What Being Asian American Means to Me

  By Grace Minjeong Sur Smith

I got on my first airplane right before my 백일, 100th day birthday, which is historically a big day in Korea as it marks the survival of a baby in a country that endured brutal colonialism and an equally brutal civil war before catapulting to one of the largest economies in the world overnight. My father was a junior 직원 (loosely means “corporate subordinate”) of a Samsung subsidiary, and they tasked him to boost international sales based out of Los Angeles. Both my parents learned a bit of English in high school and university in Korea but as anyone who has learned a new language knows, speaking it or even trying to understand it amongst native speakers is a whole other ball game.  It is not only intimidating but can be deeply isolating and lonely.  Thankfully there was a well-established Korean community in and around L.A. and we made the trip to K-town every weekend. My mom found community at the local Korean church while my dad had to entertain clients, even on weekends.

My parents rarely talk about the difficulties they endured in a completely new world with no friends or family as young parents to my three year old sister and newborn me, but my siblings and I have picked up some clues along the way.  Particularly from our own moving around as kids.  My father’s international assignment ended when I was in the second grade and we moved to Seoul only to move back to L.A. the following year (a story for another time!)—we finally ended up in New Jersey, where you can still see the lone Samsung building in Fort Lee from the highway. Continue reading “What Being Asian American Means to Me”

How Being an Asian American Lawyer Has Impacted My Practice

  Shireen Y. Wetmore 

One of the great things about being Pakistani American is that I was blessed with the richness of growing up with many of my father’s cultural influences.  Some of those fit classic stereotypes.  For example, I love to bargain.  My passion for negotiation – in my father’s culture, both an art form and a sign of respect – serves my clients and my practice as we work together to resolve challenges and find creative solutions.  But as I reflect on my cultural upbringing, in a mixed household with parents sharing very different backgrounds and belief systems, I am learning more and more how much I have been influenced by the many ways my father did not fit the mold.  We may choose to challenge our culture in different ways, but every way we push is its own sign of respect for the continuity and evolution of these traditions and the ways in which we embrace shared values in changing times.  My dad took a chance to come to a new country, and make a new life in America, and I would not be here without that act of both defiance and sacrifice.  Nor would I be so fortunate to be a partner in a prestigious law firm without the push and the drive he instilled in me.  I can’t think about my Indian and Pakistani heritage without him.  And I would not want to think about my practice without the influences of that rich heritage.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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