what hapa means...a guest post from bethany


The first guest post in this series on what hapa means is from a dear, dear childhood friend of mine.  Some of my favorite "hapa journey" memories are with Bethany.  For instance; how we might have made our own greeting cards, labeled on the back as "handmade by hapatwinz" and tried to sell them on State Street in Santa Barbara for hours on end...it mustn't have been as endearing as little girls selling lemonade because we didn't have any buyers that day.  Or much later, when we re-watched The Joy Luck Club together.  And through tears, we shared a deep understanding of the artfully cinematic depictions of cultural struggles that many Asian American women face ...
I hope you will enjoy her words and gain insight from her wisdom and unique experience. 

bethany with her handsome little man
"What are you?"  is a question I'm sure all hapa's are confronted with pretty regularly.  When I was younger, I would take this as an insult.  "I'm a human," I would want to retort.  But now I actually find it pleasurable to NOT be an open book, to NOT be predictable, to NOT fit into a category, to NOT be labeled.  I take pride that I mark "other" on the ethnicity section of government surveys.  I don't have to be confined to the "Asian" box or to the "Anglo" box.  The answer to this question is a complex one, as it doesn't simply address the exterior, but what I am down to the core. 
"What are you?"  I'm a sum of all of my experiences, just a few of which include: celebrating Girl's Day when I was a child with the beautiful Japanese doll display in our house, being able to don an elegant kimono, being blessed each New Year with ozoni, the Japanese "good luck" soup made meticulously by my great aunts, hearing firsthand stories of my relatives' shameful relegation to the WWII  Japanese American Internment camps AND ironically hearing prideful stories from my grandpa and uncles about their honor fighting for the US against Japan in the 442nd Battalion. 
But my experiences also include visiting the sultry hot south during summers, eating my grandma's homemade fried chicken and washing it down with Coca-Cola in the bottle, catching fireflies in a jar, shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, and visiting The Civil Rights Institute and hearing first hand stories of what the streets were like in Birmingham in the '60's. 
I'm a girl with a Ba-Chan and a MaJeanie, one who was in an internment camp and one who is a Daughter of the American Revolution, one who served me green tea and one who served me sweet tea. 
These are all experiences of my bi-ethnic background, someone who is "half and half," but who is truly one hundred percent American.  To me, being hapa has caused me to always be searching, always questioning, always learning, always feeding an inherent curiosity. 
To me, being hapa is being proud that I am unique; wanting to pass on my family's rich and varied traditions and legacies.  To me, being hapa means responsibility to teach this to my son so that he will whole-heartedly embrace himself as a true original, but more importantly, want to search for and embrace what is unique and beautiful in others.
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