The town of Edison, NJ is different from my town, Bridgewater, and from every other average-sized town I’ve known. It is characterized by big and small ethnic supermarkets, an abundance of excellent and authentic Asian cuisine restaurants, and a school district with a significant majority that is South and East Asian. Every once in awhile, when my family feels the particular craving for authentic Sichuan food at a particular restaurant, or when I insist on visiting H-Mart for my own pleasure, we make the half-hour drive to this peculiar . And this is not unique to my family; my Indian friends and their families frequently go to Edison to do their grocery shopping and to treat themselves to a meal outside of home.
Edison’s racial composition makes it unique among ordinary towns in this country. Having grown up in a town that was quite diverse, I never noticed until recently how unusual such places are. Edison is thoroughly Asian and American; it is its own town with a unique character in which a minority is a majority. It is fascinating yet I inevitably feel uncomfortable when I think about what certain people may think of a place like Edison. Do they feel resentful, resentful that they “lost” their community? Do they perhaps feel apprehensive that America is going in the direction of Edison, and is becoming less white in its racial and cultural composition? Local centers for Asian-American cultures and communities, like Edison, are a sign that the US is becoming more diverse in a truer sense, but this encouraging fact can also present challenges as our nation struggles to reconcile the principles of its origin with the existing racial tensions and xenophobia.