Not all immigrants have a “lunchbox moment”

The story of a child opening their lunchbox in the school cafeteria to reveal an “ethnic” meal, and getting bullied or teased about it, has become “so ubiquitous that it’s attained a gloss of fictionality,” writes Jaya Saxena at Eater. But why? How did the “lunchbox moment” become the emblem of “the entire diaspora experience”? Maybe because it’s a convenient one—a clear illustration of how it happens that immigrant children recognize their difference in white America, and internalize that sting. (Or whiff.) Problem is, like all clichés, it narrows and simplifies the truth—and it doesn’t leave any room for the pride that some children feels for bringing food to school that is more delicious than their friends’ meals. (And it gives white readers an opportunity to heal a psychic breach by finally trying that food all those years later.) “I never felt shame around my food and never thought to,” a first-generation Indian-American says. “That story should fit somewhere, too.”

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