Autobiographer contrasts parents’ reluctance to assimilate with her achievement of the immigrant-child-makes-good American dream.
DALLAS – Dr. Chiufang Hwang’s father uprooted her at age two from the family’s native Taiwan and moved to the United States in search of academic opportunities. As her father transitioned from one graduate program to another across the South, her parents only sought to befriend other Taiwanese immigrants, while Hwang yearned to immerse herself in American culture. In Finding Janine, Hwang chronicles her transition from a first-generation immigrant to American youth and the disparate immigrant experience shared by her parents.
As a young child, Hwang was open to what her new home in the United States had to offer: diversity, freedom and independence. Her Old World parents, however, chose a culturally insular life. They forced Hwang to speak Taiwanese all the time, even though her father spoke English. Her mother procured food from private gardens with Asian vegetables. Both parents talked Taiwanese politics with her father’s colleagues. But while her parents insisted on clinging to the customs and language of her birthplace, Taiwan felt like a foreign place to Hwang. Hwang respected her heritage, but it didn’t define her. And thanks to friends like Janine, a classmate from Columbia, South Carolina who just so happened to also be black, Hwang found a voice for her inner American.
“The more my mother refused to assimilate, the more I wanted to embrace my adopted culture,” says Hwang. “I watched how physically affectionate American parents were with their children and treated my younger brother that way. I yearned for peanut butter and jelly in my lunch box. I couldn’t get enough of classic TV shows like Gunsmoke and Bonanza. I swore. But it was more than that: It was the acceptance by Janine and others that mattered most.”
Despite the animosity she faced based solely on the fact that she was not born in this country, Hwang gained her footing. From babysitters and teachers to her father’s students and neighbors, Hwang found fulfilment by being included and feeling part of something bigger. And her exposure to those who embraced her, no matter her differences, taught her important life lessons as well. Unlike her mother, who viewed her time in America as a temporary stay and never tried to adapt to life here, Hwang undertook to do whatever it took to better her situation. In Finding Janine, Hwang shares how she learned that she was not entitled but had to earn and create her own opportunities by working harder than everybody else. And those lessons paid off: She received her doctor of medicine degree from the University of Texas’ School of Medicine, followed by a residency in psychiatry and a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.
Finding Janine can be purchased online through SDP Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other retailers. Dr. Hwang previously published the books Grown-Up Child and American Sweetheart: Still Not Making the Team. For more information about Dr. Chiufang Hwang, visit www.chiufang.com or connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.
About the Author
Decades ago, Chiufang Hwang would most likely be spotted with her nose in a book. Now, she is more likely to be seen with her face on its cover. She received her doctor of medicine degree from the University of Texas’ School of Medicine and followed it up with a residency in psychiatry and a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry. She currently serves as president of the school’s alumni association board. In 2016 and 2017, she was a commencement speaker, and she also spoke at the class of 2019 White Coat Ceremony, which welcomes future doctors.
On the entertainment front, she has appeared in various commercials and infomercials, such as the Total Gym workout infomercial with Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley. She has written two previous memoirs.
She lives in Dallas with her husband and two sons.