Part Asian, Not Hapa

Part Asian, Not Hapa

Open Salon
Thoughts from a Third Culture: on being mixed in America

Mia Nakaji Monnier

My mother is Japanese from Osaka; my father, American from a small town in Western Oregon. There’s a word for people like me, used especially on the West Coast and popularized in recent years, maybe most notably by artist Kip Fulbeck:


From the Hawaiian phrase “hapa haole” (“half white”), the word “hapa” has come to be a label that many multiracial people with some Asian heritage incorporate into their identities, whether they wear it with pride or with ambivalence.

I don’t wear it at all.

It’s not that I think “hapa” is an offensive word, though my parents took issue with it as my brothers and I were growing up, their reason being that it means, literally, “half.” “Haafu,” the Japanese equivalent has the same literal meaning and I’ve even heard people skip over both these words entirely, going straight to “half.” As in, “You look a little Japanese. Are you half?” or “Why do you work at the Japanese American National Museum? OH, are you half?!”…

Read the entire essay here.

Tags: , , ,