Last weekend Manyu and I drove down to Iowa to hear Clare in concert. She plays violin for Grinnell College’s orchestra. After the concert, we took Clare and a friend out for an early dinner before Manyu and I started our four and a half hour drive back to La Crosse. As an aside, four and a half hours might be the ideal distance for a kid to go to college – far enough away that she is really away from home, but close enough that Manyu and I can drive down for the day when Clare has a special event.
Driving distance, however, is not the topic of this blog. The friend whom Clare brought to dinner is Vietnamese American. Nothing especially noteworthy in that, except for the fact that she was the personification of something I’d noticed in the photos that Clare has sent us over her first two years in college. Most of Clare’s friends are Asian or Asian American.
If a reader has followed some of my previous blogs, he or she might already know that my wife Manyu is Taiwanese. I’m white, so Clare is mixed race. In college, however, Clare has gravitated to other Asian students on campus. Some are international students from Asia, but most are Asian Americans. Among the Chinese community in the United States, kids born in the US are called ABC or American-born Chinese. Clare’s friends are not necessarily ABC, but seem an equal mix of Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, and Filipino. They are American-born Asian.
I wonder why Clare’s Asian side has blossomed in college. Through elementary school and high school, Clare knew lots of ABC and mixed race kids, but her circle of friends did not center on children of Asian descent. The kids were a representative sample of La Crosse, which meant most were white. I fully understand that young adults in college are drawn to students who are like them, but when did my daughter become Asian?
I asked Clare about this, and her first response was that I was mistaken. She said that Grinnell is racially diverse, and her friends are, too. When I mentioned that our weekly phone conversations seem to highlight her Asian friends, she said in all seriousness, “I think it is the food.” She explained that the campus cafeteria does not cater to Asian tastes, so the Asian students often cook together and almost weekly go out together to cheap Asian restaurants in Iowa City or Des Moines. Clare might be onto something. Even though it fuels an Asian stereotype a little bit, it might be about the food.