There’ve been times when my country’s actions have irritated me, bewildered me, even angered me. But my country is like my own mother: not perfect, yet still my mother. She’s the one I love, the one who made me who I am. Since today’s the birthday of the United States of America, it’s a good day to remind myself how good this country has been to me.
My paternal grandfather came to the US from China. He was just a youth, and he sold newspapers to feed himself. Yet somehow he managed to scrape together enough money to eventually bring a wife over from China and establish a restaurant called Tom Lai’s, on the San Diego waterfront. His son (my dad) was born an American, during an era when Asian Americans couldn’t swim in the same pools or drink from the same water fountains as whites. During WWII, Dad enlisted in the Army, fought in Germany, and came home to work in Grandpa’s restaurant.
My mom immigrated from China as a young woman who could barely speak English. It was wartime in China, the iron curtain was about to fall, and she was soon cut off from everyone she loved. She never again saw her parents or sister. Stranded and penniless in America, she eventually married and went on to earn a master’s degree and became a social worker.
These are my roots. I’m the daughter of a cook and an immigrant.
Today, my books are sold around the world and my characters are about to become a TV show. It’s one of those improbable yet quintessentially American success stories. It might have happened had I been born instead in Sydney or London or Paris. But it just so happened that I was born in San Diego and raised an American, and today I’m feeling pretty darn grateful that I was.
Patriotism isn’t just an American thing. The French are exceedingly proud of France. And oh, how the Turkish love their country! But today, on July 4, I honor my own country, the country that took in my grandfather and my mother, the country that kept the doors open to my own hopes and dreams.
Happy birthday, USA.