One of my primary protagonists is mixed race. I was thinking he would be Chinese American, but I haven't firmly decided. (His father is American, and his mother is Asian. I was planning for her to be a relatively early generation immigrant.) I wanted to make growing up American a larger part of his background, because I have only a passing familiarity with Chinese culture. I want to write diverse characters without being disrespectful.
His background is a relatively small part of his story, but it will come up again later. And I'm curious what growing up Asian American is like, and how it will/has influenced people.
The character went through a portal as a child and grew up in a strange world.(He was approximately 7-10 years old at the time.) He decided to chronicle his experiences and observations to show that his life had meaning and to document the oddities around him. Naturally, in order to show the differences he experienced between worlds he needed to describe his childhood a little. I planned on showing/implying his Asian heritage more than directly stating it. Because while his cultural identity matters to the readers, when you're in a foreign sci-fi/fantasy world it doesn't have as much of an impact. But a large part of the story will be an internal struggle with him reconciling his life as a human, and how his life in this other world has changed him.
It's common for Asian families to disown a girl if she marries an American and moves to America with him (at least it is in the families I've known personally, which included a Japanese, a Vietnamese, and a Cambodian marrying an American soldier in each instance).
In each instance the girl was told to abort her "heathen moose devil" (her half-American baby) and renounce the "filth" (husband) that she had contaminated herself with. By giving birth to a half-American baby and refusing to abort it, her family went forward in having an elaborate funeral for her, and treated her as dead. (These women claimed that in as recently as the 1950s a girl was executed by the men in her family for the crime of marrying an outsider.)
They were expected to marry a close relative (cousin) picked out by her grandparents at birth. 4 or 5 generations all living together in one house (families include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, all living together - a single home may have 40 or 50 or even 100 or more people living under 1 roof). Bringing a non-relative into the family unit is seen as tainting the bloodline, and anyone committing this offence must be cut out of the family unit in the same way cancer must be cut out of the body.
This in turn resulted in her refusal to teach her child ANYTHING about her native culture, and strive to raise her child as "fully American", going so far as to shun everything about her native culture, to the point of never even telling her children what her country of origin was. (So, the children grew up calling themselves Americans and NOt Japanese-American, Vietnamese-American, or Cambodian-American, and when asked "What type of Asian are you?" They would say: "I don't know, we aren't allowed to talk about it so my mom never told me where she was from."
(NOTE: these were people I knew personally, so may not represent the Asian culture as a whole)
From what they told me, is sort of thing is pretty standard, as most Asian cultures have very strong "purity of culture pride" and EXTREME hatred for any type of inter-racial marriage.
With that thought in mind....
I would think it would be more realistic, for your Chinese-American character to identify as Asian-American, and not know for certain if his mum were Chinese or not. He would also know little if anything about his Asian family and their culture, not knowing whether or not he had any Asian relatives still alive or not, because his mum clams up and refuses to talk any time he asks.
I would think this would make for a very good sub-plot or character arch, to have part of the story involving his desire to find out where his mum came from and why she is so dead set against telling him.
My experience with children born into Asian-American mixed marriages is that they rarely know what "type" of Asian they are and have a very hard time discovering anything about their family history or culture, and often feel embarrassed when asked by other American children about it, because they feel they are expected to know, but they can not get their mum to tell them.
The women/mums themselves claim to be terrified of letting they native family know where in America they live, for fear of the men (there own father or brothers) coming to America to ritually murder them and their half-breed children, thus why they go to such extremes to not tell their children about where they came from.
Like I said, I don't know how widespread this sort of thing is, but, there is a large Asian community in my town (about 400 families - most of them refugees from Vietnam who came here in the 1970s), and for this particular group, this sort of shunning their past because they were shunned for marrying an American, seem to be the norm and seems to in fact be a pretty strong aspect of their culture. It's possible this sort of thing is restricted only to smaller regions of certain areas and not all Asian cultures, so be sure to research before using such a thing in your story as I'm not certain where exactly this tradition originates from, as these women were refusing to state where they had come from out of their extreme terror of being murdered by their dad's and brothers.
In my own series, I went with this for my mixed race Black-Asian character. He is described as speaking Scottish, looking Asian, and having black skin and wooly hair.
His father is Black, a very short Jale`man from the Sepik Valley Region of Papua New Guinea.
His mother is simply described as "Asian, suspected of being from Japan, but could be Polinesian or even Mongolian. She refused to say where she was from and the hints she gave could easily have indicated any one of the three."
As they both (his parents) died while he was still a child, he was never able to determine his mother's country of origin, and was therefore known to sometimes tell people she was Japanese, other times tell people she was Polynesian, and other times say she was Mongolian.
As a young adult, he visited all three of these countries hoping to find something that he could connect to his mother. This resulted in him picking up various aspects of the Japanese, Polynesian, and Mongolian cultures, which appealed to him.
As he lived the bulk of his life in Scotland however, he identifies as Scottish.
He wears clothes that are a mix of Japanese and Mongolian, wearing long fur cloaks over kimono and hakama.
He practices Jale', Sepik, and Polynesian animistic folk religions.
He is NOT Human, but rather is half Phooka and half Aswang.
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