My name is Vania Myers. I was born with double-eyelids, I have a butt like Kim Kardashian’s (not that I’m complaining), and my knowledge of the Korean language is equivalent to a toddler’s.
So does that make me, by definition, not very Asian American?
I was born as Yoon Eun Ji, though I’ve been known as Vania since my kindergarden years. My mom remarried when I was in second grade, and by high school, my name officially changed to Vania Myers. My parents emphasized that my name should be more “Western” because they thought it would help me distinguish myself from other Asian and Asian American applicants in the college application process, as well as my future job prospects. No, changing my name isn’t like getting plastic surgery, but my name, like my eyes, is part of me. So does my name define me as not very Asian?
I’ve always struggled with my identity as an Asian American. I used to persuade my mom to make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch rather than kimbap and I rolled by eyes whenever I see someone take out manga. I guess I was proud of how well I assimilated into the American culture.
Looking back now, I guess the people who truly helped me embrace my Korean American identity are, of course, my mom and grandmother. There were the memories like watching my mother tear up when Queen Yuna received the gold medal as the South Korean national anthem played in the background; when my grandma taught me how to cook rice before she left to Korea; when I bitterly worked on my Korean alphabet for Korean school back in 2nd grade; when my mom wrote, “화이팅!” on my lunch paper bag during my midterm days. Moments like these…these are what help me identify myself as Korean American.
My name, double-eyelids, and butt…sure, they are a part of who I am, but whether I change my name back to Yoon EunJi or get liposuction won’t make me “more” Asian American or less of who I actually am. They don’t define me. The memories I share as an Asian American, and even the struggle of accepting my weight, are what truly make me who I am now. I’m Vania Myers: an Asian American who just happens to have a voluminous butt. Nice to meet ya.