This paper discusses the search for an Asian American identity. In East to America, Elaine H. Kim and Eui-Young Yu attempt to answer this from the Korean American perspective. Their book includes interviews with diverse of Korean Americans, some of whom define themselves as Korean, some as Korean American, and some as simply American. As this self-definition implies, a single identity does not exist. Nevertheless, many of these interviews show that immigrants and the children of immigrants continue to struggle to create a synthesized identity, one that provides them with the benefits of their rich heritage while acknowledging their new circumstances, new loyalties, and new home. The task is not an easy one, but it is necessary as part of the ongoing search for roots, meaning, and personal validation.
The term "Asian American" is relatively new. Immigrants to the United States from Asia have always been a part of the nation's history, but legislative efforts to restrict their numbers have prevented them from having the dramatic, long-term effect of many other nationalities until fairly recently. Like other cultural groups before them, Asian Americans have undergone (and are still going through) a struggle to define themselves as residents of a new society and a foreign culture.
Asian Americans have also had to contend with the fact that they do not share a homogenous heritage. Immigrants from Taipei, Hong Kong, or Vietnam all arrive with very different histories, cultural roots, and expectations. Kim and Yu's book is a collection of interviews with Americans whose Asian ties are primarily to Korea, and their attempts to define themselves, while different from those of Asian immigrants from other regions, nevertheless give an indication of the difficulty that the task presents.
Reverend Tom Sun Lim argues that developing a distinct identity takes time: "The Jews have a three-hundred-year history in this country; th...