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"Over the mountains
There are mountains"

a look at asian pacific american literature
Written by Jessica Lim

I never retaliated the way I felt I could or said anything smart, like, "Does madam need help?"…once, I saw her take a small bite of an apple and then put it back with its copper-mouthed wound facing down. I started over to her not knowing what I might say when my father intercepted me and said smiling in Korean, as if he were complimenting me, "She's a steady customer (Lee,54-55)."

It is interesting to note how he refers to himself as his father's prince Hal; the very prince who as a youth frequented taverns and thus was reputed as a man who was able to mingle with both the elite and the 'lower' folks. Henry, similarly takes on a duality with his ability to converse and blend in with the workers at his father's store and we also see that he has the confidence to confront the rich old lady that takes a bite of the apple. Unlike his father who shies away from the old lady and lets her essentially get away with this, Henry feels compelled to confront her. His ability to immediately approach to do this show that he feels that he is at a similar level with her - His ability to speak and understand the same language as the old lady, puts him light years ahead of his father who feels that he and the lady share only a one-dimensional relationship: customer and store owner. Henry, on the other hand, is a much more complex character.

Another example that emphasizes how these two characters are distinct involves the English language and utilizing it as a power- tool. Henry's Asian immigrant father


    "started speaking, but in English. Sometimes, when he wanted to hide or not outright lie, he chose to speak in English. He used to break into it when he argued with my mother, and it drove her crazy when he did and she would just plead "No, no!" as though he had suddenly introduced a switchblade into a clean fist…Once when he was having some money problems with a store, he started berating her with some awful stream of nonsensical street talk, shouting "my hot mama shit ass tight cock sucka," and "slant eye spic-and-span motha-fucka" (he had picked it up, no doubt, from his customers)…I broke into their argument and started yelling at him, making sure that I was speaking in complete sentences about his cowardice and unfairness, shooting back at him his own medicine, until he slammed both palms on the table and demanded, "You shut up! You shut up!" (Lee, 63).

By this example alone, the distinction between an Asian immigrant and an Asian American (who is not an immigrant!) should become clear.

Let us move on to discuss the relationship that exists between an Asian immigrant and another Asian immigrant. On a parallel level, their relationship is probably very similar to the Asian American with another Asian American. They are able to share something that a native Asian and an Asian American are unable to share. The Asian American however is able to acknowledge this:

    "There were arguments, but only a few, mostly it was just all the hope and excitement. I remember my father as the funny one, he'd make them all laugh with an old Korean joke or his impressions of Americans who came into his store, doing their stiff nasal tone, their petty annoyances and complaints (Lee, 50)".

Henry's father's mockery of the Americans that come into his store represent something that only Asian immigrants can heartily associate with. To an Asian American, whose scope of language and relationships with Americans that play roles such as teacher, friend, boss, etc. automatically hold a different kind of view of the American. The Asian American has experienced more intimate relations with other Americans, where as for an Asian immigrant, like Henry's father, views Americans as the dominating force in the country who give him business and should not be haggled with. He views himself as different than an American. He does not get the 'America jokes' nor does he understand underlying messages; for him, a smile, a nod, and hopefully the exchange of money with an American marks success for him. This of course is not always the case. Nowadays, even immigrant Americans are getting to know other Americans on another level, but this usually occurs in the work place.

To continue with the article, click HERE

    Part 1: Learning the definition of being an immigrant
    Part 2: The many "layers" of being an immigrant
    Part 3: Immigrant Asian's interaction with an Asian American
    Part 4: Relationship between an Asian immigrant and another Asian immigrant
    Part 5: Relationship between an Asian American and an American
    Part 6: Info on what America is and what it can be

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