What to Watch: Chinese on the Inside

Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand.

About a decade ago, Barbara Cough adopted two girls from China, Kimberly and Catie. Barbara and her partner, Marilyn Thomas, are raising the children in Portland, Me. I filmed the family last year when the girls (who are not biological sisters) were ages 9 and 11.

More than 80,000 girls have been adopted from China by Americans since 1991. In recent years, China has made adoptions by same-sex couples, already difficult, nearly impossible.

But at the time the girls were adopted, in 2003 and 2004, Barbara and Marilyn felt that adopting girls from China afforded them more protections as parents than domestic adoptions would have, given the complex rules around birth parents’ rights in America.

For Barbara, it was also a way to reconnect with her own history: her great-grandfather Daniel Cough was the first Chinese man in Maine to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Barbara’s generation is only one-eighth Chinese, the family members proudly identify with their cultural heritage.

Documenting the Coughs gave me reason to reflect on my own thoughts concerning cultural identity. Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California, the only Chinese I’d only ever known were first-generation immigrants and their children, like my family. Catie and Kimberly are simultaneously first- and fifth-generation immigrants in their adoptive family.

Barbara and Marilyn were married in Maine last June, shortly after I completed this piece. Their nontraditional household has challenged my understanding of the contemporary Chinese-American family — a reminder that this construct can take many forms.

The population in Maine is more than 95 percent white. There are few cultural resources for Asian-Americans; one notable exception is the nonprofit Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine, which sponsors a Chinese school where the girls take classes.

The couple’s effort to expose their children to Chinese culture is markedly different from that of many Chinese-American families, like my own: For Barbara and Marilyn, their challenge is to pass on a culture that they appreciate, but have not lived firsthand. Meanwhile, their daughters will need to determine how much they want to affiliate with a culture they come from — one that they’ve been taught to appreciate, but to which they have little daily connection.


MIXLY Recommends: Best of the Fung Bros.

We’ve been big fans of the Fung Bros. for a while. Comedy duo and real-life brothers David and Andrew Fung talk and rap about some very important subjects about a variety of subjects, with some of their favorites being Asian food, Asian stereotypes, and their majority-Asian adopted hometown, the Los Angeles-area San Gabriel. We could extol the virtues of the Fung Bros. and their clever, insightful humor all day, but since the vast majority of their content is available on YouTube we thought we’d do one better and bring you the best of the Fung Bros.!
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What is the second language you should learn & why is Chinese so hard?

Michael Skapinker at the Financial Times came up with an interesting question: what is the second most useful language? He directs that question to English speakers in particular since English the lingua franca of the world, they have a dilemna: what foreign language should they learn?

Now there is no obvious reply to that question but most would probably think Mandarin is the answer as China is the fastest growing economy, but there are obvious difficulties to that choice (bearing in mind that Mandarin isn’t the only language spoken in China). Here are a few considerations to keep in mind via American China expert David Moser’s essay “Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard”.

  1. It depends what language you are coming from “A French person can usually learn Italian faster than an American, and an average American could probably master German a lot faster than an average Japanese, and so on.(…) A Spanish person learning Portuguese is comparable to a violinist taking up the viola, whereas an American learning Chinese is more like a rock guitarist trying to learn to play an elaborate 30-stop three-manual pipe organ. 
  2. Chinese is hard for Chinese too, the writing system in particular is very complex: it takes twice as long for Chinese children to acquire literacy as their European counterparts. (…)There is still the awe-inspiring fact that Chinese people manage to learn their own language very well. Perhaps they are like the gradeschool kids that Baroque performance groups recruit to sing Bach cantatas. The story goes that someone in the audience, amazed at hearing such youthful cherubs flawlessly singing Bach’s uncompromisingly difficult vocal music, asks the choir director, “But how are they able to perform such difficult music?””Shh — not so loud!” says the director, “If you don’t tell them it’s difficult, they never know.”
  3. Time required: An average American could probably become reasonably fluent in two Romance languages in the time it would take them to reach the same level in Chinese.

The bottom line is, if you only speak one language you should start consider studying a second one; context and and an affinity to the culture should then help determine your choice. The reason why Chinese is so hard to learn for a non-Asian person is because the Chinese and American culture have been isolated for so long, there aren’t many reference points, which makes it so worthwhile and yet so difficult. Another equivalent would be the Arabic language for many of the same reasons. So pick your challenges wisely. What language would you learn?

Can You Say ‘KDAY’ In Mandarin? via NPR

Well even if you can the hip-hop station won’t be playing classics like “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” in Mandarin, however the historic Los Angeles radio station was bought by a couple companies with various ties to China. With that said it’s like for the station to become a Chinese language-programming station. Hit the jump for more a detailed rundown of the deal. Read More

10 Best Taiwanese Breakfast Restaurants In Los Angeles

The composition of Chinese breakfast joints in Los Angeles can get complicated. You have your Hong Kong and dim sum restaurants, and then you have an entirely different genre of Chinese breakfast restaurants, often labeled Taiwanese or Northern Chinese.  For this particular genre, add in the context of Los Angeles and the distinction gets difficult. Read More

MMXLII Baby of the Week [8.3.2012] – McKensey

This week we have McKensey: Chinese [mom] + Puerto Rican [dad].  Visit our Pinterest to vote for your choice of MMXLII Baby of the week.  Remember the baby with the most interaction [likes, repins, comments] will be posted as our MMXLII Baby of the Week every Friday.  Have a great weekend.

MMXLII Exclusive: Ever Eaten A Chinese Burrito? [VIDEO]

If you haven’t then you need to make sure to check out our good friends at Don Chow‘s.  They bring a collection of Mexican and Chinese comfort foods all under one roof.  And if you’re feeling lucky you can combine them into things like the Chinese Burrito.  We headed out one evening to the Food Truck & Cinema in Los Angeles and came across the famed truck.  With cameras in hand we decided to get some background info on them and their menu.

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