Grandma's Little Stereo

Grandma's first year in the U.S.
Grandma's first year in the U.S.

“Who was the first U.S. president?” This question is repeated in Chinese and the answer is then given in English and Chinese. I spent five years of my life listening to the citizenship test questions being repeated again and again out of a Panasonic RX D55 boombox in the middle of my grandma’s living room. These questions were blasted at 8 in the morning; it was like my alarm. For me, this was difficult because it was a sign for me to wake up, but to my grandma, this boombox was a sign of hope. Around the early 1990s, my grandma decided to move her whole family to the U.S. for a better life. Back in China, her family was struggling financially and were looking for better opportunities. When they came to the U.S., my grandma was so excited to become a U.S. citizen because she would be given a lot more freedom and opportunity. She was extremely passionate about taking this exam, hence she attempted to take it twice in English, a foreign language where she only knew the alphabet to. She attempted multiple times in English and there were times when she would ask me for help. This was a memory I can never forget, as my first language wasn’t English either, so I was learning English with my grandma. In the end, she failed both exams in English and took the exam in Chinese. However, the boombox was such a big help in helping her memorize the questions; she still remembers most of the questions today. To her, passing the citizen test was one of her proudest moments.

Place(s): China, New York City
Year: 1993

– Winnie K Luo

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant