For as long as I can remember, I have always been two things. I have straddled the race line, teetering ever so precariously between ‘white’ and ‘Asian.’ As someone who is of two races, I have had to go through the struggle of figuring of not just who I am, but what I am. If my dad was white and my mom was Korean, then what did that make me? Was I a mutt? Was I just mixed? Was I a half, but never a whole?
What irritated me the most about the entire process was that I didn’t know of a single word that I could use to describe me. Growing up in the south, there were people who identified as ‘black’ or ‘white’ or ‘latino’ or ‘Asian.’ But what about me? What about the person who was both (or more) of those things? Where did they belong? Where did I belong?
It wasn’t until a college sociology course that I stumbled across the word Hapa. In that particular course, I wrote a paper about my personal journey to self-identification. I wrote about what it felt to be mixed. I wrote about what it felt like to have people perceive me as something that I’m not. And I also wrote about what it felt like for people to only see just half of me.
During the writing of that paper, I discovered The Hapa Project, which was conducted by the artist Kip Fulbeck. The Hapa Project brings together people who are of half Asian ancestry to celebrate both their differences and similarities. In his book Part Asian, 100% Hapa, Fulbeck documents pictures of people — young and old — who all have some Asian ancestry. But what I found most interesting is that he allowed each of these people to write in their own words the answer to that question: what are you?
This book spoke to me in a way that no book has ever been able to. For the first time in my life, I was looking at people who looked like me. All of these people were half Asian and half something else. Just the fact that we had this in common made me feel as if I belonged. I finally felt as if I found a group, a community of people, that I could call my own. I wasn’t just half white or half Asian. I was Hapa. I was my own race. I was — and am — 100% Hapa.
I used to call myself, briefly Eurasian or Amerasian, but none of those words felt right to me. None of those words felt like it fit me. When I first spoke the word Hapa, I just knew that this was it. This was where I belonged.
I had found my community.
Click the book below to check out Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian, 100% Hapa!
And you, my dear reader, tell me about a book that has impacted you in a huge way, the way that Part Asian, 100% Hapa did for me.