In the second episode of Master of None, viewers meet the parents of Dev Shah (Aziz Ansari) and Brian Cheng (Kelvin Yu). At first, the two friends complain about the fact that their immigrant parents are always asking them for favors — like Dev’s dad who asks him to fix his iPad — and how Asian parents never show affection. But eventually, Dev and Brian realize they know very little about their parents’ pasts and set out to find out more at a family dinner.
It’s an episode that’s as hilarious as it is poignant, and it’s especially relatable to kids who grew up with immigrant parents in America. We asked 11 first-generation kids how they felt about the “Parents” episode, and while their stories in no way reflect everyone’s immigrant story, their narratives were just as moving as Dev’s.
“This episode amplified both my appreciation for who my parents have become and the guilt I’ve felt for being ‘too busy’ for them on many occasions. Seeing Dev and Brian interact with their parents almost felt like I was watching a home movie of sorts. There was a shared understanding between the episode, my own upbringing, and the immigration story my parents often don’t share. I immediately called my parents afterwards just to catch up. A call doesn’t seem like much, but for them, it’s enough. They just like to know that I’m still thinking of them, and this episode helped me do just that.” —Pablo Valdivia, 23
“I knew that my parents met in Japan, got married in Tokyo, and moved to London — but then moved to New York within the year. For whatever reason, it never really occurred to me to ask why they left London so quickly. It wasn’t until earlier this year when my mom was meeting my boyfriend for the first time that she explained why they left: My dad had gone to Tokyo University, one of the toughest universities in Japan. But essentially, when he moved to London, there was a big class and cultural difference between my dad and his co-workers that they couldn’t reconcile. So my dad, through Japanese connections in New York, came with my mother to establish themselves here, where my sister and I were born soon after.
“Seeing Dev and his friend realize that they had no idea where their parents came from was a very familiar story. We know our parents worked hard, but somehow never get around to asking how hard it was. I personally can’t imagine the kind of balls it takes to leave all of your family behind to come to a completely different country.” —Mariko Kunitomo, 23
“As a first-generation American, the episode about Dev and Brian’s immigrant parents resonated with me on a deeper level. It gave me a concrete image of stories my parents had told me about growing up in Vietnam that I’d never really visualized before — like having to kill your pet chicken for dinner.
“But the similarities ended pretty quickly: Both of the stories presented in the show offered narratives of hardworking immigrants who were educated and successful in their own countries before immigrating here for economic opportunity. My parents were war refugees whose homes were destroyed in war — they fled out of desperation and fear. I appreciate what Aziz has done, but it definitely can’t speak for the narrative of all Asian-Americans.” —Dan Dao, 22
“I’ve never seen anything so relatable on television before. The episode reminded me of my parents so vividly — all the hilarious things they say, what they’ve gone through to get to where they are today (the scene where Dev’s parents are eating alone made my heart hurt), and of course, how much they care, even if they don’t say it all the time.
“The episode did such a cool job of illustrating some of the many complexities of being raised by Asian immigrants in America. I think it left a ton of people wondering why we haven’t seen something like this before.” —Sapna Maheshwari
“I teared up a little. The part when Dev and Brian both tell their dads about their First World problems, and when their dads reflect on all the crap they had to endure, hit way too close to home. I called home after watching it.
“My parents were the same age as I am when they moved here. My dad came here with $900 to pay for grad school and his living expenses. It’s crazy how much better my life is compared to theirs at the same age, all because of them.” —Andrew Jiang, 27
“The immigrant experience is a lonely one. That’s what this episode of Master of None reminded me of. As a Chinese-American who grew up in a small, mostly white town, I had a hard time forming real connections with my peers in grade school. I thought I knew alienation and rejection; only recently did it hit me how much harder my parents had it.
“My parents moved from China to the U.S. in the ’80s. They left behind their entire families, moving to a small town in Pennsylvania where they opened up a Chinese restaurant, and where they knew no one. My older brother, younger sister, and I would become their only real companions.
“When they moved to the States, neither of my parents knew much English. My mom once told me she had been enrolled in ESL classes until she became pregnant with my brother. Sometimes I think about what it must have felt like to leave behind your parents and move to a foreign country of people you can’t communicate with, only to then become a parent yourself. I would have lost it; the loneliness would have crushed me. But my parents persevered.” —Susan Cheng, 23
“I grew up in a rural Pennsylvania town where I was the only brown girl in my school. Just to see a main Indian character on TV from freakin’ South Carolina is the biggest breath of fresh air.
“I absolutely loved that Dev and Brian shed light on Asian parents’ ability to express love and pride towards their children. White parents definitely doled out more hugs and compliments than I ever received from my mom as a kid. But I know that my mother’s love was determined not by how many times she said it, but by the sacrifices she made throughout her life to survive and create a home for us in this country.
“There are so many complexities to my mother’s journey, and this particular episode just caused me to really reflect on what has made me the person I am today. I would be nothing without the struggles that my mother went through to get here.” —Rachel Brown, 23
“The moment in the episode that really resonated with me was when Dev scheduled a weekly call with his parents. It was a small gesture, but you could tell he was excited to have found a way to become closer to his parents, particularly as an adult, without a lot of fanfare. They just wanted to talk to him, to know what’s going on with his life, that’s all. It’s a moment that I think a lot of us could relate to as children of immigrants, but also as adult children of immigrants, who sometimes struggle with how to cross both a cultural and generational divide to be close.
“After watching the episode, and then maybe possibly crying a lot over Aziz’s Instagram message about thanking our parents, I forwarded it to my own mom and dad, whose families left Cuba to build a tough but eventually better life here. My dad’s response was that Aziz’s message was ‘very sweet… and very smart,’ and ‘I love you. Never tire of saying it.’” —Alex Alvarez, 31
“My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine/the former Soviet Union right before I was born, when they were younger than I am now. We all lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, for about a decade. On top of financial worries, my parents fought tirelessly for me to get a good education. They also managed to send me to dance classes, tennis classes, piano classes, art classes — whatever they could, to see what stuck and what I liked, because they didn’t have the same opportunities when they were kids.
“They came here with virtually nothing. In the end, we were able to move to a townhouse in New Jersey, and I was able to study TV writing at NYU. I was allowed to study and pursue what I wanted — the only ‘must’ growing up was getting a college degree. It’s something I forget from time to time (because my parents don’t remind me all that often), and I can totally be sassy and rude to my parents à la Aziz’s character, Dev, in this episode. So this episode naturally destroyed me and made me want to be a better kid.” —Julia Pugachevsky, 24
“The second the first flashback started, I teared up a little. By the end, I was sobbing. I’ve definitely had that exact situation where I’ve gotten fed up with my parents asking me to explain modern technology; it was so real. And it made me so ashamed that I ever got upset with them for not understanding how to scan a document.
“My parents came from Sri Lanka in the ‘70s and worked so hard to get to where they are today, and to be able to give me the privileged upbringing that I had. They’re both doctors, and sometimes they talk about how different their lives would be if they were given all the opportunities I had. Like Dev, I realized there’s so much I don’t know about their lives pre-America. I called my mom almost immediately after I watched this episode to learn more about life in Sri Lanka, and just to hear her voice.” —Nina Mohan, 25
“My dad’s a pilot. I didn’t see him a lot, and I had a lot of resentment towards that, especially since Asian parents are generally unemotional and distant from their children. I spent so many years of my childhood wishing I was white or had a life like my non-Asian friends. I acted out because I felt unloved and misunderstood, sneaking out and dabbling in drugs and alcohol in my early teens. I’m still working on a lot of deep-seated issues internally, reflecting on my childhood and upbringing. But my mom mentioned to me one day that my dad had written an essay for a job application, and he said that his biggest regret was not being able to be there when my sister and I were growing up. I lost it.
“I think that was the point when I truly understood that not only had I missed out on what I felt was a traditional childhood, but also that my parents had to make their own sacrifices. This episode reminded me that I really need to do a better job of calling my parents and checking in on them more often.” —Connie Min Chen, 23
15. Master of None is currently streaming on Netflix. Bring tissues.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
Aziz Ansari’s character in Master of None is Dev Shah. An earlier version of this post misstated his name.
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