How I Got That Name is a poem written by poet, Marilyn Chin, and submitted to PRISM by Sera Chung. Sera is a vocal artist and middler at Princeton Theological Seminary from Binghamton, New York. How I Got That Name is an essay on assimilation and a creative submission from Sera as a beautifully thoughful offering to the community. Read below and enjoy...
I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin
Oh, how I love the resoluteness of that first person singular followed by that stalwart indicative of "be," without the uncertain i-n-g of "becoming." Of course, the name had been changed somewhere between Angel Island and the sea, when my father the paperson in the late 1950s obsessed with a bombshell blond transliterated "Mei Ling" to "Marilyn." And nobody dared question his initial impulse—for we all know lust drove men to greatness, not goodness, not decency. And there I was, a wayward pink baby, named after some tragic white woman swollen with gin and Nembutal. My mother couldn't pronounce the "r." She dubbed me "Numba one female offshoot" for brevity: henceforth, she will live and die in sublime ignorance, flanked by loving children and the "kitchen deity." While my father dithers, a tomcat in Hong Kong trash— a gambler, a petty thug, who bought a chain of chopsuey joints in Piss River, Oregon, with bootlegged Gucci cash. Nobody dared question his integrity given his nice, devout daughters and his bright, industrious sons as if filial piety were the standard by which all earthly men are measured. * Oh, how trustworthy our daughters, how thrifty our sons! How we've managed to fool the experts in education, statistic and demography— We're not very creative but not adverse to rote-learning. Indeed, they can use us. But the "Model Minority" is a tease. We know you are watching now, so we refuse to give you any! Oh, bamboo shoots, bamboo shoots! The further west we go, we'll hit east; the deeper down we dig, we'll find China. History has turned its stomach on a black polluted beach— where life doesn't hinge on that red, red wheelbarrow, but whether or not our new lover in the final episode of "Santa Barbara" will lean over a scented candle and call us a "bitch." Oh God, where have we gone wrong? We have no inner resources! * Then, one redolent spring morning the Great Patriarch Chin peered down from his kiosk in heaven and saw that his descendants were ugly. One had a squarish head and a nose without a bridge Another's profile—long and knobbed as a gourd. A third, the sad, brutish one may never, never marry. And I, his least favorite— "not quite boiled, not quite cooked," a plump pomfret simmering in my juices— too listless to fight for my people's destiny. "To kill without resistance is not slaughter" says the proverb. So, I wait for imminent death. The fact that this death is also metaphorical is testament to my lethargy. * So here lies Marilyn Mei Ling Chin, married once, twice to so-and-so, a Lee and a Wong, granddaughter of Jack "the patriarch" and the brooding Suilin Fong, daughter of the virtuous Yuet Kuen Wong and G.G. Chin the infamous, sister of a dozen, cousin of a million, survived by everbody and forgotten by all. She was neither black nor white, neither cherished nor vanquished, just another squatter in her own bamboo grove minding her poetry— when one day heaven was unmerciful, and a chasm opened where she stood. Like the jowls of a mighty white whale, or the jaws of a metaphysical Godzilla, it swallowed her whole. She did not flinch nor writhe, nor fret about the afterlife, but stayed! Solid as wood, happily a little gnawed, tattered, mesmerized by all that was lavished upon her and all that was taken away!
Amy Molina is a bright, promising M.Div senior at PTS. She is currently seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church and an active student on and off campus. Part of that activity is with Navigation the Waters, a diversity initiative that has sparked much discussion about what we really believe and value about each other as a diverse body of students and ministers serving a multi-layered, endlessly diverse world community. In this blog, Amy gives her own reflection on what her experience has been with the initiative and what she thinks we all need to perk up and pay attention to in its push forward toward respectful, respected and loving diversity --
Navigating the Waters has been on my radar screen since my first year here at Princeton Seminary, 2010-2011. Its beginnings were birthed from a controversy that many find themselves still sorting through the roots and results of, and so its reception here at the seminary has not been welcomed as one might have a hoped a diversity initiative in this institution would have been. There is clearly a lot of skepticism and distrust amongst the different constituencies who work and live on this campus. That was one of the first things the Navigating the Waters initiative uncovered in its extensive survey of the campus. How will this program be different? How will this help? And since then, the process has been slow-going, BUT IT HAS PERSERVERED and after a full year of gathering data, some kick-starts and setbacks, it is evolving and maturing into something that has real potential to be an engine of change and accountability in this place. At the beginning of this year everyone was sent an email inviting them to be a part of Navigating the Waters, of that invitation about 30 people have responded and joined the initiative. They have formed dialogue groups which work to create a safe space for students to stop and hear one another’s stories and dive into topics that cover a range of issues regarding diversity, exclusion and inclusion. As current and future ministers of the Gospel, this matters. Hopefully this movement will grow as more students recognize that these are issues that touch all of our lives… especially here at seminary.
- Amy Molina, M.Div Senior
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