Four Ways of Mending an Incomplete Identity: Second-Generation Chinese American Identity beyond the Melting Pot
Qiao, Shi (George)
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It is largely owing to the institutional discrimination reinforced by the melting pot concept against immigrants of Chinese ancestry, the consciousness Chinese have of themselves as having an anomalous status as people of an unmeltable ethnicity, and their sensitivity about shame that Chinese Americans confront the melting pot concept with great uncertainty and hesitation, and that, under the influence of the melting pot concept, immigrant children of Chinese descent or second-generation Chinese Americans often grow up with an incomplete Chinese identity. When they mature, the grown-up American born Chinese are determined to mend their incomplete Chinese identity. Some of them strive to learn the Chinese language, but the Chinese language proves to be one of the most difficult languages in the world. Rather than surrendering the wish to mend their incomplete Chinese identity, many second-generation Chinese Americans resort to some less difficult methods, which include, but are not limited to, storytelling, rediscovering the meanings of their original Chinese names, returning to the country of ancestry and eating and cooking Chinese food. In this thesis, these four methods will be discussed and analysed through examining various primary texts, such as The Joy Luck Club, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston, Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong, Eating Chinese Food Naked: A Novel by Mei Ng and Paper Daughter: A Memoir by M. Elaine Mar. Tan, Wong, Kingston and Ng are all second-generation Chinese Americans born in the United Sates. Mar was born in Hong Kong, but she came together with her parents to the United States at the age of five. Thus, in this context, Mar is perceived as a second-generation Chinese American as well. Besides these primary texts, this thesis will also draw on various scholarly texts, which will form the theoretical backbone of this thesis.