Nobody Wants to Hear Our Story
"Nobody wants to hear our story."
J, a good friend of mine, said this to me during a post-show dinner at a Korean Restaurant in Los Angeles. Our conversation began with J complaining about his work, where his manufacturing job entailed sleeping in sweatshops and visiting factories in Asia. Being both Taiwanese immigrants, our conversation naturally became about memories about our roots, about immigration, and about being Asian men in North American society.
There was a spark of excitement. We dreamed how we can translate our experiences into material for the stage. We imagined how it would look on the big screen. We even laughed about the lack of Asian representation on our television programming. It is then when the reality set in. And that's when J said it.
"Nobody wants to hear our story, Ed."
As much as I hated it, there was a piece of truth that I could not, and still can not deny. At home, my parents have always told me to be quiet and hide from the spotlight. Opening my mouth and sharing my story was simply taught as an open invitation for shame. At school, I learned that my complexion and skin color meant "hard-working" and "intelligent". I was to be dedicated, and not to be opinionated. At movie theaters, I see faces like mine become clownish sidekicks. They are to be laughed at, and not to be connected with. The silence is deafening.
In the midst of this silence is a struggle to find an identity. I witnessed the Asian people around me, myself included, glom onto other cultures, from hip-hop to corporate, in hopes of creating a character that allowed them to speak their words in a way where others will listen. I saw myself living a life between two masks, where in Canada, people see me as Taiwanese, and in Taiwan, I am Canadian. I am a "Canasian". I am a nobody to anybody.
So maybe J is wrong. Maybe no one hears our story because we don't even know who we are as story tellers. Or maybe J is right. Maybe people simply do not care. Maybe nobody wants to hear our story. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. Because I can still tell my story.
And that is what I'm planning on doing.