Listening to Our Grandma's Stories

Yu Guang, Bi, and Bi Lan are Chinese grandmas in their 70s. They're immigrants who've been living in the US for over 10 years. They met at the Chinese-American Planning Council's Community Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Before the pandemic, this is where they spent time with friends who also love to drink tea and eat dim sum. Now, this community relies on each other to stay safe from anti-Asian hate crimes by going to the supermarket together and visiting each other's homes. We listened as they talked about how their lives have changed since the rise in violence against Asians, feeling homesick, and advice they'd give to their younger selves.

Yu Guang Zhang, 70

Hometown: Fujian, China | 15 years in the US

How has your daily life changed since the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes?

I don’t go out as much as I used to. I only go to crowded places. My kids have started doing my grocery shopping for me, but if I need to go to the supermarket, I’ll go with my friends so that I’m not alone.

Do you regret coming to the US? 

I don’t regret coming here and I don’t want to go back to China. I got married very early, had children, and I was a farmer back in China. I was so busy trying to make a living when I was young that I didn’t have time to read books and I didn’t have money to go to school. My living situation is much better in the US. Recently, they started hitting us and I'm concerned about that. But other than that, I’m happy here.

What comforts you when you feel homesick?

I have a family WeChat group with my siblings back home. It's comforting because we can message each other everyday.

Bi, 72

Hometown: Fujian, China | 19 years in the US

Why did you immigrate to the US?

I used to think America is a great country so I wanted to come and live here with my daughter. She helped me apply for my visa. But now with the anti-Asian attacks, a part of me regrets it and I think it would have been better to stay in China.

How has your daily life changed since the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes?

With what’s happening right now, I’m afraid to go out at night or even late in the afternoon. I’m scared to take the subway, especially alone. If I have to go to the supermarket, I’ll go with my husband. If I have to go somewhere further, my daughter or daughter-in-law will drive me because they don’t want me to take public transportation. 

What’s your favorite tea?

I drink Jasmine tea and Dragonwell tea from Fujian every day. I brought it from China. 

Bi Lan Chen, 79

Hometown: Fujian, China | 11 years in the US

What comforts you when you feel homesick?

When I feel homesick, my relatives and friends comfort me a lot. I would visit them at their homes, drink tea, and catch up. Or we just have hangouts like going to dim sum for breakfast.

What’s your favorite tea?

Jasmine tea is my favorite. I really like the floral aroma. I drink it all the time, whether it is at home by myself or with friends and family when they come over.

What would you say to your younger self?

I am happy here. All my children and grandchildren are here. But as they get older, they get busier so they have less time to spend with me. I would tell my younger self to appreciate family more and spend more time together. 

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