• Leilei Gong

The Portrait

Inside the museum that is my imagination, I see a portrait of a young Asian woman. With her silky black locks and golden skin tone, she is the only drop of neon in a sea of noir. People walk by her without barely a glance, moving onto all the other pictures featuring light-haired and marble skinned muses. She is alone. I watch as visitors pass the girl, whispering that she does not belong… that there is something wrong with the picture.

By the time I was eight years old, I spent more time at Hogwarts than my own school. As a Chinese adoptee raised in a traditional white American household and community, I knew very few other Asians until J.K. Rowling introduced me to Cho Chang. I soon learned that she was the exception, not the rule. Frustrated by the lack of realistic Asian characters in fiction, I began to both write myself into my favorite books and scribble down my own stories. My pen became my wand.

Fiction gifts us wings to soar and daggers to dual demons. Nevertheless, the genre that defies the impossible often fails to reflect reality. Several authors have recently started changing this trend with books featuring a diverse cast of characters. They lead the way to creating a more accepting and open minded world. I hope to someday join them.

My hands shake, my fingers tremble. My mind is covered in incomprehensible scribbles, the canvas is splattered with paint. A pen moves, fingers press keys, and words are linked together. This is how I write, unfiltered and without abandon. Sometimes the page ends without a period, with a frustrating streak of ink and angry tears. Sometimes it ends with words woven into a picture that can only be seen through observant lenses. Every time, though, I leave a part of my soul, a part of me. Writing is how I express my pain and my sorrow, yet also my joy and discovery. Writing is the result of the broken voice inside my mind, inside my heart, that begs to be freed.  Writing is my truth.

Inside the museum that is my imagination, there is an ever-changing portrait of a young Asian woman. This time, I cannot catch sight of her face. I only see her olive-skinned hands, furiously scribbling out letters on a worn sepia paper. As I peer closer, I see the letters become words. My eyes glide over the page, and I realize that she is me… and there is nothing wrong with the picture.

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