returners, 13

They looked at her skin and thought it was too fair. They looked at her nose and thought it was too small. They looked at her hair and thought it was too straight.

They saw her fairness, but they did not see the way her skin drank in the sun readily, willingly, wantonly– a skill inherited from their shared ancestors.

They saw her nose, but they did not see the way she had breathed in the same scents of incense and herbs and spices as they had, all their lives.

They saw her hair, but they did not see the way it had once been curved and coiffed just as theirs had been, on the appropriate occasions.

They did not look at her mouth, did not watch it forming the words of the language they shared, did not notice that her lips curved as their shared ancestors’ did.

They would accept her as one of their own, but not completely. It would be just as it was when she was back at her home; no matter what she claimed as her homeland, her country, there would be questions. She could have a homeland, a country, but not completely.

One thought on “returners, 13

  1. “They would accept her as one of their own, but not completely. It would be just as it was when she was back at her home; no matter what she claimed as her homeland, her country, there would be questions. She could have a homeland, a country, but not completely.”

    This is something I see often in Asian American narratives around identity, community, homeland. Helen Zia talks about it in Asian American Dreams… how she went to China, hoping to find herself by returning to the motherland and ultimately became disillusioned by the lack of full acceptance. Asian American is really nomenclature for displaced people, whether our families came over recently or a hundred years ago (like mine), that displacement persists and it hurts because our stems struggle to, no not even struggle just can’t, locate our roots…

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