“My tongue keeps twisting more and more alphabetically. My voice neutralized instead of dancing around with nine tones. I may even have pressed down my throat so the sound appears more authoritative, to steer away from the ultra-femininity, a tendency when I speak Cantonese. I am changing. I have changed.”
I became American, a naturalized citizen at age 37. To be naturalized is “to confer upon (an alien) the rights and privileges of a citizen.” Naturalized is what’s not on that piece of paper, is how I negotiate my identity despite voluntary conformity.
Ching Ching Tan is a Chinese immigrant who came to the US at age 32. Her journey of education and writing started from taking ESL courses in community colleges. She is pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction and writing her first memoir Naturalized.
Ching Ching is a 2021 Public Voices Fellow of The Op-Ed Project at San Jose State University. Her work has appeared or forthcoming in CNN, HuffPost, SFWP, Visible Magazine, Canyon Voices Magazine, among others.