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Hapa Haole

Interestingly enough, it was more confusing in Hawai'i. In Hawai'i I think they're more judgmental, actually. I think it’s because there's so many different cultures there: there's the Japanese, the Koreans, the Filipinos, the Hawai'ians, the whites. I remember when I first moved there, we went in my high school years, that the Japanese girls in the school, they were the most popular girls. They were the cheerleaders and the homecoming queen, and the president of this and president of that. They didn't accept me as Japanese. They said “No, you're not Japanese.” When I came to school, I was considered the hapa haole, and the white they, the Caucasians more accepted me. But the pure Japanese girls did not accept me. I remember being really sad and telling my mom and she just said, “Well, just try to act more Japanese.” (Laughs) I said, “How do I act more Japanese?” “Well you're too loud and too outspoken, and maybe you shouldn't do musical theater”… But I just dealt with it. It’s not like they bullied me, they just didn't make me feel like a part of them and I experienced that the whole time I was there.


hapa Hawaii Japanese Americans Nikkei racially mixed people United States

Date: April 4, 2013

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Patricia Wakida

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Francesca Biller was born in Hawai'i and raised in Southern California to a Jewish father and Japanese American mother.

She is an award winning investigative journalist, political satirist, author, and social commentator for print, radio, and television. With a background of Japanese and Jewish, she writes about her interesting background in both an introspective and humorous way and her work has been published for The Huffington Post, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and many other publications. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow award, two Golden Mike awards, and four Society of Professional Journalists awards for Excellence in Journalism.

Biller is currently writing three books, the first a novel about the 442nd Infantry set in Hawaii, the second a compilation of humorous essays about growing up as a Japanese Jew in Los Angeles during the 1970s, and the third a Lifestyle book about how a diet of Hawaiian, Japanese, and Jewish food keeps her family healthy and happy. She is also currently on a national radio tour discussing her humorous take on politics, pop culture, and families. (August 2013)

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Eric Morton
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Eric Morton

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The Hapa Project

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Perceptions of uniqueness

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Defusing myths through The Hapa Project

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Difficulty responding to the question "What are you?"

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Differing responses by gender to the Hapa Project

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Japanese Americans are more aware of their Hapa identity

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Kip Fulbeck

Hapa as his primary identity

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