What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity” was the article that broke me wide open. I was born and raised in Malaysia, but I have lived here in the United States for nearly 10 years now—and given that I’ve married an Idahoan, it’s almost certain that I’ll spend the rest of my life in this strange land. As such, I’m going through the peculiar process of trying to fit the narrative of my life within the wider scheme of American life. This is, of course, a challenging proposition on any level, but I’ve found it particularly difficult to grapple with the contextual terms of my ethnicity: I’m Asian, but not Asian American. I belong to a racial minority, but one whose narrative doesn’t factor much within broader conversations about race in America. I’m an immigrant in search of upward mobility, but one who shares blood with people from a nation on a complicated rise. (I’m ethnically Chinese.) All this amounts to a simmering… let’s call it emptiness, one I did not fully recognize I felt until I read Kang’s painful, searching, and relentless feature on what these Asian kids did to themselves in the pursuit of a larger narrative for their identities, which remains so agonizingly far from clarity.“
The article gave voice to an American narrative that I, for the very first time, identified with. And it feels like armor against the emptiness.