Objectification as a group = rejection from the mainstream?
August 27. Evening. I'm born in a hospital in Tokyo, Japan, to a caucasian American father and Japanese mother. A six-pound bundle of flesh, blood, and tears, I am presented to Mr. David Edwin Heck and Mrs. Reiko Kuzume Heck.

We move to Yokosuka, home to an American Navy base when I'm one. and I attend kindergarten and first grade at a school there. The school yard stands on a cliff overlooking a rough blue ocean, its white-frothed waves as peaked as knives. At recess, the Japanese kids call me gaijin, the Japanese word for foreigner. It is not a nice word. Tears brim and cloud my eyes, I trip and fall onto my hands and knees on the dusty playground. More names and laughter sound from my small classmates. I ask my mother later at home to explain gaijin. Asking for translations becomes frequent--pinning down nuances, identifying linguistic tenors like derogatory and joking and kind.

When I'm seven, my father decides to relocate us to America. I'm overjoyed. Gaijin no more! I conclude--logically, I believe--that the word foreigner suggests the possibility of native. The foreigner who is alien in one land must come from somewhere, must have a homeland.

So I'm stunned when the kids at my new elementary school chant: Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these. When they say: Hey chink! hey gook! They say Pearl Harbor and shape their fingers into little guns pointed at me, the enemy. I say the words myself to prove my allegiance, I perform the crude gestures that accompany their rhymes. There are weeks, maybe months during which I don't understand the idea of sides, of enemy and ally, us and them, me and you.

I vow to dye my hair blond
and surgically alter my eyes.
Before this crucial transition, you could say that I had no notion of Other until my wordless, internalized notion of Self was shattered. These are days when my sense of identity is as dispersed as molecules of dust and light in a cloud, as vague, amorphous, darkening. If was capable of defining myself before being labeled, if I were sophisticated enough to possess the language of identity, I must have used words like fine or whole or good girl. I must have had a notion of myself as something native to its surroundings, a little animal curved into its nest, a builder of forts and igloos, a percher of tree limbs and laps. I deduce this by tracking the emotional terrain backwards in time: if I suddenly wasn't fine, at one time I must have felt fine--felt at peace, felt an instinctive belonging. Felt safe.

At my new American school I make A's while fantasizing about an island in between the U.S. and Japan, land of misfits, maybe Hawaii, maybe somewhere, land of half-and-half and quartered and pained. The worst part of school is at the end of the day. We're all lined up in the gym, organized into squiggly long queues according to bus routes. The giant, squealing room contains a dangerously low adult-to-child ratio--a free-for-all for calling names, making faces. I lower my head and stare down at my aluminum, square, Mork-and-Mindy lunchbox, at the dorky alien with his best friend. 

At home, my father tries to soothe me, "Asian women are beautiful. You're beautiful, and the other kids are just ignorant. They're jealous."  When I look in the mirror and see my small, slanted eyes, my crooked overbite, my bobbed hair which is neither black enough nor brown enough, not straight enough nor wavy enough for anyone's liking, I know someone is lying. Someone is not to be trusted. 

Me with my mother and father.