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Oral history interview conducted by Cynthia Lee
February 25, 2012
Call number: 2011.019.022
CYNTHIA LEE: This is Cynthia Lee, February 25th, 2012. Uh I'm interviewingJonathan Blazon, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for the Brooklyn Historical Society's Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations project. Hi, Jonathan.
JONATHAN BLAZON: Hi.
CYNTHIA LEE: (laughs) Uh let's begin by talking about when you were born andwhere you were born.
JONATHAN BLAZON: I was born on [date redacted for privacy] uh in New Hampshire,town of Manchester, New Hampshire.
CYNTHIA LEE: And what was it like growing up there?
JONATHAN BLAZON: Uh well, uh that's -- that's uh -- I guess uh I was part of a-- I grew up in a Chinese household. Because my mother is uh Chinese. And uh 1:00my father is French Canadian. Uh both of my parents came from uh minority groups uh in New Hampshire. Uh French Canadians are the first minority in New Hampshire, at that time. And uh my mother's family was one of only, I believe, uh perhaps three Chinese families in the entire state, at that time. Uh my mother's family owned a -- uh a Chinese restaurant. So I grew up uh in a household -- a Chinese household that was, uh I suppose, very un-- atypical uh relative to the experience of other people growing up in New Hampshire at that time.
CYNTHIA LEE: You say that being French Canadian was also considered being a minority.
JONATHAN BLAZON: Yes. Yeah.
CYNTHIA LEE: And so I think maybe a lot of people wouldn't necessarilyunderstand that.
JONATHAN BLAZON: Mm-hmm.
CYNTHIA LEE: Can you talk about that a little bit?
JONATHAN BLAZON: (laughs) Sure. Uh the uh French-Canadian community in -- in2:00New Hampshire came fr-- down from Canada uh in the early part of the 20th century, to work in the mills, uh textile mills in New Hampshire at the time. And they settled uh in uh -- they settled all over the state, really, and became uh sort of the working class minority uh in the state. And it's really specific, I think, only to that very small region of the country there. But they were the um -- I think seen as sort of the -- the lower class workers. Uh also they were Catholics, very devoutly Catholic, in what was largely a Protestant um state at the time, too. And so they were definitely looked down upon by the -- by the Protestant uh population. 3:00
CYNTHIA LEE: Did you feel that yourself?
JONATHAN BLAZON: No, not on the French-Canadian side at all, because what I feltwas from the Chinese side, because it was so much more blatant. Because, uh you know, on top of uh being a minority, we also -- the Chinese side, we also looked very different, uh and lived differently, very differently. So uh the -- I felt the difference much more starkly from that side of the family. I always thought that my father's side, the French-Canadian side, was -- was more uh white, so to speak. Yeah.
CYNTHIA LEE: When you say that your Chinese side lived very differently, can youtalk about that?
JONATHAN BLAZON: Well, uh I perceived it as differently, when I ma-- What Imean is that we owned a restaurant and we ate different food than other people. Uh and we are a very large family, uh running a family business. We spoke a different language. Uh you know, my -- my grandmother and my great grandmother 4:00-- Uh my grandmother spoke little English. And then my great grandmother spoke no English. Um so I would say that more than 50% of my day was -- was in uh their dialect of Chinese, which is uh Toisanese.
CYNTHIA LEE: Can you talk a little bit about your family, like talk a little bitabout, you know, who they were and are and maybe how your -- your parents even met --
JONATHAN BLAZON: Mm-hmm.
CYNTHIA LEE: -- from these two different worlds?
JONATHAN BLAZON: So uh my mother is uh Chinese. She was born to uh -- Her --her parents uh immigrated from uh southern China. Uh my grandfather came when he was 13, which would have been in 1931, uh came down through Canada, actually, 5:00and grew up in Boston Chinatown, uh went to uh --
CYNTHIA LEE: So you were speaking about your grandfather.
JONATHAN BLAZON: Right. I was saying that uh he came over in -- I believe itwas 1931 or 32, at the age of 13. He came over with his father, my great grandfather, who um I -- I never met, uh as he passed away, I believe, in the late '40s 6:00 7:00 8:00 9:00 10:00 11:00 12:00 13:00 14:00 15:00 16:00 17:00 18:00 19:00 20:00 21:00 22:00 23:00 24:00 25:00 26:00 27:00 28:00 29:00 30:00 31:00 32:00 33:00 34:00 35:00 36:00 37:00 38:00 39:00 40:00 41:00 42:00 43:00 44:00 45:00 46:00 47:00 48:00 49:00 50:00 51:00 52:00 53:00 54:00 55:00 56:00 57:00 58:00 59:00 60:00 61:00 62:00 63:00 64:00 65:00 66:00 67:00 68:00 69:00 70:00 71:00 72:00 73:00 74:00 75:00 76:00
Oral History Interview with Jonathan Blazon
Jonathan Blazon was born in Manchester, New Hampshire and raised in Concord, New Hampshire and Brooklyn, New York. His maternal grandparents emigrated from China to the United States; and his father's family was French-Canadian. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. He later worked for Primera Languages for Business in New York City as a director and managing partner.
In the interview, Blazon discusses being "hapa" (mixed race), including racism and rejection from the Chinese community. He also describes how the cultural narrative surrounding race in the United States changed while he was living in France during the 1990s. He also mentions his hopes for how his daughter will navigate her own mixed heritage. In addition, he speaks about his childhood, in particular friendships and his family's restaurant in New Hampshire.
CitationBlazon, Jonathan, Oral history interview conducted by Cynthia Lee, February 25, 2012, Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection, 2011.019.022; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Blazon, Jonathan
- Bullying in schools
- Chinese Americans
- Race identity
- Racially mixed families
- Racially mixed people
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- New Hampshire
- Paris (France)
- Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidCrossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection