How The Hapa Project Changed My Life

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.

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Hi! I'm Helen and I am a 32 year old biracial millennial mom raising two multiracial children. I am a writer, English consultant, and social media manager. I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

15 thoughts on “How The Hapa Project Changed My Life

  1. An interesting post Helen. We live in London and my sons are very mixed lol. Their father is half Indian and half Spanish while I am Scottish. The boys love being mixed and being in mixed environments, with mixed food or traditions like at family weddings or parties. They have no problems with who or what they are, they say they just enjoy it.

    But, I will take a look at the book, just out of interest πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you! That is really awesome. The best thing about being mixed is the wealth of cultural influences that you get to be a part of. I also think that it is easier to grow up mixed today than it was even twenty years ago. And you should absolutely check out that book. It was lifechanging for me πŸ™‚

      1. Oh it wasn’t too big a problem even thirty years ago in London and the boys say they’ve never had any racism from anyone, even as kids. Yes, it’s great being part of mixed culture, especially the food at parties lol.

  2. I know what you mean it’s almost the same being Latino.. do I belong in the Hispanic community or Latinx? I also had those questions in my mind and was wondering, one day I said to myself; “All people from Latin America are Latinos” Why split in to so much groups?. Either way we are ALL humans at the end of the day🀍

    1. Yes, completely agree! There should just be one group: the human one lol
      Please forgive my ignorance,but what is the difference between being hispanic and Latino/a?

      1. US actually came up with these terms..Hispanic people with ancestry from Spain and Latino people with ancestry from Latin America..πŸ€·πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ there other places they change the meaning of it.

  3. It’s interesting to read about your journey Helen and what you learned along the way. What also stands out is that the word β€œhapa” in Kiswahili means Here.☺️

  4. We all struggle to belong somewhere but what you faced was something complex at the very roots. I’m so happy for you that you found a way to accept yourself the way you are. This book looks very interesting! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Hugs πŸ’œπŸ’œ

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