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My grandmother came to the US when I was 4, and my uncle when I was in high school. Besides my parents, those are the only people I know from my family that have ever left China.

When I was a child, my grandmother liked to tell me stories about the struggles she and my father faced at any particular time I complained about how difficult my life as and how unfair people were being. (This was my maternal grandmother, so naturally the stories were about my mother, although of course my dad faced his own share of hardships.) Besides the usual plights like World War II and the Cultural Revolution, one oft-repeated line was: “Your mother came to the U.S. with only $40 and managed perfectly fine!” Never mind that I was like, 5, so even if I had way more than $40 I probably would’ve been in pretty bad shape trying to stake it out on my own.

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