It doesn’t matter how many pieces make up my whole; rather, it’s my relationship with those pieces that matters — and that I must maintain. Simply saying “I am this” isn’t enough. To truly honor my heritage, I found I must understand and participate in it.
– Kayla DeVault, “Native and European — How Do I Honor All the Pieces of Myself?” Yes Magazine, no. 85 (Spring 2018): accessed March 16th, 2018, http://issues.yesmagazine.org/issue/decolonize/theme.html#13thArticle.
I say I am Chinese-American, but I don’t even know what American means… except perhaps less Chinese. And less Chinese I certainly feel – illiterate and detached from my heritage.
There are everyday practices, small, aesthetic remarks, which are just poignant enough to stick in my brain. Using chopsticks, making dumplings, reusing plastic wrap, receiving red bags, and never leaving any food to waste lest the heavens strike me down. But having grown up in an urban center, drastically detached from the earth, I have not greeted nor tended the land – a land which I feel I have no right to be on.
While most of my elder relatives on my mother’s side reside in the northeastern parts of China, Héběi and Hénán, I recently found out that many of my ancestors were merchants of some kind from as far as what was Persia to the Uygur lands of the Xīn Jiāng province in northwest China. I hope one day I can travel back to revive parts of my heritage that may have been lost as my ancestors found their ways to city centers, and then, to the United States.
It is my duty to delve deep, into my roots, to “understand and participate,” as Kayla DeVault aptly noted, in the traditions and relationships which have sustained my growth and germination. I must be critical and radical in my work to learn to give back and respect the earth.