Tag Archives: Taiwanese American

Taiwanese American cultural festival

May is winding down, and boy has it been a busy month. May is officially recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Celebrations occur throughout California during the month including the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival, which is held annually in the Bay area. TACF is sponsored by Taiwanese American Professionals-San Francisco and Taiwanese American Foundation-No. California. This year, TACF featured a collection of nearly 50 works by authors, writers, poets, and creatives who are Taiwanese American or have ties to Taiwan, and guess what? My book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity was one of the works featured! For the entire list of books showcased and brief descriptions of each book, visit Taiwaneseamerican.org.

Thank you, Ho Chie Tsai, for gathering this wonderful collection of books highlighting Taiwanese American storytellers. I wish that I could have attended the festival and seen the display in person as well as all of the other festivities. I’ve put several of the books on my to-read list.

If you’d like to purchase an autographed copy of my book, just follow this link.

Here are some photographs from the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival 2018!

Photo credit: Anna Wu Photography

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film captures taiwan’s past and present

Almost HomeLast year I met Victoria Linchong at the North American Taiwanese Women’s Association (NATWA II) Annual Convention. Victoria is a Taiwanese-American actress, writer, producer and director working in both theater and film. Her feature directorial debut, Almost Home: Taiwanis currently in post-production. Almost Home was inspired by a 2008 family road trip back to Taiwan. Victoria recently held a successful campaign via Indiegogo where she raised over $5,000 to complete the production of the film. She was also featured in Asian Cinevision’s Cinema Spotlight last December where she discussed her film, as well as her journey as an actor, entrepreneur, and filmmaker. Almost Home: Taiwan is a feature-length documentary that examines the legacy of political repression and the emergence of Taiwanese identity and independence through a family union that takes place after 22 years. In the documentary, Victoria returns to Taiwan with her family searching for long-lost connections. She becomes re-acquainted with the unique culture of the island and its beauty. Bridging the deeply personal and globally political, Almost Home clarifies the controversies surrounding Taiwan, while introducing viewers to Taiwanese culture via raucous night markets, aboriginal festivals, saint trees, and kissing fish.

When I attended the NATWA II Convention last year, I had just returned from reuniting with my birthfamily in Taipei. I knew very little of Taiwan’s history. Victoria helped give me a better understanding of Taiwan’s political past, something you don’t learn about in the textbooks! I look forward to seeing the film and understanding more of Taiwan’s political past and how it’s shaped the country it is now. Currently, Victoria is busy with another production, Big Flower Eater, which she also wrote and stars in. Big Flower Eater is a whimsical collage of folktale, ritual, dance, and historical text that explores the untold history of women in Asia through shamanism in three different cultures: Hmong, Korean, and Taiwanese. It premiered February 7th on stage in New York City. Break a leg, Victoria!

For a snippet of Almost Home: Taiwan, please watch the trailer below:

Please stop by and read Victoria’s interview at Cinevision in full at this link. It’s super interesting! Also visit and like the Almost Home: Taiwan facebook page here.

 

the language of identity

I recently read a book called, “The Language of Flowers,” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It is the heartbreaking, yet poignant story of a young woman who grows up in the foster care system. Until the age of 9, Victoria is shuffled from one family and group home to the next never quite meeting the “standards or expectations” of the adults in her life. Victoria’s social worker, jaded and quite unsympathetic, believes she is nothing more than a troublemaker. Victoria is hurt and traumatized and acts out the only way she knows how to after years of abuse and abandonment – through defiance. She mistrusts everyone around her and has great difficulty developing and maintaining relationships, that is, until she’s placed with Elizabeth. Victoria eventually learns to trust Elizabeth after a period of opposition that would send most of us over the edge and grows to share her passion for flowers. However, circumstances arise that threaten Victoria’s new found sense of security with Elizabeth. Out of desperation, Victoria engages in a dangerous ploy to win over Elizabeth’s undivided love and attention once and for all, again inviting havoc into her life. We watch Elizabeth come of age and struggle with the demons of mistrust, betrayal, and an injurious lack of self-worth as she is forced to reconcile her past and risk everything for the sake of finding the happiness she deserves.

I was genuinely moved by the story of this prickly and difficult young woman. Although I never experienced the level of abuse, nor the traumatic events that occurred in Victoria’s life, the lack of self-acceptance and identity she felt and difficulty developing and maintaining relationships deeply resonated with me. She was imprisoned by her own self-loathing and inability to let others into her life. I totally get that. Yet, she had a special ability and desire to help others through the flowers she chose for them, having learned under Elizabeth’s careful tutorship the meaning of flowers.

For many years, I wrestled with gaining a sense of identity like Victoria. I spent my 20’s chasing after the dream of becoming an actress. I even moved to California to pursue this “folly,” as though acting would help me gain the acceptance I longed for. Like most people in their 20’s, I was exploring my identity and what I wanted to do with my life. However, my search was compounded with all of the insecurities that stemmed from my past – the trauma of being raised in a culturally non-diverse environment, an Asian girl trying to fit in with her predominantly white peers and never ever quite feeling worthy enough. This insecurity plagued me for years and manifested itself in deeply rooted feelings of inferiority, passivity, shyness, and an inability to communicate my feelings. I was a “wallflower” as one incredibly insensitive individual once told me.

I attribute those years of damaged self-image to a couple of things: my inability to express what I was experiencing and feeling to my parents, or to any other person who could have helped me and the lack of positive role-models in my life- by that, I mean other people of the same ethnicity. I’m not positive that my adoptive parents would have known how to help me as I struggled with issues of self-identity and the extreme pressure I felt, mostly self-imposed, to fit into mainstream America. We lived in a predominantly white area, so naturally, I just wanted to be like everyone around me, white. It never occurred to me that being Asian was a positive thing. Having been teased at an early age about my outward appearance, I learned that Asian was not attractive or popular. It makes me sad looking back that I felt so unhappy and insecure about myself. I must mention here that not all transracially adopted children will experience what I did, or have the same issues that I’ve had to wrestle with. Each adoptees’ experiences are unique, and no two families, or circumstances are alike.

Having stated the previous, the growth of my identity has come in small spurts. A huge turning point for me occurred after I had our one and only daughter. I was 31 years old. It literally transformed me. Being a mom opened up my heart in a way I’d never experienced. I’d always had difficulties in developing deep friendships with others, both men and women. My husband often told me that other women in our small church family group didn’t feel “close” to me. I felt hurt by his comments and argued the point, but after having our daughter, I understood a little more clearly. There was an unconditional love and bond that connected me to my daughter, which expanded my heart and inspired the capacity to build deeper and more meaningful friendships. I began to “like” myself because I cherished being a mom. My daughter taught me to give love and to accept love. For once, I felt confident in my role as a mother.

Another huge turning point for me occurred just recently. As many of you know, I reunited with my birth family in Taiwan at the beginning of the year and discovered that, after eons of believing that I was Japanese and Vietnamese (41 years to be exact), I’m actually Taiwanese. Many people ask me if I feel closure now. At first, I thought this was such an odd question because it’s not really an ending but a new beginning for me. I understand, though, from others’ perspective, it appears like closure because I found my true cultural roots and birth family. I guess it is closure in a sense that I accept who I am unequivocally. There’s no mistaking that I’m Taiwanese and finally feel a sense of pride about my ethnicity. I have a renewed sense of identity. I’m still exploring this new identity and what it means to be Taiwanese American. I want to support and become more involved in the Taiwanese American community and greater Asian community in our area. I hope to take more trips to Taiwan and hope to help somehow in the transnational adoption community. Like everyone else, my identity is a culmination of family and life experiences that’s shaped who I am. At times, it’s been a painful process, but nonetheless, one that’s taught me self-preservation, resilience, compassion, and self-worth.

passage to taiwanese america

Taiwan shaped cookies baked by Hanna Huang

When I received an email in January from Ho Chie Tsai, founder of the popular website TaiwaneseAmerican.org, little did I know that I would soon find passage into the world of Taiwanese America. I was relatively unaware that the Taiwanese community in the U.S. is a growing and vibrant populace that reaches across the states, branching into Canada and other countries outside of Taiwan. It all began with an article Ho Chie wrote and posted on TaiwaneseAmerican.org about my adoption journey and, at that time, impending reunion with my birth family in Taiwan. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this inception into my birth culture, having ignored its existence for far too long.

Last weekend, I attended the North American Taiwanese Women’s Association (NATWA II) 24th Annual Convention in Milpitas, CA. I had never heard of the organization until recently, but am beyond excited to have connected with so many other Taiwanese American women, 1st and 2nd generation! The event was coordinated by Jen Kuo, Deana Chuang, and Joann Lo. College students, graduate students, and professionals attended from all across the U.S. and Canada. There were several mothers and daughters. Over the course of the weekend, I met 2 women from Tuscon, AZ. It’s nice to know that there are other Taiwanese American women in AZ!

I was invited to participate in a speaker’s panel at the convention with 2 other women, Victoria Linchong, actress, writer, producer and director and Marilyn Fu, screenwriter. I had such a blast getting to know both women, so bright and talented! Victoria is currently working on directing a film project called Almost Home: Taiwan, a feature length documentary about Taiwan’s struggle for democracy as told through the perspective of a family who return to Taiwan. Marilyn recently wrote a screenplay called The Sisterhood of Night, a narrative film project and story about “how teens connect with each other through art, friendship, and the power of secrets.” One of the teen characters portrayed in her film is Taiwanese American.

The speaker’s panel was a lot of fun. The room was packed full of 1st and 2nd generation attendees. We each answered a series of questions related to mother/daughter relationships and what it was like being raised Taiwanese in America. I talked mostly about what it was like to be raised Taiwanese in a white family (although I didn’t know I was Taiwanese until I was 40 years old!), and how my sense of racial and cultural identity has developed slowly along my journey. I was a little nervous at the beginning of our panel, especially because I didn’t want to go too long in my responses, as we answered each question individually. I brought along a powerpoint slideshow of pictures of my adoptive family and of the reunion with my birth family. I was so surprised and encouraged by the incredible show of support I felt after speaking about “my long journey home.” It was amazing and felt like a huge welcome home.

Deana Chuang and Tammy Chang

The weekend was packed with roundtables, keynote speeches and performances! Ho Chie was one of the keynote speakers on Saturday morning. He gave an impressive presentation on “Nurturing the Next Generation of Taiwanese America: Past Successes, Present Challenges, and New Horizons.” Ho Chie is an amazing speaker and has made it his personal mission to inspire young people to make an impact by discovering their values and passions. He spoke of the influence of the 1st generation Taiwanese and formation of community organizations, the growth of 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans who are paving the way for community and identity in mainstream America, and how we all play a role in defining the future of Taiwanese America as the 3rd generation grows up. I enjoyed participating in the “Learn your Love Language” roundtable facilitated by Michi Fu and Monique Hawthorne and found it so interesting that no matter what culture you come from, no family is perfect and we’re not so different cross-culturally. Although I grew up in a white household in comparison to the other Taiwanese women present who grew up in more traditional Taiwanese households, our parents shared similar communication styles – for the most part, our parents were not very communicative or expressive, and rarely, if ever, communicated words of affirmation. We had a great time discussing and laughing about our own love languages and getting to know each other in our small groups.

Saturday evening, each chapter of NATWA (1st generation women) gave a performance, including NATWA II. I have to admit, I steered clear of participating in the NATWA II skit, but the volunteers who did participate were quite entertaining!

Perhaps one of the best parts of the convention was going out to eat with all the NATWA II ladies! Other than the Taiwanese food I ate in Taiwan, I have not been exposed to much Taiwanese cuisine, so the girls made sure that I sampled plenty! We were right next to an Asian plaza with numerous Chinese and cross cultural restaurants. I was completely stuffed the whole weekend!

The convention went by entirely too fast. I feel like I was just getting to know everyone when it was time to come back home and wish that I had stopped to take more pictures. It seems that I have added to my family 30 something new Taiwanese American sisters. I’m already looking forward to next year’s convention in Los Angeles and am planning to take my family along. One of the things I appreciated most about the convention was how welcomed I felt into the Taiwanese American community, at least into the community of women and families who attended. It felt like a true sisterhood. For so long, I didn’t know that I was Taiwanese. It’s almost like a part of me was missing, though I could never quite put my finger on what exactly it was before. During a conversation I had recently with a friend, I told her that there are many different pieces of my identity. At one time, I believed that I was part Vietnamese and Japanese, but tried so hard to be white. Now that I’ve discovered what my true cultural roots are, the pieces are  beginning to fit. There will always be a part of me that’s a southern girl from Bossier City, LA. I love my family back in LA, my sister and her kids. Another part of my identity, the one that I rejected for so many years, has finally emerged. That part of me would like to go back to Taiwan one day to see my biological sisters again and to get to know the country better. I would also love to get to know some of the women I met at the convention better. There’s always next year in LA!

natwa II 24th annual convention

I’m speaking at the upcoming NATWA II (North American Taiwanese Women’s Association) Convention! I was invited to join the speaker’s panel to share a little of my adoption story, as well as to address the topic of identity, more specifically the journey in discovering my Taiwanese identity. The NATWA II Convention is held annually. This year’s theme is “Love and Compassion.” I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to meet so many other Taiwanese American and Canadian women, as well as to rub shoulders with the other speakers who include Marilyn Fu, screenwriter and Victoria Linchong, actress, writer, producer and director. Furthermore, I’m excited about becoming a part of the Taiwanese American community. I’ve never attended anything like this related to my Taiwanese heritage.

NATWA II is an association bringing together 1.5 and 2nd generation Taiwanese American and Canadian women. Its parent organization is NATWA, which consists of 1st generation Taiwanese women – mothers, grandmothers, aunts. The purposes of NATWA II include:

(1) to establish a network consisting of 1.5- and 2nd-generation Taiwanese American and Canadian women
(2) to cultivate and promote talents among young Taiwanese American and Canadian women
(3) to preserve Taiwanese culture and promote Taiwanese American and Canadian identity.

You can check out NATWA II’s website and find more information on the convention and speakers at http://natwa2.org/. Both NATWA and NATWA II will present separate and joint programs. The convention will be held in San Jose/Silicon Valley, CA from April 19-22. I’m looking forward to it!