Family heritage refers to practices that are commonly carried out throughout generations. They include: traditions, traits as well as inheritance which many be in form of material things such as land or money. Essentially, family heritage gives an individual identity. These aspects of family heritage and individual’s identity can be analyzed from the following stories: “A Red Sweater”, “The People in Me”, as well as “The Inheritance of Values”.
In the story “A Red Sweater”, there are various aspects of family relations. Ng talks of her sister. For instance, he states, “My sister rolls her eyes. She lights a cigarette”. (Ng 413).Her sister is not happy with the fact that Ng does not care for their Mah and Deh. This implies that families are composed of parents and children. After growing up, children are supposed to take care for their children. Therefore, children form an integral part of family heritage as well as giving an individual identity
At the restaurant, Ng takes a meal that reminds him of Deh. Johnny Walker as they used to serve the same Chinese banquets. Therefore, it was common for them to take such meals. Moreover, Ng states, “Deh drank from his rice bowl, sipping it like a hot soup”. (Ng 413).They had learnt to eat and drink in the Chinese style which gave them a unique identity as well an important cultural heritage. Virtually, the type of food that people in a given family eat gives one identity. As a result, one is connected with a particular culture. For example, Ng states that, “We learned to drink it Chinese style, in teacups” (Ng 408). When they decided to go to a restaurant at the “Following Sea” (Ng 408), Ng feels awkward as she no longer uses chopsticks. She states, “At home, I eat my rice in a plate, with a fork, the only chopsticks i own” (Ng 408)
In some cultures, girls are not highly esteemed as it is the case with boys. In this case, Ng’s family is made of three girls. This has resulted into continued whispers among the outsiders because the Chinese standards maintain that having girls is “not lucky” (Ng 407). Thus, most Chinese families believe are identified with boys. Unfortunately, Ng got pregnant while still not married. At the same time, her sister committed suicide while her older sister failed to complete her psychology degree. As a result of her pregnancy, Ng was considered as a disgrace to the family as her parents advised her to go through an abortion. This shows that when girls get pregnant while still in their parent’s home, their relationship with the parents changed. For example, Ng’s Deh tells her never to call them (Ng 408).
Celebrating birthdays also forms an important part of cultural heritage. Ng promises her sister, Lisa something special for her birthday once she goes abroad (Ng, 413). On the other hand, families are believed to exist because someone has a history that connects the present family with the past generations. Ng states, “We repeat the names of Grandmothers and Uncles, but they will always be strangers to us” (Ng 413).
The second book “The People in Me” also contains various aspects of family heritage and individual identity. For years, Kelley has found it hard to describe his identity. This is because, “His mother was from Jamaica but grew up in New York while his father was from North Carolina but grew up in Boston” (Kelley 483). This has not only made it hard for him to trace his roots but also his parents. They cannot fit in any ethic group in United States. For example, he states, “My mother never fit the black momma media image” (Kelley 483). Moreover, he adds that, “My big sister often gets misidentified for Pakistan or Bengali or even Ethiopian” (Kelly 484). This is because of their mixed race as their parents came from different countries and grew in different places. In the context of mixed races, it is sometimes hard to name children as Kelly states that, “Although folk had trouble in naming us, we were never blanks” (Kelley 484).
Difference in heritages is also brought about by the fact that people are composed of different cultural products. This defines who they are as well as the cultures that live with them. Indeed, some cultures are fixed giving individuals discrete identities (Kelley 484).
Most Rastafarians’ ideas were drawn from the South Asians. This made them to change from being vegetarian to marijuana (Kelley, 485). These traditions were introduced into Jamaica by the Indians. This eventually gave them unique identity. Jamaica is connected with the use of marijuana and Rastafarianism. Musicians such as Sun Ra, Perry, and George Clinton among others constitute a major source of ideas (Kelley, 485). Unfortunately, we tend to ignore such ideas yet they played a great role in shaping our cultural heritage. On the other hand, Kelley states that most people had inherited European, African, and Asian as well as Native American histories giving them multiple heritages (Kelley, 485). Therefore, we should not only regard mixed race children as the only people who have multiple heritages.
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Africans have never been acknowledged for their contribution to the Western civilization. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they have an identity with the western civilizations since their descendants were enslaved in the West even before civilization (Kelley 485). Africans have a poly-cultural heritage as they are composed of different cultural products. As a result, they are always considered dynamic in terms of their cultural identity. Their cultures are always on the move. This has created a rich cultural diversity among the Africans.
The story “The Inheritance of Values” by Murray depicts various values related to inheritance. These values are constituted by our cultural heritage. In the story, Fitzgerald’s grandmother struggled to educate her children from her job of making bricks despite her state of being blind. Eventually, she was relieved when she received a hundred acres of land as an inheritance after the death of Mary Ruffin Smith. Smith also left her other properties to be divided equally among her four children (Murray 489). This shows that inheritance is very important as it helps children who are left. For instance, smith left her land to be used by the Fitzgerald’s. This was very helpful as it made their grandmother to earn some income.
Culturally, tangible properties were considered as the only form inheritance. Nevertheless, Jeffer wrote to her grandmother stating that, “From the earliest acquaintance with you, you have been held in highest esteem with us” (Murray 491). He argued that although her mother had no riches or money that they could inherit, she could present to them a pure heart that could be of great help to them (Murray 491). As a form of cultural heritage and identity, inheritance may therefore take different forms. As earlier stated, inheritance does not merely mean tangible properties. Notably, inheritance can be in form of education. For example, Aunt Sallie was sent by her grandmother to Hampton institute to take a tailoring trade (Murray 490). Their grandmother really struggled to ensure that his family had something to live for when she died. On the same, children inherit values from their parents as well as from their grandparents. For example, Fitzgerald’s grandmother still remains an icon of hard work. Her grand children enjoy the fruits of her hard work. Therefore, children may emulate the values of their parents which may also be considered as a form of inheritance. Murray states that, “It was also part of grandfather’s creed not to coddle his daughters. He expected them to make their way in life as he had done” (Murray 491).
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In conclusion, it is evident from the three stories that family heritage and individuals’ identity are based on various factors: inheritance which may take different forms, individuals’ identity in terms of cultural background, parenthood and race as well as family traits and traditions.
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