Why I love Ethnic Movies and Books, I love learning about different cultures and discovering our similarities as well as what makes us unique.
I was watching Wedding Season last night. It is a charming television movie about two Indian families. One family wants their daughter to marry and find happiness. She works hard but has closed herself off to love after a bad relationship. Her sister is getting ready to marry a white guy who is trying too hard to embrace the Indian culture. He loves her so much. He wants to show her family he is worthy of her but in the process is making her a little crazy. The second family, the good son has disappointed his father by dropping out of college, the father won’t listen to the young man when he tries to talk to him about his life and his work. The old man assumes he’s a bum and won’t be able to find a wife by telling the truth, so he makes up a profile for his son. The mother of workaholic daughter makes up a profile for her, and the two are coerced into meeting.
Now many of us would say, why don’t they just refuse. Why don’t they contact the ap and have their profile taken down? What compels them to do this crazy thing for their parent? Is their culture so different than our own?
Growing up in the south, I can relate to the Asian and Indian culture of the importance of family. My parents were loners and tried to avoid a lot of family events but even they understood the importance of family. If my dad’s sister requested his presence at an event, or my mom’s mother, then they would attend, perhaps grudgingly, but they’d attend. You do a lot of things because of family expectations, go to a preferred school, join certain clubs, make career choices… If my parents arranged for me to meet someone, I’d feel compelled to at least show up and meet the guy.
One of my daughters-in-law is Cambodian. She and my son had two weddings in order to appease her parents and also have the wedding they wanted. They had a traditional Cambodian wedding which lasted three days (it would have lasted a week if my son had been Asian too), and then they had a Christian/civil ceremony a few weeks later.
As I watch these movies or read books with strong matriarchal or patriarchal societies I can relate to a degree because there is a certain amount of pressure to please our parents and grandparents especially if you have a close family. Add in the struggles many of these families have had just getting to America and building their lives here, some having left home with little or nothing, possibly not even knowing the language, and you can see how the community becomes an extended family.
My daughter-in-law’s family were refugees. They were prepared to go to France. Her father was a teacher. He spoke French. But when things fell through and they were unable to go to France, they came instead to America where they were not prepared, did not know the language, and the hardships they faced put a strain on their family. The Asian community helped them find work, places to live and even helped them acclimate to life in America.
In rural North Carolina, I grew up with a sense of community and that community was part of my extended family. I grew up as a neighborhood kid. I was part of the community and they were a part of teaching and training me. As I write my stories, I bring family and community into my setting and characters. Like many of the ethnic stories I read and watch, I feel a kinship because here in our small town we are invested in each other’s lives.
Reading books and watching movies that entertain us and give us a little taste of what someone else has gone through, and suddenly the world becomes a little smaller, strangers become neighbors, and our differences don’t seem so foreign because they are the uniqueness of a friend or the peculiarities of a neighbor, so they are not as frightening as those of a stranger, nor a foreign as someone living half a world away.