Journey of a Thousand Miles Leading to an Acculturated Self: The Autoethnography of a Chinese American Immigrant -- Lawrence Wah Pong
This autoethnography is about a Chinese American’s experiences from early childhood to recent years, and it relates immigration from China to acculturation into American society. It is my story, presented as a scholarly personal narrative of my life experiences beginning with my birth in 1948 as an American citizen born on Chinese soil; living in America throughout the latter half of the 20th century as a Chinese American immigrant; and ending with my thoughts and reflections on my current status as a 21st century “model minority” American citizen. This autoethnography spans the time period from the late 1940s to the present, narrating my heretofore untold story of revolution, survival, transoceanic migration, discrimination, hardships, identity crisis, coping strategies, hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. It is ultimately also the scholarly life narrative of anyone who has been “in my shoes,” connected by history, Chinese cultural heritage, and the circumstances which forced their immigration to the United States of America. The first chapter points to the uniqueness of Chinese culture which has enabled Chinese immigrants to survive and thrive in a hostile Eurocentric and nativistic American society from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. This chapter notes that within the past half century, historians and social scientists have greatly expanded the knowledge base of published literature relative to Chinese American immigrant history and socio-cultural development. Adding to that rapidly growing knowledge base, Chinese American authors have written personal accounts of lived experiences in the form of memoirs or autobiographies, and these genres are currently gaining popularity. Few of these publications, however, are autoethnographies. In chapter 2, I review literature about the history of Chinese American immigrants; the discrimination and injustices they experienced; the adaptive strategies and resistance they employed for survival; and their hopes, dreams, and successes which benefitted future generations of Chinese American immigrants and their children. This chapter includes current empirical studies. The methodological assumptions are presented in chapter 3. Chapter 4 contains 14 personal vignettes that highlight my lived experiences from childhood to recent years as a Chinese American citizen immigrant. These vignettes are framed in the context of published literature, reviewed in chapter 2, relative to the general history of Chinese American immigrant experiences, establishing links between my personal experiences and the larger social context of being Chinese American. Finally, I offer a final vignette in chapter 5 to summarize and contextualize my experiences, plus I discuss the implications of this research. In the writing of this autoethnography, I sought to inform my own cultural awareness and to rediscover relationships between myself and others.
Key words: Autoethnography, Chinese American history, immigration, model minority