I came as an immigrant to this country [from Taiwan] when I was 8 years old, so I didn't speak English. Not one word. I learned English in my third-grade class. I sat every day through class, not understanding a word of what was being said. I would copy whatever was on the blackboard into my notebook, and, every night, my father would come home after three jobs and sit with me during the late hours of the night and translate that day's lessons for me.
I suppose I was very much family-bound. [In high school] I never dated. I never went to my senior prom either. Nobody asked! You can't experience everything in life. And there are certain bad things that I never want to experience again. The toughness, the frustration, the hardships. I mean, growing up and not feeling a part of this society. Not feeling connected. And not knowing how to make it in America. That was a tough period. You know, sometimes those feelings stay with you a long time.
Asian American families want their kids to study. I did not work [after school]. I did not know of any of my Asian American friends who worked. It was not accepted. You came home and did your homework. The summer before college I begged my parents to let me have a job because everybody else had a job. My first job was as a junior librarian at a law firm. The Asian American culture is so geared toward learning, so if you got a job, it had to be connected with learning. It was the first time I had met white-collar folks.
Because of my background, I understand what it's like to be an outsider. I think I'm probably an insider now, as people would say. But I don't feel that way all of the time.
-- Interview by Cathy Areu Jones