After Mr. Anderson gets fired, Bee asks Mei how she’s feeling (Kohr, 113). Mei is frustrated and explains that her father “spent weeks on a boat to come here [to the logging camp]. He said my life will be better than his. He said we are a people that endure.” Mei and Bee have come from different backgrounds, ‘people.’ Even though Bee and Mei are friends (with some romantic tension as well) there is a clear power imbalance between them since Mei’s dad worked under Bee’s dad, who fired him for not being white. Even though a part of Bee and Mei’s identities is centered around their relationship, layers of their identity relating to race and class are more prevalent when people make judgements about them, as individuals. Mei finally asks Bee, “does your family have to endure too, or is it just us?” While Bee can empathize with her friend and her family, she does not share the same experiences as Mei. When Bee doesn’t respond, this gives Mei a newfound perspective about Bee’s life experience and identity (it is not remotely like hers) which makes her feel very isolated because this is her only friend.
Bee and Mei’s relationship reminds me of Bette and Tina’s relationship from the L word. When Bette and Tina were talking about sperm donors, Tina was confused why Bette wanted an African American sperm donor. Bette was hurt because her partner, Tina, forgot a very important part of her identity. Even though Bette is biracial and might not present as ‘black’ to some people, including her own partner, her identity as a black woman is valid, and has always existed. Even though Bee never questioned her friendship with Mei because she was Chinese, as other people in the logging community might, Mei’s Chinese identity has always existed too. Mei and Bee will never share the same identity, no matter how much time they spend together and that it is an essential part of their coming to age story.