Making peace with my cultural worlds

For the past two weekends, I have devoted most of my free time working on DB2 (for those who don’t know, DB2 is my code name for the sequel to The Night of the Moon Serpent). In between breaks, I’ve been researching marketing strategies. One of the suggestions I found is to think about who would be interested in a book like The Night of the Moon Serpent. Websites and blogs that cater to parents are an obvious answer. Sites run by librarians and teachers may have an interest. Then it occurred to me—how about sites promoting Latino books? Another thought rushed to my mind. Am I a Latina? Me, with a Chinese surname and Chinese looks? Besides I’ve never thought of myself as a Latina in the American sense of the word. Like anybody born and raised in South America, we don’t call ourselves Latinos over there. We consider ourselves latinoamericanos or Latin Americans.

My American-born and Chinese-born relatives didn’t and still don’t quite get me. They don’t know what to make of the Peruvian/Latin American element in me. And of course, I found myself not quite fitting with them. Being culturally mixed can be puzzling not just to others, but also to oneself. When I was younger, being Chinese, Peruvian and American made for some identity wrestling. Which one was me? But age truly brings a measure of wisdom. The answer is that there is no one element that it is the “right” one, and therefore to be chosen over the rest. This week, when I read a New York Times article on Peruvian-born writer Daniel Alarcon, I found he has articulated my feelings into words. When asked whether he was an American writer or a Peruvian writer, he answered, “Why should I have to choose?”

Like Mr. Alarcon, if there’s a choice I’m exercising is the one of embracing all the worlds birth and circumstance have granted to me. Instead of pitting the Chinese, Peruvian and American sides against each other, I’m now in awe of them all. Since I’m old enough to be comfortable in my skin (or skins), I no longer try to pigeonhole myself and instead find artistic blessings in my cultural makeup. My writing and book are the reflections of that blend. And I hope it will make for something unique someday.

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