A Stranger in Venice
When race travels. Catherine Chen grapples with gestures of exotification and recognition on the streets of Venice.
She’s maneuvering a selfie stick to fit her family of six within the camera’s frame while threatening to omit a younger brother cranky from the early morning frenzy already in place at the Bridge of Sighs. Their mother berates them in Mandarin, a language I will overhear more snippets of than English over the course of my eight days in Venice. This is my first day, and I’m jetlagged and overdressed, still registering the fact that I am in Europe and not home in the suburbs of Los Angeles. So I laugh. Not necessarily because the scene is hilarious; rather, it is familiar, and I feel less alone, funnily enough, upon hearing the same reprimand in a tongue my mother has delivered many times to me and my younger brother.
But my laugh interrupts the photoshoot I’m witnessing, and the selfie stick-wielding girl jerks her head up in my direction. Is she surprised by the laugh or by the person who laughed? Nevertheless, she smiles. I return the smile, then leave.