Finding an authentic Filipina identity in the United States

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Donabelle C. Hess
Tim Davidson


This paper chronicles and examines the first person narrative of a foreign-born Filipina American's attempt to find an authentic identity in the United States. This essay contributes to the literature on transnational Filipino families by looking more deeply into identity issues faced by one of the authors (Hess) as she reflects back on her migration as a Filipina teenager to the United States. Hess's narrative is discussed in terms of class and racial dynamics and the emotional impact of transnationalism for Fi/ipina/o youth, with special emphasis on mother-daughter dynamics. Some fundamental adjustments that are featured from Hess's personal
experience include psychological processes of self-differentiation; separation from key family members; accommodating social change from a collectivist to an individualist pattern; and managing cultural displacement and gender role expectations. By viewing the complexities of identity through one woman's eyes, a nuanced and more intimate view of identity issues during migration emerges and thereby this essay may enhance empathy and understanding for other women in similar circumstances.

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