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Chinese-American Author Explores Diverse Heritage with Students 



Written by: Kahri Jones,

Chinese born American author, Cathy Bao Bean, spoke in front of students in Tomezsko lounge Thursday, February 19, during common hour.

The opportunity for the American students to learn exactly what it means to be bicultural became readily available as Bean began to share her experiences since moving to Brooklyn, New York from China in 1946.

She is a firm believer of self-empowerment through life stories. This self-awareness of being bicultural ultimately led Bean to write The Chopsticks-Fork Principle, a memoir of exploring her multiple identity roles.

Bean’s presentation gave the audience detailed recounts of her experiences of acculturation in America after emigrating from China with her parents and growing up in the 1950’s.

She affirmed that dealing with the pressures of her native ideologies and western beliefs has shaped her to become a more dynamic person.

By request, Bean asked the students to have some sense of humor when exploring cultural differences.

Bean informed the students, “To be culturally based, you have to understand a cultures humor.” She followed by explaining, “There is a fine line between dysfunctional stereotypes and functional generalizations.”

Bean professed that good humor allows one to see things from different perspectives.

“You have to admit when you do not understand,” Bean told the audience. “It is only then where you allow others to play the role as teacher.”

Bean noted that 25-percent of Americans view Chinese people negatively. She then joked that any U.S. president would be pleased to have an approval rating of 75-percent. Mainstream images of foreign cultures rarely do a good job at portraying realistic insight into others who happen to live in other places. Bean recounted purchasing a house near farmland with her Caucasian husband. The neighbors thought that she was the housemaid until there was an exchange of communication and perspectives.

Student were equipped with philosophical advice for understanding oneself. Bean informed the students that one must step out of structure to get a hold of your true self. She also reminded students that people are a formation of the relations with others and your duty to them.

Bean ends in a light note and encourages people to embrace differences. Her book explores the balance between traditional cultures and modern cultures. It resonates not only with people from traditional Chinese families, but also with all cultures. We all are internally full of diverse ideas, beliefs and customs that help build societal relationships.

Traditional culture requires more time than modern life calls for.

Bean offers suggestive advice when taking the time to acknowledge other cultures different from ours. The observer or learner must give attention to the ordinary events and figure out how it binds cultural meaning. What is normal to one person may be strange to others; it works the other way around too.

In light of the Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, Chinese-American food was available for those who filled the lounge in attendance.

Alongside the students who are born American citizens was their international exchange student peers.

Vince Wang, a freshman whose hometown is not far from Shanghai, China, ecstatically describes Chinese New Year as a time when families gather and celebrate over a huge dinner. “Dumplings are a favorite food item in my family,” Vince states as he waits for a serving of veggie dumplings. “After we eat, our parents give children red envelopes that represent fortune and luck. There are many fire works too.”

Chinese New Year is a major holiday that is sometimes referred to as Lunar New Year, and is celebrated by neighboring cultures, because of the commonly shared lunisolar calendar.

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