Since I was a child my elders would call me, an American- born Chinese, “jooksing,” meaning empty bamboo. All form, no substance. My father’s friends would ask me in Cantonese, “Hey Jooksing! Why don’t you learn to speak Chinese?” In contrast, white people would ask me where I learned to speak English so well. How crazy-making is that?
Years ago, on vacation with my family, a store clerk asked where I learned to I speak English so well. The same day at a Chinese restaurant the waiter got my order wrong even though I ordered in Cantonese. “Brainless jooksing,” he muttered under his breath. At that moment it hit me: I was culturally homeless, not Chinese enough, not white enough. The betwixt and between dilemma of my life.