Claiming My American Accent and My Indonesian Identity

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Indonesian-ness is hardly quantifiable, but per my parents, mine was a five out of ten. This poor rating stems mainly from my parents’ belief that second-generation immigrants, like myself, were diluted versions of an original product. Though I often refuted these claims, my actions hardly supported my counterarguments: eating with my “dirty” left hand, wearing shoes inside the house, and choosing fries over rice, for example. The summer before freshman year, these seemingly-minuscule annoyances had reached an apex; consequently, my parents took a keen interest in reviving my Indonesian identity. To resuscitate it, they arranged for Bahasa Indonesia tutoring while we visited family in Jakarta.

Although I had qualms about my parents’ claims about my Indonesian identity, I looked forward to the tutoring for learning’s sake, even waking up early in anticipation. With time to kill before my tutor came, I waited in the living room where eyang uti, my grandma, roared with laughter at a woman on the TV. I barely understood a word but laughed along regardless, hoping to generate some facsimile of understanding. Catching the slight lag between the audience’s laughter and mine, uti smiled and explained using the Indonesian-English hybrid...

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