When I Was Growing Up Poem

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I Could Not Shed My Skin In the poem, "When I Was Growing Up", written by Asian author Nellie Wong, the speaker is a Chinese girl growing up in a society where she searches to find her voice and her place in a predominantly white cultural majority, where she does not belong. This speaker longs for the “privileges” carried with being a member of the cultural majority. "When I Was Growing Up", a poem written by Asian author Nellie Wong, literary devices such as diction, imagery, and symbolism are used to create friction and express the theme of shame and regret the speaker felt for longing to be white instead of Asian. The speaker laments, “…I could not change, I could not shed / my skin…”. The poem details the feelings of regret and shame felt by the speaker as she was growing up in America immersed in Chinese culture while longing to be accepted in the American white cultural as depicted and glamorized by the media and movies. Word choice, or diction, play a primary role in the…show more content…
Again, these images have a mostly negative feel and the speaker expresses how uncomfortable she is in her Asian skin. She describes white movie stars as blonde, sensuous and desirable and admits she “[begins] to wear/imaginary pale skin” to fit the white media stereotype. This is not a real skin change, but am imagined change. Next, she compares her skin to a shell she wears in stanza 10 lines 4-5 “…shell of /my soul but not my rough dark skin”. Yet another reference to an image of skin is found in stanza 11 line 6 where she describes her “I could not change, I could not shed/my skin in the gray water”. This image of a girl in a tub of gray water is powerful. She is stripped down to nothing and under it all is her skin which is not white and she is not able to shed it. It is what it is: Asian

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