Becoming Chinese American: The Stories Across Three Generations

  • Tonglu Li (Iowa State University)
  • Cinian Zheng-Durbin (Ames Community Member)
  • Tao Wang (Iowa State University)
  • Kat Christofferson (Iowa State University)


This panel intends to demonstrate the dynamics of forming the identity of Chinese Americans. For many immigrants, the development of racial identity is a lifelong process, involving factors such as individuality, gender, history, culture, as well as domestic and international politics. During the process, each individual goes through a personal journey that cannot be duplicated or generalized. Still, at the same time, their choices are affected by ever-changing historical environments. Through their stories of how they came to the United States from China, and how they became what they are, the four panelists, representing three generations, will exhibit the complexity and variability of the Chinese American identity. Born into different historical moments in China—from the eras of Mao and Deng to the new millennium—they brought quite different legacies to the “new world”. In pursuing their American dreams, they were given new opportunities (political freedom, social engagement, education, career, and so forth), and meanwhile, encountering challenges (the “model minority myth”, China Initiative, Asian Hate…) The presentation concludes with a short documentary summarizing the history, contributions, and status quo of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that situates the presentation into larger sociocultural contexts.



Published on
03 Mar 2023