Rachel Wong: "I don’t really feel any connection to Hong Kong or China. I used to go to Chinese school, but then I didn’t really want to do it — my parents let me quit to play travel soccer instead. I barely know any Chinese. Most of friends I've grown up with are from playing sports; there weren't that many other Asian people."
Susie Wong: "She’s pretty Americanized. I remember when she was maybe 6 years old she would come home and say, 'Mom, how come I'm not Jewish?'"
RW: "Yeah, I used to want to be Jewish."
SW: "Because lots of her friends were Jewish, and the Jewish people had so many holidays off. So then they decided to petition the school district to get Chinese New Year off. We moved here from Hong Kong when I was 7.
Will Wong: "My father came here in his 20s. He escaped when the Japanese invaded China. He worked for over 10 years, saved his money, and went to marry my mother in Hong Kong. The law didn’t allow Asian immigrants to bring spouses until the '50s. So that’s when my father went back to marry my mother. "I was born here, so Rachel is technically between first and second generation. One-and-a-half generation. Growing up, we lived on the edge of Chinatown. Then my parents sent me and my older brother to Hong Kong for two years. We were told not to tell people where we're from because we're the only kids walking around with leather shoes. Back in the '60s, there was a lot of kidnapping. "Susie and I met on the Lower East Side; she was going to a junior high school. I actually took her to my eighth grade prom when we were 14 years old. We're 58, so I've known her for 45 years, believe it or not."
SW: "He didn’t know how to dance. All we kept doing was walking in circles. But we dated and then we broke up for like probably a year and a half, and then we got back together. And then we got married very young, 22 years old."
I even worked for the ASPCA. When it was my time to put the dogs to sleep, that’s when I quit.
WW: "I've done so many things in my life. I was a chef, I was a New York City taxicab driver, I was a bagel roller. I worked as a auto mechanic. I worked in UPS loading tractor trailers. I even worked for the ASPCA. When it was my time to put the dogs to sleep, that’s when I quit. "Finally, I came to a point in my life. I was an auto mechanic and I told her, I said, 'Look you gotta help me out. I don’t want to do this anymore.' So I went back to community college for two years. I worked for two years, right, and then I started going back to night school. So I went to night school for nine-and-a-half years to finish my bachelor's and master's degrees, right? And I'm still with the same company after 30 years."
Maybe if the U.S. was like those other countries, we wouldn’t be here. My family didn’t have Ph.D.'s.
WW: "In other countries, if you're bringing money into the country or if you're a Ph.D., they welcome you. The United States, we welcome anybody. Right? So there's a difference. Maybe if the U.S. was like those other countries, we wouldn’t be here. My family didn’t have Ph.D.'s. Now, both my daughters have their master's."
Phyllis DiRico Ciancio: "My family decided to move when I was 15 — I had no choice. It was very hard to switch. Nothing like Italy. And my English? Nothing. I took maybe three months just before I came here. "It was bad. I remember me and my cousin, we used to cry between periods at school. It was totally different than Italy. I was lucky because I had a lot of family, a lot of cousins that were my age here. But other than that, no. I still feel that I don’t belong here. I still feel more like an Italian than an American — and we've been here 45 years. I don’t know, maybe because I'm married to an Italian."
I still feel more like an Italian than an American — and we've been here 45 years.
Iti Sinha: "I don’t even know how it actually happened. We were going to live in India, presumably forever, and then my husband went abroad to work and save some money. We moved to England, and I thought we’d stay there for a few years and then go back to India. While we were there, my husband realized that he could come to the U.S. if he wanted to. "Looking back, I didn’t even think that we were coming here forever. It dawned on me after a while, after many years actually, that I am never going to go back and I’m here." Ashutosh Gupta: "We ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio. When you immigrate, you start at the bottom. So your wages are low, and when you have a family and very little money to go around, you want to live in some kind of apartment complex, which offers decent schooling. So, you know, all the young immigrants are always found in the same pocket.
would I want to put my kids through the same nonsense of being the one nonwhite kid in a suburban school in Long Island? No.