My Mother's Family Portrait

When my mother was 8 years old, she stood in her backyard with her family as the cameraman told them to hold still for a picture. 19 years later, my mother brought this photograph with her when she left her village in rural China for a new life in California. When she packed her bags for the U.S in 1989, my mother had only packed essential clothing, family heirlooms, and old photographs like this one. She describes this picture as rare and irreplaceable not only because photography was uncommon in her community, but also because it is significant that all of her extended family lived in the same house. Whenever my mother brings out this picture, she identifies everyone before telling stories about her life growing up with her three younger brothers, her parents, her grandparents, and her great grandma. In 1995, my parents decided to move from California to New York City, where they hoped would have more economic opportunities for immigrants. This decision required my mother to leave her parents and brothers, who had also emigrated to California. However, she brought this picture with her as a reminder of our family history. Not only does this picture create nostalgic memories of my mother's past experiences, but it also evokes a sense of unity and belonging for her. My mother gave up many of these comforts in her life in order to provide a better life for me and my brother. This photo represents some of the sacrifices that my mother made throughout her immigrant narrative.

Year: 1970

– Shelley Wu

Relationship:  unknown unknown