Lost connection with identity

Growing up in America leaves missing piece in native culture


graphic by Victoria Van

Story by Joseph Asher, staff writer

I’ve always had a strong feeling that something was missing, that a part of me was not yet put together: my culture, a tricky puzzle that I struggle with figuring out.

Being adopted at the age of two deprived me of learning about my culture, about who I was. I was born in South Vietnam, in a small but beautiful town where I spent two years of my life before being adopted and taken to the United States. I know nothing about my family other than the name of my mother and twin brother. This leaves me without any knowledge of my cultural identity.

Being raised in a white home pushed the Asian customs and traditions aside, and I only grew up with American customs. Growing up with a culture I felt no connection to was confusing.  

Especially now that I’m older, having matured, I have a greater appreciation for things like culture and family history, one which I know nothing of and will most likely never get the opportunity to immerse myself in.

Every day I see people who look like me, people who probably share the same background as me, yet they have what I don’t — their culture and knowledge of traditions and history that runs through their family. All I have is various objects given to my parents from people on the streets so that I have something from my home, objects that hold little to no meaning to me as I don’t understand their importance, their significance.

My only knowledge of what life and culture in Vietnam is like comes from the media and the few Vietnamese people I’ve met in my life. Not having any connection to Vietnam is a huge factor; the only connection I have is my twin, the one person related to me by blood that I know.

It is not that being American means an inferior culture, but there is something missing that makes me feel incomplete. Any encounters with other Vietnamese people leave me feeling lesser, especially when they know the language and customs and are therefore, in my eyes, “truly” Vietnamese.

In the future, I plan to travel to where I was born and take the opportunity to find that missing side of me, my origins and the culture of my family. I will learn the traditions and customs and bring them back home to embrace whilst still carrying on with the culture I was raised with.