“How is it that some of us go away and some of us stay? Some sink into the ocean and some ride a dead man’s suitcase to safety. Some of us are beautiful Chinese girls who don’t age, or dishwashers who die with hands soft as a baby’s.“
“Some of us arrive in the promised land. Some of us land in Riss River, Oregon. Glittering sand, putrid rain, it’s all the same to us.“
Moonie and Mei Ling Wong desire to become somebodies, constantly transforming themselves to impress their love interests, their grandmother, and confront societal pressures. No day is perfect in the the Double Happiness Chinese Restaurant or at home. Their lives are not perfect, but they make it through. They start off as food delivery girls who are finding their sensibility, sexuality, and identity. They grow up. They both become successful women. But what does it take? What makes them Moonie and Mei Ling? How do others see them and how do they seem themselves? What defines them? Is it their Chinese heritage and culture? It is their religion? Their sexual desires? What matters most? Or doe every part of them make them human, faults and all?
These strong female characters engage in intergenerational conflict and revolutionize what it means to assimilate into a dominant culture. Marilyn Chin’s novel is a “public declaration” to end oppression and find the ability to transcend the trails of life towards a path of happiness. It reminds us that we are all human: hardworking, determined, seeking affection and affirmation, all of which is self-realized through both Moonie and Mei Ling in their journey. Everyone wants to find happiness. Whether that be from the neon light of a Chinese Restaurant, going to college and pursuing a degree, or traveling the world, we are all on a quest. Enlightenment only occurs when we look up at the sky and laugh about all the we are going through. We should be helping each other recognize our weaknesses and strengths, bolstering up our identities and being proud of who we are.
The children of immigrants often have high expectations to fill. They live in a dual world: yin and yang. Moonie and Mei Ling become symbols of the immigrant nation. It is not walk in the park, but a roller coaster of emotions.
In the end, these divergent journeys are important and become cyclical. Chin’s tales are informed by Buddhist and Taoist parables, combating stereotypes of Chinese and Asian American identity. We all craft our own journey, that is revolutionary. We have choices and we have parts of us we get to accent. It is up to us to decide who we are more than anyone else, because at the end of it all we are the ones left with our bodies and identities. The twins make forge their own path without rejecting their history and family heritage. They are living in “double happiness,” living the same lives every day but making something new out of it for themselves, their parents, their grandmother, and the world.