“B1 and B2 are my famous uncles.”
During Harmony Day this year, I became a living book. I became a live art performance and aptly name my story; “I am B3 & I really love B1 and B2.” My living book focuses on my experience of being a banana in Australia. Yes, it’s about being white inside and yellow outside. Ergo the banana concept.
I have been invited to be a living book for Head On: The Human Library. The Two Chairs (T2C) are synonymous with the idea of collecting and listening to one’s conversation about race and racism but this time it was slightly different. With this installation piece, the reader sits on T2C and engage with MY story. As the reader they request a certain chapter which then prompts me to share my story.
Monique and Anna, the organisers, first approach me when they realise that T2C and The Human Library have similar synergy and concepts. The Human Library is a mobile library set up as a space for dialogue and engagement. The approach is simple and positive, where the interaction between the ‘book’ and the ‘reader’. It is designed to promote, reduce prejudices and encourage understand.
“My parents are boat refugees. They escaped the war in the 1980s and sought refuge in Australia. Thanks to them I am proud to be a refugee.”
“We don’t have Vietnamese names. My old man has given us Western first name.”
A by-product of assimilation or trying to fit in? My father believes that we are better off thinking like a Westerner and that we should focus on making our lives better. Many of my chapters crosses over to the lives of my beloved family; my mum and how she is my hero, balancing my family’s expectation, and how my parents call Australia home.
Some chapters of my living book experience are:
– Why did your mother leave Vietnam?
– What is yellow fever?
– Why did your father give you a Western name?
– “I’m not a doctor, engineer, architect or mathematician” so what do you
Many readers share their cultural food experiences and uses food as cultural connector. Many Australians and kids love my uncles and can relate to me as a Banana. During the course of the day, once I shared my story about cultural identity and racial experiences, the readers begun to open up their hearts and share their own viewpoints;
“People are fascinated by my hair. They think they have the right to go and touch it like it’s theirs.”sits an Kenyan women.
Another three girls sat with The Two Chairs and;
One girl says “Just because I’m half Japanese, doesn’t mean I like anime.”
“My family is from a South American country. We like to eat but we don’t eat horse.” shares a young Chilean girl.
And breaking the Aussie stereotype, “there’s more to us than meat pie and tomato sauce.” says an White Australian girl.
Ironically, I sat with a married couple; with his Filipino wife next to him, a White guy compliments me and says:
“You look so different from your photo. You’re so much more beautiful in real life.”
Call me old fashion, but seriously, why would you want to do that, especially when you mother of you child is next to you. It’s ironic because there is a chapter that Yellow Fever Fetish and creepy old men.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed the experience of being a living book. I didn’t expect the hugs from the kids or any of them to say:
I just wanted to say thank you. I learnt a lot about racism today.
That little sentence made my whole day.