In Penang, Malaysia, a smiling woman brought me a bowl of hokkien mee with hot sauce on the side instead of mixed in — a practice reserved for Caucasians.
While surfing in Indonesia, a dark-skinned aboriginal laughed at my thin “city people” arms. I had feared being boxed in by what others thought I was. Sitting on a stool at my mother’s house in Brooklyn during one of the presidential debates, I watched him accuse China of using the United States as a piggy bank and of inventing climate change.
“You paddle like chicken,” he said, before showing me a better way to propel. But belonging is personal, fluid and multicultural. Though I had spent my life distancing myself from Asia, his xenophobia made me feel personally rejected.
I had clung to being an American as my one immutable identity, not realizing that who I was could not be diluted. Before I knew it, my brother and I were both shouting at the television. I am Chinese-American, and he was talking about me.
As protesters flooded past the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, they booed, hissed, and made obscene gestures. Trump as Jabba the Hutt, the classic Star Wars villain, with Princess Leia standing triumphantly on top of him, choking him with a chain.
Disney’s “Mulan” felt like a caricature of every stereotype I was teased about in school.
I didn’t want to be around people who looked like me.
And indeed, people often treated me like an outsider.
I’m really good at telling Orientals apart.” I was horrified at being fetishized for my race — especially one I didn’t identify with. It took a trip to Asia — and Donald Trump — to help me embrace my identity.
After resigning from my Wall Street analyst job because of a chronic wrist injury, I took a solo trip to Asia and went everywhere but China.