About

My name is Elizabeth, but everyone calls me Liz.  Nice to meet you!

liz lin salt collective pic

I’m from the great state of Michigan — born in Kalamazoo, raised in the suburbs of Detroit.  I studied psychology at the University of Michigan, whose football team is the joy of my life or the bane of my existence, depending on the year.  I have a PhD in clinical psychology, as well as master’s degrees in psychology and theology, from Fuller Theological Seminary.  In the past, I’ve been a therapist, a high school youth worker, and a consultant.  Currently, I split my time among writing, teaching, speaking, co-running Progressive Asian American Christians, and raising my toddler son.  When I’m not doing those things, I’m usually pursuing something related to pop culture, food, or college football.

***

The name of this blog comes from an experience I had at the beginning of grad school.   I was at a small gathering in my next-door neighbors’ apartment, and I had written down my name and email address for one of their friends, whom I had met earlier that evening.  Glancing at my info, she asked, “What’s your real name?”

I paused, puzzled; no one had ever asked me that before.  “My name is Elizabeth,” I replied.

Sensing my confusion, she quickly jumped in to clarify.  “I have all these students with these great Asian names who are like, ‘Oh, just call me Sue.'”

I paused again, surprised by what she was implying.  “My name is Elizabeth,” I repeated, lacking the wherewithal in the moment to explain that I was born in Michigan and my legal name is, in fact, Elizabeth and not one of the great Asian names she was referring to.

I left that experience jarred — that in Los Angeles, in 2006, someone would make such a naive assumption about me based on my phenotype.  It wasn’t the first or last time I’ve experienced something like that, but the phrase I kept saying — “My name is Elizabeth” — has stuck with me.  I’m sure I sounded like an idiot in the moment, repeating it as if it were the only sentence I knew, but I’ve come to think of it as a mantra for asserting my identity.  Yes, I am visibly Asian — and proud to be so — but I’m also American; I was born here, I belong here, and I am one of you.  Interactions like this one have made me think a lot about race, culture, and identity and how they surface in everyday life, and that’s what this blog is about.

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46 thoughts on “About

  1. My Name is Ernest, I have both a Chinese and English name because I was born in Singapore when it was a British Colony. I use my Chinese name when I speak Chinese and English when I speak English.

    Growing up part of the time in Chicago area, I know what you mean. Now that I live in Hawaii, no one asks that question. You should come to Hawaii to experience this 😉

  2. The topics you write about are so relevant to the millennials of Asian Americana. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us!

  3. Hi Liz!

    First and foremost, from one fellow U-M alum to another, GO BLUE!

    My name is Josh Leskar, and I’m the community development associate here at Humanthology.com – a startup focused on creating a platform for safely sharing stories on topics that matter in society. One such topic is titled, “Job Searching,” and a colleague of mine sent over your piece on, “The Asian American Quarter Life Crisis.”

    We think it is tremendously well written and provides an incredibly unique perspective, and as such think that your voice would be perfect to have on our site. Would you be interested in contributing to our platform?

    If you’re interested, or have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at josh@humanthology.com.

    Thanks so much in advance,
    Josh

  4. ernest: hi! glad to know i’m not alone in this experience, though i’m sorry that you’ve been subjected to it too. i would expect this kind of thing to happen more often in the midwest than in places like california or hawaii, where there are a lot more asian americans — so i was shocked that it happened to me in LA and not back in michigan! i’m glad that you’re free of this question in hawaii.

  5. josh: GO BLUE! thank you so much for the message and the kind words — i’m honored. i’ll shoot you an email!

  6. I really like your blog and I am so glad that you would like to share your thoughts about culture, work and life. I grew up in Beijing China and came to US for undergraduate. Time flies and I have been to US for almost 9 years. Reading your article helped me cleared up lots of my confusions and culture-shock. Thank you a lot and I am looking forward more posts.

  7. Hello! I stumbled upon your blog through a facebook friend and I instantly thought “yes! another voice to enter the fray of Asian American pain”. I’m Chinese American from CA and completely resonate with your post “Am Asian American, Have Been to Therapy” I work with a Christian ministry, specifically focused on mobilizing Asian Americans to winsomely share the gospel. And in that, we walk them through their journey as they reconcile how Asian and American cultures have influenced their identity and their perception of God. My husband and I are deeply passionate about these things because we too have journeyed a long way out of “the fray”. Thank you again for your story. It will be invaluable to share with my students and staff. I am also extremely encouraged that you are in the field of psychology because you live out the value of mental and emotional health. You are an example just by choosing this field and giving a voice to Asian Americans. 🙂

  8. I am not Asian anything but your writing is superb and provides an insight into the minds of a major part of our societies (I am in UK) and also, most people don’t do what they want – it isn’t just Asian xxxxx groups. I was lucky in that I have just gone with the tide and had some very interesting jobs, working hard when inspired…. Maybe it is harder today. I don’t read blogs (too old) but yours was/is different. Super.

  9. steph w: thank you so much for the kind words — they mean a lot to me! and i love that you and your husband are empowering and walking with asian americans in this way. that’s awesome and desperately needed!

  10. wayhayek: thank you for the kind words — i appreciate them a lot! (and you’re right — this issue isn’t limited just to asians.)

  11. Hello Liz. My name is Claire and I am one of those millennials. I also grew up in the Midwest, well…predominantly. I want to thank you for sharing your experiences as an Asian American woman. It’s giving me the courage to do what I want.

  12. Thank you so much for putting my thoughts into (your) words! It’s wonderful to know that my experiences and feelings aren’t just mine alone 🙂

  13. Dear Elizabeth,
    Wow. Your post on Asian Americans and Ferguson is excellent. Thank you. I am the new Dean of Students at one of your fine alma maters, Fuller Theological Seminary. Surprise! At least it is to me as much as anyone. And just call me Steve. It is my real name. 😉
    A couple of friends who are Korean American and Presbyterian ministers introduced me to your Ferguson post. I began poking around your blog and I really appreciate your writing and insights. Thanks for sharing yourself in this way. This is very valuable and helpful and important stuff you are posting.
    If you’re ever down in Pasadena I’d love to meet for a cup of tea. My office is on the 2nd floor of the Catalyst.
    As an Asian American, I think I share several similar perspectives with you and I can imagine that your work will continue to be valuable for my work at Fuller.
    Many blessings on you as you continue to do what you do.
    Warmly,
    Steve Yamaguchi
    BTW – Your twitter feed about your dad’s sayings is the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. Very entertaining, but sweetly and respectfully done. Thanks for the laughs.

  14. BTW – the two Korean American Presbyterian ministers I mentioned are also women and seem also to share an appreciation for your work. Or perhaps you already know them. If not I’d love to introduce you.

  15. Hi Steve!

    Great to hear from you, and thanks for the kind words! They mean a lot to me. I did a bit of consulting work with the De Pree Center in June, and your name came up as the first Dean of Students in many moons. I’m glad you’re in the position! I’d love to meet up the next time I’m in Pasadena. It’ll be mid-December at the latest — I’ll shoot you an email when the date gets closer. I’d love to meet these Korean American Presbyterian ministers you speak of, too!

    I’m glad you liked the Twitter feed, too — just a little homage to my sweet dad. 🙂

  16. Your letter to your 20 year old self changed my life. I’m a second year gender studies student, hearing your story sounded so much like my life. I’ve been feeling that feeling of just not knowing what the hell I’m doing with my life lately, reading your article made me have faith.

  17. Thank you. This is exactly what we need to be talking about. So happy I found your blog. I look forward to reading more.

  18. Liz – just looked up your blog after seeing it on gchat. Did you know I’m now at Fuller as well? Fuller Texas that is but I just started. Anyway, I’m writing a paper on Asian American worship at my church. Was looking through your writing so I can do some references but your story above reminded me of what happened today. A lady at the grocery store didn’t have her glasses so needed help in reading this can she was holding. She starts out with – can you speak English? That also left me speechless like what you were saying above which probably had her wondering for a second if I really could even understand her. Then to emphasize the fact that I do speak English and without an accent, I proceeded to annunciate my words to answer her. But I should have spoken up and told her how racially insensitive she was! I do not know what to do in those situations. They leave me hot and bothered while I’m sure the other person has no idea what an effect the words they’ve just spoken impress upon others. I’m still figuring out how to be proud of my “Asian Americanness” but also to be a loving forgiving Christian towards others. But does that mean not speaking out? As you can tell – I’m confounded…

    I hope you are doing well. I’d love to hear your thoughts. =) Miss you.

  19. pris: great to hear from you! i didn’t know you’re at fuller now – that’s great.

    UGH, i’m so sorry that happened to you today — that’s terrible. i’m pissed on your behalf.

    personally, i don’t think that being a loving, forgiving christian means that you can’t respond to these incidents. (just like how being a loving, forgiving christian doesn’t mean that you can’t tell someone when they’ve hurt your feelings.) i think it’s important to respond, actually — people say these things bc they don’t know that they’re hurtful, and they need to know so they don’t hurt other people. and there are ways to address them without being a jerk. i don’t know if it’ll be helpful, but i’ve written about it here: https://mynameiselizabeth.com/2010/11/22/microaggression/ it’s not the most encouraging story (the conversation does not go well), but it illustrates how i try to bring these things to people’s attention without being rude about it.

    so good to hear from you, again. and would love to keep talking about this! miss you!

  20. I love your writing style. Glad to have found your post and site. I am a CBC, Canadian Born Chinese currently living in Hong Kong teaching English. I am struggling in finding my passion and I am also on an experimental journey through trial and error. I can resonate with your writing. Thanks!

  21. Greetings, Elizabeth,

    Just thought I would weigh in since we share the same name. I enjoyed reading your latest post, ‘The Day After the Verdict,” and I look forward to reading more.

    Elizabeth

  22. Hey Elizabeth keep up the good work !! 🙂
    I am living now in Germany;and I know what it feels like to be a migrant, especially because( maybe ) I am gipsy(I don t know the gipsy language that s way I am saying maybe) Anyway people expect things from people just by judging the appearance and that s wrong,not everybody is how they imagine
    it.Education is the key word.

  23. Looking forward to reading more of your posts – you have a great perspective on race and cultural issues from what I’ve read so far.

  24. Looks like you got yourself another follower! As an Asian-American, I also am aware of the issues– racial, political, social– that we, as the so-called “model minority” have to face. I’ve written a few posts on my personal dealings on it, and I’m glad to have found another blogger who expresses the same thoughts!

  25. Hello! My name is Elisabeth, too. That´s why I first noticed your blog and started following you. But now I´m very glad that I did. I never need to explain my first name to anybody, being a blond Norwegian woman living in Norway, my first name doesn´t puzzle anybody. But my family name does. I am married to a man who is half german, half french, and I chose to take his german family name when we married. So now I have to spell my last name the rest of my life, probably. 🙂 That´s not a real problem, though. Just a little bit annoying. But I have many Norwegian friends who don´t really look scandinavian. Some of them are adopted from China, Korea, Chile or Argentina. Others have parents that moved here from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Iran or some other country, either as refugees or as immigrants in search for a job or just a better life. The typical thing would be that all the adopted ones have typically Norwegian names, but the immigrants children have names from their parents tradition. Many of these children, both the adopted ones and the immigrants children, have to answer the same question over and over again: “But where are you REALLY from?” But my children, who are actually multiculturell and multilingual (they speak all three languages fluently), never get that question, because they look all scandinavian. Cultural background is not always obvious on the outside, but it is still there. My children are both German, French and Norwegian, and they are proud of it. I am going to follow your blog, Elizabeth. 🙂

  26. I like your story. As a non-Asian, you may think I can’t relate, but most of my Korean friends–born and bred in the U.S.–have had the exact same experience. It sounds insulting, quite honestly.

    Us swarthy, Southern European types get it too. I’m Greek and my family has been here for, like, 100 years, but I get stuff about my last name not being really long, and about how our traditions are so “ethnic,” whatever that means.

    Anyways, great writing! Look forward to reading more.

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