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Defining American

Sometimes, when I hear a word, images and stories immediately come rushing into my head.

American.

Betsy Ross sewing stars and stripes. Laura Ingalls running across the prairie. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids watching fireworks. The Oregon Trail. Hands on hearts screeching out the Star-Spangled Banner. A picture of Uncle Sam.

“Hey, you!” Uncle Sam says.

I look around.

“You!” He barks. “I want you!”

“Me?” I ask nervously. “For what?”

His index finger points at me accusingly, even though in my culture pointing is a gesture for dogs. I imagine he’s calling me out, saying: “You don’t belong here.” I look into Sam’s eyes at his white hair and beard and creamy skin and realize he’s right. As a mixed race, Chinese-American woman, these stories of America, quite literally, don’t know the half of it.  

Defininf american This  entry also appears on the Minnesota Humanities Center blog. 

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#Storytelling

Since I began my work at the Minnesota Humanities Center, I’ve been learning about the importance of story. Not only is story a powerful and engaging mechanism for teaching history and culture, what stories are/are not  told, who tells them, and when, provides a lens through which we can look critically at our society. The very nature of stories allows us to address current societal narratives so that we can go about creating a more inclusive and relevant societal narrative for everyone.

It seems like storytelling has been showing up wherever I go. I recently came across a tweet from the Bush Foundation:

Just a day earlier, Blois Olson tweeted an article with a similar sentiment.

Several weeks ago, this article was circulating around my social networks, urging the Twin Cities to work toward a more holistic narrative of itself: one that goes beyond Mary Tyler Moore, Snow, and the Mall of America.

The common thread between these articles is simple: the stories that we tell about ourselves matter. 

storytelling

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