Slanted Eyes

The Asian-American experience

Posted Jan 14, 2016

Sam Louie
Source: Sam Louie

“Chink!” “Jap!” “Where are you from?” “Do you eat dog?” “Why don’t you go back to where you came from?” “Do you know Kung-Fu?” From the racist to the innocuous, issues of culture, ethnicity, and discrimination are prevalent themes for Asian minorities in the United States.

The Asian desire to be "American" and fit into mainstream society in the U.S. can be challenging as reminders that they are "perpetual foreigners" can be seen in jokes, teasing, and at times outright racism.

What stereotypes persist for Asian-Americans? How is life in America different for Asian refugees from war-torn countries compared to Asian immigrants who arrive on their own accord?

The term “Asian” itself represents up to more than 40 different ethnic groups who now call America home.  The varying histories, traditions, and cultures among the different Asian ethnic groups mean certain general Asian stereotypes can be misleading and unhelpful.

Slanted Eyes: The Asian-American Poetic Experience is a collection of spoken word and haiku poems that can be useful in understanding not only Asian-American experiences but also issues related to mental health, counseling, addiction recovery, and Christianity.

Even the title of this book may be uncomfortable for some because it evokes centuries-old caricatures and demeaning and racist jokes at the expense of the shape of an Asian person's eyes.  But that is exactly why I named it, "Slanted Eyes" because I wanted to confront and address the taunts and teasing that is so prevalent among Asian-Americans both past and present.

The inspiration for this poetry collection comes not only from my own experiences of feeling ostracized, different, and inadequate but also from the clinical experiences of my many Asian-American clients who experienced similar incidents of discrimination.

As a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in Asian-American issues and addictions, clients confide in the difficulties of assimilation, identity, and acceptance in an American culture that finds it difficult to see Asians as part of the social and national fabric.

The concept of being a "perpetual foreigner" weighs heavily on them as they share stories of wanting to prove their identity as Americans while still holding and cherishing some of the values, customs, and languages that make them unique as Asians.

In addition, the poetry collection also touches on general issues related to mental health, addictions, and Asian-American Christianity. 

Related links: