In the past, my name “Min Yu” bothered me for a long time because of how different and inconvenient it was. In elementary school, I would get bullied for having a name different from my peers who had English names. I remember a volunteer in my after-school program called me a fish because of my name. Yu in Chinese has many meanings depending on which homophone we are talking about. And one of them was fish. Although the volunteer was joking, it still hurt my feelings to have my name, a part of my identity, compared to something else. In other instances, my name would be compared to “menu” because of how similar Min Yu is pronounced. It got so bad to the point, I asked my mother if I could legally change my name to something that sounds more English, but she told me it would be a very long, pricey, and complicated process, and we could not afford that. Luckily, the name jokes stopped or weren’t as prevalent when I grew older. However, another problem arose. Most people didn’t know whether Min was my first name and Yu was my last name. I had a teacher and a classmate in high school call me Min throughout the entire school year because after correcting them a few times, they never seemed to get the hint. Other times I would be called Ming Yu, Huang Min, or something far from what my name is. At some point, I stopped correcting people altogether. I gave up. I was tired of correcting people to get my name correct. Then, I saw my friend who was persistent in correcting others when they got her Indian name wrong. I saw myself in her. I asked myself why we were so adamant about correcting other people when they got our names wrong. Our names are an important part of our identity. It was given to us at birth and carries deep personal, familial, and cultural connections. When someone hears your name, it reminds them of who you are and what kind of person you are. For others to repeatedly say my name wrong felt like a disrespect to my identity and the name my loved ones gave me. Although it may be a hassle to continuously correct others, it is important to me and for others to accurately pronounce my name, which is a significant part of my cultural identity.
People from all over the world immigrate to the United States to pursue their American Dream. For each person, the American dream may mean something different. Some are working to achieve personal goals in their life. Others are looking for status recognition or material prosperity. But what is true for every immigrant is that they are starting a new beginning in which they are pursuing to succeed and prosper in a way they could not in their native country.
And like many immigrants, my parents wanted to escape poverty in China and attain a brighter future for their children and themselves. At age two, my mother and I immigrated to America, joining my father and his side of the family who already resided in New York before our arrival. One year later after settling in New York, my parents had their second child, my brother.
With little education, my parents were limited to options that required manual labor. They worked from day to night and had little time to attend to us. As a result, I mostly took care of my brother. Perhaps it was because I was the one who mostly communicated with my brother when he was young, he only spoke English fluently and not our Canton dialect. Hence, I became the translator between my brother and my parents. Apart from being a translator at home for my parents and my brother, I was also somewhat of a translator in school too.
Although my elementary school had a decent population of the Chinese people, my teacher would often place newly immigrated students next to me in class, so I could guide and help them. However, I spoke Cantonese or mostly a Canton dialect at home and was not extremely fluent in Mandarin, the language which many of the immigrant students spoke. And though I was not fluent in Mandarin, the sense of responsibility compelled me to help out my new classmates. When I went back home, I would practice Mandarin by myself through converting Cantonese words I learned from the television to Mandarin or googling them. On the weekends, I would practice my Mandarin in my Chinese school. Through all this practice and communication, I was able to help my classmates to the best of my ability to catch up with the rest of the class.