A child whose first language is not English is often ridiculed because they cannot communicate “properly.” Rodriguez learned Spanish at home, but at school everyone expected him to use their language, English. He remembers his childish embarrassment because of his parents’ poor English. College and graduate school, which usually expand one’s knowledge, widened the gap between Rodriguez and his Latino culture. His essays suggest that he lost a part of himself, a loss that continue to bother him.
Kinston spoke Chinese at home and also learned her first English at school. She sometimes writes of these experiences, but more often she write to recover and preserve her Chinese culture. The Woman Warrior, which offers a blend of autobiography, family history, and mythic tales, describes the struggle of Kinston’s female relatives. China Men focus on Kinston’s male ancestors; each one traveled to Hawaii or California to make money for their wife back in China. Kinston’s work, like Rodriguez’s essays, reflect the tension and confusion that the child of immigrants often feel when they try to blend two cultures.