Empowering New York’s Asian American Community Since 1989

Sha Eisen'S
San Diego

“I wanted to equally represent Sha’s memories of her hometown and Vietnamese roots. The background of the image represents much of San Diego, such as the beach and the city’s Spanish architecture. The many books floating on the water capture her childhood, having spent so much time in public libraries. Fishing represents her fond memories of going deep-sea fishing with her brothers. And since food is a bridge that connects Sha to her culture, I wanted to highlight it by placing it largely in the foreground.”

—Dani Choi, Illustrator

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About Sha Eisen

Sha Eisen is a Vietnamese American marketer who grew up in San Diego and has lived across California, New York City, and Oregon. She grew up as one of just two Asian students in her school, feeling mostly disconnected from her Vietnamese heritage and culture. As an adult, she appreciates her culture and the unique perspective it's provided her—and feels a strong connection to her hometown of San Diego.

WHERE AM I REALLY FROM?

“If they really wanted the answer, I would make them work for it. I’d make them specifically ask, ‘What is your cultural background?’ It may totally be benign 90 percent of the time, but it’s a set of words that is historically so hurtful and inherently racist. I think we just need to make the collective decision to find another way to say it.”



—Sha Eisen

Chopsticks

“In third grade, I remember for Chinese New Year—a holiday my family doesn’t celebrate—my teacher called me up to the front of the classroom to teach everyone how to use chopsticks. And I didn’t know how to use them.”

Buddhist Altar

“I grew up with no Asian influences. I remember going to my grandma’s house and she had a Buddhist altar. I was never taught about it and didn’t know what it was—it was just this thing where they would do offerings. I thought it was weird. I remember everyone would bow three times in front of the altar, and I would refuse, even from a very young age. For my entire life, I’ve straddled this line of rejecting this culture and feeling bad about rejecting it, but then also feeling false and fake participating in it.”

Vietnamese Food

“My connection to Vietnamese culture is through the food. Strangely, as much as I grew up without cultural bits of Vietnam, the food—like banana leaf rice dumplings and caramelized pork belly—was present from the beginning. In college, I really missed it and needed to learn how to make it myself. So it’s one connection I do have.”

Taco Shops

“The first stop on every trip back to San Diego is always, always, always a taco shop. I probably ate more Mexican food growing up than I did Vietnamese food—or at least equal parts. I’m one of those people who won’t eat Mexican food from anywhere else in the country because it’s just not the same. The way New York has bodegas, San Diego has taco shops. They are synonymous with San Diego. And what’s funny is we don’t eat tacos—we eat burritos. But we call them taco shops. It’s very strange.”

The Beach

“The beach is really special to me. I grew up not terribly close to my family and was out of the house a lot. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I’d just go to the beach and spend a lot of time there. I really appreciate San Diego now. Growing up, I didn’t know how beautiful or special it was. The beach where I spent most of my time is more of a local beach, a lot of strange happenings there, but it’s the least touristy.”

Identity in High School

“In high school, I was near Mira Mesa and Rancho Peñasquitos. There was a higher concentration of Asians there—most notably Filipinos. The weird part about it is, I was ‘white’ for so long that when I finally swung over and was like ‘I’m Asian!,’ I actually was like, ‘I’m Filipino,’ because I had all Filipino friends. In that way, I also felt that I didn’t fit in because I was Asian but not Filipino.”

MEET THE ARTIST

Dani Choi

Dani Choi is a Brooklyn–based Korean illustrator whose work is highly colorful and layered. Her surreal compositions feature characters who seem to be in two worlds at once, much like Sha. Having spent a lot of time surrounded by people with starkly different backgrounds, she understands the feeling of alienation and confusion about self-identity.


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Combat AAPI hate with a donation to Hope Against Hate today, and get a limited-edition travel poster. Digital downloads start at $25 and printed posters start at $150. All contributions, regardless of amount, fund critical programs that keep Asian Americans safe in New York City and beyond.
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