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Erica Lee, Elisa Lee, and Elinor Lee

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Elinor Lee, Elisa Lee, and Erica Lee are three siblings who were born in New York, NY. Their family immigrated to the United States from South Korea.

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0:04:27

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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Erica Lee, Elisa Lee, and Elinor Lee Transcription

Elisa: I hated Korean school.
Elinor: Me too. That’s why I quit it but you guys kept going.
Elisa: Yeah, because we needed to graduate.
Erica: You went to Korean school?
Elinor: Yeah!
Erica: I don’t remember this.
Elisa: When did you go?
Elinor: I don’t know.
Elisa: Are you sure it was Korean school?
Elinor: Yeah!
Erica and Elisa laugh.
Elinor: We went during JEI.
Erica: Oh…
Elisa: That doesn’t count.
Elinor: Why?
Erica: We’re talking about that church-sponsored thing.
Elinor: Oh… See, I don’t know how you guys get wrangled into it.

Elinor: I think also it’s interesting that I had to translate so much as a little kid. Um…
Elisa: Can we talk about that?
Elinor: Yeah, let’s talk about it.
Elisa: I was always…. I was always so confused. I was like- wait how does Elinor not know Korean and then translating and then what? How does that happen?
Erica: Mmm…
Elisa: You know what I mean?
Elinor: Really? Um… I don’t know.
Elinor, Erica, and Elisa laugh.
Elinor: Do you think I was just bull-shitting the whole time?
Erica: Elinor has magical skills.
Elinor and Erica laughs.
Elinor: No, I mean it was like a very big burden that I don’t think as a kid or any kid should be able to-
Erica: No—
Elinor: to take on. Um…
Erica: All this legal shit and you’re like if I do this wrong like…
Elinor: Yeah.
Erica: They might get in trouble or like all this pressure to do it right.
Elinor: Yeah.
Erica: That’s not cool.
Elinor: But I think that- that’s also what forced my reading comprehension to go way up…
Erica and Elinor laugh.
Elinor: maybe is having to read and um…
Erica laughs.
Elinor: explain documents that I didn’t understand. I don’t think I still do.
Erica: Right?
Elisa: Right?
Elinor: Yeah.
Erica: I don’t understand how we did it when we were younger.
Elisa: I know.
Elinor: They just they must have just asked us and then been like “Oops.”

Elinor: Remember how much I hated going to Korean restaurants?
Erica: Mmm… No, but why? I thought it was because you didn’t want to eat meat.
Elisa laughs.
Elinor: Well, I mean that too, I guess, but the reason I hated going to Korean restaurants was because I was so uncomfortable.
Erica: Oh…
Elisa: Why?
Elinor: All I wanted to do was go to like American restaurants and they probably were just as uncomfortable if not more.
Elisa: Why was it uncomfortable for you to go to Korean restaurants?
Elinor: Because remember? I would always ask, “What’s this one?”
Erica: Oh…
Elinor: and then I would always get the same thing because I don’t know what else to get.
Elisa: Mmmm
Erica: I didn’t know that.
Elisa: Yeah.
Elinor: Yeah, and I mean there was a booger on a cup.
Elinor, Erica, and Elisa laughs.
Erica: I feel like that’s the biggest thing.
Elisa: Yeah.

Elinor: No, but I mean like I am actually very uncomfortable in like Korean restaurants so I can sympathize.
Elisa: With the family?
Elinor: Mmm...
Erica: Mmm…
Erica: I hated going to like American restaurants with them because I was embarrassed of them.
Elinor: Oh… Yeah...
Elisa: Mmm...
Elinor: Me too.
Elinor: Yeah, I know. It’s really shitty.
Elinor laughs.
Erica: I know.
Elisa laughs.
Elinor: Yeah, because we obviously don’t have accents but people are still going to see us as foreigners.
Erica: Mmm…

Elinor: Well the reason I didn’t continue Korean school was because I was mad at the parents because they kept saying, “Oh, no matter how hard you try, no one is going to think of you as an American.” And already my identities were just like so confused. Because no one clarified like you can be both. You can be proud of both identities. So I think that’s what I lost out on as a kid. And I really, I regret that.

Elisa: Erica and I had more like Korean culturally things.
Erica: Mhmm.
Elinor: Oh, okay. I see.
Elisa: That we can feel more solid in that.
Erica: But I definitely, don’t you feel, though, like you are sometimes not either? Do you know what I am saying?
Elisa: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Erica: Right, right, right. So I think… Isn’t that what Elinor was getting at? That’s why I was like, “Yeah, I can see that.”
Elisa: But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t feel as like…
Erica: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Elisa: I don’t know how to word that… lost?
Elinor: Yeah.
Elisa: Confused?
Elinor: Diluted?

Erica: Mmm…
Elinor: In their own way, they showed their appreciation for us and- and we that wasn’t the appreciation we needed, but that was their way and we didn’t understand that because of all the barriers of communication. Because that’s my easy go-to answer like, “No, we can’t communicate.” Like literally, I can’t communicate though.
Elinor, Erica, and Elisa laughs.
Elinor: But… Uh… I don’t know. I just like, right now I can’t have a peace with it, I don’t think.