Once Again, I Fail as an Asian American

A recent article in Jezebel had me sighing. The premise of the article was that Asian Americans–particularly those growing up during the 1980s and 1990s–have a deep love of a music genre called New Wave, which included musical groups like Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, and New Order. I’m in that demographic, i.e. Asian American, growing up in that time period, a child of immigrants. I’ve even heard of those musical groups before. But do I even like them? No. I can tolerate it better than country music, but that’s all I can say.

I think where I differ from the other Asian Americans from the article is that I did not grow up in places where there were many other Asian Americans. And even of the one or two others around, there was very little chance of me forming any solidarity with them because they were musical geniuses playing Mozart and Beethoven on the piano and/or violin and it was all about competition with them, not solidarity. All of my teenage years was also spent in a place where it was country music all the time and I didn’t know anyone who liked New Wave.

Of course, that didn’t mean that I only listened to classical or country. I actually almost never listened to country of my own volition–such as my dislike for it.  Instead, some of my favorite music I discovered during this time period was through late night music shows on NPR, particularly Hearts of Space and Echoes. While other trendy Asian Americans liked listening to New Wave because it reflected how they felt in society–left out, alienated, and not quite belonging–I was listening to ambient and folk and electronic and new age stuff because it was weird. I don’t think I was particularly angsty as a teenager even though I was pretty much persona non grata socially, but I did like to seek out the strange and unusual.

Anyways, all of this is just to explain that whatever Asian American experience is exemplified in that article, it only applies to a subset of Asian Americans. It’s true that many Asian Americans do have some commonalities, but because we all grew up in different environments, it would be really difficult to state that specific touchstones apply to every Asian American. I guess my concern is that this article will only solidify in some people’s minds that All Asians Are the Same when in fact, the opposite is true.  And if there is only one way that an Asian American can be, I certainly fail in most of those aspects.