As a 2nd generation American and daughter of Chinese immigrants who escaped the Cultural Revolution in China, Reyna’s words about having to split yourself in half in order to survive a new world that labels you and your family as outsiders resonates especially hard with me. Growing up, I often felt like my identity as a Chinese-American was something forced upon me by a larger society that wouldn’t let me just be “American” without adding a racial qualification, but I felt like an imposter calling myself “Chinese” when my parents had decided to raise their children cut off from the language and culture so that we children would have a better chance of survival in America. Being called “Chinese-American” felt like an expectation I was constantly failing, both for White Americans and the Chinese community around me, because I could never live up to the standards on either side of what this identity constituted. I often felt like I could only existed in the small space the hyphen in between, essentially invisible and worthless. I compartmentalized my identity into fragments that could serve and protect me in different contexts, because the whole of me was too nebulous, too contradictory, and too greedy for love and understanding that I had learned in my youth to stop expecting.
My visual interpretation of a “A Dream Called Home” is centered around this duality in identity that many immigrants and BIPOC feel in this country, inspired by Reyna’s words “You are not less, you are more, twice the girl you used to be”. My artwork divides a portrait of a proud Latina woman in half, where one side is achromatic in solemn black and white, but transitions into vibrant colors and geometric shapes that burst from her body and become the dynamic background that cradles her. It’s to represent the dichotomy between the version of ourselves that others might see in a white supremacist culture that reduces identity down to constrictive labels (undocumented, illegal, immigrant, refugee, etc.), contrasted with the beautiful and expansive depths and multitudes we contain, the richness of our experiences in our private lives, and the love and solidarity we build within our communities.