Audrey (Wang) Chen – Stay-at-Home Mom

New Hope, PA

I now have the important task of raising children in America, while at the same time educating them on their heritage.

chen.audrey1Who are you?

I am a 2nd generation Taiwanese American, married to another 2nd generation Taiwanese American, and am raising 3 (three) young 3rd generation Taiwanese American kids.  (How’s that for numerology?)

What do you do?

I am a devoted wife, a (beginner) capoeirista, and a jack of all trades: personal chef, housekeeper, body guard, cheerleader, personal shopper, peace maker, artistic director, playtime coordinator, laundromat operator, chief communicator, gardener, entertainer, boo-boo healer, social director, comedian, chauffeur, dish washer, hair dresser, director of research and development, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, oh and above all, I am a giver of kisses and hugs.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

Taiwanese = Thai?  Taiwan = China?  Ooooh, those equations make my blood boil. Educate, educate, educate!

My story is not too unlike the stories of my Taiwanese American friends. I was raised in a very politically active family.  I learned to be proud of being Taiwanese at a very young age and being Taiwanese is just a part of who I am. There are many reasons why I am proud to be of Taiwanese heritage. The biggest reason is because of the efforts of my father and my father’s friends. They have spent, and continue to spend, countless hours, days, and years fighting for the right of the people in Taiwan to speak for themselves, to create their own identity. At the risk of their own reputations (being blacklisted), being jailed, beaten, tortured and even killed, they have fought for the people in Taiwan. Throughout my life, in high school, college, and through graduate school, I eagerly joined the cause. I vividly remember my mother telling me to make sure my name tag was turned around at the Taiwanese American Conference (TAC/EC) because that year the Chinese had sent spies to write down every conference participant’s name.

As I grow older, especially now that I have my own family, my focus in life has changed. Even meeting other Taiwanese Americans and making new Taiwanese American friends has fallen by the wayside. I now have the important task of raising children in America, while at the same time educating them on their heritage. Do I expect that they will have a visceral tie to Taiwan? Not in the least. However, if I have learned anything from the plight of the Taiwanese, it is that they should be allowed to explore who they are and discover their own identities in their own time.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

For me, this is a very interesting question which poses other interesting questions.

Being born and raised in the United States in a small, predominantly Caucasian (99%) town, we have chosen yet another small predominantly Caucasian town in which to raise our 3rd generation Taiwanese American children. My parents made the effort to expose me to their Taiwanese friends’ children. The only exposure my children (currently) have to other Taiwanese Americans are their relatives. My 1st language was Taiwanese.  My children’s 1st language is English. Growing up, my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived in Taiwan. My children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles live in the United States.

Already the delineation of being Taiwanese American and being American of Taiwanese descent is widening.

I am sure that it is (an unspoken) 1st generation parent’s “dream” that their 2nd generation child marry someone of Taiwanese descent. However, the question is, how does this trickle down in generations? I do not hold that ideal of my children.

For sure, it is unique (in the eyes of general America) to see an Asian child who speaks no other language fluently than English, who has parents who also speak no other language than English. The unfortunate reality is that our children will be stereotyped in much the same way as we were as children.

In our family, the exposure of the 3rd generation to Taiwanese culture falls primarily on the shoulders of their grandparents. Already, I am personally more American than I am Taiwanese. Are my children really 3rd generation Taiwanese American or American of Taiwanese descent? Hopefully, the answer to this question will become clear when they grow up to be adults.

Lastly, we know, or can safely assume in some respects, that if you are a 2nd generation Taiwanese American, you have parents that can speak a handful of different languages (English, Taiwanese, Mandarin, and Japanese), have probably attended one or more or have at least heard of the multitude of Taiwanese American conferences around the country, have had to correct the aforementioned equations, know what Taiwanese food tastes like, and how to say at least a few words in Taiwanese. I can only hope that one or more of these characteristics will be a part of the identity of my 3rd generation Taiwanese American kids.

chen.audrey3

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