SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Tristan Rosellini

The Life and Times of a Japa-talian

            When I had turned eleven and was making the transition from elementary school to middle school, my experience with difference began. My parents announced to me that they were going to be filing for a divorce. I definitely think that if both my parents had been of the same race, it wouldn’t have been as big of a jump in household functions but since my mother is Japanese and my father is Italian it made it a bit hard to adjust to my new living situation. Not only was I to accept two different types of race but I had to adapt to the new expectations that each parent was giving me based on their cultural background.

            My mother is originally from Japan, transferring to a high school in Washington as a senior exchange student. My father is a seventh generation Italian-American so my extended family on his side is much more Americanized than my mother’s. When the dust had settled and everything had been decided, I was living with my mother considerably more than my father. This lead me to follow a more Japanese cultural style because of how much I was around my mother. She started going to night school to get her Master’s when I turned fourteen and started going to high school. This caused a time where I truly had to turn to my Japanese culture to figure out what to do since I basically started to raise myself. At my father’s house, since I was only with him on weekends, I was basically around him from breakfast till bedtime. This caused me to have a completely different experience with my Italian culture. From this side I was supported much more by my family which, scarily enough, made me wonder why I was getting so much support. The biggest difference I noticed at that point was how with my Japanese culture, I was expected to be much more self-sufficient and support myself. With my Italian culture, family supports family no matter what. Even through this difference I was able to see a silver lining. I was able to learn something close to opposites of each other from two different cultures at the same time. Being able to become as self-sufficient as I was at the age of fifteen was all because of my mother’s way of bringing me up on her culture. From my father’s culture I was able to learn about trusting to rely on the support of others and being grateful for having that kind of support system.

            I chose this for my personal memory ethnography project because this was the only big incident in my mind that stands out as a time that could’ve been seen as a “difference” or “borderland” in my life. Going back through this memory has helped me realize a lot of things though. The important lessons that I have learned throughout my life were all learned during a time of hardship and change. Without the divorce happening I would most definitely not be the same person I am today. Each parent has given me a different experience and raised me with a different set of cultural rules. With my mother, following the stereotype, my nose was in a book reading or doing some sort of study material. This lead me to having a high level of focus and ability to get through my class work with ease, something I most definitely would not have learned with my father’s upbringing. Instead my Italian culture was seen as the fun one instead of my Japanese one because of the circumstances. Another factor that played into this was that my mother’s entire side of the family still remained in Japan; she was being the only one that saw a reason to come to America. No doubt this massive cultural change as well as the influence of the white Jewish family she lived with during the time before she turned twenty-one, has played some part into the way she brought me up. My mother has taught me everything I need to know about being a self-sufficient adult because she basically had to be her own adult when she came here because of the cultural difference. All these events have caused my mother to teach me everything so that I would be able to take care of myself when she started going to night school and working more hours. My father however was raised the classic Italian way, with both parents and a lot of siblings. He has been around and had family support ever since he can remember, which is why he has such a different attitude than my mother.

            Reflecting on this memory I see how much of a borderland there is between my two cultures. It is interesting to see how from such a young age, these two different styles of raising me have produced such different attributes and affects just because of where my parents are from. I see how each parent only raised me the way they did because it was the way they were brought up, which I found very interesting.

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