Nathanie Lee, 40's
Current Role: Teacher Educator and Curriculum Designer
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
Chinese American/Asian American/BIPOC.
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
I was born in Sacramento, California, but my parents immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in the 60's. My father's family came here by boat while my mother's family came by plane. Each of their families needed sponsorship by family or family friends in order to be able to come over to the U.S.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
As an Asian American, I grew up wanting to stifle the Asian side of who I was. I also hid behind the model minority myth and tried not to stand out. However, as I got older, pushing away that identity really stifled who I was and the culture that really made me who I am now. I think that the challenge of being Asian is that you can hide behind the myth and stereotypes or you can break free from it. When I realized the model minority myth was socially constructed to perpetuate anti-Blackness in dominant society and in our own communities, I had to sit with that discomfort, learn from it, and grow.
I think one of the strengths is that our community and family becomes a part of who we are. Not every family is perfect, but I learned early on by example that you must always respect your elders and those in your community. As I get older, the lessons from family become more near and dear to my heart. Since losing two grandparents in the last two years, I feel like I have lost a part of me- like I have lost some grounding in some way.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I would say my proudest accomplishment has been running marathons. Though there are other moments I am proud of, I think that running marathons taught me a lot about persistence, taking things slow, setting goals, and being mindful and responsive to how I feel.
It also taught me that I can't get through challenging moments without the support and encouragement of loved ones. Running marathons helped me get through my Ph.D. program and also helped me persist through other challenging moments in life.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
The greatest thing I have learned and appreciated from my family is understanding the value of family. I know I pushed them away when I was younger, but I have realized that without them, I wouldn't be who I am. Growing up, we were always visiting family members. I don't remember weekends when we did not see them. Even now, many of my extended family all live within 5 minutes of one another. They still have large gatherings and they all take care of each other. I miss that. Now that my grandparents are much older, my parents have the honor (and challenge) of taking care of them. I see that it is hard for them, but I also see why they do it. This act of love for their parents has been a great example to me and my sister.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
When I was younger, my parents mostly spoke to me and my sister in Cantonese. We also visited my grandparents often and watched Chinese movies so that we were always listening to or speaking the language. As I grew up, I started to lose my speaking abilities because I wasn't practicing it as much. Now, I don't have as many people to practice with unless I speak to my grandparents, but I still understand a lot of it. I fear losing my connection to the language when all my grandparents pass. Sometimes I go to a Chinese restaurant just to listen to people speak. It is comforting.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
Don't lose sight of where you come from - know your history, your family's stories. They make you who you are and are a part of how you navigate the world.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Being with loved ones, learning, being outdoors in the sunshine, and eating Chinese comfort foods. Am I allowed to write more than one? ;)
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
My research and dissertation was on the racialized identities of novice teachers of color. Being a teacher and now, a teacher educator of color frames how I do my work. One of my hopes is to continue to support preservice and inservice teachers of color through what I have learned in my own work, through the work of other academics, and more importantly, through my relationships with those teachers. I know that navigating the educational system as a teacher of color either requires us to conform to the norm, or to challenge the oppressive practices that have continued to marginalize students and communities of color.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
To be featured, read the directions and fill out this form. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome.
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