While suffering a terrible bout of writer’s block, I thought more on the concept of the “Great Asian American Novel.” Artists don’t strive for “good enough” in their work. They strive for greatness. That doesn’t mean they need to win awards and medals or see their work achieve critical success. We strive to create an expression that captures our essence, that conveys to the minutiae the world filtered through our eyes, minds, through that which we know to be us. The words, pictures, and symbols do not just tell a story, but deliver a single powerful voice.

Few ever achieve the greatness endeavored and we never concretize our voices in the abstraction of art. There’s Ayn Rand and her Atlas Shrugged, a work she claimed herself to be the best she could have done, her greatness, a work that perfectly conveyed her philosophies; but few of us ever write our Atlas Shrugged. Another literary aspiration, equally important, not as large-scale, is writing with a target purpose of saying what we have to say, like Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Changrae Lee’s Native Speaker. These books are like quotable quotes. They convey a universal but specific thought with ingenuity and brilliance. Of course the two literary objectives seem to overlap, but the first is really about us and the second is about our province.

The Great Asian American Novel has to be about both us and our province. It must produce a single compelling voice that haunts the readers, a voice that materializes by our sides like a real life being. It must also depict truisms of Asian Americana, a book that refuses to be colorblind, a book that paints the latticework of a single snowflake to memorialize long after it has melted.

Thinking on Asian American writers and readers, I wonder why so few “Asian American novels” win the approval of Asian American readers. Heck, these authors often fail to gain the approval of mainstream critics as well. It’s because few if any Asian American novels have wholly painted a latticework of that single snowflake, and that is why few of us can name off the top of our heads a Great Asian American novel.

In my New York home, I have a library of Asian-interest books that rivals AAWW’s catalog. In college, privileged with Daddy’s plastic money, I horded every Asian American book publication I heard of, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, anthologies, everything. I own books you can’t even buy anymore, though of course I don’t own everything and there’s lots of holes in my collection. In university bookstores, I’d walk past the required reading lists for my own classes to check out other shelves and toss into my basket anything at all Asian related. The books line two wall-to-wall built in bookcases, lay in stacks on my nightstand while my favorite ones are displayed in the shelves above my old study desk.

Among that collection, I would say only one writer has achieved greatness: Changrae Lee. Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and Aloft were the closest manifestations of art Asian American literature has come. I appreciate what Theresa Cha’s Dictee tried to accomplish and the prose in all of Maxine Hong Kingston’s books are poetry at its finest, but neither of these two books made me stop dead in my tracks and say, “Wow.” Don Lee’s Yellow made me say “Wow” and convinced me a new turn in trends for AsAm literature had arrived, but his writing is missing something, though I’m not sure what; maybe soul or passion or something like that. There’s no mastery of passion yet to be found in AsAm literature, at least not at the level of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Jorge Luis Borges.

There’s also the litter of Gen-X Asian American women writers who make me cringe, like that chic (I forget her name) who wrote Eating Chinese Food Nakedor Evelyn Lau, the Canadian ex-prostitute. There’s admittedly a lot ofsoul and passion there, but it’s not really soul or passion, but moreaccurately the by-products and excrement of soul and passion smearedcarelessly across the pages. Passion is the turbulence that great artcontrols. I haven’t yet see any of these AsAm female writers controltheir passions, though admittedly they’ve got plenty of it, which isstill a good thing I suppose. Oh and I’m not even going to talk about Gail Tsukiyama or Adeline Yen Mah or The Dim Sum of All Things. *shudders*

A recent phenomenon, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s Madeleine is Sleeping caused me to take notice, but is she an Asian American writer? I haven’t figured that out yet. There’s no mention of her ethnic descent in any of the articles on her and she certainly does not address it in her fiction. Thus, while a great literary novel and even if she is of Asian descent, Madeleine isn’t a “Great Asian American Novel” because there are no artifacts of Asian Americana in it. Stellar Kim, a frequently anthologized writer shows a lot of promise, but she has yet to produce a novel. Frances Hwang also has what it takes to write the next Great Asian American novel, and yet still nothing on that front either. Samantha Lan Chang, I think thus far the only Asian American female to win the Stegner Fellowship in Fiction, has some serious talent, but for whatever reason that talent wasn’t exercised in Hunger or Inheritance. Disappointing. Instead, writers like Min Jin Lee take center stage with all the attention and it’s no wonder that literary critics don’t take Asian American fiction seriously.

Many books have been touted as a Great American Novel of its time. These books, often found on high school reading lists and introductory English course syllabi, include black writers because nobody feels comfortable with an All-American list that does not include Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, or Ralph Ellison, and even Latin American writers because of our kinship to south of the border neighbors, but Asian American writers? Other than maybe reading Amy Tan’s short story “Rules of the Game” which, whenever presented in a high school English class causes all the Asian American kids in that class to shirk in their seats, nothing at all in school curriculum give students a sense of Asian America. The Great Asian American novel would finally accomplish that goal.

So did Amy Tan write the Great Asian American novel of her time? Probably. Arguably, yes. However, I await the AsAm writer who can show mainstream America that the bar can be set much higher.

Word count is one of those things new writers worry about but deny worrying about because we’re not supposed to be worrying about it. According to Wikipedia’s entry on word count, the typical word count of a novel is at least 80,000 words. I’ve heard through the publishing world grapevine than most agents and editors will generally take a query for a first novel more seriously if the word count is between 80,000 and 100,000.

Instead of sleeping, I compiled in an Excel sheet novels I read growing up. They’re mostly classics because those are the only ones where word count is easily obtained. More contemporary fiction would require more digging. I wouldn’t say I personally love every one of these books, but I would regard them as classics, as great novels in themselves, even if the particular author wasn’t that impressive of a writer.

Author — Book Title — Word Count
(in case it wasn’t obvious)

Alan Paton Cry, the Beloved Country 83,774
Alice Walker The Color Purple 66,556
Amy Tan The Kitchen God’s Wife 159,276
Amy Tan Joy Luck Club 91,419
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged 561,996
Ayn Rand The Fountainhead 311,596
Betty Smith A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 145,092
Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities 135,420
Daniel Defoe Moll Flanders 138,087
Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights 107,945
Erich Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front 61,922
Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises 67,707
Frank Norris McTeague 112,737
Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime and Punishment 211,591
George Eliot Middlemarch 316,059
George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four 88,942
Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird 99,121
Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin 166,622
Henry David Thoreau Walden 114,634
Honore de Balzac Pere Goriot 87,846
J.D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye 73,404
James Fenimore Cooper Last of the Mohicans 145,469
Jane Austen Persuasion 87,978
John Knowles A Separate Peace 56,787
John Steinback The Grapes of Wrath 169,481
John Steinback East of Eden 225,395
Joseph Heller Catch-22 174,269
Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five 49,459
Kurt Vonnegut Welcome to the Monkey House 99,560
Leo Tolstoy War and Peace 587,287
Margaret Atwood Alias Grace 157,665
Mark Twain The Adventures of Huck Finn 109,571
Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi 127,776
Maxine Hong Kingston Woman Warrior 70,957
Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being 85,199
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter 63,604
Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray 78,462
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 46,118
Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles 64,768
Toni Morrison Song of Solomon 92,400
Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway 63,422
William Faulkner As I Lay Dying 56,695
William Golding Lord of the Flies 59,900


The Stats:

Average word count of the Great Novels is 136,604 words. That’s like the literary institution’s recommended word count for first novels plus a long novella! But the arithmetic mean isn’t very helpful here because we’ve got some doozies on this list.

Median word count is 99,341 words. That’s longer than Wikipedia’s estimation of the typical novel length, but just about right as a target word count for budding novel writers.

Longest novel on the list is Tolstoy’s War and Peace (surprise, surprise) at 587,287 words. Note that Ayn Rand’s cult classic Atlas Shrugged isn’t that far behind, at 561,996 words.

Shortest novel on the list is Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, one of my personal favorites, at 46,118 words. Most of Hemingway’s novels make pretty slim books too.

Word count on the Bible, Old and New combined: 774,776 words according to Source A and 788,280 words in the King James according to Source B. But the Bible’s word count isn’t relevant here because first of all, it’s not by one author unless you want to go there with me and say it’s God and in that case, well, it’s God, so yeah.

Then again, considering the oeuvres of certain writers, like John Steinbeck, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, and even Amy Tan, they’ve already written way more than 700,000-ish words.


Need A Life:

I can’t believe I just sat here and compiled that list. By the way, I came up with each book off the top of my head, either by author name or by title. I wrecked my brains from the excursion. I need to go do something like shop for shoes or eat ice cream now…. Ugh.


Word count on past PEN/Faulkner Award winners:

Chabon, Michael The Amazing Adventures… 216,020
Banks, Russell Cloudsplitter 260,742
Franzen, Jonathan The Corrections 196,774
Cooper, Susan The Dark Is Rising 82,143
Danticat, Edwidge The Dew Breaker 60,082
Phillips, Caryl A Distant Shore 103,090
Packer, ZZ Drinking Coffee Elsewhere 68,410
Robinson, Marilynne Gilead 84,845
Cunningham, Michael The Hours 54,243
Kennedy, William Ironweed 67,606
McMurtry, Larry Lonesome Dove 365,712
Kingsolver, Barbara The Poisonwood Bible 177,679
Guterson, David Snow Falling on Cedars 138,098
Hegi, Ursula Stones from the River 197,517
Canales, Viola The Tequila Worm 42,715
Jin, Ha Waiting 89,297
Jin, Ha War Trash 130,460


A few surprises here. I thought Ha Jin’s Waiting was longer than 89,000 words because that book lumbered like some sort of literary elephant and took me more than one night to read. Normally books don’t take me more than one night to read. I’m also surprised at the brevity of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.

Thus far, I have about the same word count as Danticat’s Dew Breaker, but the characters have a lot more work to do before the end.


Word count on novels that fall under Amazon.com’s category of “Asian American Literary Fiction”:


A Gesture Life Chang-Rae Lee 112995
Native Speaker Chang-Rae Lee 108568
Aloft Chang-Rae Lee 112481
The Tapestries Kien Nguyen 107251
The Village Bride of Beverly Hills Kavita Daswani 65450
In Full Bloom Caroline Hwang 91577
Breaking the Tongue Vyvyane Loh 135294
Zen Attitude Sujata Massey 76157
Queen of Dreams Chitra Divakaruni 93176
Buddha Baby Kim Wong Keltner 80032
The Dim Sum of All Things Kim Wong Keltner 81994
Pastries Bharti Kirchner 101217
Mambo Peligroso Patricia Chao 93491
Somebody’s Daughter Marie Myung-Ok Lee 87811
The Island of Bicycle Dancers Jiro Adachi 77821
One Hundred Million Hearts Kerry Sakamoto 73996
Dream Jungle Jessica Hagedorn 90764
The Gangster of Love Jessica Hagedorn 90909
Long Stay in a Distant Land Chieh Chieng 59856
Beijing Doll Chun Sue 59913
Shanghai Baby Wei Hui 79507
Invisible Lives Anjali Banerjee 55328
The People’s Republic of Desire Annie Wang 106032
Candy Mian Mian 80434
The Space Between Us Thrity Umrigar 102992
Transparency Frances Hwang 65817
Kept: A Comedy of Sex and Manners Y. Euny Hong 81287
Typical American Gish Jen 79105
Hundred Secret Senses Amy Tan 117799
When the Emperor Was Divine Julie Otsuka 34381
Becoming Madame Mao Anchee Min 104979
Empress Orchid Anchee Min 134598
The Inheritance of Lost Kiran Desai 106698
Country of Origin Don Lee 84335
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Lisa See 99945
Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri 62164
The Namesake Jhumpa Lahiri 104172
Free Food for Millionaires Min Jin Lee 207907
The Woman Warrior Maxine Hong Kingston 69989
Sons of Heaven Terrence Cheng 86681
When My Sister was Cleopatra Moon Frances Park 56480
American Son Brian Ascalon Roley 54858
My Year of Meats Ruth L. Ozeki 104746
When the Elephants Dance Tess Uriza Holthe 164718
Night of Many Dreams Gail Tsukiyama 79151
The Language of Threads Gail Tsukiyama 83953
Lost Names Richard E. Kim 64073


(Not including the books named in other tables above that would count as “APA Literature”)

Activism and Art

A well-known playwright in the Asian American community wrote me recently and said, “Everything I’ve done–in theater, in publishing . . . is more activism than art.”

I write with an activist spirit, but I prefer not to compromise art simply to promulgate my personal ideologies. The line between activism and art is hard to locate, however. I write to express my essence and as an Asian female living in the United States, racism, feminism, and cultural imperialism come into play. Not writing about my experiences in these realms would be disingenuous. Writing about it runs the risk of coming across as proselytizing, as somewhat angry and bitter, as flaunting the I’ve-been-marginalized card.

When re-reading my manuscript (what I have of it so far), story and politics intertwine like fibers of rope. I cannot pull out one without unraveling the other. Is that really what I want? I’ve read works where story and politics are layers. I haven’t the artistry to make my novel layered. It’s just rope.

As an Asian American artist, one faces an audience of stiff-lipped folk with their arms folded. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Too much Asian Americanism and people tell you to get over yourself. Too little of it and people accuse you of being white-washed, ignorant, entrenched in self-denial. You can’t write in an art vacuum. You can’t write fiction like a middle-aged white male, but you weather just as much hostility if you write like Frank Chin.

I don’t know whether I should say “My writing is more activism than art” or “My writing is more art than activism” or “My writing is both” or “My writing is neither.” I shouldn’t have to say any one of the above, but that’s most likely not going to be an option. I’m not saying every one of us must explain our actions and expressions, but if you keep on burning crosses on front lawns, at some point you have to stop and give your reasons.

Sum Ting Wong

A guy I’ve known since high school who I keep in touch with on occasion e-mailed me a forward meant to be humorous. Here it is:

Su Wong marries Lee Wong. The next year, the Wongs have a new baby. The nurse brings over a lovely, healthy, bouncy, but definitely a Caucasian, White baby boy.
‘Congratulations,’ says the nurse to the new parents. ‘Well Mr. Wong, what will you and Mrs. Wong name the baby?’
The puzzled father looks at his new baby boy and says, ‘Well, two Wong’s don’t make a white, so I think we will name him…
Sum Ting Wong

I can’t articulate exactly why it bothers me that a white guy, from a small hick town whose only tie to the Asian American culture is, well, me and he’s never tried to expand that diversity, is sending this forward as opposed to an Asian friend. What further bothers me is that he included the names and e-mail addresses of everyone he was forwarding it to and other than me and an Indian guy, everybody else on the list was white.

And because life has a funny way of having everything happen all at once, just recently I had a conversation with a girl from my hometown which didn’t bother me per se, but in light of the e-mail forward I received, I couldn’t help but recall the conversation:

Small Town Girl: “Wow, so you’re in the Bay Area now. I hear there’s a lot of your people out there.”

Me: “Um…yes. You could say that.”

STG: “You’re so brave! I don’t know how I could live in a place like that, where everybody on the streets speak foreign languages. When I’m in America, I like to hear English. You know what I mean? Hey, so like when you meet Asian people in California, do you speak Asian to them or English?”

Me: “We speak Quechua.”

STG: “Really!”

Me: “No.”

With high speed Internet at our fingertips, variegated media outlets, and books, I wonder how it is so many people can still be utterly tabula rasa when it comes to other cultures. Granted I’m not informed enough about, say, Latino, Persian, Bengali, Black, or other ethnic enclaves, but I’d like to think I know enough to avoid putting my foot in my own mouth. It’s sad when people aren’t interested in learning about anything that’s too-different from them and instead wind up asking me inane questions like “When you meet Asian people in California, do you speak Asian to them or English?”

Can a writer write without controversy about characters of a different race from her?

In an interview with Khaled Hosseini I heard on NPR, the interviewer asked Hosseini if it was more difficult for him to write from the perspective of women in A Thousand Splendid Suns than it was to write from the perspective of men in his debut novel, The Kite Runner. He said at first he struggled with it only because he tried too hard to “think like a woman,” always second-guessing himself, wondering if that line or this one “sounds more like a man, like myself.” Would a woman say this? Would a woman do that? The constant questioning crippled him.

Finally, he stopped thinking about the differences between a woman and a man and just wrote from the perspective of motivations. Would this character be motivated to say this, or do that? That liberated him and ultimately made A Thousand Splendid Suns one frickin’ good book.

Does the same apply to racial differences, or should I say, perceived and presumed racial differences?

In the novel I’m working on, I write about the thoughts of characters that are not Asian American. I want to argue that I should be able to do this, but I have doubts. And even if by some great luck I can competently do this, do I have the right to do it? I mean, I know how antsy I myself get when I read a book about Asia penned by a white guy from Minnesota. Nell Freudenberger (a pretty white girl) wrote from the point of view of Indian men in Lucky Girls and did it quite well. In one story from Ideas of Heaven, Joan Silber wrote about the Boxer Rebellion, describing the thoughts of Chinese characters, and that was just god-awful. I’ll be writing about blacks and whites from a yellow perspective. Hmm. Oh this will be an interesting excursion.

:: I interrupt regular blogging to indulge in a meme ::

My Responses to 10 Signs A Book Might Be Written By Me:

  1. Flawed Antiheroes. Main characters in my novels and short stories are not lovable; they’re understandable. The situations they find themselves in never “just happen” to victimize them, but rather the characters brought it upon themselves and they must deal with the consequences of their own actions.
  2. Dichotomous Characters. The dissenter is usually paired with a conformist, an acquiescent personality with a domineering one, and each character has his or her subliminal counterpart.
  3. No Race Card. My characters deal with marginalization as a result of their own inadequacies or perceived inadequacies, and not marginalization as a result of their race.
  4. Asian People. I write from the perspective of characters of unnamed East Asian heritage, but on occasion I’ll include a few details that suggest they’re Korean or Taiwanese or some ethnic group descendant of Han.
  5. Religious References. I would argue vehemently that I am not religious (but “spiritual”) and once upon a time in my youth I went through the nihilist phase, which I think any kid who reads Derrida, Camus, Nietzsche, and Jacobi will inevitably slip into. Yet a friend pointed out that I incorporate a lot of both Christian and Buddhist symbolism. Upon reflection, I realize I do. Hmm.
  6. Feminist Themes. There’s usually a strong presence of feminist thought underlying the narration. It may come as a critique of the state of feminism or it may offer my notion of what feminism means. It may also offer my interpretation and observation of feminism in the Asian American community.
  7. Lack of Sentimentality. No mushy love stories, no beautifully tragic heroines, no knights in shining armor, and never anything that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, unless stuff like Vonnegut, Conrad, and Chekhov leave you feeling warm and fuzzy….not that I write like Vonnegut, Conrad, or Chekhov; my point is if the stories leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, then you’re pathological.
  8. Nonlinear Narrative Structure. I almost never write (or think) in chronological order. The organization will follow stream of consciousness.
  9. Verbosity. Me, myself, and I are working on this one. As of the present, though, I tend to be verbose. Bleh.
  10. Critique of the “Asian Mob Mentality. Enough said. =)

Gender vs. Race

The thoughts materialized into actual expression first when a friend said, “Women in sum make up a higher majority than Blacks in sum and it’s always been that way so laws favor women, overwhelmingly. Especially white women. That’s why the current presidential campaign dynamics are so astounding.”

People forget the 15th Amendment came before the 19th Amendment. And that got me thinking. Which do I identify with more: marginalization by way of my gender or marginalization by way of my race?


I can identify with all that is biologically, sociologically, and psychologically associated with being a woman. Not so with being Asian.

In either the academy or the professional realm, any time the going got a little tough, the women were there for me. When I needed someone’s confidence, I went to a woman regardless of her race, not an Asian man.

Asians don’t stick up for each other unless something abhorrent that really shocks the conscience happens, like a hate crime. And even then, it’s not exactly reflex. As an Asian, you’re on your own. Asians don’t stick their necks out for other Asians if it means it will compromise their own social standing among whites. That’s why you never see huge Asian movements. Asian women may stand up for Asian women though; and Asian men for Asian men. Gender makes the difference, not race.

So forgive me for siding with my gender over my race. 

In this country, it’s more challenging to be a powerful woman than it is to be a powerful minority man. The rationale is a man, no matter what his race, won’t go postal on you just because he’s menstruating this time of the month. The rationale is a man, no matter what his race, won’t miss work because he has morning sickness, will be delivering a baby that day, or has to switch to part-time work now to take care of said baby.

A man with some balls, no matter what his race, is always an admirable thing. A woman with some balls, even if she’s a privileged white woman, is still freaky, scary, and not to be trusted.

A minority man going cutthroat for the gold is beating all odds. A woman going cutthroat for the gold is condemned for “not knowing her place in the world,” which is, you know, the kitchen or the secretary’s desk. We’d like to think we’ve progressed beyond that, but we really haven’t. No one chastises a woman for not pursuing higher education, for not putting everything she’s got into her career. A man who doesn’t make something of himself in his career, though, is definitely chastised for not quite being a “full man.”

And let’s not even talk about being a minority woman. Or a minority gay woman. Then the less visible and vocal you are, the better it is for us all. Really. Either way, it’s that woman-factor on top of being minority or being gay that really breaks us.

So forgive me for siding with my gender over my race.

I compiled a list of my favorite writers and their age when they first published their debut book, i.e., novel, memoir, or first collection of short stories. Some made me say, “I figured!” (like Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Italo Calvino). Others made me feel like even though the clock is ticking, I’m still okay. =)

  • Junot Diaz – 29
  • Thomas Pynchon – 26
  • Margaret Atwood – 30
  • John Barth – 27
  • Ayn Rand – 29
  • Paul Auster – 35
  • Amy Tan – 37
  • Maxine Hong Kingston – 36
  • Ernest Hemingway – 27
  • Haruki Murakami – 21 (but then he went on a one decade hiatus)
  • Franz Kafka – 42 (but he wrote Metamorphosis when he was 32 and published his first short story at 21)
  • James Joyce – 49
  • Virginia Woolf – 33
  • John Steinback – 27
  • Ha Jin – 40
  • David Sedaris – 38
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – 28
  • Yann Martel – 30
  • Don Delillo – 35
  • Joan Didion – 29
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – 24
  • Francine Prose – 27
  • Kurt Vonnegut – 30
  • Salman Rushdie – 28
  • Italo Calvino – 24
  • E.L. Doctorow – 29
  • Umberto Eco – 48
  • Raymond Carver – 38
  • Jhumpa Lahiri – 32

This makes the average age for the debut book to be at 32 years old.

Let’s not talk about where I stand compared to that.

On Citizenship

I’ve met a lot of recent Chinese immigrants from my generation who seek out U.S. citizenship but lack appreciation of civic duty. An acquaintance applied for citizenship because it would be more convenient for her, but she still felt wholly Chinese. She said to me with light heart that she would remain silent and not actually say the oath because her loyalty still remained with China. Annoyed, I asked, “Then why become a U.S. citizen? Just stay Chinese if you don’t give a damn about being American.” Citizenship is more than legal status; it’s also about your social and moral obligations, duties, responsibilities and your loyalty to a particular community.

The lack of appreciation for being American from recent immigrants who attain U.S. citizenship status irks me. These Chinese immigrants only think in terms of what U.S. citizenship can do for them financially and professionally, and feel no civic duty whatsoever toward America. A large part of the prejudice and hostility against recent Asian immigrants comes from the sense that they take, take, and take, and don’t give back. They don’t partake in community service. They believe that begrudgingly giving up taxes every year is sufficient contribution on their part. They won’t even consider themselves American. “I’m Chinese,” they say to you proudly, offensively, with zeal. Yeah well then why do you have a U.S. passport? “Oh, because it’s more advantageous for me to have a U.S. passport than a Chinese one.” Not everything is black and white. Not everything functions in a purely legal application. And that’s coming from a law grad.

“If China and the U.S. went to war, I’d easily side with China,” they say. If that’s how a person truly feels, then they shouldn’t bother applying for U.S. citizenship. I don’t deny that the Taiwanese heritage is as integral to my identity as my immersion in American culture. If Taiwan and the U.S. went to war (for some completely bizarre hypothetical reason), I’d definitely be torn. Many conflicting thoughts and sentiments would sear through me. I couldn’t “easily” choose any side. My parents understand the concept of citizenship. When asked what they would do if America went to war with their motherland, they admitted it would be extremely tough on them because America is their home now. That kind of attachment to country and nation is what one ought to feel before applying for citizenship. Before a recent immigrant experiences that kind of affinity to the American land and the American people, she shouldn’t bother with citizenship at all.