Introducing Lenna…

5 10th, 2011

As the number of our film shoots begin to wind down, we’ve started to look towards the post-production/editing phase of our film. But before we can start to whittle away at all the footage we’ve shot, all the interviews have to be transcribed. Thanks to volunteers like Lenna, we’re on our way!

Introducing Lenna...

Name:Lenna Stites

Mix:Father =Caucasian (German/Swiss), Mother = Japanese My dad was born in New Jersey and my mom in Hiratsuka, Japan

Volunteering as: Interview Transcriber

Birthplace: Torrance, California USA

Time spent in Japan: My most recent visit was September 2010 for a two week vacation. My longest stay was from July 2008- September 2009 on a study abroad program. Prior to that we went as a family almost every year for about two weeks at a time during the summer from when I was about a year old.

You’re experience growing up as hafu: I acknowledged that it was unique but being “hafu” was never portrayed as being a negative thing. I grew up in a really diverse area but, I was still usually the only mixed-race person in my group of friends. I never particularly thought of it as being different from anybody nor did I think of it as being the same as anybody else. I knew that I could speak two languages but that I didn’t want to speak Japanese outside of the realm of my home. I was afraid that being half-japanese meant that people would automatically assume that I was fluent in Japanese. I was afraid that if they asked me how to say something and I couldn’t answer it then it would break expectations and it would make me “less Japanese”. The only other time I felt a cultural difference as a kid was during lunch times. There was a period when my mom would pack me “obento” or onigiri or inari sushi and I felt awkward eating lunch because I suddenly became the center of attention while everybody else played 20 questions to try and figure out what I was eating. I ended up adopting a habit of tearing my food into small pieces and eating it piece by piece because it was more discreet that way. I also ended up trading in my onigiri lunches for regular peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. But other than that, I never felt any different being hafu.

Any changes as an adult?: It wasn’t until college that I became more conscious of being half Japanese. There were a lot more people who were of mixed race like myself and I think I gained a stronger sense of awareness of it. Even so, to a lot of my friends I am still the anomaly. Whereas before it wasn’t really a point to think about, being older, it’s one of the first things that I get asked about: “What are you?” followed by: “Which side do you identify with more?” I find it interesting how I’m almost always expected to choose one side over the other when I really can’t. That being said, I still have not had any negative experiences being mixed but I have become more aware that based off of appearances, my ethnicity is hard to guess and some people love to try and guess what my ethnicity is. I have noticed more of a barrier, particularly in Japan. While studying abroad, I joined my host university’s track and field team and ultimately it was an amazing experience and I came out with so much and many friends, but the first month or so was hard. It took a lot of time to break down those walls which I imagine wouldn’t have been there if I looked less foreign. I was always appreciative of being mixed before but now that it’s something that I more consciously think about, there is a newfound sense of pride in being half- Japanese.

Why you are supporting the film?: I’m supporting the film because I think there are a lot of interesting stories to tell that should be shared. There are so many different experiences that people can have and no two are going to be the same even between two different people of mixed race. Even just after my year of study abroad in Japan I realized that my experiences were different from those of others. After coming across the website, I was genuinely interested in the stories of the hafus in the film but I also wanted a way to be involved in the hafu culture and experiences. I feel like there is a lot that can be learned from people’s experiences and stories.

What do you hope is the outcome of the film? : I hope that this film is able to portray the differences in experiences of hafus, particularly in Japan. When I was there, a few people told me that they had never seen a mixed race person before and I hope that the film is able to portray a culturally diverse Japan. I also hope that it shows that there can be a perfect blend of multiple cultures. There doesn’t have to be just one or the other.