I've been blogging on and off for a few years now, usually sporadically and when I have something that I want to say or rant about. And this is absolutely an extension of that—I have long followed, read, and appreciated key Asian American bloggers that have helped shaped my worldview and better understand what it means to be Asian American, and have thoughts now that I want to share.
But why "Unhyphenate"?
Last year, I clamored to read Eric Liu's A Chinaman's Chance once it came out, and I found myself highlighting line after line of memories he's retelling that I not only identified with, but felt like it was about my life to a degree.
However, what resonated the most with me was his chapter, "A Guide to Punctuation," which is the impulse behind this blog. On the phrase "Chinese-American," he writes:
This is the standard grammatical form for describing an American of Chinese ethnicity. But that hyphen vexes me: it implies an interaction rather than a person. As in: “Chinese-American cooperation,” or “Chinese-American conflict ,” or “Chinese-American commerce.” I am not merely an adjectival description of a transaction. I am a noun. I am a person.
He goes onto explore different variations of punctuation that would make this identity less vexed, more whole, and less imbalanced. Liu thinks about possibilities of using "Chinese/American," "Chinese, American," "Chinese (American)," "(Chinese) American," and finally, "Chinese American."
For "Chinese American," he writes:
This form of nonpunctuated punctuation is powerful, a thing of beauty. It consists of a modifier and the modified. That’s it. “American” is the noun, preceded by the adjective depicting what kind, what style, what flavor, what shape of American: “Chinese.” No qualifications, provisos, footnotes, ambiguities. The only thing between the two halves is a tiny bit of white space.
This left me in shambles, trying to figure out how I would express my identity in its written form for months.
I've finally figured out why "Chinese American," or comparatively, "Asian American," unhyphenated resonated with me so much, and today defines how I punctuate my identity.
It is more than "American" as the noun, and "Chinese" as the adjective. Grammatically speaking, these following thoughts might not make sense, but they feel more complete in ways language has never served my identity.
"Chinese" and "American" separately both may serve as nouns. When put together, I do not see an adjective defining a noun like Liu did, but instead two nouns, sitting beside one another, holding equal weight and importance. It means that my two identities, when together, can be one complete identity, yet no single noun holds more definitive weight over who I am.
So that is it—welcome to Unhyphenate, and be sure to check back for new posts and more content!