As an immigrant, I had experienced difficulties in Canada. I was interested in reading essays about someone who had similar experience as I did. Recently, I read two essays that dealt with people who tried to find personal identity in a new land. I’m a Banana and Proud of It (1997) by Wayson Choy and Growing up on Grace (1997) by Rosie DiManno in Refining reading writing. These two essays will guide new immigrants to find their cultural identity crisis in the new land in a different way. Both essays are alike in terms of rhetorical modes, subject, and purpose but conclusion of both essays is very different to one and another.
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The cultural identity crisis is still relevant to these days. Many new immigrants struggle with their identity crisis. During a period of five years, 1,110,000 people immigrated to Canada (ak Canada). In 1970s, many of people in Toronto were Italian (Buzzelli 2001) because 40 percent of Italian decided to immigrant to Canada (ak canada). Moreover, around 9,600 of Chinese immigrants landed in Vancouver per year (Wiebe 2012).
Both essays open with a narrative which affects readers to understand better authors’ characteristics through their experiences. Wayson claimed that he was proud of himself to be called banana:
Because both my parents came from China, I look Chinese. But I cannot read or write Chinese and barely speak it. I love my North American citizenship. I don’t mind being called a “banana,” yellow on the outside and white inside. I’m proud I’m a banana. (1997 pp.169)
He claimed himself as a Chinese Canadian in terms of a banana. He knows himself very well so that he does not care what other people think or call him as whether Chinese or Canadian. Also, Lisa is a second generation of Germans who said, “I feel proud of all my nationalities. I love that I’m both German and Asian” (Keller 2010). Lisa also thinks positive about herself being both nationalities.
Rosie is not similar to Wayson. She is not confident about herself and she does not like her Italian culture because she thinks that it would be a shame to reveal herself to her Canadian friends that she is an Italian and she is afraid that her friends think that she is different from them. Even though she loves Italian food, she usually throw away her lunch during the lunch time at school (DiManno 1997) According to her, she is diffidence and not honest because she wants to hide herself from others and not to show who she really is and she also cares and worries a lot about what other people think about her.
The subject of both essays is dealing with personal identity. Wayson was struggled with his own personal identity. He had to deal with the pressures from his parents. His parents asked him to assimilate with Canadians. They want him to be educated so that he could work in good condition with good pay in Canada (Choy 1997). However, at the same time they also asked him to remember he is Chinese where he came from and really who he is (Choy 1997). After he discovered the historical background of Chinese immigrants, he was pleased with what Chinese pioneers have done for their next generation. They sacrificed themselves to settle down in Canada which helped him to have a connection with Chinese.
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Moreover, Rosie also suffered from her personal identity like Wayson did. Before she visited her home country, she believed that she did not have any connection with Italians but the first time she went to Italy which is her home country, she felt that she belong to that place because everybody looked similar and her name did not sound weird to people in Italy (DiManno 1997). On the other hand, even though she felt she belongs to Italy, she felt more comfortable and relieved every time she traveled back to Canada (DiManno 1997). The reason why she felt Canada is more like her home country is because she was born and grew up in Canada.
The purpose of Wayson’s essay was to identify the cultural identity crisis and to encourage immigrants. When he was growing up in Vancouver’s Chinatown, he was struggling with his own personal identity. He said, “Many Chinatown teen-agers felt we didn’t quite belong in any one world. We looked Chinese, but thought and behaved North American” (1997 pp.170). What he means is that this identity crisis is not only his concern but other second generation of Chinese might have experienced the same thing. This may be true both for the second generation of Chinese and the second generation of other countries. Therefore, he seems to encourage people who have had same problems with this issue.
When Rosie was growing up on Grace St. downtown, she was not the only one who was suffering from the cultural identity crisis. She described her town that there were full of Italians (DiManno 1997) but she did not feel any connection and involvement with them. In other words, she did not feel to be part of the community. This kind of feeling makes Rosie claim herself as an alien to Italian people and she also feels similarity to Jewish families who lived in part of Grace St. (DiManno 1997) because she thinks that they are also different from Italian people too.
The Wayson concludes his essay differently from Rosie. When Wayson tried to explore his conflict between being Chinese and Canadian, Wayson said, “I discovered a truth: these “between world” struggles are universal” (1997 pp.171). Wayson believes that all new immigrants experience an identity crisis and assimilation is a natural part of moving to a new country. However, Rosie believes that even she tried as hard as to pretend to being Canadian, she said, “Relentlessly Inglese in attitude and tastes, irredeemably Italian in my genes. But not hyphenated, never hyphenated” (1997 pp.215). This quote represents that how she feels about assimilation in both cultures. She does not agree with Wayson’s opinion. She believes that it is impossible to be an Italian and Canadian at the same time.
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