#Augvocacy2019: Finding Yourself & Embracing Your Identity When Growing up in a Different Country

Hi there! I’m Tracy, a book blogger over at Truffle’s Literary Wonders and I am Mauritian (Chinese Mauritian/Sino Mauritian – Mauritian).

I come from a tiny little country in the middle of nowhere made up of various cultures but mostly stemming from China, India, Africa, and Europe. So, it’s a bit of a cocktail of cultures. Short story is, this little island was colonised by the French and then the English (after both the Portuguese and the Dutch ate all the Dodos — yes that’s where they come from — and decided to leave) and so they brought many slaves and workers from Africa, and many people from Asia came down to work there.

So, there are a lot of cultures there, and I happen to be mixed Chinese, where my father’s side is Mauritian Chinese and my mother’s side is mixed European and African. But I basically look like a mixed Asian because nobody can ever tell where I’m from. However, I now live in Australia.

Moving to Australia when I was young was an experience for sure, as well as being around so many different people. I remember how much I hated how I looked and eventually developed some sort of identity crisis. I hated being called or pointed out as Asian, hated that people would constantly try to guess what kind of Asian I am (I’ve gotten everything from Filipino to Japanese to even non-Asian countries – no, I am NOT Mexican), and it didn’t help that I was pretty smart at school (emphasis on was).

I used to correct others all the time by saying I was not Asian and I just didn’t even want to associate myself with that side of my heritage, despite its obvious representation in my appearance. I was lucky that I don’t think I was ever a victim of racism — I was, however, a victim of stereotyping — but I do think that for the most part of my childhood, I felt and grew up white until I actually found and embraced myself as Asian.

Fast-forward to university — and surprisingly, I found myself getting into K-pop and learning more Asian culture, which funnily enough, in just a few months, really changed my life and my identity as a person of colour (because yes, I had to realise that I am a person of colour!). I had never really been exposed to Asian culture other than the similarities carried across to Mauritian culture since I only lived with my mum (who isn’t Asian). I had never really seen what other Asian countries did, looked like or anything really — but through K-pop and Chinese dramas etc, I got curious.

I learnt more about, not just Korean culture and its horrible entertainment industry, but also Asian culture in general. Even though I’m not Korean, it was the easiest culture to get into, given my interests and the fact that I really like the Korean language. It was a strange shift in that I actually started seeing myself as someone that belonged and how my heritage can actually mean something.

Within a few months, I had traced back my Asian heritage through simple research based on my Asian last name and found that my ancestors were of the Hakka Chinese variety, which made a lot of sense since that’s the majority of the Chinese population in Mauritius. I found out why my last name is pronounced the way it is and kind of realised how awesome it was to be able to feel part of something. It’s a bit of a trope that I ‘always felt like an outsider’ but I kind of did. Growing up in Australia — with most of my friends and none of my family and where my general exposure to Asian culture was limited — made it more a challenge for me to learn and find myself.

Since then, I have really embraced everything Asian. I’ve always been a bit of a skincare freak, so I seriously got into using more Asian skincare products and an even more complicated routine. I now love using chopsticks for everything because I got to remember how fun it was to use. I can actually relate to a LOT of the funny memes in the Subtle Asian Traits Facebook group, but it turns out Mauritian culture is very similar to Asian culture in a lot of ways.

Most importantly, I really began to see the importance of reading diversely. Before, it was never really an issue because I enjoyed being able to live through someone else’s eyes and adventures, no matter the race or gender, but after reading a few diverse reads with Asian protagonists, it was refreshing to be able to connect with the character in that way.

I can only just imagine that maybe, just maybe, had I read more books based on Asian characters that I might’ve had this weird epiphany earlier. That I might’ve embraced my heritage and started my research into my ancestry and Asian culture much earlier because I would’ve felt less self-conscious and ashamed of my identity. It’s so hard to embrace your identity when you grow up in a different country that, while it might be multicultural, isn’t fully immersive to that culture. Now, I look forward to finding and reading new diverse books from Asian perspectives (and more!) and scoping out the local Asian grocery stores despite the sad fact that I cannot read or speak Chinese.

Finding your identity and embracing yourself is, of course, a journey. I still find myself trying to acclimate to the idea and realising that I do belong. This Augvocacy is an example of this since I almost didn’t sign up until I realised that – yes, I AM Asian, my perspective DOES count, and I DO want more representation in books and media. Not just for myself, but also so that other fellow Asian book lovers can embrace their heritage, identity and more in the years to come. The Asian book blogger directory and the community trying to boost Asian voices have made me feel so happy that I’m actually part of something and that I do belong.

I hope that this post wasn’t a complete mess and that it’ll resonate with at least one person. It’s hard immigrating and moving to another country, and it’s even harder establishing your identity while you grow up. I really hope that Asian voices will get more and more representation in all aspects of media. I’m loving my current Asian read for my Year of the Asian Reading ChallengeThe Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan — and I’m super excited for the upcoming Mulan movie.

Augvocate for the Day

Tracy is a lover of books, cats, tea & pancakes. When she’s not book blogging and blog designing at Truffle’s Literary Wonders & Truffle Creations, she works in marketing and dabbles in bullet journaling and gaming.

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Augvocacy 2019

This guest post is part of a month-long collaborative series called Augvocacy, which is shorthand for August with an advocacy. Essentially, this project aims to bring together like-minded individuals — be it bloggers, authors, or readers — in actively forwarding a particular advocacy. All contributors to this project are referred to as Augvocates — and each Augvocate will share their thoughts on my blog from the 1st day of August until the 28th. Find the rest of the Augvocacy 2019 posts here.

For this year, Augvocacy hopes to discuss and encourage the importance of amplifying Asian voices in books and in media. While this particular call brings attention to the oftentimes-ignored demand for more authentic Asian representation, it also aims to debunk the bigoted view that Asian cultures are a monolith and to shed light on the nuances of struggle, privilege, and identity within and across our own communities. Learn more about Augvocacy 2019 in this post.

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I’d love to hear from you!

🌻 Have you ever struggled with embracing your identity? Can you relate to Tracy’s experiences of feeling like you don’t really belong?

🌻 Do you think having a community is important in learning about who you are and ultimately accepting your identity?

🌻 Honestly, it warms my whole heart that Tracy mentioned my most beloved projects — Augvocacy 2019, Asian Book Blogger Directory, and Year of the Asian Reading Challenge — and I feel really humbled. Have you participated in blogging projects, features, or events that reassured you that you belong or that made you feel like you’re part of something great and meaningful?

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