Cultural Identity

Pick a photograph and describe its significance to you.


The gold embroidered collar of the traditional Chinese blouse tickled my neck. The costume was old, musty, unwashed, and uncomfortable. Are family photos ever enjoyable? Far to my right, through teeth clenched by a top-heavy headdress, my oldest sister Megan mumbled for me to stop itching. Finally, the photographer motioned with a forceful wave of his hand for us to gaze up to the ceiling of the studio. This ordeal was orchestrated by a man who spoke little more than five words of English, his favorite being "cheese!". As he readied his disposable camera, we assumed the facade of three ancient Chinese empresses looking toward our sky of destiny. Such a pensive moment would make for a quality Christmas postcard. Our contemplative posture was rewarded with one revelation: our family photo shoot had attracted a sizeable crowd. Tourists and locals alike stood outside the studio window to witness our photographer and his genuine attempt to portray our Caucasian family with the honor and intrigue of imperial China. This slightly ridiculous photograph now sits in the office of our stereotypical home in the Chicago suburbs.

Exchanging this house for a 33rd floor apartment on the south side of Hong Kong island at age six seemed...

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