Hyphen

The Hyphen.


Merriam Webster defines a hyphen as, “a punctuation mark - used especially to divide or to compound words, word elements, or numbers; a punctuation mark used to divide or compound words; divide or compound words.”


This short little line - to divide or compound words has been the definition of my identity. It is the definition of my struggles to discover who I am, where I belong, and where I am meant to be.


I am Chinese-American, Chinese, hyphen, American.


I am Asian-American, Asian, hyphen, American.


That little line divides my identity, compounds my identity.


It divides my identity when I am called a banana at school


When I am not Asian enough for the Asians, but not white enough for the “Americans”


It divides my identity at family dinners


When I see my elders converse in Chinese, but see my cousins unable to use chopsticks.


It divides my identity when I travel


When I am asked, “How do I speak English so well?” like my face says I shouldn’t.


It makes me long for a place I never grew up or lived in, while I feel alienated in the place I was born.


I am Chinese-American, Chinese, hyphen, American.


I am Asian-American, Asian, hyphen, American.


That little line divides my identity; compounds my identity.


It compounds my identity when I visit Chinatown with my grandparents


When I can feel at home among the open-air stores and bakeries.


It compounds my identity when I go to school


And I can speak proudly of my heritage and history.


It compounds my identity when I speak and write


Reminding me how far my family has come to live in this country.


I am Chinese-American.


I am Asian-American.


The Hyphen holds together a history of two cultures, two societies, two identities.


Yet I am one person.


Like the Hyphen, I am a little line that holds two words of great meaning together.


I am the Hyphen. I am a connector, compounder, and divider.


Cover Photo Source: The Daily Trojan