A couple years before his passing in summer 2014, my grandfather (Gong Gong) decided to write an autobiography. He wrote a 15-page Chinese transcript, detailing anecdotes and hardships he experienced during his lifetime; he even documented significant dates, his job history, and outlined his family tree. After a hired translator created an English translation, Aunt Mona, along with my mom, Uncle Mase, Uncle Marshall, and other family relatives, transformed the English transcript of Gong Gong’s autobiography into a physical book using Shutterfly services.
Several copies were ordered to give to various family members, including myself, in hopes of carrying out Gong Gong’s stories and sustaining his legacy. Aunt Mona even gave it to Gong Gong himself just in time for his last birthday celebration on August 9, 2014. Gong Gong passed away on August 10, 2014 at 11:20 AM.
Gong Gong’s passing was a turning point for me. Some of his last words spoken in Mandarin Chinese were, “Today, we are Chinese…” Although I was unable to understand his words at the time, hearing about their translated meaning later rejuvenated a sense of cultural pride in me that I had never felt before. It pushed me to pursue and embrace my cultural roots, to learn about Gong Gong’s history, and to deepen my understanding of what it meant to be Asian American.
At present, I plan to continue taking Chinese language courses throughout my college career and am even interning in Shanghai, China this summer. This renaissance has strengthened not only my cultural identity, but my human identity as well. I am continually inspired by Gong Gong and my family’s strength.
Today, I feel I have grown even closer to Gong Gong through completing a digital remediation of his autobiography. His stories have given me insightful perspective on what experiences he was drawing from whenever he would lecture me and other relatives about advice and life lessons he has learned. Whether the situation concerned him pulling younger versions of my cousin and me aside to talk about the optimal age to marry, why bananas are healthy snacks, or to discuss the ideal significant other, it is clear that Gong Gong was always thinking of everybody and their well-being.
There are probably details that are missing or have gotten lost through translation or through consolidation of information. However, inspired by how my family has continued to comb through Gong Gong’s written and physical artifacts and reflect on stories he has shared by word of mouth, I hope to become a more integrated part of this process of coloring in our family’s memory of Gong Gong.
I hope that this digital remediation of my grandfather’s autobiography serves as one of many steps towards continuing to remember his voice, his stories, his strength, and his legacy.
See Gong Gong’s autobiography reborn in the digital space here.