Chiufang Hwang was born in Taiwan and moved to the  United States at the age of 2. Together with her parents  Hwang started her new life in Hempstead, Texas. After  living in Texas for a couple of years, moving from Hempstead  to Prairie View, she was four-years-old when she  and her parents ended up in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  After living in Rock Hill for a year, she moved to Columbia,  South Carolina and lived there from age five until  she was in the fifth grade, along with her two younger  siblings – a brother and a sister. In the middle of fifth  grade, Hwang’s family moved to Birmingham, Alabama  and lived there for a few months before moving back to  Columbia. She resided in Columbia until the middle of  seventh grade, during which time she moved to College  Station, Texas and spent a few years living there. When  she was grade 11, Hwang and her family moved to Wichita  Falls, Texas and, one year later, moved back to College  Station. Hwang got her doctor of medicine degree  from University of Texas Health Science Center School  Of Medicine in San Antonio, her residency is psychiatry  from the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and  her fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry from  the same school.

While she was living in Columbia, Hwang attended  a predominately black school. “There were a few white  students and there was me—an Asian—but the majority  of the students were black,” she told me. Hwang told  me that she never felt discriminated a day in her life, but  because there were not very many Asians, she “didn’t  always know where to go.” She became acquainted with  a classmate, Janine, when she was in the second or third  grade, but their friendship didn’t really blossom and solidify  until after she moved back to Columbia the second  time around.

Hwang told me that her family lived in Alabama for  a few months before moving back to South Carolina.  “There was one time in Alabama, that my father was supposed  to pick me up from school and he ended up forgetting  me there,” Hwang told me. “It was quite scary, as  the janitor had even locked up, and it showed me that I  needed to develop street smarts, in case something like  this happened again.” Therefore, when she moved back  to Columbia, she began to take the city bus home from  school. It was at this time that she solidified her friendship  with Janine, as she also took the city bus. In conversation,  Hwang told me that she felt safer with the black  children in her school and “Janine was a bigger girl, so  she became my protector.”

Not only did Janine become her protector, but she also  became her mentor in how to “be black.” Janine taught  Hwang how to act, how to talk, how to walk and how to  dance. Eventually, Hwang began picking up and using  the style of talking, walking and being that she was witnessing  in her school and through her peers. She was  beginning to assimilate herself into her community, but it  wasn’t always simple. She told me that her parents tried  to prevent her from talking and behaving like her peers,  telling her “don’t talk like this” or “don’t act like that.”  Hwang told me that Janine’s guidance and mentorship  played a huge role in her future. She currently runs  a medical clinic with her husband in Dallas, where 97  percent of their clinic’s patients are black. “My patients  always tell me they feel at home in our clinic because  our office is decorated with pictures that would only be  known to people who grew up in a predominately black  community.” In fact, Hwang told me that her husband is  often asked by their patients if she (his wife) is one of  them, to which he replies “she is black in every way except  her skin color.”

Hwang’s memoir, Finding Janine, is her third. One of  her books, American Sweetheart: Still Not Making The  Team, details her experiences trying out for the Dallas  Cowboys Cheerleaders. “I tried out for the first time when  I was 34, have tried out nine times since then, and I remain  the oldest person to try out for the squad,” she told  me. Her other book, Grown Up Child, details her journey  of coming to the United States, moving around from city  to city and—all the while—feeling neglected by her parents.  Finding Janine came about around 30 years after  Hwang had developed a friendship with Janine. “After  being unable to find her for quite a while, I finally did so.  I called her up and even had the opportunity to attend  her wedding.” Hwang told me that, even though Janine’s  wedding was attended by only black people, she never  felt more accepted or at home. “I met her family and they  embraced me completely.” As a result, Hwang thought it  would be important to write about her experiences, hoping  that people could learn from her experiences that  embracing different cultures is our country’s greatest  strength.

Hwang’s memoir comes at the perfect time for America.  Racial tensions and corresponding violence is quite rampant  right now. But, despite being one of the only Asian  students in her school, Hwang experienced nothing but  acceptance from her peers. Furthermore, although she  assimilated quite well to her peer group, she never forgot  her Taiwanese roots. Hwang’s journey and her book  demonstrate what truly makes this country great—diversity,  respecting other people’s cultures, and knowing that  it is possible to assimilate to one culture, while still holding  on to your own.

You can purchase all three of Hwang’s books from  Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Direct links and more information  about Hwang can be found at http://chiufang.  com/. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram at  @mdchiufang.

By Trishna Buch, The Post Newspaper