Hapa Girl: A Memoir by May-lee Chai [in Christian Science Monitor]
The word “hapa” originates from the Hawaiian pidgin hapa-haole, literally meaning half-white. Today, having lost its derogatory overtones, hapa connotes an Asian Pacific American of mixed race. Some Asian Pacific Americans even claim it’s an acronym for Half-Asian Pacific American. While predominantly used on the more ethnically diverse West Coast, the word is not uncommon among Asian-Pacific American communities elsewhere, especially on college campuses.
May-lee Chai is hapa of Chinese American and Irish American descent. Her memoir opens with a short prologue that foretells what’s to come: “When we first moved to South Dakota, we would stop traffic just by walking down the sidewalk…. I didn’t know then, when I was twelve, that they were staring because they’d never seen a Chinese man with a white woman before, and a blonde woman at that. I didn’t know they thought we were brazen, flaunting our family in public. It was 1979, and we had imagined that the segregated past was just that, past.” …[click here for more]
Readers: Young Adult, Adult