"Made in China"


Nevin peeled off a sticker from his binder and posted it to my forehead. "MADE IN CHINA," it said. I faked a nonchalant laugh, but my blushing face betrayed my feeling of defeat. All that I had strived for seemed to have been futile. What Nevin meant as a harmless joke had wounded me deeply.

The arrival of adolescence coincided with my arrival in America. It was during that crucial time when the standards of cool became meaningful to me. The essence of cool meant the ability to conform. As the only Asian (and only immigrant) in my suburban Michigan middle school, I was anything but a conformist. So I strived to assimilate. Yet with "MADE IN CHINA," seven months after my arrival, I realized people still saw me as different.

I explained to Nevin in broken English that I did not want to be labeled as different, as if I did not belong. "You're not different," Nevin responded lightheartedly. "You're unique!"

"U-nique." I slowly sounded out the word as my sadness turned to curiosity.

"Yeah, unique, like something that's umm...special." Nevin fumbled to explain himself. "Well, I guess it does mean different, but in a good sense..."

Nevin's words stayed...

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