for the only day we can officially celebrate women

for the only day we can officially celebrate women

on international women’s day, 
a woman is raped.

she will wait until tomorrow 
to report,
let the anniversary fall on
a regular non-holiday.

it is something like irony
though it tastes worse.

across town, girlfriends gather at the
neighborhood bar, crooning drunkenly,
swaying to pop diva hits.

there is never not a good time
for Britney or Christina
or Mandy or Mariah. 

the mic is theirs tonight.
if they cannot have equal pay,
at least they fucking have this.

eight hundred kilometers away
a girl loses her home, 
tries hard to remember what freedom felt like.

the media says the women are
oppressed, but the translation might be wrong.
English is her fourth language, so there are bound to be

though, collateral damage sounds 
the same everywhere.

in my hometown,
a teenager will sneak out the back door
while her parents are asleep,
and make a run for it.

the reason is a bad influence, 
is abuse,
is depression,
is the reason.

twenty international women’s days from now
she will know closure,
or so her therapist says.

somewhere nearby in the present,
a widow buries her beloved.

it is better to have loved,
though she wanted to go first.

it becomes the only argument she regrets losing.

at night,
twin sisters giggle under covers 
about their first crushes.

a mother listens at the door and 
reminds herself about

she will ask them tomorrow
if the girls want to share their secrets with her.

before day breaks,
a young woman reflects
on being a a young woman,
and wonders how on earth
we could be all, 
feel all these things
at once.
another poem on grief.

another poem on grief.

i will admit it.
i too am tired of sad, messy, diaspora art.

can we not just write about beauty, about freedom, about possibility?
what of our grander imaginations?

maybe it starts tomorrow.

tonight, i am writing grief for women i don't know,
who look like me, or maybe don't.
we aren't all alike -- isn't that funny?

i am writing heartache for lost dreams, and things we wish we had time for,
for a time when sweating the small stuff seemed like the big stuff.

the thing is,
i don't know anymore what it feels like to live in a body unafraid, 
in a mind unfettered by fear.

i tried, 
really i did, 
to tell myself that fear is a privilege
i do not deserve.
it is attention-seeking, paranoia reserved for those who have earned it.
what right do we have to fear when precarity is predicated on absence?

fear consumes me nonetheless.

my friends taught me how to escape a chokehold,
like it could help me escape from being seen in this body.
the knowledge gives false security, temporary reprieve.
i felt something like pride. it keeps the fear at bay.

mom called me today,
asked if i was eating alone at two in the afternoon.
i know she has heard the news.
i hide my fear behind assurances that the sun is present.
neither of us say anything else.

vocalizing fear is almost as scary
as feeling it.

i want to say we'll be fine. 
i text friends to see if they're home safe.
i tell people of my whereabouts after i lock the door behind me;
a reminder to myself that someone cares, even if it feels like
the world does not.

i searched online for how to activate an emergency call from my phone.
a cold wired brick, my lifeline.
i stopped listening to music on commutes, as if heightened hearing could prevent
the unthinkable.

how can something be unthinkable if it is all we ever think of?

i have not cried since Atlanta, since six women left this earth, 
since someone decided to play god,
since anger-shifting avatars threatened me for 
displaying anger, sadness, confusion.

trying to harden yourself does not remove the fear.
it is an abscess you become accustomed to.

in front of a laptop, i laid myself bare.
near strangers held me in silence.
i remember feeling freed - heavy but alive.

and oh god, i know we want to live.

i have become predisposed to grief, to heaviness.
my susceptibility to hard emotions make it feel like 
second nature.

it is contagion and salve.

is there a word for wanting to be seen and be invisible at the same time, 
to scream and bury it deep all at once?

tomorrow is another day,
another chance for swallowing fear whole 
alongside my medications. 

it is expensive to be sick, 
to be riddled with worry.

no doctor has been able to tell me what is wrong,
i think the only solution is something i don't know how to find.
i want us to be held in safety, 
in communion.

i don't know if tomorrow will let me
write that kind of happy into existence, 
if time will soften the hard edges
of loss.

but i want to try.

A Note on my Name

A Note on my Name

You might be thinking, “Hey! There’s quite a lot of typos in this person’s website. Can’t she spell her own name properly? She’s an academic after all.”

After struggling internally, i have made the conscious decision to resist capitalization in reference to my name and to the first-person pronoun “I” for two main reasons.

  1. i am not the first person to alter their name’s stylistic representation. bell hooks, john a. powell, and danah boyd all decided to lowercase their names, albeit for varying purposes. bell hooks and john a. powell, two thinkers whom i admire greatly, wanted to remove ego from their writings and from their position in the universe, respectively. The decision to lowercase my name is a mechanism for equalizing myself with the arguments i am making or the ideas i grapple with throughout my writings. It is also a reminder that i am the sum of the ideas and motivations of a great many people; that my being is not for just myself or because of just myself. When we capitalize words, we claim their importance over others. This is my practice in de-centering myself, even if symbolically.
  2. i am Asian American. i claim this proudly and without hesitation. But, being an Asian American makes me acutely aware of how white supremacy, racial oppression, and xenophobia alters my relationship to my ancestry & culture in ways that are particularly painful. When my mother came to the United States, she was 11. Her Chinese language education stopped at the end of primary school. When she married my father, also a Chinese American (but one who did not speak Cantonese fluently), her Chinese language skills were confined to speaking with her mother and siblings. My brother and i were raised in a monolingual, English-speaking household. My paternal grandparents only spoke English to us and to their children (my father and his siblings). i have no doubts that xenophobia is what robbed me (and my brother) of knowing fully our ancestral language, and of a relationship with my mother’s mother (who only spoke Toisanese/Taishanese).  In Chinese dialects (and most Asian languages), there is no signifier for capitalization. We do not bold the first stroke of a character. People’s names, places, holidays…they’re all written in the same manner as any other word. Lowercasing my name and personal pronouns is a way for me to consciously decouple myself from the normativity of eurocentrism, of white supremacy that forces Asian immigrants to assimilate “or else”. It is also a way for me to elucidate discomfort and subsequent learning from those (including myself) who are so used to the ways that the romance languages shape our existence.

While i have engaged in this practice of lowercasing on a personal level for some time, it has been harder for me to enact this in professional settings out of fear that people will not take me seriously or assume i am too lazy to spell-check my correspondences and academic writings. But, the academy is an institution that readily upholds white supremacy, eurocentrism, and elitism. This is my small attempt at resisting it in my asserting how i want to be named and presented in an increasingly neoliberal social system that regularly squashes dissent. It may not be much, but it is important to me.


for the Hà Tinh victims.

for the Hà Tinh victims.


on trucks,
in boats;
across deserts,
unruly waves;
hidden between spaces,
locked away.

they had dreams

as i type this,
from the safety of my home,
a land i was born to,
in a city i could fly to,
passing security checks,
my screen
is as glaring
as her phone’s
must have been—
light in a dark
salvation in a space
for the damned,
the ones deemed
a portal to
a life left behind.

now, as i sit here,
the air is crisp,
a rain followed by unending sunlight
i wonder how many hours passed
for them in darkness,
stale air,
whimpering, cracking fingers.
how many texts did they send?
how many prayers were sent up to the sky only to
crash against tin walls around them?

they say,
“in death,
we are free.”

maybe their souls are able to wander freely over
the roads they once travelled.

their bodies are shipped back to loved ones.
free passage for the dead.
border patrol doesn’t care when the life has left,
when the blood is dry.
a debt is repaid.
£25,000 pounds for a dead daughter,
for broken families,
for eternal grief.

what is the price for
a gentler death?

for those who get to
keep breathing,
we are left
to wonder
what if

i am not Chanel Miller, but we have a lot of things in common.

i am not Chanel Miller, but we have a lot of things in common.

As much as we try and distance ourselves from trauma, it often rears its ugly head in moments we least expect (or we do expect, but we hope so much that enough time has passed to where it won’t matter so much). It has been over six years since my assault, and i’m reminded that healing is not linear, is not on a trajectory that makes any sort of chronological sense.

i just finished watching Chanel Miller’s exclusive interview on 60 Minutes. i have wiped my tears and gained enough composure to type words in some sort of coherent manner. For those of you who don’t know who she is, you’ll learn her name soon enough. She gained notoriety as Emily Doe in the court case against rapist and former Stanford University swimmer, Brock Turner. Her memoir, Know My Name is due for release tomorrow.

When i first read Chanel’s victim impact statement in 2016, i was beside myself. We didn’t know her identity yet. To me, she was still Emily Doe, an anonymously brave womxn who i felt a special sort of sadistic kinship with.

i know how innately problematic & harmful of me it was, but i assumed her to be a young white womxn who had stumbled upon a Stanford fraternity party. While i pictured her like any of my friends who had recently graduated from school, my assumption of her whiteness is indicative of how we imagine rape and rape victims. Even me, knowing so many womxn of color survivors of assault (and also being one of them), the legibility of white womxn as victims engulfed my imagination surrounding Emily Doe. (Can we also perhaps suggest that the powers at be chose the name Emily Doe for it’s racial ambiguity that would allow people to envision her as white?) Regardless, her victim impact statement encapsulated so much of how i felt betrayed by society, by my need to protect myself in the aftermath.

Though so many of the details of our assaults differ, watching her interview, i recognized how intimately aware i am of the kind of bodily harm she had to endure at the hands of a white man/men both in her assault and in the court room. It is impossible for me to understand her assault and the aftermath without also seeing, quite vividly, how the bodies of Asian womxn in the United States are exotified and disposed at will.

In particular, the portion of Chanel’s interview that takes place in her home felt to me as if it could finally be understood that Asian womxn can too be victims of sexual violence inflicted by men deemed “All-American”. Despite films depicting Asian womxn as exotified sexual objects for American men, our bodies are not built for their pleasure. Chanel’s red calendar emblazoned with gold Chinese calligraphy and blue porcelain figurines of Chinese children are markers of a shared cultural identity that makes me feel seen, both as a Chinese American, but a Chinese American victim of sexual assault.

i do not claim to know Chanel or her feelings on the matter of being a racialized and gendered body, but there are so many things about her and her story that resonate with me as a descendent of Chinese immigrants and a native Californian. Her home in San Francisco echoes the home that i grew up in. In one of the many articles i have read about her, she articulates not knowing how to tell her parents about her assault,  (something i have yet to do), her mother crying with her when she found out (which is what i imagine my mother would do), how her name “Chanel” is pronounced “Xiao Niao” or “Little Bird” in Mandarin Chinese by her grandfather (my maternal grandmother couldn’t fully pronounce “Christina” either). More importantly though, I envision Chanel’s life, and I am struck by how severely she reminds me of my little cousins who grew up in the same and neighboring towns as Chanel, whose youth and vibrancy as strong Asian American womxn i pray (and i don’t ever pray) will never be extinguished by such acts of violence and brutality against their bodies.

Watching Chanel speak so clearly and thoughtfully, i cried. i could see how the rape and trial changed her. i imagined what it would be like if i had pressed charges, if i had to stand in front of a jury of supposed peers, but in reality, actual strangers. i thought long and hard about how her rapist’s future was considered, but her trauma was not. i do not think i would have been so strong, so willing to put myself through what she had. Perhaps she does not know the racial significance of claiming her identity as Chanel Miller and not continuing to let Emily Doe take all the credit. i have yet to unpack all of my feelings and thoughts surrounding her assault, mine, and the role that telling our own stories has to play in the landscape of sexual violence. But, i hope that her coming forward will allow us all to expand our understanding of who can be a victim and what we lose if we let victims live in the shadows as amorphous, race-free bodies.


neither savior nor survivor

neither savior nor survivor


for the womxn
who does not want
[to be] a hero.

you do not need [to be] one.

for the womxn
who will not
fight in public,
will not make
statements for the court,
will not let the burden of proof
bruise her more
than the battle over her body.

i see you.

for the womxn
who will never know
because justice
is complicated,
is not clear-cut,
is not ex-boyfriends
behind bars,
is not strangers
on trial,
is not what
the law says.

i hear you.

for the womxn
who says she is okay
when she is most definitely not
i will feign ignorance,
if that is what you need.

i will never force you to admit
something you don’t want to,
never coerce you into
opening up your heart.

trust does not come
that easily.

for the womxn
who know all too well
what this poem
is about,
i will not pretend to know anything
except to know that
i will always believe you
because i know that you
believe me too.

– sister

a poem for my mom – 5.12.19

a poem for my mom – 5.12.19

媽媽, 沒有你我該怎麼辦。我愛你啊 。

when other moms
took their children
to the zoo
or the museum,
my mother took me to

i would play hide and seek
in between the circular
metal racks,
slide my tiny arms between
dance my way
between high heels
that i was sure
i would never grow into.

when mommy would pile
clothes onto her arms
and bring them into the
fitting room,
i would shuffle in behind her,
sit on the tiny bench meant for
putting down your purse and
plastic card with black bolded numbers
that never fit
on the door handle.
i learned how to be patient
on those trips.

when other moms
took their children
to the park
or watched them
run in the yard,
my mother took me to the

i would sit on tall
wooden stools
meant for grown people with
grown legs
and fast-typing fingers.
i would watch the technicians
pull bottles from shelves
and place them in bubble packs.
i learned how to send a fax
in that pharmacy.

when mommy was really busy,
i would pace back and forth in the
hallway, to the kitchen,
and back to mommy’s office.
i learned how to
black out confidential information,
savored the moments when i was
responsible enough
to put stickers on packages and line them up in
bags for delivery to
carehomes around the city.

when other moms
could be home,
and talk to their children
about their days,
my mother
was at the pharmacy,
or the hospital.

i would wonder,
why were these people
who were not me
more important?
i never asked,
and she never brought it up.
i learned how unspoken things
can hurt too.

when mommy was working late,
and could not come home
in time for dinner,
dad cooked.
he did that a lot.
when this happened,
sometimes, but not all the time,
i would be
angry with her.
i would call her cell phone,
the pharmacy, her cell again,
leave a voicemail.

i just wanted her

i remember nights
sitting in the dining room,
waiting for the sounds of
the garage squeaking open.
i played this game by myself,
ran to unlock the door before
i could hear the jingle of her keys.

when other moms
told their children to
go to bed,
my mother let me
stay awake with her as she
ate what was leftover.

i would sit across the
and put things on my plate,
so she wouldn’t
eat alone.
maybe that’s why i am
always hungry
late into the night.

when mommy told me
to get ready for bed after eating
a second time,
i would drag my feet,
lay on the couch and tell her
i needed to digest because i didn’t
want to leave yet.
i learned how to love someone
without saying it on those nights.

mommy and i only started
saying we loved each other
in the last couple years,
when our armor was down,
after we let ourselves
laugh about things that hurt us before.
we are close in a way
only a daughter can be with her mother.
i am not angry
or hurt
or sad
just grateful that i have a mother
who loved me enough
to bring me wherever she
needed to be
and still thought of me
when she couldn’t.

APAHM Tributes: Day 7

APAHM Tributes: Day 7

I’m two days behind! I know…I know.

This is so typical of me. But, I’m trying to get back on track with #APAHM tributes for the month.

Today, I’m spotlighting an #AAPI podcast partially because I like listening to podcasts in general, but mostly because I feel ultra-guilty that I haven’t updated Seats at the Table in M-O-N-T-H-S even though I’m sitting on a couple of episodes that I have partially edited. Not to make excuses, but this last semester totally skewered all my creativity.

The podcast I’m highlighting is aptly titled Asian Americana, created and hosted by Quincy Surasmith. As a full-time lover of boba, the episode on “bubble tea” (which btw, if you call it that, YOU ARE WRONG) gave me an interesting history that I didn’t know about before. His most recent episode is all about Claudia Kishi from the Baby-Sitters Club. It was SUCH a throwback. As an aside, these photoshopped covers of the Baby-Sitters Club books from Angry Asian Man’s blog always crack me up.

Anyway, I know there are so many other great #AAPI created, written, hosted, and produced podcasts out there. Give me some recommendations to add to my list because my ears are ready!

APAHM Tributes: Day 6

APAHM Tributes: Day 6

Y’all. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep up with these tribute posts when traveling!

Today, I wanted to give space to highlight the work of 18 Million Rising who are also posting some kickass stuff on their social media for #APAHM. Honestly, if traveling prevents me from updating as frequently as I’d like this month, you should just go to their instagram for #AAPI knowledge goodness.

Some activists I really admire, like Jenn Fang from Reappropriate and Mark Tseng Putterman, are part of their team (and I didn’t even know it)!

What makes me so impressed and captivated about 18MR’s work is their inclusive approach to Asian American identity. They don’t just focus on South Asian or East Asian Southeast Asian. The Asian American community has expanded tenfold since the 1965 Hart-Celler Act (though of course there have been Asians of all ethnic and national identity backgrounds in the US since like the 1800s — just go read Erika Lee’s The Making of Asian America) and it’s so exciting to see AAPIs working together to collaborate and talk about what being Asian American actually means in this day & age. Expanding our understanding of AAPI identity allows for an expansion of our activism, and it’s really uplifting to know that there are people working on this together.

PLUS, they talk about the role of colonialism, slavery, and the genocide of indigenous people as core components to how we should understand our role as a minoritized community, both oppressed and oppressor in different circumstances. It’s damn refreshing to not have to tiptoe around Asian Americans’ anti-Blackness and ignorance of settler colonialism’s impact on Native peoples.

Honestly, just go follow them on twitter already. They host Twitter Town Halls regularly and activate some really stimulating online dialogues. If you’re not AAPI yourself, you can still learn some interesting things from their feed!

And this closes Day 6 of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! My posts might end up not being a daily thing because of my spotty wi-fi and hectic schedule, but I will do my best to try and update things regularly.



APAHM Tributes: Day 5

APAHM Tributes: Day 5

Today is the fifth day of #APAHM and the first day of Ramadan.

Although I am not Muslim, I’ve always really enjoyed seeing my friends celebrate Ramadan with their loved ones.

So, I’m taking the day to celebrate and uplift the many Asian Muslims in the US and across the world. Islamophobia has done a lot to racialize Islam as a faith of only those from the Middle East. But, Asians are the largest group practicing Islam in the world.

Asian Americans who don’t practice Islam or identify as Muslim still should acknowledge the many ways that Islamophobia negatively impacts our communities. Just several weeks ago, a white supremacist intentionally ran into a group of South Asian pedestrians in Sunnyvale because he suspected them of being Muslim. Dhriti, a 13 year old middle school student was critically injured in the attack. Her family is currently seeking donations for her hospital care.

Luckily, there are groups already forging interethnic & interreligious solidarities around the U.S.

The first group I’m highlighting is #VigilantLove based in Los Angeles, California.  The group formed between Japanese American and Muslim American communities in Southern California. They’re hosting their 4th Annual Bridging Communities Iftar (for those who don’t know, an iftar is the meal that those who are fasting consume in order to break their fast). While I haven’t been able to attend one of their iftars, I have always wanted to.

The next group which I only learned about through the work of Deepa Iyer, is South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). What I love about SAALT is how despite being a national organization, they really work to support community-based organizations. They work on a lot of progressive issues that I’m passionate about and discuss the importance of intersectionality in their programming.

If you are at all interested in supporting these groups during Ramadan or just want to learn more about them, click some of the links above!

And Ramadan Mubarak to all my friends celebrating. Inshallah, I can celebrate with some of you in person!