Though my father would never admit, he’s always wanted a son. Like many cultures, sons are most desirable in Vietnamese families. Bonus if the son is firstborn. Instead my parents raised two daughters and we were surrounded by many male cousins.
My father never made my sister and I feel in adequate because of our gender. Instead, he frequently reminded us to get good grades and choose a good career before starting a family. He emphasized self-sufficiency over dependency, especially on a man. As the firstborn in my family, I was also encouraged to become a lawyer, doctor, computer nerd–stereotypical careers that immigrant parents wish for their children.
My father has a lifelong love of the classic VW Beetles. He would scour the classifieds and bring home VW Beetle shaped hunks of metal. On his days off, he tinkered and lovingly rebuilt them in our driveway. Sometimes he need an extra set of hands (or feet) and summoned me to help. As a teen, I resented being forced to help him with cars, something I had no interest in. Refusing was not an option. He never asked my sister to help and I resented it. Just me.
Looking back, I can see that this was his way of bonding with me. My dad is the strong, silent type. He doesn’t talk a lot (in a family of chatty folks) but when he spoke, you listened.
I’m glad that my father encouraged his daughters to be independent, especially in a culture where girls are expected to look pretty and marry well. He understood that hard work and independence was important to succeed in America.
In Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement, Ladydi was grew up in rural Mexico, where being a girl is a dangerous thing. She and other girls were “made ugly” to keep protect them from drug traffickers and criminal groups. Join From Left to Write on February 18 we discuss Prayers for the Stolen. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.