The Power of Names

Names…”Names have power” (239). A name gives us an identity, a category, something to belong to, an overall understanding of what something is. In The Stone Sky, Nassun and Schaffa enter the mantle of the Earth, and as they enter, Nassun recognizes the layer they have entered as the asthenosphere. By naming it, her fear is eased. But as I came across this passage, I resonated with it in a different kind of sense. Yes, giving a name to something does familiarize it, somehow. However, societally, names and labels act as borders and a sign of exclusivity almost, in my opinion.

I was born in America to two fully Korean parents, therefore I am Korean-American. Growing up,  I longed to “belong” to a group, always torn between “real” Koreans and “real Americans.” I am foreign to both groups…because I am “too white washed” or “too Korean.” As a result of this, I have always had the inner dilemma of staying true to who I am or choosing to default to the stereotypical traits of a “real” American or “real” Korean in order to fit in. I think a lot of immigrants or first generation children can relate to this struggle on some level. Personally, I know several Asian-American friends that had a tough time embracing their culture. For example, they sought to be like their white friends with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunchtime, instead of their white rice and side dishes. A sense of belonging is natural to humans with in-groups and out-groups. But! Names only have power as long as I give them the ability to hold it. I am proud to be Korean-American, and that is a label I choose to have, but does not solely define me as an individual.


I understand the basic need for them in order to function, but beyond that, they frustrate me. Why does society constantly seek to slap a label on everything that is not deemed “normal?” Particularly, I think this applies to the LGBTQIA+ community as well with many hesitant to restrain themselves with one title to identify as. It is great that labels like lesbian, gay, bisexual, and so on exist, but in the end I think they often do more harm than good. Labels, names, and titles are a fickle thing. Sometimes necessary, and at other times just excessive.

If you are interested in more of the ~experience~ of what it is like to be a first generation Asian-American, specifically Korean-American. Here is a video of a well spoken online influencer, Jenn Im.

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