the concept that whatever seems foreign and unfamiliar should remain foreign and unfamiliar. In adopting this mentality, we stray further from learning about other cultures and growing closer to them in a healthy way that encourages the unification of people rather than division. Let’s be honest: deeming other cultures “exotic” is frankly outdated. But with these mindless performances of gatekeeping, the discouraging sentiment surrounding the integration and possibility of approaching various cultures evokes the imagery of the past, of segregation, of exoticism, and of discrimination.

Would I be offended if I saw any person who wasn’t Korean wearing hanbok? Probably not. But then again, I’m in no position to speak on the behalf of an entire culture and its people when I myself am a combination of countless cultures integrating and influencing one another.

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The “Dynamite” Experiment: A Music Industry Case Study

By: Atmanah Parab

I would not be exaggerating if I said that music is the first and greatest love of my life, from looping  “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran on my mom’s iPhone 3 to illegally downloading thousands of songs off Youtube (middle schooler me’s biggest flex), to learning guitar and joining choir and going to concerts. It is through music, I’ve experienced the purest and most undiluted joys of my life. The latest and greatest chapter of my love for music has been my discovery and subsequent love for the Korean septet BTS. I was introduced to them in my sophomore year of high school by my younger sister, but in typical teenage fashion, I held off truly letting myself fall in deep with their music for months and months. I was in intense denial of the fact that I liked something my younger sister also liked. In the many years since then, I count my decision to truly give BTS a chance as one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Not just on a personal level (believe me, that in itself could be an article as long as a book) but on the level of someone that is obsessed with the movement of culture, the institutions that shape culture, and most of all, music. 

Flash forward about 4 years and the fresh-faced boys I first heard of in 2016 are one of the biggest acts in the world. Now, most of you reading this have probably heard BTS’s smash single “Dynamite” at least once (Samsung Ad anyone?). Bright, catchy, and fun, “Dynamite” is a burst of hope against the dreary background of a global pandemic. This track, as emphasized in interviews with the band, was intended to be a fun single to lighten the moods of listeners across the world. However, somewhat unexpectedly, it ended up becoming the band’s largest global hit yet. Despite this achievement for BTS and music lovers like me everywhere, the success of “Dynamite” shed light on the unsettling and complex relationship between industry awarded measures of success (such as radio hits and awards) and the very real, very pervasive effect of discrimination and tokenization in the industry. 

Radio 

 Radio play is one of the most overlooked modes of othering that exist in the music industry. It sidelines artists who are not as “easily marketable” to the American population at large, that is to say: rich, white, and English-speaking. “Dynamite” blew expectations out of the water in terms of reception by the industry when it was quickly accepted into radio rotation. Fans noted that this attention from radio stations was likely the result of heavier involvement in promotion from BTS’ American record label, Columbia. Before the release of the song, a promotional truck was driven around Los Angeles where multiple radio DJs hinted at being allowed an advance listen to the single. In addition to this, a detailed schedule was released on their official media pages for fans and the industry alike to keep track of all the new content that would be released to promote and accompany the single. In the past, fans had to beg radio stations to play BTS’ music and send in flowers and cupcakes (despite BTS having the numbers proving their popularity), so this new acceptance felt extremely fragile. The issue here is ultimately, radio isn’t about music; it’s a sonic billboard. The goal for radio stations is always going to be amassing as large an audience as possible, but even by that metric, radio is stubbornly anti-global and incredibly divided by genre. 

“Pay-to-play” radio policies were banned in the mid-70s but this tradition still plays a massive role in which music is promoted to the average American listener at a large scale, Bob Donnelly, a long-term entertainment lawyer, lays it out bluntly in Rolling Stone

“When I first started, it was hookers and blow [to help get songs on the air],” Donnelly says. “Then that disappeared and it became sports tickets, trips, sneakers, and the like. It changed over time so that it became much more sophisticated. At the end of the day, the labels still wanted hit records and the radio stations wanted cash.”

Though the practice of pay-to-play has gone underground and manifested itself through far subtler interactions between promoters and radio stations, the music industry’s old habits die hard: two of the most important things to get a song on the radio are still money and marketability. 

Even now in a post-“Dynamite” world, fans once again find that BTS is being given the cold shoulder by radio when their newest, more introspective, title track “Life Goes On” received next to no radio spins. Though “Life Goes On” is produced in-house, sung primarily in Korean, and thus feels more authentic to BTS, labels, and radios refuse to promote diversity in music because of the song’s language inaccessibility and the band’s race and nationality. 

The Grammys

 I have a love-hate relationship with institutions like the Grammys and the power they hold in bestowing “true recognition” upon an artist. Often, award shows serve to uphold barriers for musicians of color by those with the ability to shoulder the cost of hefty PR packages. All this despite reiterated platitudes on “valuing diversity” in art!

The recent Grammy nomination for “Dynamite” exemplifies this love-hate feeling. To see BTS, a group that has broken records, sold-out stadiums, and changed millions of lives, receiving acknowledgment from an industry institution is something worth celebrating in the sense that deserving artists are being rewarded for their efforts. For any music fan, a Grammys feels like a stamp of approval, a concrete recognition of something novel and amazing, especially for artists that break the norm. However, underlying the joy from these wins there is still frustration. 

“Dynamite” earned a well-deserved music-based nomination (BTS had been nominated before for album design), considering its commercial success. However, by the band’s own admission, “Dynamite” has a simpler message (relative to their other work) and was born out of the desire to bring cheer and hope to their fans worldwide. BTS are known for their hands-on approach to music; the members hold many production and writing credits throughout their discography but they did not write “Dynamite”. The song was selected from a lineup written by Western producers David Stewart and Jessica Agombar before being sent to the label, where both the label managers and BTS decided that they would produce “Dynamite” as is, with its original English lyrics. Though working with Western producers is a familiar process in the making of K-pop, when BTS were nominated by the Recording Academy, this felt revealing of the fact that the Academy only recognizes pieces that are “westernized,” at least at face value. Take, for instance, BTS’ album released earlier in 2020, Map of the Soul 7 (MOTS7).  MOTS7 had the highest global sales for any album this year and hit #1 in all global music markets — something not achieved by any other mainstream artist at the moment — and was highly rated by critics and listeners alike. Despite this, the album did not receive a single nomination, which projects a clear message from the industry about the types of artistic endeavors from “outsiders” (to the American music industry) that are rewarded. Compare BTS’ massive success to Justin Bieber and his multiple nominations for his single “Yummy” and his album Changes, for instance. Bieber’s album sold far less than the MOTS7 a, and was given lukewarm ratings from critics compared to MOTS7. 

BTS are not the only artists deprived of recognition for their outstanding success; other notable snubs from this year include The Weeknd’s album After Hours and wildly popular single “Blinding Lights” and Rina Sawayama’s exceptional debut album SAWAYAMA that made many critics’ top albums of 2020 lists. While many artists of color and global artists are recognized by music fans, there is still a long way to go towards institutionally recognizing them in the incredibly diverse world of modern music.

As a 13-year-old, I was convinced that by the sheer power of will, I too could join a band. I imagined myself as a member of a band like Paramore. I could scrap together an album in a garage somewhere, send it to a label, and watch the music-making magic happen. I used to see the music industry in a romantic light, but over time I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that music and the entertainment industry are not immune to the effects of the complicated intersections between culture, ownership, discrimination, and oppression. One of the biggest reasons I’ve come to root for BTS so hard is because I see myself in them. I see my friends who love to dance, my dad who loves to sing, my friends who walk the line between Americanization and cultural tradition. In BTS, I see artists who have succeeded despite an industry that’s been designed to be unwelcoming toward them. 

The galvanizing force of the internet and the backing of passionate fans allow for generation-defining acts like BTS to be forces of change. At the time this article was written, BTS’ most recent single Life Goes On stood as the Number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (despite near-zero radio play). If a global artist and their fanbase can redefine what it means to be a globally popular modern artist, one has to wonder when, or even if, radio and award shows will rise to meet them.

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Let There Be Light: Diwali amid COVID-19

By: Sai Siddhaye

With almost 70 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the festive cheer that autumn usually brings has been thoroughly extinguished. Though quarantine is a necessary measure, it has caused significant turmoil as families are unable to reunite for the holidays. For children of immigrants, it is already difficult to juggle the two sides of a split cultural upbringing when apart from family; the inability to celebrate cultural holidays means an even greater separation. This year, Diwali landed in mid-November, preventing the Indian festival from being enjoyed to its fullest extent. The increasingly strict shelter-in-place orders meant that millions of people were separated from traditional Diwali festivities this year.

“It just doesn’t feel the same this year,” admits Rohan, a graduate student at UCSB. “I usually look forward to seeing my friends and family during Diwali, not to mention the amazing food. It just feels like a time where I can really come back to my roots. This year, Diwali just felt a little flat; I didn’t see any point in celebrating on my own, so I just felt a little sad and lonely the whole time. Even without all the decorations and the dressing up, the thing I miss the most is being with my family.” 

Diwali, known in English as the festival of lights, is a Hindu holiday that commemorates  the victory of good over evil. Its theological origins stem from The Ramayana’s tale of the return of King Rama to Ayodhya after his defeat of the demon Ravana. To embody the symbolic triumph of light over dark, the festivities revolve around lights of all kinds. Diwali is extravagantly celebrated; it is the Christmas of Hinduism, if you will. Though this festival is primarily observed by Hindus, many Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist communities in India also recognize the holiday. This year, it took place from November 12-16, smack dab in the middle of a surge of COVID-19 cases in both India and America. 

In India, Diwali is integral to morale, spirituality, and economy. It is celebrated by nationwide parades, religious ceremonies, and large family gatherings. Fireworks can be seen lighting up the sky for days, and puja, or prayers, take place in many homes and temples. To honor the importance of light overcoming darkness, most people decorate their homes with diyas (clay lamps), paper lanterns, string lights, candles, and  rangolis. These decorations, aside from bringing a positive spiritual atmosphere to homes, also account for a sizable portion of India’s business. In fact, spirituality and economy during Diwali to the point that “stock exchanges remain open during non-market hours for a special trading session called Muhurat, scheduled at an astrologically significant time on the evening of Diwali”¹. People are more likely to buy new clothes, jewelry, electronics, and even cars during this time. Just like Christmas in America, sales skyrocket during Diwali. 

This year, however, India’s economy is locked in a fierce battle with COVID-19. Many large markets, anticipating vast crowds, have closed, but India’s economy relies on the sales made during Diwali, so the majority of stores and markets remain open. India was second only to the U.S. in its number of coronavirus cases before Diwali, at 8.5 million cases ¹. With currently over nine million coronavirus cases and 138,000 deaths ², Diwali’s festive frenzy seems to have taken its toll on the overall health of the country. 

Diwali among the diaspora, on the other hand, is quite different. The melting pot of America contains a steadily growing Indian-American population of approximately four million³. Therefore, Diwali is still a widely recognized holiday, but is generally limited to religious centers and household parties rather than nationwide events. However, many people still use their elaborate decorations to show their cultural pride. Diyas, paper lanterns, rangolis, and string lights–some homemade, some store bought–still adorn many homes during this time. Indeed, an easy way to spot an Indian home is if their Christmas lights come up a few months early. Many families hold large group gatherings to celebrate amongst their communities, bedecked in traditional Indian clothing and jewelry. Firecrackers are common at such parties as well, although they are much smaller than the ones seen in India. Amid the children waving sparklers and the wide arrays of Indian food, it is easier to feel connected to Indian culture despite the physical distance. 

Predictably, the pandemic has brought massive changes to the way Diwali is observed in America as well. Most religious and community centers did not hold public celebrations due to health and safety concerns, and many people are deciding against extravagant parties. Though this might make it easier to mitigate the damage of COVID-19, the festivity and togetherness of Diwali have been effectively squashed. Nobody has felt this isolation more, perhaps, than the children of Indian immigrants who no longer live with their families. Those who are not able to travel home for Diwali are separated both physically and emotionally from the traditions they likely grew up with, which can have harmful effects on their connection to their cultures. Just as people often lose fluency in their mother tongues after leaving home, cultural practices must be repeated to be maintained. 

Shreya, a student at ASU, says she felt the separation from her family. “ I Facetimed my parents while they were doing the puja and everything, even though they didn’t have any parties. Celebrating Diwali through a screen really doesn’t feel like Diwali at all.” When asked whether the physical distance from her family affected her closeness with Indian culture, Shreya said “Absolutely. Diwali is usually one of the only times during the year that I can be fully proud of my identity and not worry about what white people think of me. It’s so validating to be around a bunch of other Indian people who I love and don’t have to whitewash myself around. Not having that this year definitely felt like a blow. I hope next year will be normal, but if it isn’t, I want to have my own celebration just to have that feeling again.”

Others have a more positive outlook on Diwali during COVID-19. Amita, who moved to California from India in 1997, says “I celebrated Diwali with my husband, daughter, and father-in-law. It was small, but it still had that core feeling of togetherness. We made an akash kandeel, a paper lantern, and put diyas around the house. Even though we didn’t want to risk breaking our quarantine to have a party, it was still lovely to be able to wish everyone through group Zoom calls. Technology really has made the distance between our friends and extended family more bearable.” 

Just as Diwali celebrates finding light among darkness, perhaps the way to survive this uncertain time is to find a spark of hope and optimism in the bleak isolation.

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To a Mom

By: Christina Lee

To a mom who never caught the flu in the winter, who never forgot the names of her daughters’ childhood stuffed animals, who never complained about the distance between “home” and the home she has grown to know.

You held one baby in the crook of your left arm while gripping a toddler’s hand in your right hand and led two others trailing behind you. You are the same mom who smiles in the photograph taken the day of your college graduation. It was raining that afternoon, and the crowd of parents behind you, dressed in gray suits and long skirts, hold umbrellas above their heads like a nylon backdrop for your own personal photo shoot. On your face is the biggest smile I’ve seen, your eyes almost completely closed. A modest bouquet of congratulatory flowers rests with dignity in your hands, and to your right is your mom, a portly woman from whom you got your smiling eyes. Your dad on the left looks stoic. This was the same man who told you to put down the heaps of laundry and read another chapter from your textbook instead, who told you to stay out of the kitchen and go to college because you would be spending enough time in there once you were married. He was right.

In that photograph, you didn’t know that you wouldn’t be returning to your home country until 15 years later, arms full of toddlers and hair shorter than ever, no longer permed because quite frankly you didn’t have the time for that. At some point, you went back to the country from where you first earned your bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from one of the top universities in South Korea, and when I asked you about that bright-looking twentysomething in the photograph, you answered, “That was me at my graduation. I left for the United States not too long after that.” That’s when I knew something was not lining up.

One night, I sit at the foot of your bed while you are relaxing under the covers. I ask you, “Did you ever want to work?” You answer, “Of course I did.” So I respond, “Did you ever have a job?” You say that you had a desk job for a short while after graduation. Although I didn’t at the time, I now believe this to be a lie. The timeline of your rushed youth did not allow for such a thing. Now I wonder how it would feel to be you, the freedom of youth cut short by naivety that quickly led to marriage, immigration, and four kids. You, who have never worked a day in your life, then ask your daughters to please go to college and find a job because you know what it’s like to be a slave to domesticity.

It’s strange that “America” in Korean literally means “beautiful country.” I tell you this, and you respond with the story of South Koreans living in a pre-industrial world who dreamed of a better life in the West where everyone could supposedly find gold on the streets. You unwittingly held onto a version of this dream yourself, thinking that you would put your degree to use and become a working woman. Instead, you never became a naturalized citizen and never got that dream job.

I ask you why you never became a U.S. citizen. “I wouldn’t mind going back home sometime,” you say, vaguely. Within that statement lingers regret, longing, and conviction that the United States isn’t truly your home. It hurts me to understand that.

It hurts me to think that perhaps the only reason you stay here in the so-called beautiful country is because of the family you created, your loyalty to your husband, who is more American than you will ever be. You look at your eldest daughter and wish that she would not get married, and you begin panicking when she tells you that she’s moved in with her boyfriend. “They probably just live in the same apartment complex,” you say, completely in denial. Your mind wanders for the rest of the day.

Finally, you let her bring him home for the holidays but only once you know that she’s been promoted at her job at a large IT consulting company. You’re pleasantly surprised when you learn that she’s finally paid off her student loans and that her boyfriend has been working a steady job as an accountant. On your eldest daughter’s 24th birthday, I can see your relief, knowing that she is the same age as you when you had your first child but only has a job instead.

Once again, you panic when your daughter brings up marriage. “It would be easier for him to work if he finally gets his citizenship,” she says, explaining her South Korean-born boyfriend’s trouble with his work visa. Something about the suggestion haunts you. You furrow your brow and stay silent, as if you are traumatized again and again by the demands of marriage. You think marriage means finality, devotion, years and years of routine. You think about what you lost on your way to America. What is gone. What you can never get back.

“You just have to learn to live with him,” you say half-jokingly about your husband while he’s away at work. We are discussing his impatient personality and strange habits in one of our “self-improvement” talks about what it means to be a “good person” or how to turn out “better” than the previous generation. By “previous generation,” you mean yourself and your husband, and you wish that your children will not experience the behavioral side effects of enduring immigration, language barriers, and racism. It’s 3 p.m. No one is taking any of this seriously. You know that when your husband comes home in the evening that you will ask about his day, feel like the family is whole again, and spend the rest of the night happily catching up on missed conversations. Although you might never use the word “love” to describe your feelings toward him—because how cringeworthy and emotionally vulnerable is that?—you still know that this man is still the reason you remain in America and live each day with a sense of stability, safety, and security. You look at your four children, all born on American soil, and wonder if they resemble you or him more.

To a mom who hates watching American TV that pokes fun at Asian stereotypes because your immigration, your accent, your struggles, your lost dreams are not a couple lines on a script for the masses to laugh at. To a mom who hates watching these shows because oftentimes the representations are somewhat true. To a mom who always told her daughters to “brag” more, in a rough translation of a rather more humble piece of advice that means: “Be more confident.” To a mom who lives vicariously through her three daughters. To a mom who says, “Don’t ask me weird things” when I ask about your childhood, your college days, your dreams growing up, as if opening up about your true desires is “weird,” too indulgent, unnecessary.

What did you lose on the plane ride here? Were these things lost or sacrificed? I know you ask yourself this everyday without deciding on an answer because you watch your daughters grow up and become all the things you couldn’t be, feeling concern, pride, regret, and joy—all at once.