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Something in the blood

My oldest daughter, Haley, is ¼ Chinese and in most estimation doesn’t look Asian in any way. But there’s a little something about her. That something was strikingly apparent when I saw this photo of my grandmother, Ethel, taken at roughly the same age.

My cousin was volunteering at the National Archives in San Francisco when he stumbled upon my grandmother’s passport application from 1931.

The accompanying letter is written by hand and reads:


Dear Sir,

I am writing to ask you concerning necessary papers.

I want to have a passport to travel from state to state but not out of the United States. I am going to travel with an American family as a companion in an automobile and I don’t want any trouble when crossing the state line.

I was born in Winnemucca, Nevada, Oct. 21, 1910. My parents have been in this country since they were children. There are seven boys and three girls.

My father passed away in the month of May in 1922 at the age of eighty-six.

(She then lists all of her siblings, their employers, and their cities of residence).

Yours very truly,

Ethel Chew

At the time, my grandmother did housework for a Mrs. A. Taylor, so I’m assuming she’s traveling with that family, but that’s all I really know.

It's so interesting that my grandmother identifies her traveling companions as American, even though she herself was born in Nevada. Cultural and racial identities are tricky things to pin down.

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Reader Comments (3)

See, and what I noticed was how she mentioned going from state to state but not out of the United States. So many of don't think twice about going from state to state, but in other countries it's a big deal. Very interesting anyway. Thanks for sharing it with us, Jamie.
May 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric Stallsworth
看了您的《悲喜边缘的旅馆》很喜欢,也非常感动!Thank you !
May 4, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter水工秀
You're welcome! I wish I knew how to write that in Chinese.
May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

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