Assimilation Anxiety: Mari Becomes Mary

Relief print by Roger Hilleboe, aka #Iconoclast00 Right panel of triptych

A month prior to her third birthday, Mari’s father, a recent Engineering graduate from the University of Tokyo Japan, accepted a lucrative job offer from the American Honda Motor Company, Inc. at their headquarters in Torrence, CA. The only son from a wealthy Japanese family, Mari’s father had the financial means to purchase a large home with an ocean view on the exclusive Palos Verdes peninsula.

Mari’s father and stay-at-home mom both spoke perfect English and ONLY English once they’d moved from Minato Tokyo Japan and settled in Southern California USA. Consequently, Mari never learned to speak more than threads of broken Japanese. From K-12 Mari attended the Chadwick Day School located at the top of the Palos Verdes neighborhood referred to as Academy Hill where she excelled in Science and Mathematics.

For her 16th birthday her parents bought Mari a new 2012 Acura TSX Coupe and the cosmetic plastic surgery required to eliminate the Asian Crease above her eyelids and an Epicanthoplasty: surgery performed to widen the shape of Asian eyes and to minimize their downward appearance.

Relief print by Roger Hilleboe, aka #Iconoclast00 Center panel of triptych

On 1 May 2014 Mari, at the deadline, decided which college she would attend the fall following her rapidly approaching HS graduation and signaling the start of a new, freedom-filled life. With her 3.98 GPA, her Scaled SSAT Score an astronomical 2,628; percentile ranking 1%, her fluency in French and playing the French Horn, the 20-hour weeks she spent tutoring math to smart thugs still enrolled, amazingly, in their South Central LA High Schools, her summer and part-time job constructing Subway Sandwiches, an activity Mari found exhilarating, her secretly despised role as the Student Council’s President, her active participation in the ‘right’ school-sponsored extracurricular activities, the role she played as the starting Point Guard on her, admittedly lame, Girl’s Varsity Basketball team, and assorted other Blah, Blah Blah A plus pluses, Mari, 18 years old, was desperately sought and highly recruited by every tip-top-tier school, both state and private, on both the left and right coasts, from sea to shining sea, and from all points in-between.

But just one of these institutions captivated her.

Relief print by Roger Hilleboe, aka #Iconoclast00 Left panel of triptych

Mari’s happiness derived from constructing all manner of ‘Things’ from Subway sandwiches to an All-American personal identity. Her dream was to become an architect and to construct Big Things. Enrolling in the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design would allow Mari to obtain a dual admission in the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning where she could eventually obtain a graduate degree.

Mari’s parent’s loved and understood their daughter which allowed them to overcome the initial shock and hurt they experienced watching her for the past ten plus years run from all things Japanese and traditional and sprint towards all things American and popular. And so, Mari’s enlightened parents had given her the only graduation gift she desired: they allowed her to legally change her given Japanese name, Mari, to the All-American traditional moniker Mary.

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