Share Your Hapa Story 025: @chris.tree.nah
”’You are hapa, Christy, and you are proud of it!’ Those words, cascading with powerful grace from my Hawaii-raised Chinese grandmother were constant and solid reminders of the gratitude and deep acknowledgement she hoped for me, and all of her hapa grandchildren, to carry close throughout life. •••
“You are hapa, Christy, and that makes you different.” And the voice wasn’t my grandmother’s anymore— it was something tighter. Sharper. •••
“You are hapa, Christy. You’re not, you know... White.” It was only as I grew older, as I ventured beyond the boundaries of my familial haven that I was ‘mixed’, ‘half-Chinese’, a ‘halfie’. These weren’t necessarily bad things, but as I vacillated between eating my food with chopsticks when my middle school JV team went out for Chinese food, or reaching decidedly for a fork, I started to wonder which part of me I was choosing. Which part would make me less ‘different’.
“You are hapa, Christy, and you aren’t a Real Asian.” I had the last name. I had the horrifically stereotyped report card. I had the right things to say on the right holidays.
I did not have the eyes. I did not have one of the traditional vocational pathways. I did not have as deep a tie to many of the cultural practices that the other, more ‘legitimate’ ones had. •••
“You are hapa, Christy, and you are ready.”
A whisper from my years-gone Grandfather. A breeze of hope. A call for adventure.
And I left for a place I hoped would have answers. This time, though, it would not be to visit relatives. This time, it would be to live — to learn.
“宝琴，你是混血儿.” “You are a mixed-blood person, Baoqin.” And in their eyes, I was different. But that was merely a fact— as much of a fact as my humanity and the fact that I had big eyes, ten fingers, ten toes, and liked green tea over pu-er. Just a fact. Nothing wrong. Nothing weird. Certainly nothing to be ashamed of. End of story, friendship still strong, without any pauses. Unblemished. “I think it’s kind of cool!” I felt hapa again.
Hapa then. Hapa now. Hapa always.
“I am Christy. I am #hapa
. And I am so, so proud.’”