The Stories We Tell, and Don’t Tell, About Asian-American Lives
The category of “Asian-American” was created in the late nineteen-sixties. At the time, the term, for those who adopted it, was a way of consolidating the political energies of various immigrant communities. The category crosses ethnic divisions and class lines, encompassing refugees from Southeast Asia struggling to adapt to the American hustle, multigenerational American families with only an abstract connection to their ancestral homelands, and the children of transnational Chinese élites who have been sent to America for schooling, among others. (In recent years, Asian-Americans have become the most economically divided ethnic or racial group in the United States.) Education has traditionally been one of the shared interests that binds these disparate constituencies together. Another has been a reluctance to acknowledge any difficulties with mental health: studies show that Asian-Americans are less likely than the general population to seek out counselling. Eng and Han wanted to understand what Asian-American students had in common, drawing on the perspectives of culture, history, and social class, which Eng had studied, and seeing how these forces played out in the therapist’s office, where Han spent her time.
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