The Malaga Family

Being biracial in America demands a choice of what we choose to remember and what we are forced to leave behind. Through these choices, biracial people craft unique identities, conglomerations of families, cultures, and heritages, collections of places, stories, and recipes. Others may try to demote you, or categorize you into one group. So indeed, just like swimming against an ocean tide, remembering requires effort. To hold your place, you must work for it; talk to your relatives, listen to their stories, and empathize with their struggles. If you do nothing, you risk being swept along with the tide of Americanization, your unique voice washed away by an ocean of oppression. 

My family is half-Chinese, half-white. My mother’s parents immigrated from Shanghai and my father’s family is from Southern Italy. My brothers and I were raised on the bridge between the two cultures. On that bridge was stir-fried gnocchi with soy sauce and napa cabbage. There was spicy, glazed shrimp over angel-hair pasta. On the bridge there were Skype Mandarin classes on Sundays and Italian class in school on Mondays. There were Roman-Catholic crosses laying upon intricately painted Shanghainese cabinets. The bridge was a connection between two families and the hyphen in my name. 

And yet, despite the vibrant combination of our heritages, there is much we still leave behind. Like many other biracial families in America, our identity is a constant process. We acknowledge our shortcomings, continue to listen our grandparents’ stories, and develop our unique identities.

Ian Shen-Costello