At the age of seven, Jennifer Wang came to the United States from Beijing, China, with her family.At 17, she wrote an essay called “Orientation Day” that explores the relationship between her name and her identity.When my mother said my name, not one of the three syllables was diluted or mangled, assimilated or Americanized.Effortlessly, she would paddle forward and ride the wave of the double ‘n’ and subsequent vowel, then bend around the hard consonant – never neglecting intonation at any point.In considering it we should come to an understanding of the nature of lyric, the purpose of this essay.They had taken the deepest interest in every essay and every speech.When my father would come home from work, lighting up our windows with his headlights, my siblings and I would rush downstairs to welcome him.On days when we were too drawn to the TV upstairs, we would wait for my mother to recite our names – always in order of birth.
How do I present myself in a user-friendly format, complete with “Help” buttons and batteries? First of all, I am a girl who wandered the aisles of Toys “R” Us for two hours, hunting in vain for a doll with a yellowish skin tone. During that time I also first heard the term “chink,” and I wondered why people were calling me “a narrow opening, usually in a wall.” People expected me to love studying and to enjoy sitting in my room memorizing facts for days and days.Too many times, I’ve been exposed by Nigerians who can sense my lack of comfort with an Igbo alphabet that has never truly felt like my own, and an Igbo accent that I never truly inherited. It’s hard to swallow, and I’m too embarrassed to spit it out. Nneka Onwuzurike is a creative nonfiction writer living in Minneapolis, MN.She is a 2017 Intermedia Arts Beyond the Pure Fellow, 2016 Givens Foundation for African American Literature Emerging Writers Fellow, and a VONA workshop alum.A motherly lullaby in the hum of the first, a motherly concern in the pitch of the second, and her motherly release in the staccato of the third, and each time it was a warm satisfaction that filled me like the fufu that snugged my throat as it slid down the trail of egusi soup every Monday evening.I could always hear it, no matter how far away I was.Sitting on the page, my name overwhelmed and intimidated most who encountered it.As I imagined they would react upon seeing a foreign dish on a menu, my teachers would admit defeat, saying: “I won’t even try it.” They’d leave it to me to pronounce it to the table, altering the ingredients until the dish became more familiar, more digestible.The essay on Poetry is itself poetic throughout in its expression.The one in print is my first essay in the way of telling a tale.This essay is quite as significant for what it has not said as for what it has said.And if they essay to do so, why should not my word be at least as weighty as theirs?