Auto Ethnography Essay

1827 words - 8 pages

Aspects of my cultural identity seem to have their roots in love for the great outdoors, American movies and television, and ideas prevalent in Cold War thinking, rather than ethnicity, religion or extended family. As an only child growing up in a master-planned suburbia, close to Disneyland, surrounded with miles of yet undeveloped open land in which to roam, I was raised in a privileged and worry-free environment. Unlike today, many parents in the 1960’s raised children the “Dr. Spock way,” allowing them to craft their own happiness untrammeled by criticism or judgment. Our family went camping for weeks every summer in national parks and great open spaces. We were taught in school ...view middle of the document...

This “otherness” is best represented by dichotomies or “exercises of power” which “splits the human world into a group for whom the ideal order is to be erected, and another which is for the unfitting, the uncontrollable, the incongruous and the ambivalent” (9). This auto-ethnography expresses a construct of my identity within a framework of perceived dichotomies that I am just now discovering.
My earliest memories are associated with my first weeks in Diamond Bar, Transamerica Corporation’s bold experiment in master-planned community building, whereby a few hundred families moved onto what used to be an 8000 acre cattle ranch 30 miles from Los Angeles. There were no trees or lawns, no people, no freeways and the nearest services were in Pomona, six miles away. My parent’s friends thought they were crazy to move so far from the city. Living in suburbia was a big shift for them. Little did I know then that our leaving Compton for Diamond Bar would be termed “white flight” because I was repeatedly reminded by my parents that they made the sacrifice to give me a home with space to grow and explore in the countryside. They weighed many viewpoints before making the decision. They may have been influenced by Thomas Jefferson who in the early 19th century wrote, "I view large cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man” or Henry David Thoreau who in 1862 declared "a man's health requires as many acres of meadow to his prospect as his farm does loads of muck” or even the architect Cliff May, who envisioned “the ranch house is everything a California house should be… to serve the California lifestyle of informality, outdoor living in sunshine." (qtd. in Whiteson K1) My ranch house had Asian stylings, surrounded by hills and meadows, facing the majestic San Gabriel Mountains, a veritable dream compared to Compton. Diamond Bar seemed a world away from the city and the dichotomy between our world and “the other” was firmly planted in my mind. Social historian Kenneth Jackson described families like mine as white-flighters who sought "places of repose where the family could focus in upon itself in houses that turn blank faces to empty, tree-lined streets.” (qtd. in Whiteson K1) Behind the elaborate Japanese-style gates that shut in my gardens, swing set and back yard pool from the street, I was safe, and above all, free to imagine anything.
I was acutely aware that “raising the kid” was the central focus behind all decision making in my home. To my parents, it was a precious and noble undertaking, rife with risk and potential wrong turns. With no extended family to advise them, they approached the task scientifically. Forever gauged about my preferences, I soon realized the family income was budgeted to enrich and expose me to new experiences and travels and that life was about crafting peak experiences, one after another. Rarely did my parents require a babysitter to pursue interests...

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