Hey there! I'm Vivian. Sometimes I write about life and sometimes I write about teaching.

I read the book, I Am Golden by Eva Chen and Sophie Diao, to my niece for what felt like over a hundred times this weekend. It’s a beautiful book about being a child of Chinese immigrant parents and really the story of my sisters and me more than hers. Each time we read we had to stop and linger on the page that was illustrated with a table full of Chinese dishes. “Oh cucumbers! There’s choi choi. A bowl of rice with green beans. That’s xiaolongbao! Sesame balls!” my niece would exclaim as she pointed at each dish. What was so wonderful about this was that she used three different languages to describe each of these dishes–English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Her first language was English. Her grandparents on her mom’s side, my parents, speak Mandarin and Taiwanese. Her dad and his parents speak Cantonese. All of her grandparents speak some level of English. These all come together in a common experience of the enjoying a delicious meal.

Last year I was asked, “What does it mean to be American?” I didn’t answer completely then, and I won’t here either. But I will say that the experience of my niece and the languages that surround her are part of the answer. (Wait until you hear about my nephew who has grandparents who are ethnically Chinese, but speak French.)

  1. How wonderful to just start to answer this huge question in this way- a small, close moment with your niece, in the appreciation of food. I love it. I was a little worried to click and read , from your title, though (obviously) your title also drew me in. Maybe what it means to be… anything can only be captured in small moments?

  2. tenilleshade says:

    Thanks to your well crafted blog, I just rushed to put “I Am Golden” on hold at the public library. I’m so glad you got to share this picture book with your niece, over and over again. Your provocative title is a question I wish every American was willing to explore. I think we’d appreciate the full humanity of our brothers and sisters so much more if we quit othering folks we’ve deemed as different.

  3. cmargocs says:

    As a librarian working on a Title I campus with students who speak a multitude of languages–Arabic, Spanish, Nepali, Kurdish–this post warms my heart. Not just because of the mix of languages your niece has at her disposal, but because she could directly identify with a book. All of our students need moments like these. Thanks for the tender and thoughtful post.

  4. arjeha says:

    America is truly a melting pot melding all flavors into one delicious feast. If only we all could seethat without these different spices and flavors we would be one bland and dull country.

  5. Jackie says:

    Thanks for sharing! I introduced some church friends to bubble tea and explained its Taiwanese origins. They loved it. How do you feel about the trandy nature of Asian foods (especially making it to the Midwest)? For me, as a Korean who felt sidelined by China and Japan for years, I am almost reluctant to share this Korea with the mainstream, but simultaneously glowing with pride at its popularity.

  6. Such a big question begs an answer that is carefully sliced, one morsel at a time. Thank you for this story about your niece and the book recommendation. Have you read Dim Sum for Everyone?

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