"If the prototypical American was white and middle class, and my parents’ Chinese accents and indigence marked them as irredeemably fresh off the boat, what chance was there for someone like me to achieve Americanness?"
a level of poverty in which real hardship and deprivation are suffered and comforts of life are wholly lacking
Did You Know?
Is your vocabulary impoverished by a lack of synonyms for indigence? We can help. Poverty, penury, want, and destitution all describe the state of someone who is lacking in key resources. Poverty covers the range from severe lack of basic necessities to an absence of material comforts ("the refugees lived in extreme poverty"). Penury suggests a cramping or oppressive lack of money ("illness condemned him to years of penury"). Want and destitution imply extreme, even life-threatening, poverty ("lived in a perpetual state of want"; "the widespread destitution in countries beset by famine"). Indigence, which descends from a Latin verb meaning "to need," implies seriously straitened circumstances and usually connotes the endurance of many hardships and the lack of comforts.