On the first day of class each one of my peers was invited to share their personal Asian American Heros. Hearing various actors, athletes, and family members was quite inspiring and when it came to my turn, I knew exactly who my hero was. My grandmother at a very young age was given up for adoption and for much of her life grew up in a catholic orphanage. Despite this rough upbringing, her spirit and Korean culture never subsided. When people look at me they tend to assume my ethnicity. Often to their surprise, my upbringing was greatly influenced by a strong willed Korean woman.
My grandmother passed away when I was very young. However, her story as a hardworking and feisty woman lives on through my dad’s memories as well as cultural traditions that continue to persist.
According to my dad, my grandmother, Phyllis Ann Wang, instilled in him the importance of sacrifice and hard work. She was raised for most of her life in Kailua, Hawaii. My great grandparents came to work on the sugar cane plantations. When my great grandmother Laura Wang, had two more children, she had a hard time caring for everyone. At 16, my grandmother left the care of her parents and was raised in a catholic orphanage.
Later on in her life, my grandmother married my Grandpa Paul, a soldier in the U.S. army who fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. While my grandpa was away at work, my grandma watched over her six children, including my dad. Their cultures were greatly influenced by a mix of hawaiian and Korean traditions. My dad laughs about how there was never a loaf of bread in the house but rather a rice cooker that seemed to never stop cooking (this rice cooker is still going strong in my dad’s kitchen!). He tells me about the korean card games that him and his siblings would play as well as the special ramen that my grandma made for my mom while she was pregnant with me. These little tidbits of Korean culture are something my whole family cherishes as a memory of my grandma. Her ability to successfully raise six children during a time when Asian Americans were often look down upon is a huge inspiration.
Pictured: My Grandmother and Grandfather on their wedding day