Lynn is a 72-year-old, Japanese American woman who grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii along with her 4 siblings. She is a third generation because her grandparents moved from Japan to America. Although retired, Lynn had many experiences while in the work force and while traveling around the world. Being born in 1948, Lynn lived through the effects of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Despite this, she worked hard to avoid letting her race and gender get in the way of her daily life. Also, living in Hawaii was a very different lifestyle compared to those living in the rest of the country.
“The Japanese Americans in Hawaii were viewed favorably because so many of our soldiers were decorated in the war. The 442nd military was all Japanese American soldiers, and they were one of the most decorated units in the United States army.”
Growing up, Lynn lived with her immediate family as well as her grandparents from her father’s side. Her grandfather immigrated to America at the age of 17 to work in the sugarcane fields and provide his family with a better life. Soon after, his wife came to Hawaii as a picture bride and they got married. Although her grandparents spoke fluent Japanese, it wasn’t common for people in Lynn’s generation to learn the language.
“My grandmother never wanted to become an American citizen, so she never really became fluent in English but being the third generation by then we did not learn Japanese at all unless we went to Japanese school and not many people wanted to go to Japanese school to learn the language.”
Regardless, Lynn and her family still celebrated the Japanese holidays such as eating a special meal on New Year’s Day, as well as honoring Boy’s Day and Girl’s Day. She considered herself lucky to be a Japanese American living in Hawaii. Her grandfather’s brother chose to move to California where there was much anger towards the Japanese. Because of this, he and his family were sent to live in internment camps. Their property was taken away from them and
“They left their homes with one suitcase to live in internment camps for years”
Although life in Hawaii wasn’t as tough, the tension between the White people and the Japanese forced families to alter their ways of living. Lynn and her siblings were taught to be quiet and to not speak, it was grilled into them to be laid back and not be pushy. This was how they chose to act in order to not upset anyone. Hearing this reminded me of Amy Tan’s book, Mother Tongue. In the book, Tan talks about her mother’s accent and recalls how she was “ashamed of her English” (Tan, 255). Although this is not exactly what Lynn and her family experienced, I felt like both stories were similar in the sense that they were forced to be quiet due to their Asian ethnicity.
Because Lynn’s grandparents did not have a proper education and her parents did not attend college, it was extremely important that she and her 4 siblings received a good education. Her father worked 2 jobs in order to support the family, and her mom took care of all family matters such as getting the kids to school, making sure they did their homework, and making sure they were healthy. Therefore, Lynn’s mother Amy was her biggest influence growing up. In fact, it was very typical of Asian families to put education first so Lynn and her siblings weren’t assigned chores. Instead her mom took care of everything. This reminded me of Paul Kivel’s article “The Ruling Class and the Buffer Zone.” In his article he discussed the effects that family class standings have on a person’s life and how “People must have some hope that their (or their children’s) situation will get better” (Kivel, 3). Lynn’s mother’s focus on academics was her way of hoping for a better life for her children.
When it came time to attend college, Lynn got her bachelor’s at the University of Hawaii and her master’s at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Attending college in Colorado was a very different lifestyle for Lynn. She purposely chose that location because she wanted to be somewhere where there were not many Hawaiian people. While in Colorado, she felt that being Asian and from Hawaii was really an advantage.
“There were very few Asians there, so they looked at me as I was treated as a special person but in the positive sense.”
Lynn’s first job was at the Kahala Hilton hotel. After graduating from high school, she got a summer job there and continued working there throughout her college years at University of Hawaii as well as University of Colorado. Kahala Hilton was the only “luxury” hotel on the island at that time. Therefore, all the Hollywood movie actors and actresses would stay there whenever they came to Hawaii. The Kahala Hilton wanted people to have a special experience throughout their stay and because of this they particularly looked to their local Asians to work at the front desk. Many of the higher up managers and department heads were white, but they wanted to have a lot of Asians in the visible positions at the hotel. It was working here that Lynn saw a different lifestyle which was very glamorous compared to her humble upbringing in the little neighborhood of Aina Haina. She became interested in traveling, and saw a lifestyle that was so beautiful, which affected many of her choices later in life.
“We had a very humble home in Aina Haina and the hotel environment was just super glamorous”
After graduating college, Lynn began working at the Hawaiian Telephone Company. This company had 4000 workers and was a large corporate company. The parent company had job classes and job salaries laid out in the manual so everything was very specified. When Lynn joined the work force in 1974, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act had just recently been put into place. Therefore, many companies were looking to hire more women. Despite this, when Lynn was hired as a technical planner, the department head wanted to pay her less than the salary grade that was specified for her job. He believed that because she had majored in accounting, she did not deserve to be paid the specified salary. When the vice president of the company found out, he became involved and stated that she would be paid the correct amount because otherwise it would be viewed as a discriminatory action to hire a woman and pay her less than the corporate guidelines stated. This reminded me of Adichie’s Ted Talk called “We Should All Be Feminists.” A specific line that stood out to me in her Ted Talk was when she was talking about the workforce and how “The higher you go, the fewer women are there” (Adichie). This seemed relevant to Lynn’s work experience because her fate was in the hands of her male superiors.
Lynn also emphasized that being a single woman in the workforce was a big advantage. She recalled that women who were pregnant or had families faced more discrimination than those who did not. Therefore, she felt lucky to be single because she felt as though she had more opportunities compared to other women with families.
“I think that single women were more likely to get promoted only because people felt that people who had women that had families, the family might have been their highest priority because they had to take time off for taking their kids to the doctors or picking them up after school.”
Life in Italy
After Lynn retired, she traveled all around the world. She even lived in Italy for around 15 years. While being away from America, Lynn learned about the lifestyles that people live outside of our country. While living in Italy, Lynn noticed racism and discrimination, but not towards herself. People from Italy were racist towards other countries as well as towards each other. When they found out she was from Hawaii, Lynn felt like many doors opened up for her because everyone wanted to be friends with the girl from Hawaii.
Although Lynn didn’t experience racism, she did notice a lot of discrimination towards females in Italy. She noted that women do all the housework and manage the family. They even make the women barbeque and do all the dirty work during family parties. The belief in the country was that women had to take care of everything because the men were the bread winners. Lynn did point out that this was changing towards her later years of living in Italy. The younger generation of men were becoming more helpful in the kitchen and it was getting to be more like life in the United States.
“Women are just taken for granted in a way.”
Although Lynn lived in Italy for a long time, she still traveled all over the world exploring many different countries. Once again, she found her race and being from Hawaii as an advantage, but she also saw a lot of discrimination towards women. She recalled a specific trip to Nepal where she saw a woman carrying a baby on her back, bricks on her head, all while doing labor work. Lynn was extremely confused by this and so she asked her tour guide why that woman was doing that. Her tour guide responded
“That’s what women do.”
Lynn couldn’t believe this and so she asked the tour guide where the men were. His response was that the men were at home partying. This was very eye opening to Lynn because she had never seen gender discrimination to this extent while living in Hawaii.
When asked if she noticed a difference towards the treatment of Asian American women today versus when she was growing up, she pointed out that there is a lot more representation of Asian American women in bigger positions. Some examples she gave were Connie Lau, who is a Chinese American woman and the CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, the biggest electric company in the state. She also noted Patsy Mink who was in the White House in Congress for 12 years. These examples show the progress that Asian American women have made for themselves. She believed Asian Americans were heading in the right direction up until Covid hit. Once Covid hit, there was some regression in America’s acceptance towards Asians, specifically the Chinese. Because the disease came from China, there was a lot of vicious, hateful, discrimination towards Asian Americans. Luckily, Lynn felt grateful that she is back living in Hawaii because similar to many years ago, Asian Americans in Hawaii don’t face as much racism as those in the U.S. mainland.
Kivel, Paul. “The Ruling Class and the Buffer Zone.” NA, 2004,
Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.
Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue.” PDF file.
“We Should All Be Feminsts.” Ted, uploaded by Chimamanda Adichie, Nov. 2012,
chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_we_should_all_be_feminists?language=en. Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.