In “The Struggle to be an All American Girl” by Elizabeth Wong, Elizabeth Wong wanted to assimilate and embrace American culture. However, her mother forced her to learn about the Chinese language. She had to go to Chinese school which, for her, was such a dreaded place that she would kick and scream that she didn’t want to go. She hated almost everything about the school. The auditorium had a stench of old Chinese medicine that was putrescent compared to the sweet smell of her American teacher’s French perfume. She was scared of the principal, who used old-fashioned teaching techniques and hit the children for misbehaving. Even the language, she felt, itself was inferior to other languages such as English with a southern accent, or French.
One of the reasons she hated Chinese was the way that her grandmother spoke it, like a vendor in Chinatown. “It was quick it was loud, it was unbeautiful. It was not like the lilting romance of French or the gentle refinement of the American South. Chinese sounded pedestrian. Public” (Wong 134). Wong also feared that one day she would be like her repugnant grandmother. Wong was embarrassed whenever her grandmother was with her, feeling like an outsider as her grandmother shouted at her in supermarkets and stores. The elders of her own culture would even encourage her. People would speak encouraging words to her as she spoke English.
They said her lips moved so quickly and she would do well in American society. “Even the people in my culture would cluck and say that I’d do well in life. ‘My, doesn’t she move her lips fast,’ they would say, meaning that I’d be able to keep up with the world outside Chinatown” (134-135). As an adult, Elizabeth Wong won permission to leave her culture behind, but realized that without it, you lose your identity.