Tina Chang

Tina Chang is an Asian-American poet, born in Oklahoma in 1969. She spent two years in Taiwan before returning to the US and graduating from Columbia University. When she wrote "Astroturf," she was living here in NYC.

Chang was the first woman to be named poet laureate of Brooklyn, and she has won awards from the Academy of American Poets, New York Foundation for the Arts, and several other groups I've never heard of.

The poem

Astroturf by Tina Chang

Key passages

A few feet away, three girls sang a string of songs [...] The girls were so casual in their beauty, legs entangled in one another, fingers braiding each other’s teen hair.
As he walked away, they laughed past him. Their laughter was the long shadow that followed him for years, their laughter forced him to round the corner, almost gone from view. Before he disappeared, he yelled, “Bitch,” but the memory of him left not a trace.

Their importance

Messages in the poem

and connections to today!

Birth and hope

Chang is pregnant

As she prepares to give birth to her son, Chang is anxious to see what life will be like for him. And as a minority herself, the girls' rebuke of the black boy hits her hard—she sees the dark side of living in America.

Like America's history

Land of the...free?

The mistreatment of the boy in the poem mirrors centuries of explotation of minorities in America, like of Native Americans and African slaves. The beautiful idea of the US—everyone free and equal—starts to seem artificial, like astroturf.

Is the beauty of America superficial?

In "Astroturf", Chang provides imagery showcasing the beauty of America: three beautiful girls singing in the park captivate her attention. Yet that fades as their songs turn to mocking laughs at the shadow of a black boy—supporting a conclusion that Chang sees America's virtuosness as a facade to its exploitation and hate of minorities.

Truly beautiful

Or merely skin-deep?

As represented both in the poem's beautiful girls and springtime outdoor setting, America has an appearance of beauty, and it can (at least at times) be truly that.

America is a land of immigrants, and it's generally very accepting to them. There's even a Statue of Liberty here dedicated to immigrants! Not to mention the democracy, the freedom, and ever-strenghtening laws to support minority groups. Heck, we are guaranteed free speech and due process!

in America

in America

Though Chang's example of the falseness of American beauty (the very fake astroturf) is extreme, she does have a point.

"All men are created equal", our Declaration of Independence states. A couple decades later, our Constitution made Native Americans and slaves officially count as three-fifths of a person. If that's how America started, just think how it grew to be within decades more: a land filled with slaves brought against their wills. In many senses, we became the very thing we sought to destroy—badness under the guise of good.

That's all

Analysis by Henry, less fake than astroturf