By Natalie S. & Phoebe C.
Growing up in Ohio, New York Times Best Selling Author Abigail Hing Wen is well acquainted with life as an Asian American. From overbearing parents to high academic expectations, Ms. Wen has been through all the experiences of a typical Asian American. In her award winning book “Loveboat, Taipei,” she recalls her experiences at an Asian American summer camp in Taiwan through main character Everett “Ever” Wong.
In the novel, 18-year-old Ever finds herself at a Mandarin language and Chinese culture learning program. Upon her arrival, she becomes friends with Asian Americans who she shares the all too well struggle of appeasing parental expectations, succeeding, and most importantly, following dreams.
“Growing up, I shared a lot of similar experiences with Ever,” Ms. Wen said. “I wanted to learn how to navigate through my personal passions while honoring my family and their desires for me to enter politics and become a voice for the community.”
However, given the pressure of appealing to her parents, Ms. Wen pursued a career in law. “It wasn’t until my first year out of Harvard that I finally called my dad and told him I couldn’t do it,” Ms. Wen said. “My dad had received the news well, and that was really important to me, it was like he had finally released me from the expectations he had for me.”
Now, although Ms. Wen encourages her sons to follow their dreams, she also hopes they can first become financially independent.
“I would say the first step is to try and figure out what you want,” Ms. Wen said. “Then when you are able to be strong and independent, what your parents have to say becomes less effective. Of course, in order to succeed in all of it you have to be able to financially sustain yourself.”
Ms. Wen also hopes that her book will serve as an argument towards the common stereotype that all Asians are nerds or boring. “The book addresses the media’s portrayal of Asian Americans,” Ms Wen said. “Typically, in the media, Asians are doctors or sidekicks. In the book, there is a diverse, fun community of Asians.”
Many TAS students may find themselves in similar situations as Ever from the novel or Ms. Wen when she was younger. To those who are still struggling in finding themselves or dealing with their parents, Ms. Wen hopes they will continue to search and follow their goals.
“I wish I could just say ‘be open to your parents’ but I know it is not that easy,” Ms. Wen said. “Just remember that even if you do listen to them, one day you will realize that you also need to listen to yourself.”