Campus Life

“Slanted Eyes”: Sam Louie speaks on mental health and the Asian-American experience

Written for The Argo by Victoria Orlowski

On Wednesday, April 19, Emmy Award-winning former broadcast journalist Sam Louie spoke to Stockton students about mental health across cultures. The event was hosted by Student Development and Active Minds to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Louie. Photo courtesy of

Louie, a psychotherapist, motivational speaker, author, and poet, uses his poetry to speak on the experiences of being Asian American in the United States as well as how certain cultural expectations and a person’s relationship with their identity can present mental health challenges. 

His presentation, titled ‘Slanted Eyes,’ was a talk discussing mental health in relationship to those cultural expectations in Asian American families. He included stories from his own childhood as well as his experiences growing up as a first-generation immigrant. He also included poems from his collections. One such line hammered home the importance of his presentation:

“I am too Chinese to be American, but too American to be Chinese,” said Louie.

He discussed the clash of world views growing up in America, as well as how these cultural shifts impact how an individual views themselves. He commented: “What is this impact on identity? We talk a lot about in therapy — how do you view yourself? And you know, they’ll [his clients] talk a lot about self-hatred. Some stories come out where they dismiss their native language. Like myself, I tried to suppress speaking Cantonese to anybody in my family if we were out in public.”

Louie also employed examples from his clients describing their own tumultuous relationship of growing up Asian American. One client stated: “I hated being Asian growing up. All the cool white kids had golden locks. My hair was black and straight. I did everything I could not to be Asian. I even made Asian jokes to separate myself from them.”

Louie also engaged the audience with interactive activities to bridge the gap between different cultures in a discussion of mental health. In one activity, he had the audience introduce themselves to each other and discuss different challenges, whether it was mental, financial, or otherwise what they had to overcome to get to where they are in their college journey.

Louie then spread photos out over the stage with words such as together, guilt, and self-pity, and had students choose which ones reflected how they felt about mental health growing up and where they were now in their mental health journey. The students then formed small groups and discussed why they chose those specific cards. 

For more from Sam Louie, his works include “Asian Shame and Addiction: Suffering in Silence,” and “Spoken Not Broken: Healing Through Poetry.”