Hearing Mandarin, Speaking English

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In middle school, “Yo Mama” jokes infuriated me. My mother was so Chinese she couldn’t eat a hamburger without pinching her nose. She was so Chinese she wore bamboo slippers.

In a stunning essay for the Michigan Daily, Carlina Duan writes about growing up as the child of Chinese immigrants in America.

She renders her relationship with her mother in particularly painful beauty—the sacrifices she didn’t realize her mother made for her, and the power she wielded over her mother as an English-speaker when being the only Chinese kid in school made her feel powerless.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →