Get to know more about our sticker contest’s 1st place winner, Shashi Arnold! Interviewed by our intern, Emma Park.
How did you hear about us at KoreanAmericanStory.org?
My mom told me about KoreanAmericanStory.org. She herself found it inspiring, and knew I would too.
What does being Korean American mean to you?
Being Korean American means that I am a piece of a larger story of Koreans living in America.
Is there anyone in your life that has strongly influenced or supported your Korean American identity?
My grandparents help me to feel connected to my Korean identity. When I listen to their stories of their life in Korea and their beginnings here in America, I can see myself as an extension of their story.
What is the inspiration and story behind your design?
Being biracial, I’ve often struggled with the duality of identity. I feel a push and pull between my connection to Korean culture and overall American culture, between my Korean family and my white family, between both the discrimination and privilege my ethnic makeup has afforded me. Inspired by this concept of two parts making up the whole of my experience, I decided to illustrate a girl who is visibly split down the middle.
What is the message behind your design?
I wrote “Proud of our culture” in Hangul, which in connection with this image conveys pride in Korean culture and tradition no matter what form it may take. Though the two sides of the girl in my design are very different, they both pay homage to Korean culture in some way. Likewise, there are so many different Korean American stories; multicultural, multiracial, multi-generational, and the list goes on. I hope the owners of these stories can each feel proud of their version of what it means to be Korean American.
What’s something you love about being you (or, your identity)?
I love being an artist. My artistic self is connected to my other identities as well, and helps me to navigate them. When things are difficult, I can find solace in the magic of creating.
When do you feel proud to be Korean? Why?
I feel proud to be Korean when I’m at my grandparent’s house. When I was teased for being Asian as a little girl, I used to feel ashamed of any part of me that was Korean. But at my grandparent’s house, their warmth would melt all this shame away. How could I be ashamed of something that connected me to two of my favorite people? Sitting in Nana’s kitchen, eating cut apples as she gossiped to my mother in sing-song konglish, I felt safe and proud.
Are there things you do in your everyday life that are influenced by your Korean heritage?
When I’m home, my diet is heavily Korean influenced. I have rice and Kimchi almost every day, and in the winter I like to end my days with Yulmu-cha. You can also see Korean influences in the shows I watch and the music I listen to. Some of my favorite Korean artists I have on repeat lately are Oohyo, Nijuu, and ADOY.
What’s your favorite Korean food?
My favorite Korean food is sundubu-jjigae, and my favorite dessert is bingsu.
Do you watch Kdramas? If so, what’s your favorite?
I’m obsessed with Kdramas! The ones I always go back to are Strong Girl Bong Soon and Hospital Playlist.
What advice might you have for another young Korean American who feels “split down the middle”?
You are not alone! Sometimes the different aspects of yourself feel so contradictory that it seems as if you don’t belong anywhere. But organizations like Korean American Story are good places to look to remind yourself that there are so many of us out there. Find stories like yours, and realize that you belong to a strong, beautiful, expansive community, even if you can’t see them all the time.