by Chloe Sun
I have always perceived myself as a foreigner in America. My parents were born and raised in Vietnam. I was born in China, raised in Hong Kong and came to the U.S. for college about twenty years ago. Identity became an ever more prominent issue when I came to teach at a seminary that was predominantly Taiwanese in Los Angeles. I felt lost amongst people who looked like me but whose culture and language differed from mine. Questions came up that I struggled to answer: Who am I? What am I doing here as a non-Taiwanese? Where do I belong? I felt like the marginalized of the marginalized. I didn’t know of any name for my kind of identity – I was part of three countries, three cultures and three languages, but none of them, on their own, felt like a perfect fit.
Then, at a book event for More Than Serving Tea, a book on Asian American women in leadership, I met Young Lee Hertig and other women who shared my struggles and experience. Together, we became the core members of AAWOL. In one of our earliest monthly gatherings, I shared my identity struggle. In response, Debbie Gin, one of the AAWOL sisters, shared her journey of liberation and shared information that described my kind of identity – I realized that I am a “TCK” (Third Culture Kid)! To give a name to an identity is powerful. I felt like I have a place in this world because there is a name for someone like me.
Since then, I have grown in my understanding of myself and of God’s purposes for me at the margin. I started to read the Bible differently, paying attention to the characters who lived in more than one place in their lives. I started to look at people differently, forming solidarity with those who were also at the margins. Although having a name to my identity gave me a sense of place, it does not mean that I no longer have struggles as a person at the margin. However, I now realize that being a TCK is an asset in a pluralistic culture. I am grateful to my AAWOL sisters who have come alongside me in this journey of understanding my identity.
Chloe Sun, PhD., teaches Hebrew Scriptures at Logos Evangelical Seminary. She lives with her husband and son in Southern California. To contact Chloe, please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.