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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Total Hapaness

I know it makes me sound like a total geezer, but I never thought I would live to see the day when there were books and movies about hapas - half-Asian people, like me. I really felt like a unicorn when I was growing up; some solitary kind of creature that had no matching kind. About once a year (maybe more?) I remember my mother nudging me on the subway, pointing with her chin at someone. "I bet that person's hambun-hambun," she'd say. "Like you." And I'd stare and stare with eyes like plates, trying to discern some connection. Once I followed a girl around this sock-and-underwear outlet store for half an hour, my heart pounding. I wanted to ask her. "Are you... half and half?" But I chickened out. What would I have said if she said yes? "So am I!" And then what?

Now there are organizations for hapas, and magazines. There are books and movies and T-shirts discussion groups and websites. This week there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a new book by hapa Kip Fulbeck.
He is one cool hapa. He's made a lot of videos, including a really funny one where he insists that he bears total resemblance to all of Disney's ethnically ambiguous animated characters: Mowgli, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Lilo. He's right, too!

When I was younger, being hapa made me feel freaky. The thing that was the worst was when people would ask, "What are you?" and I could really do nothing more than shrug. I could say I was half Japanese, but when they pressed me for "What is the other half?" I could only respond, "Your guess is as good as mine." Which is what differentiated me from other hapas in a big way. They could look at each of their different halves, mirrored in their parents. Since I was adopted, I coudn't. I still can't, and I still don't know the answer to that question.

But it's a happy thing to be hapa these days. I feel like I have lots of company, and it isn't such a freaky thing anymore. In fact, I realize that I like being just a little bit freaky, or different. When I visited Hawaii for the first time, I thought I would love it, being in the land of the hapas! My place, my people! I was surprised at how suddenly invisible I felt: not different anymore.

I see hapas every day now, on the sidewalks, in stores, in mainstream media. It's kind of shocking, and kind of great. My favorite new famous hapa is K.T. Tunstall, a Chinese-Scottish songwriter. She rocks.


Blogger Alice in Austria said...

Thanks for posting this, Susan. I can relate! As a Eurasian I went through a lot of similar issues ... I'll blog about it one of these days ;)

Saturday, April 01, 2006 9:30:00 PM

Blogger C(h)ristine said...

I was gonna forward you this exact newspaper article! I am glad you found it. :)

Saturday, April 01, 2006 10:33:00 PM

Blogger melanie said...

Hapas rock. I am personally going to make sure that if I have kids they are hapa. Heh.

Monday, April 03, 2006 1:22:00 PM

Anonymous T said...

Susan, thank you for this. I can relate to every word.

Monday, April 03, 2006 3:13:00 PM

Blogger Susan said...

I went into work today and what was sitting on my co-workers desk?! The new Hapa book! It is SOOOOOO COOL! I didn't realize it, but it is 99% photos. It's pretty amazing. They sent us a free review copy, and I get to have it! (does this count as my review?) Ten stars! Two thumbs up!!

Monday, April 03, 2006 5:22:00 PM

Anonymous jennifer said...

I love your blog, Susan, and I had to laugh when you mentioned KT Tunstall -- ever since I got her CD my 20-month-old constantly nags me to play the "whoo-hoo" song in the car (Black Horse and Cherry Tree).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 9:51:00 AM

Blogger Susan said...

Oh yeah, whoo-hoo! That song makes me SO HAPPY.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 10:14:00 AM

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