Symbols of the Asian-American Dream

WY002903Asians who come to the U.S. as children of less affluent parents tend to view some objects or things as a represention of having attained the American dream. A Southeast Indian friend of mine, eYeks, reminded me of this in a recent blog article of his, where he talks about when he was younger in India, and just having a phone line was a representation of attaining wealth and affluency. He does go on to discuss how owning a phone instead of leasing one (if you’re old enough to remember) changed that definition for him, and how finally today he’s come full circle by owning not only the phone, the phone lines in his home, but also his own dialtone.

There was also a time in American history when having a piano in your home meant class, affluency, and a sure sign your family had succeeded in achieving the American dream. When I was younger, I visited wealthier Asian homes, and the centerpiece was always the piano in the living room. (Please no comments about Asian stereotypes and playing piano.) In my family, we didn’t own a piano in our home when I was a child, and I never got to take piano lessons. But my parents did eventually buy a piano some time after I left for college. Personally, I have never felt a need to have a piano in my home. So, it was a surprise when my spouse announced this week that we were buying a piano for our house. Sure enough there was a 1964 Gulbransen piano in our den one afternoon after I got home from work. I guess we’ve finally achieved the American dream.

Some time in the early 1990’s, bamboo floors became the sign of affluence in Asian homes. I remember walking into a home in Danville, CA owned by a friend of my moms in 1993, and how the gleaming bamboo floor monopolized the conversation. Back then they were rare to see in a home, and bamboo flooring was hard to find. Today, bamboo floors are pretty common and the right choice for “green” families.

In today’s growing economic melting pot, it’s harder to say if there’s anything like a phone line or piano that defines having made it to the American dream. It seems like almost everything is affordable to any class, if they truly want it. If there’s some other symbol of the Asian-American dream you’ve always had, please share it, and whether you’ve been able to attain it.

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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