Study Guide

How I Got That Name Race

By Marilyn Chin


"How I Got That Name" points to the complexity of race in America. On the one hand, there's the black-white racial divide, which goes all the way back to slavery. On the other hand, the arrival of new immigrants in the twentieth century also meant that racial categories became even more tricky and complex. The speaker of Chin's poem isn't white, and she isn't black. She's Asian. And this racial identity, as the speaker suggests, comes with a whole set of its own issues and problems.

Questions About Race

  1. The speaker suggests that Chinese-American racial identity differs from both "white" and "black" racial identity in what ways?
  2. Is the "Model Minority" a racial or a cultural stereotype, or both? What's the relationship between race and culture in the poem?
  3. The speaker's father names her after a white movie star, Marilyn Monroe. What does this suggest about the father's aspirations for his daughter?

Chew on This

Racial identity is a social construction. It's not a physical thing; it's a social thing.

Race defines who we are, and how we identify with others in the world.