When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities

When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities

Stanford University Press
September 2012
248 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780804775175
Paper ISBN: 9780804775182

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu
Stanford University

“I listen and gather people’s stories. Then I write with the hope to communicate something to people, that they gain something of value by reading these stories. I tell myself that this is something that isn’t going to be done unless I do it, just because of who I am. It’s a way of making my mark, to leave something behind—not that I’m planning on going anywhere, right now.”

So begins Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu in this touching, introspective, and insightful exploration of mixed race Asian American experiences. The son of an Irish American father and Japanese mother, Murphy-Shigematsu has devoted his life to understanding himself as a product of his diverse roots. Across twelve chapters, his reflections are interspersed among profiles of others of biracial and mixed ethnicity and accounts of their journeys to answer a seemingly simple question: Who am I?

Here we meet Margo, the daughter of a Japanese woman and a black American serviceman, who found how others viewed and treated her, both in Japan and the United States, in conflict with her evolving understanding of herself. Born in Australia and raised in San Francisco, Wei Ming struggled with making sense of her Chinese and American heritage, which was further complicated when she began to realize she was bisexual. Rudy, the son of Mexican and Filipino parents, is a former gang member and hip hop artist who redirected his passion for performance into his current career as a professor of Asian Pacific American Studies. Other chapters address issues such as mixed race invisibility, being a transracial adoptee, hapa identity, beauty culture and authenticity testing, and more.

With its attention on people who have been regarded as “half” this or “half” that throughout their lives, these stories make vivid the process of becoming whole.


  • Prologue
  • 1. Flowers Amidst the Ashes
  • 2. We Must Go On
  • 3. For the Community
  • 4. English, I Dont Know!
  • 5. Bi Bi Girl
  • 6. I Am Your Illusion, Your Reality Your Future
  • 7. Grits and Sushi
  • 8. I Cut across Borders as If They Have No Meaning
  • 9. Victims No More
  • 10. American Girl in Asia
  • 11. Found in Translation
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Recommended Readings
  • About the Author
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