Friday, September 10, 2010

that old Asian-Western dichotomy

Been reading a beautifully written article by Vietnamese-American writer Andrew Lam (thanks Karlo Mila for bringing it to my attention!) I think a lot of what he says about Asian parents pushing their children towards a more professionally "secure" future is true - to an extent. Last week kiwi novellist and poet Alison Wong, in her acceptance speech for the NZ Post Book Award for Fiction, said that she initially disappointed her parents by becoming a writer (although no doubt they are very proud now). As I've found with my parents, they worry, not because they are ashamed of having an artist in the family (I'm definitely not the first), but because they come from a background of having lost everything and knowing the value of a professional degree.

The reason I quibble is that I think we are moving out of that generation now. I mix with a lot of fresh, joyously vibrant 20-somethings (and feel old and somewhat like I'm hiding my true age sometimes). Many of them are doing arts as their first career choice and have supportive, proud parents.

My parents are supportive too - in a slightly confused way - they're still not too sure about the path I'm taking, but they see that it makes me happy. I'm also different to Andrew and Alison in that I did actually take the professional path first. And that wasn't due to goading from my parents (although people assume that all the time). I really wanted to be a paediatrician, I chased the dream and enjoyed it, and it was only after I knew I'd get there that I realised I needed something else too.

So... are Asian artists more tortured than Western artists on this? I don't really think so, particularly not today. We're still underepresented in the NZ arts community, but rapidly growing as a group, and in a diverse range of fields. Yay!

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