In addition to the stories portrayed in the film, some brave contributors have shared their own tales about love, family, shame, pain, and faith.

The reason? To let you know that you're not alone.

If you'd like to contribute your story too, click on CONTACT at the bottom of this page.


The first communications regarding my father’s diagnosis came as a series of texts and missed calls delivered in staccato notes between my younger sister and me. Now, over a month later, the rhythm of shared information hasn’t changed much. Even stories about the mundane, arguably banal, flow of my parent’s everyday life seems to have been choked at the source. As I result, there are giant gaps in the narrative that we have tried to construct.

A recent email from my sister was succinct; satisfyingly full of facts regarding treatments, but devoid of insight regarding the emotional state of my parents. My sister seems uncharacteristically distracted and, dare I say it, disinterested.

I am a fickle and lazy correspondent, but I require no more than the few stripped down, telegraphed phrases gathered from 30-second telephone calls from my mom and the handful of four word sentences from my dad to know that they are not handling the emotional turbulence well. I can decode that my father has over-reacted and his usual mode of coping will alienate his physicians and make my mom’s life hell. I also know, that my father deals with his stress by becoming overbearing and I also know, without being told, that my mother finds this situation unbearable, but lacks insight or the skill to manage my father’s intractable nature. 

The physical cancer can be treated in a rational, logical way, but the manner in which my parents are handling the stress will kill them. I resist the impulse to mediate partly because I feel unequal to the task and nonplussed by their inability to sort this out after 43 years of marriage.



I heard on a radio show that there’s this strange phenomenon some people experience when they fly in a plane. They get extremely emotional and even the most stoic travelers struggle to hold back tears when they watch cheesy in-flight movies – even commercials about overwrought expats who’ve lost their credit card send these people over the emotional edge.

I can relate to that.

Whenever I leave my parents’ house after a weekend visit, something overcomes me. I can’t ignore the crushing guilt and anxiety I feel. I can barely get to the freeway onramp without crying just a little. The thought behind this, the one that hits me the second I pull out of the driveway is: I could have been better.

I could have stayed longer and kept their company for a few more hours. I could have sat in the family room and watched TV with them instead of hiding in my room. I could have gone out to dinner with them instead of succumbing to my discomfort and taking off as quickly as possible. I could have resisted the urge to talk back to my dad for a relatively innocuous comment he made. I could have said “thank you” for washing my car – something he does every time I visit without fail. I could have told my mom how beautiful I think she is – something she probably stopped hearing decades ago. I could have let down my many, many walls of defense and had an actual conversation. I could have been nice. 

Here are the things I wish I could say to them: Thank you. For everything. Thanks for making the crazy journey to come to this country so their kids – who weren’t even born yet – could have the best opportunities in life. Thank you for teaching us to be hardworking, intelligent, confident, and funny people. Thank you for finally letting me decide my own future, as much as they wish that I’d chosen a different path. Most of all, I wish I could say “I love you” because maybe that would cover everything. And this is what keeps me up at night: That I can’t say these things. That my parents might leave this earth never hearing the gratitude that should be sung from the mountains into eternity. That there could exist a world without them.

Eventually I fall asleep. Flights land, cars pull up to homes-away-from-home, and life goes on. Tears dry and I breathe.



Boys. Boyfriends. Husbands. Marriage.

When it comes to my family, romantic relationships don’t exist.

It’s not like my sisters and I have never had boyfriends. We’ve each had our share of relationships—serious or and not so serious—but we just don’t talk about them with our parents. Sure, they come over for the holidays, they try very hard to impress our father, they even stay the night. We just don’t call them what they are. If anything, they’re referred to as “friends.”

Unlike some parents who pester their children to get married and have children, my parents never addressed this topic—ever. When I was younger, I fantasized about what names I’d give my children—you know, like any middle school-aged kid does. One day, while driving in the car with my mother and father, I casually mentioned that I’d love to name my daughter Everett, so her nickname would be Eve (stupid, I know). Instead of playing along, my father immediately spat out “Why are you thinking about this? Why aren’t you thinking about your career?” I was 12.

I learned very quickly that idle thoughts about future families or relationships were not welcome. Career was king.

What makes me most sad about this is that my parents are a wealth of information about everything. They don’t hesitate to give advice (or, until recently, demands) about my choices when it comes to my education, my job, my housing situation, what bank I should patron, what foods I should or shouldn’t eat, if my hair looks too messy to leave the house. A lot of times, I’m annoyed that they give me unsolicited advice, but at the end of the day, I trust their words over anyone else’s.

But when it comes to relationships, they’re silent. Instead, I get all of my relationship advice from TV and movies, which I’ve found paint extremely unrealistic pictures of relationships and expectations, and friends who, let’s face it, are trying to figure it out for themselves.

I know that no matter how much advice you get from your parents about relationships, heartache is inevitable. And I have suffered my share. I’ve learned things the hard way and put myself back together with the help of friends. I might have become better for it.

But still there’s this huge blind spot. I wish I could hear what they have to say.



I felt ugly. For as long as I could remember that’s how I felt. I didn’t know where the thought originated. It wasn’t as if someone ever said to my face, it was just a fact that I came to accept, that I would recite to myself in the mirror. I made a subconscious decision that if I couldn’t be beautiful like the friends I had grown up with, I would at least be the best I could at what I knew came naturally for me—school.

My freshman year of college was the first time I actually came to confront these feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. For the first time, I was surrounded by oceans of people smarter than me. All the studying in the world seemed to account for nothing. I had nothing to turn to define me or make me feel better about myself. I realized the stark reality that I my intellect could not assuage my lack of self-worth and low self esteem. I realized the futility of seeking my worth in what other people thought of me, the accolades, the As, etc. I realized for the first time I was working for others affections, working for them to notice me, and everything that I had built myself up as actually meant absolutely nothing. It was here that I had to confront the painful truth that academic accomplishment had only shielded me for a time.

Freshman year of college I verbalized for the first time in my life, the lie that I had lived under for as long as I could remember—the lie that I was ugly. And when I finally uttered those words to another human being, I actually felt its power begin to break over my life. It was as if I was blind to it this whole time, and when I finally was able to name it, and recognize it as a lie, that I began to get free from it. I began to cry when I said it, and simultaneously I realized that I had not cried for over a decade. Somewhere down the line I had stopped feeling because I was taught that my emotions didn’t mean anything.

That same year I had two repressed memories come back to me. The first was recalling that I had been molested by my older half-brother when I was 9 years old. And the second was of my mother would put me in front of a mirror whenever I cried as a child, and telling me I was ugly. It was painfully difficult to reckon with these truths and spent much of undergrad seeking out counseling and healing from these deep wounds. I mention these incidents because my path to realizing my own beauty, worth, and self confidence came only as a result of working through these painful things. For once I knew the obstacle of loving myself was rooted to specific times in my past where I felt particularly unloved and unlovely. I found freedom in knowing that my feelings of ugliness and paralysis came from somewhere, from incidents in my past that had allowed insidious lies to creep in.

I began to see my family in a different light. I saw how my mother’s way of getting me to stop crying was inextricably linked to the ways she had trained herself to cope with her husband’s infidelity. I saw how my brother’s sexual perversion stemmed from his own lack of receiving love from our father, and the ways that we were all intertwined in cycles of sexual perversion so pervasive in Filipino families.

Almost a decade later, I know that I am free because I have fought to break the silence over these hidden things that were never (and still not) ok to mention to my family. I have found that I am not alone in my pain or in my experiences and have garnered hope through those who have dealt with similar issues. I was able to overcome because I had friends come alongside and help me process my emotions. It meant the world to have the support of women who had struggled with similar issues. They taught me to live victoriously instead of wallow as a victim in self-pity. I found solace and hope in knowing that I was not alone and I learned the power and importance of speaking out about what was considered shameful. I know that I am free because the conscious decision I make to choose the truth that I was created beautiful inside and out, especially on days when I don’t particularly feel it.

Over the years I have had the honor of helping many women who are struggling with eating disorders, the same issues of loving themselves, and feelings of insecurity about their bodies. Many times women have confided in me about their experiences of sexual abuse and are surprised to find that they are not alone, that someone actually understands how they feel and has learned to contend for truth over the lies. I know that I have freedom from these lies so I can help set others free. When I speak about my experience, I know it begins to break the silence for those who have been unable to speak about their experiences.



Growing up, all of my friends were Asian, and we often shared about and made fun of all the Asian stereotypes that we found in our families. While this was all done in jest, it somehow also helped me to normalize the ways that my family differed from the American society at large. That is, it served the purpose of consoling me as I watched American sitcoms about families and dynamics that were in no way like my own and saw American families in public that were in no way similar to my family. Not only did I not look like them, but we most certainly did not act like them. My family and I didn’t and don’t say “I love you.” We didn’t and don’t hug each other. We didn’t and certainly don’t talk or express our feelings, not in private and definitely not in public.

I remember vividly the year my brother moved away to college. We never talked about it as a family or expressed openly how much we would miss him at home. The morning before he moved into his dorm, we went out to eat as usual as a family. In the middle of that meal, I started crying, my tears dripping into the bowl of warm noodles in front of me. Even in the midst of that anguish, I just remember my family kept eating their noodles and never asked why I was crying, even though we all knew why. It left me feeling awkward and out of place, like an implicit message that I should not have been crying and that it was somehow not normal. In this context, having friends who grew up in the same upbringing as me but who also understood the drastic differences between our culture and American culture helped me make sense of the world I lived in.

Nonetheless, as the years have passed, it continues to be a struggle to balance this gap between the two worlds. I find that as I get older and engage in more reflecting of my life I am also constantly trying to mediate between these two worlds, trying to make sense of who I am and how I should be. It has also left me with this innate awkwardness whenever I do want to talk about my feelings that makes it hard for me to open up to others and express myself.

Ironically, I work in a field where day in and day out I am helping people process their most vulnerable feelings and offering them my utmost empathy. Yet, I struggle to do this in my own personal life. While this struggle to balance between the two worlds continues to be a hard one that I don’t think will ever get fully resolved, I do find comfort in taking pride in all the other assets and positive traits that characterize my culture and my family – the collectivistic mentality, the unflinching support my family members have for one another despite our silence about it, and the strong values that my family has instilled in me. 

While I would have liked for my family to be more embracing of open expression growing up and currently, I also understand that no families are perfect, and this is just the way my family is. It is also something I cannot change in my family, but it is something I can change in myself. This is something I have to constantly remind myself so that I can work hard to change it and stop the cycle of restricting and constraining.



As a teen, I had quite a lot of walls up – especially around my family. It was difficult to show my true emotions – especially when it came to sadness. Figuring out the reasons behind one’s actions isn’t all that easy, but now that I’m 25, I’ve had quite some time to reflect on my teenage years. 

It all began when I was 11, when my 18-year-old cousin, Harry, touched me in ways that should have landed him in jail. It was summer break, and my mom had flown my sister, brother, and I to Seattle to visit her side of the family. I had yet to begin sixth grade, but I lost my childhood innocence that summer. It never occurred to me to tell my mom what was happening right under her nose. I think I was too shocked by it all to say anything.

Some time when I had turned 12, I managed to tell my older sister about my sleaze bag of a cousin, and one year after that, she convinced me to tell my mom. I may not be able to conjure up vivid details of my cousin (probably due to some self-protective, post-trauma assistance thing going on in my head), but I will always remember my mom’s initial reaction.

“How could you have let that happen,” she asked. “How many times have I told you to not let guys get close to you?”

She then uttered the words that would distance me from my dad indefinitely.

“We can never tell your dad,” she said. “He would get so angry at me if he ever found out what my nephew did.”

From that point on, my walls (and trust issues) shot up, and I told myself to never turn to my mom for support again. I grew distant from my parents and haven’t been able to communicate with them freely ever since. It took me a long time to realize that what my cousin did was not my fault – despite my mom’s implication that I had “let it happen.”

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to forgive my mom for the shame she instilled in me because of her words that day. Although I am no longer ashamed of the incident, it still baffles me that she didn’t march over to my dad, tell him exactly what kind of douche bag of a cousin we were dealing with, and then pick up the phone to call my cousin and say, “You’re going down for what you did to my daughter.”

Unfortunately, that may be an American family’s reaction, but a Chinese family’s? Forget about it. We keep things behind closed doors and swept under the rug. Her unwillingness to speak out not only protected my cousin from answering to the law, but also severed all genuine ties of communication between her, my dad, and me. We’ve never really addressed this incident again – and I don’t think we ever will.



Korea, Career, Korea

There was a brief time in high school where I would wake up early every Saturday morning and go to soccer practice, which is odd since I never had more than a casual interest in the sport. This practice wasn't part of an organized league, it would be a group of mostly older guys from a few different Korean churches in the area. In fact, there was only one guy at these practices that was my age, Walter. We would carpool to practice together with a couple of the older men.

Walter went to a different church but he seemed to be quite at home in anyone's car. Walter was one of those kids who demanded that he always sit shotgun and he always had to be in charge of what music was playing in the car. He would blast nothing but K-Pop to my chagrin. When he found out I didn't care for it, he decided he would get on my case about how I liked "white music" (perhaps he didn't know I listened to hip hop since he probably didn't know who The Roots were). It apparently became his calling in life to be an ambassador on the behalf of the Korean music industry and that he should educate me on K-Pop on how I could be a better Korean. He definitely looked the part with his bleached (more like orange) hair and über long bangs. This "education" caused a lot of tension between us, since I never agreed to it, and since he was so condescending about it. I never took to his teachings, and since we didn't go to the same school or the same church, I thought that I wouldn't have to deal with him after soccer was over, but that wasn't the case.

Little did I know that Walter and I would end up enrolling at the same college. Even though we went to a really big school, I kept on running into him. I tried to avoid him, but we had friends that lived in the same dorm, so it was unavoidable. He thought we were friends, so while I tried to avoid him, he kept on trying to get through to me. He wasn't the only Korean person on campus trying to show me the error of my ways, so I just started trying to tune any person out who started any introduction to me with "Are you Korean? Do you speak Korean?" While these questions seem innocent enough, they were usually followed by "Are you parents ashamed of you? Why do you hate being Korean?" and hearing those questions definitely got under my skin. My parents weren't ashamed of me, I wasn't ashamed of being Korean, but there was an assumption made that since I didn't grow up speaking Korean, that there was some sort of negative story behind it. I would explain that I grew up in the Midwest with very few Korean kids to talk to in my neighborhood, but my words would just fall on deaf ears.

It seemed like this stuff mattered more with Koreans than other Asian ethnicities (I could be wrong), which frustrated me even more. It would take me a couple of years, but eventually I got over it, and surprisingly, one day, Walter got over it too. After we moved out of the dorms after freshmen year, I didn't see him for a while, and when I did, he was a lot more pleasant to be around. He still had the bleached bangs, but he was no longer getting on my case about my lack of Koreaness. In fact, there was an instance where one of his non-Korean friends asked why there were so many adopted Korean children. Walter gave a predictable answer: "Because Korean babies are the best looking." I gave a more self deprecating and cynical answer: "I guess Koreans don't know how to use birth control." At a younger age, my response would've caused a lot of animosity between us, but Walter actually laughed at my comment. I'm not sure what had happened to make him change his Korean pride way of life, but I'm glad that something did. Maybe he finally became more comfortable in his skin, which allowed him to accept me for who I was, or perhaps he realized that being a Korean pride zealot wasn't fun for him anymore and that he didn't want to make being Korean a career.



I’m sitting under a darkening sky with my dad, on a lawn, as the California Philharmonic plays its way through an evening show under the stars. As the pink of the sun recedes westward, the audience before us — shadowy heads against a magenta-bandshell backdrop — melts into a mass of black.

Ahead of us, Rossini’s music pirouettes in the cool evening air. Behind and around us, crickets. The mind wanders in moments like this. In spite of the orchestra’s aural glow and the sawing of nocturnal insects, or perhaps because of them, the silence of the audience looms large — larger than the performance itself maybe.

It might be perfect. Silence is an art my family owns, an implement sharpened to suit many tasks. On this particular night, it’s comfort, a piece of furniture solid and seldom moved. My dad and I have found a spot in the grass behind the crowd, and have settled down.

My parents are homebodies, and this trip to the Festival on the Green was a bit of a lark. We didn’t have tickets, and my dad was somewhat surprised to find the parking lot to the Arboretum full minutes before the show. (We made it in anyhow.) The event hummed with novelty, and that made this night special. Really, even as we exchanged our sparse small talk — my dad talking, mostly, while I mmm’d — we are probably as close as we’ve ever been. By that I mean we are bound tonight, as we always have been, by a kind of dusty silence.

Silence — you’ll bear with me as my mind wanders from the swell of oboes before us — is a lot like the dark. The dark that envelopes us at this very moment, in fact, in the lush void. Silence and darkness are funny. That axiom of logic, that you can’t prove a negative, is true, isn’t it? It only takes one example to prove that something exists, that it happens, but you could go a hundred years in the absence of something, and never prove that it doesn’t exist.

That’s the darkness. In the dark, in the silence you float. Nothing to hold on to.

When I was 20, an age that was years before I’d ever imagined I’d come out to my parents, my mom and dad made a rare visit to me at college to confront me with a cruel discovery they made while looking through my browser history. They learned that I was gay. I’d known the sad fact then for seven years already — upon my sudden realization at 13 I’d decided in the most flip manner to file the fact away, to be dealt with sometime far away in the future. In that way, my outward silence kept my world kempt. That world, on that day my parents came to visit me, crumbled.

It was a world in which I was the family’s elder son, the straight A student, the standard bearer. Being gay didn’t really bother me — it never ruined anything. But being openly gay did, then.

“You can change,” my mom, getting frantic then, said, trying to reassure herself maybe. “No. I can’t,” I responded through tears.

I went through the next few days at school shell-shocked and ashen, not knowing quite how I was putting one foot in front of the next. It seemed rather remarkable that each day proceeded one into the next, as if the universe wouldn’t maybe swerve to avoid an obstacle, then flip over two or three times before exploding in a fiery ball of melodramatic tragedy.

One day, between classes, my mom called. She told me that we would get through this, that they loved me. I shouldn’t do anything rash, she said subtly. My dad emailed me. I am their son, he wrote, and he understood I kept this a secret for so long for their sakes. So I wouldn’t hurt them. He loved me as always, he concluded. I read his email through tears.

That was eight years ago now, longer ago than the length of time I’d kept secret the fact of my being gay. We don’t really acknowledge it anymore. My parents have met the guys I have dated, but in between those paltry, awkward moments, it seems more like they would prefer not to think of it at all. This has become the new silence, a weird armistice, one that I’ve chosen again not to engage out of sheer convenience.

It’s tempting to think of these silences as a gaping darkness, gnawing cavities within us. I don’t know.

I gaze upward into the purple sky and notice, against it, the black silhouette of an oak tree’s sprawling canopy. Under the sliver of a moon, the ethereal piping of the orchestra into the night sky, this tree — a congested mass of dark leaves and branches— suddenly seems like the most substantial thing there. I imagine it as unthinkably heavy, and notice with some satisfaction its musty smell. This oak tree is, in this light, unseeable, but irrefutably there.

Darkness, I’m thinking now, doesn’t have to be a black hole. It can be an oak tree — strong, if stoic, holding up the night sky. Maybe silence can be the same sometimes.

My reverie ends with the show. In the dark, slowly and carefully, we shuffle toward the parking lot.

“That was really something, wasn’t it?” says my dad.

“Yeah. It was.”



Growing up short sucked. The strange thing is that by all accounts I should not have been short. Unfortunately, logic and reason does not work with the human body. It has a timetable all on its own.

The thing is that my parents were taller than most of their siblings. However, there were countless times that they commented about how surprising it was that I was shorter than my cousins. I don't think that they meant ill in their comments. I am sure that they realized that they could not control my height any more than I could. But the comments, oh the comments! 

I am not a parent so I only have the view of the child in the parent-child relationship. I imagine that it gets very easy to simply default to talking about your kids. Some parents shout their praises and some cannot help but wish that their kids were more. There are those that don't care a bit, and those that care all too much. And amidst all of these extremes are the majority of parents. My parents were supportive of me, encouraging me to try the best that I could in all that I do. They did not hold me to unreasonable standards, and for that I am thankful. But I knew when I, through no fault of my own, disappointed their expectations.

Try as I might, I had difficulty measuring up as I was growing up. In a world where the average male is 6' (I should know since I remember to this day getting this question wrong on an aptitude test in the first grade), I was not keeping pace with my (generally Caucasian) friends as we progressed through our childhood. I was not the shortest, so that was not my identity. (In fact I remember another Chinese kid that we called "Shorty" who had that distinction.) I was not as tall nor was I even as smart as them. While athletic, I was not as athletic as they were. They were funnier, and they were cooler. They did not doubt themselves when they went out for the basketball team because they were in fact as tall, quick, and strong as our peers.

As my friends transitioned between elementary, middle, and high schools they were able to take things in stride. In fact they flourished in these new environments. By all accounts they grew up faster than I did. It took years for me to acknowledge that I was different than them. When I finally did, I was in for some hard times as I had just enough self-awareness to realize that my identity was going nowhere fast. Nights, days, and lonely lunch periods wandering the halls were spent wondering what had happened to my life as I knew it.

While I might have matured later than all of my childhood friends, I eventually got there (as all of the textbooks and encyclopedias reassured me that I would). I grew taller, and I grew up. At one of my physical exams while I was in college I told the nurse (as she was measuring me) that I had always wanted to be 6' tall. She looked at the mark on the measuring stick and said that I was 5'11" and a half. I had a smile on my face as I shook my head to myself. Of course this is how my life would be.

I don't hear comments about my height anymore. While I am glad that I don't, I am more glad that I havegrown into my skin. I have found myself, and I am happy with what I've found.



In my family, silence has been used as a block to the world of emotion. Feelings are unnecessary, even bothersome and messy. So when I had decided a future for myself that went against the wishes of my parents, silence fell heavy on the situation because it fueled a range of emotions. And starting with my older sister, we had given birth to a monstrous elephant in the room. My sister was a troubled kid, rebelling in many ways and lacked the ability to focus on school. And for myself, I have seen little to no support from Mom and Dad when it comes to my lifestyle choices. Becoming Christian instead of Buddhist, pursuing mass communications instead of a typical Asian-defined successful field of study, staying overweight instead of thin, not dating men of my own culture, and most of all, deciding on a career of ministry instead of practicality—these were just a few examples of how my choices have caused my own life to be a taboo subject at the dinner table. I had helped raise an elephant that took up too much space.

That annoying elephant had become a part of our family because we gave it too many peanuts. My parents raised us to be silent about things that caused heartache, anger, shame, etc.—basically anything that rocked the boat. And every time I came to them with some news that I knew would certainly cause my parents grief, we pumped our pet pachyderm with more sustenance and rarely addressed its presence after that. And so it grew.

Even more off-limits than discussing these difficult topics of conversation with each other was bringing it up with friends and relatives:

“How is Amy?”

“Oh she’s working in L.A., thank you for asking. How is Raymond? Didn’t he recently get a promotion?”

My mom was a master of ambiguous information about my sisters and I. It was always was enough to satisfy the other person, and yet move topics quickly.

Keeping quiet about my religion, passions, dreams, future, and friends involved in all those things drove me crazy. I wanted my parents to be supportive in what I did. I wanted them to at least acknowledge their feelings of disappointment and help me understand them more. I wanted them to listen to how excited I was for my new job and what an impact on the world and people it was going to make. I wanted them to stop thinking so practically, and making me feel guilty every time I came home. I wanted to sit them down and unload all the challenges and difficulties that had gone on these past few years as a young adult trying to make it in this world.

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I had lost my right to complain, to talk about suffering, to tell them about my experience in hardship, and to affirm their warnings that it truly is a dog eat dog world out there. This right was stripped of me the moment I went against their wishes because I chose this path. The “I told you so” attitude kept their role as nurturing parents far from me. So I was forced to swallow those feelings around them, and in turn, they kept silent and let passive aggressiveness, assumptions, and unfair expectations of me dictate how to go about the topic of my life.

Another problem arises in this culture of silence: the elephant can only be ignored for so long. It takes after the neighborhood dogs and barks through the day and all of the night. And that’s when Battle Royale in the Hu family takes place.

Throughout my life, I can remember significant arguments that have resulted in high-volume yelling, sobbing, home destruction, and cursing to each of our concepts of heaven. A human being can only keep such things in for so long, and try to ignore the gargantuan hoofed-mammal living in our house. The arguing rarely leads to greater understanding, which is an absolute miracle when it happens. But most of the time, these eruptions just feel more like catharsis than progress.

Cycles of silence, arguing, and pretending to forget are repeated over and over again.

Unfortunately, there is an ongoing list of taboo subjects in our house, and I guess thankfully I am not the only one. From my dad’s great financial loss because of stocks to my mom’s cancer scare (tumor was benign thank God) to my younger sister’s hard-to-love ex-boyfriend to my older sister being abused by an aunt—the subjects range in what I mentioned before—anything that rocked the boat. But the reality was, we were already drowning.

This is my family. Silence is the band-aid to the problems at hand but never the real healing that is so needed. And as my upbringing in America clashes with their traditional Chinese values, it is still hard to reconcile the two to bring understanding. They will be stubborn and choose what they think is easier during difficult situations—keeping their mouth shut. I never thought, as a child, that what made me happy and hopeful would be silenced. But through the Vanessa’s work here, it doesn’t seem to be the case.




It's a secret i keep from my family, but i fight depression each and everyday. I sometimes want to talk to my family about it but i'm seen as the joker of the family. My parents used to yell at me when i got sad saying that it was my job to keep the family happy. So ever since then i've been the one everyone looks to to break the tension and keep everybody's mood up when everything is going to hell. I like the job, but every once in a while it'd be great to have someone do the same for me. Now that i'm older i can't take the pressure as much so i spend time with my friends rather than my family. I wonder if my family even know who i am anymore and i feel the distance growing.


Corn-Fed Bulgogi Beef

As a Korean-American adopted by a white family in Overland Park, Kansas I always felt like an outsider and a black sheep. I grew up in a suburban community, which was predominately white and middle-class. My family who adopted me was German by descent. They are tall, husky, red-headed people who loved to eat Kansas City BBQ, watch sports, and have every game and player stat memorized. I on the other hand, am short barely standing over 5 feet, dark haired, and have a hard time memorizing anything including sport stats.

I was adopted from South Korea when I was 6 months old through the Holt Adoption Agency, which specializes in international adoptions. It always baffled me that my parents adopted an Asian baby. Why me? My parents have never traveled to any Asian countries, have never really eaten Asian food, nor have ever studied Asian philosophy or religion.

I once asked them why they adopted me and they said they wanted to have a healthy baby. Ironically, they did have their own healthy biological child three years after my adoption. My brother, David, is their spitting image. He has their exact physical and personality traits, while I have their exact opposites. I was different.

In essence my parents raised me as their child, thus I was raised as a white child. Throughout my whole life, I was called a Twinkie, which meant yellow skin on the outside, white on the inside. My family, my friends, and I all saw myself as white. While everyone who didn’t know me saw me as Asian. I was stuck between two cultures, but I wasn’t accepted or acknowledged into either one of them.

I was confused about who I was; thus ashamed about being Asian and for being different. I did everything I could to shun my culture and to change my Asian physical characteristics. I’ve had almost permanent blond / brown hair for most of my life, two breast enhancement surgeries, and the Asian eyelid crease surgery. This feeling of shame of who you are, of being Asian American or being the black sheep instead of the Germanic sheep, left a weird impression on me.

My immediate family tried to be supportive of these differences and feelings, but it’s something they didn’t understand. I remember a specific childhood instance where I finally made a friend with a new girl named J---- who had a brother named J---. They moved into the neighborhood with their grandparents. I was in four or fifth grade at the time and it was the first time I met J---‘s grandfather. He grew up in another time in American history where Asian Americans were put in relocation camps in World War II and were considered the enemy of the State.

I distinctly remember J---- and me coming home to her grandfather at the front door who immediately called me a “Jap.” He pulled her inside and slammed the door in my face without explanation. She was then yelled at full blast, while I stood at the front door step in utter shock and disappointment in what just happened. It was the very first openly racist remark I ever had in my life and I will always remember it. Since that moment, she wasn’t allowed to play with me, while her brother Jay was allowed to play with my white brother.

Instances like that and others throughout my childhood left a brand or scar on my heart. I tried to explain to my white parents how much it made me feel different and how much it hurt my feelings. My parents said to ignore it and that people are just that way and that they are old; it won’t change their view on how they look at me or view Asian Americans. Unfortunately, as a child I accepted that as a racial minority I was less desirable and not as good as my white counterparts. It was just part of life and something that I had to accept in order to get along with others. I doubt this was the lesson my parents were trying to teach me, but it was the lesson I learned by this experience and many others.

Ironically, I heard a similar life lesson taught by a white mother and son at the San Diego Zoo recently. A mother and son, about four years old, were walking by and I overheard the mother saying, “people come in all different skin tones and that they are people and have feelings too.” When I walked by, I accidentally laughed, but later thought about how valuable that lesson really was, since some people never learned it.

Now after living in San Diego, CA for six years I see that other places in the country are much more diverse than Kansas. I see that raising children and family values are perceived differently, even if some of the family values taught are racism. Although masked by ignorance and lack of exposure to different ethnic groups, the cycle is only being continued. I look back at my own family and we didn’t have any family friends who weren’t white growing up. Now as an adult, I’ve surrounded myself with the most heterogeneous set of friends, of all different ethic racial groups and all sexual orientations. I tend to relate and gravitate toward people who have been discriminated against or felt like the black sheep also, since we have the most in common.  

In essence, the one thing that made me feel the most ashamed and ostracized, which was growing up Asian American in Kansas is now one of the most uniting forces to others as a young adult in California. This is largely due to the large Asian American population here and my interest in making other Asian and ethnic groups as friends. This personal anecdote from my childhood isn’t meant to air dirty laundry about my childhood, but to rather unite other Asian Americans who still face racism in their day to day lives no matter what part of the country they live in. Most importantly being a black sheep isn’t a dividing force, but a very powerful uniting force.       




I’ve spent most of my life in the US, immigrating at five years old from the Philippines to Chicago with my parents and two younger siblings.  The early years consisted of excelling in school, people being generally friendly, and me ready to become a success at anything I put my mind to.  I just don’t remember talking to my parents much about any of it – especially my father.

My dad is generally quiet, and worked many hours.  I’m not sure if that’s a general Asian trait, but there was much more to it.  Bottom line is that we didn’t chat much as a kid.  I could communicate better with my school sports coaches (maybe it was the lengthy time I spent on the bench, ha).

This is not to say that I wasn’t loved.  And it wasn’t that my dad was particularly strict. That fact is, I was actually spoiled in many ways.  My parents worked hard to give my sisters and me a nice home, great school, and many of the things we wanted in life.  There just wasn’t much communication between me and my old man.

After moving to a small suburb in California, I started experiencing racism in high school and eventually college.  Being more of a loner in that phase of my life, and rarely seeing any Asians in town, I didn’t feel like I had anyone who could relate to this issue.  It didn’t help that I lacked a parental role model with whom I felt comfortable talking about it.

One Thanksgiving when I was a high school freshman, my dad, my two younger sisters, and myself were on the road, when a large teen punk in another car started spewing racial slurs at us.  My dad paid him no heed.  But the man was driving in our same direction.  When we stopped at a light, the teenager got out of his car.  He approached us, intensifying his taunts.  The jerk started punching the car with his fist, continuing to shout epithets at my family.  My machismo, even at a skinny 5’3, caused me to yell back at him (of course from the safety of being in the locked car).  But I was merely hiding the fact that I was freaking out inside.  My sisters were crying, telling me to stop.  My father, who was smaller than the teen, finally started to get out of the car.  But my sobbing sisters begged him not to go.  Finally, the light turned green.  Soon after, other cars honked, causing the furious teen to flee.  I was both afraid, humiliated, and angry.

Dad and I never really talked about it again.  My father was the kind of guy who would keep things inside.  Even if he was angry…until he eventually exploded.  That’s how I became. 

As other racial incidents happened to me, I let the anger build inside.  I wish I could’ve talked about the frustration with more people – about the struggle with identity I fought with, in not feeling like I belonged, and with that, not feeling much worth.  I didn’t realize that the rage I hid was becoming a ticking bomb.

Sometime during the Fall of my college senior year, I was on a picnic with my family and many of our relatives.  I decided to go for walk alone.  In an area with few people, I passed by a Latino fellow standing by himself; he seemed to mumble a racial slur at me.  It was in Spanish, or so I thought.  It might not even have been anything insulting. Regardless, I had enough and I confronted him.  It turned out that he wasn’t alone after all.  Shadows appeared out of nowhere.  About a dozen of his friends began to surround me.

Yet I didn’t back down.  I didn’t run away, even though I was alone.  Even if I was on the verge of getting seriously hurt, my pride wouldn’t let me walk away.  I had become the very monster I thought I was fighting against.  My fury had finally erupted and was taking control of me.

Thank God two of my cousins saw me.  Though greatly outnumbered, they refused to leave my side and tried to talk reason into me.  Strangely, I was able to talk it out without anyone getting hurt.

That’s what I needed growing up with my father: communication (this ironically was my college major).  I realize that the immense responsibility of packing up your entire life, including your family, and starting over in another world thousands of miles away – physically and culturally – can be overwhelming.  I’m sure my dad had his own pressures, not only in providing for his family, but in being the foreigner in a new land.  I just wish we talked about it more. 

Today, while it’s not the easiest job to talk with my father sometimes, because of his generally quiet nature, I’ve been able to learn so much more about him, and his own achievements and struggles, both for his family and himself.  He had his own issues with his overly strict father growing up.  I’m able to understand better who he is. 

Just by talking about it.