2015.048.006 The Family Journey of Alice Young

This oral history is told by Alice Young, whose family’s multi-lingual, multi-cultural, academic, and diplomatic backgrounds and paths led her to become a pioneering, resilient, and globally oriented person. Her father and stepmother were linguists from diplomatic families and had formative impacts on East Asian languages and studies at so many academic institutions that Alice attended thirteen schools in twelve years. Sometimes, the Youngs were in places such as McLean, Virginia, where they were the only Asians, while in other periods, they experienced Hawaii hybridity and lived on a U.S. military base in Japan. Having spent her high school years building comfort and belonging with her communities in Hawaii, Alice stayed on the islands for her first year of college, then transferred to Georgetown on a scholarship. In her junior year, she joined Yale first class of women, entering an institution that had not only been all-male up until that year, but was also composed of primarily New England and prep school peers. At Yale, Alice became a student activist protesting the Vietnam War and co-founded the Asian American Student Association, which advocated for the recruitment of Asian American students and promoted Asian American studies. She returned to Japan on the Bates Fellowship to study under the Nobel Prize winning novelist Yasunari Kawabata. Desiring to make changes informed by her activism and caring about Asia, Alice made a difficult decision to choose to law over academia, attending Harvard Law School, where she co-founded the Harvard Women Law Student Association, was mentored by Professor Derek Bell, became involved with East Asian Legal Studies and the Black Law Students Association. Her pioneering law practice spanned many locations and extensive linguistic, cultural, business, and political knowledge and interests. After beginning her career at Coudert Brothers, she simultaneously became a partner and founded the New York office of Graham & James, and later joined Milbank Tweed. Alice also discusses her views on mentorship, the role of hard work in luck and serendipity, support within life partnership, her father pride in her, her decision-making around her career about parenting, her efforts to raise Chinese Irish American children who love their heritage, and generational differences and problems in China.

0:00 - Introduction, Father born in Tientsin (1920), Joining his father in Japan, Working with General MacArthurto investigate war crime. Moving to the US in 1946 as part of the Far East Commission and secretary of the Chinese embassy, Father helping Georgetown University establishing their Asian program, Mother working as a Chinese language instructor at Georgetown University.

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5:25 - The impact of the McCarthy era, She as the oldest child, Mother passed away, Children taken care of by various households, Stepmother, Father as the head of linguistics for the University of Maryland overseas program, The only Asian family in McLean, Virginia, Racist videos in school, Moving to Hawai’i, Father as the chairman of the department of languages and linguistics.

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12:31 - Father’s language ability, Father able to translate for McArthur during a secret meeting among Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, and Japanese, Siblings (Nancy and Peter), She as a kind of mother figure, Stepmother as a positive influence on the children.

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18:21 - Moving to Japan (1962), Living in military bases (Washington Heights and Rainbow Heights), Skipping grades, Moving to Hawai’i (1964), Attending to public high school (Kalani High School), Predominantly Asian American Hawai’ian as opposite to Asian Asian, Mixture of student backgrounds at school, College consular Big Sam.

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24:14 - Serving as the vice president of the student body, Going to the University of Hawaii for her freshman year, Tutoring blind students, Limited activities, Voted as the outstanding freshman student, Receiving a scholarship to Georgetown University, Georgetown University as a white male catholic environment, Studying at Harvard for one summer, Attending Yale as one of the first class of women.

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29:30 - Studying under Yasunari Kawabata, Life in Japan, Graduating during the Vietnam War, Participating in the protest, Founding the Asian-American Students’ Association at Yale, Recruiting Asian American students from public schools, Difficulties of being an Asian American.

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35:27 - Family life in Hawaii, Creating a social life out of nothing, The role of Asian parents, Having friends from every kind of background, Working really hard, Languages used at home, Learning Japanese with National Defense Foreign Language (NDFL) Fellowship sat Harvard, Learning to be enjoying and trying out everything, Not having one particular location as home.

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47:16 - Dinner table, Father having strong opinions on things, Career, Two years at Yale, Protest, Yale Asian American students’ phones were recorded, Decision of attending Harvard Law School, Differences between Harvard and Yale, Founding Harvard Women’s Law Student Association, High rate of gender in matriculation, Women turning to elsewhere because of limited scholarship provided by Harvard.

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57:02 - Hating law school during the first year, Professor Derrick Bell (the first African American at a faculty at the law school) as her mentor, She joining the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard, Wanting to do international work, Coudert Brothers (New York), Working in Hong Kong(1974-1976), Americans not interested in Asia.

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63:05 - How to make decisions, Being the first minority or woman in the room, Not afraid of being in a new place, Advocating for more opportunities for women and more understanding of Asia, Support from husband, having an opportunity to become a partner of one of her associates, Managing her office in New York.

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76:19 - Switching from Graham & James to Milbank Tweed (1987), Balancing having two children and managing the office, Stepping away, Working at her third law firm, Getting into rises of Japanese, Hong Kong, and Chinese works, As one of the first lawyers to go in China (1979), Learning a little ahead of curve to help business clients and non-profit (Maya Lin).

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85:02 - Father feeling the importance of an Ivy League graduation in an immigrant family, Father sharing knowledge about Asia, Having extraordinary freedom at Yale, Growing up with restrictions, Not go wild, The Salvation Army, Wearing style of putting things together, Marrying a Caucasian, Raising children balancing Chinese culture and American culture, Celebrating every Asian occasion, Kids identifying as “Chirish.”

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92:45 - Not really have the environment for kids to learn Mandarin, Both of them went to China and worked there for a while, Multicultural, Generational differences in China (Cultural Resolution and one-child policy), The US’s limited understanding of China, Interacting with people from different generations, One-child policy created challenges to young women.

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99:53 - Self-identities (Asian American, Chinese American, American, a woman, a career person, a mother, a wife, and a daughter), Adopted by the Black Law Student Association at Harvard because of no Asian community, Working really hard to be lucky, Being prepared to have the opportunity, Creating the lucky by reaching out and knowing a lot of people.

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