Neither One Nor The Other: Why I Love Being Mixed-Race

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-30 23:54Z by Steven

Neither One Nor The Other: Why I Love Being Mixed-Race

Discover Nikkei

Mia Nakaji Monnier

I love those parts that seem incompatible but that, in a person, come together.

During my first week of college, I met a guy who, like me, had a long, four-part name. When I told him mine, he said, “Mine are better because they all match.”

This guy wasn’t exactly representative of my classmates at this New England liberal arts college. He was pretty obnoxious, and our friendship ended right along with freshman orientation. But he had a point. His name did match. It was a nice, genteel name, the kind you could transplant out of the 21st century and into a Jane Austen novel without anyone noticing the difference.

My name, on the other hand, is mixed and messy, alternately Japanese and French but, all together, a completely American whole: Mia Gabrielle Nakaji Monnier. In a 19th century novel, I might sound like an invading alien. But I love that. My name is a constant reminder that I’m mixed, on a borderline between worlds…

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The New Normal

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-12 18:04Z by Steven

The New Normal

The Rafu Shimpo: Los Angeles Japanese Daily News

Mia Nakaji Monnier, Rafu Staff Writer

Hapa Japan Festival and JANM exhibit celebrate mixed Japanese and Japanese Americans

Outside the newest exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum hangs a banner. Up close, visitors can make out individual pictures—each about the size of a postage stamp. These are family photos: grinning kids in kimono, extended families three rows deep posing in the yard, teenagers gathered around Grandpa and his birthday cake. But take a few steps back, and the photos disappear like the strokes of an impressionist painting. Together, they add up, to make enka star Jero.

Why Jero?

Duncan Williams, one of the curators of the exhibit, “Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History,” says Jero represents the future: not just the of Japanese America, but of America in general. Born Jerome White in Pittsburgh, Pa., Jero is mixed— three quarters African American, one quarter Japanese. Yet he’s become famous in Japan for singing traditional enka songs, which he grew up hearing from his Japanese grandmother.

Jero, to Williams, represents the complex identity of a growing group of Americans, whose looks and cultural identifications don’t fit into neat or expected categories. Up close, in those stamp-sized family photos, the kids in kimono have light skin, dark hair; black, white, Latino features. They don’t fit the typical image of Japan, or Japanese America, and yet, statistically, they’re fast becoming the new norm.

“The Japanese American community is now on the cusp of becoming majority multiracial,” said Williams, while leading a tour of the exhibit. By the 2020 Census, the majority of Japanese Americans will be mixed, or Hapa, making “Visible & Invisible” relevant—and, to many Japanese Americans of mixed race or ethnicity, a moving affirmation of their place in the community…

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Part Asian, Not Hapa

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media on 2010-08-03 05:22Z by Steven

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.

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