Lei Ka Chan
17 / Chinese American
“Growing up as a WOC in Iowa felt like an obligation to compensate, for awhile. I wanted to prove to others that I wasn’t confined by stereotypical limitations of being Asian or a woman. And now that I’ve grown from that, I can see that there are now more questions and intrigue about who I am. What language do I speak, and how do I interact with my family? What holidays do I celebrate, and what foods do I recommend them to try? Questions of that nature. And I find it kind of beautiful being a WOC, as the communities available to me in Iowa have been abundant, welcoming, and eye-opening.
For someone else struggling with their identities, I would say that they should invest time into becoming comfortable with being an amalgam of culture; be a diverse individual. Celebrate non-conflicting holidays, take pride in ethnic food or dress, and don’t feel like you have to compromise a part of you to appease another. Delve into everything you can be, and don’t divide them up like a responsibility. I have yet to fully experience everything both being an Asian and an American have to offer, but I know my life has been much richer this way.”
I would consider Leiz my cousin even though it’s a little more complicated than that – she is my cousin’s daughter. Our family calls her Ly aka LyLy. I have been uncovering more about my family history and the relationships within it more deeply and I’ve found it pretty profound. We commiserated on how our parents added unnecessary letters to our “English” names, basically a “z”. We each spoke on our sense of isolation within our family, her through her age and me through feeling like I didn’t belong and how I’m overwhelmed in groups of people where I feel more isolation.
WOC Iowa is a passion project I’m working on to showcase, focus and center on WOC in Iowa. I want to reach out and have an open, honest and deep conversation about cultural identity and to draw parallels from our experiences while understanding the differences.