neither savior nor survivor

6.19.19

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
justice
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
okay,
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

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
Macy’s.

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

sometimes,
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
pharmacy.

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.

sometimes,
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
considered
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.

sometimes,
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
home.

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

sometimes,
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
anymore—
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

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

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.

Until next time…GO FOLLOW 18MR ON SOCIAL MEDIA ALREADY.

xoxo.

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!

APAHM Tributes: Day 4

Okay, I know it’s only Day 4, but I’m already so overwhelmed with what people or organizations to highlight next. Let me just say, this is a good problem to have. There are SO MANY cool people doing wonderful things for the #AAPI community and Asians in the diaspora that it’s hard to know who to elevate.

While I am a big fan of every person and organization I’m highlighting this month, today is my #fangirl moment.

I’m picking out two incredible Asian womxn who inspire me to think bigger and be bold in my own creative visions.

Nancy Wang Yuen is a sociologist at Biola University studying race and the entertainment industry. Her book, Reel Inequality, dissects how people of color are undervalued, underpaid, and underrepresented in Hollywood. It’s a reel eye-opener — [insert cheesy sitcom laughtrack].

Not only is Nancy a brilliant cultural critic and writer, but she’s FIERCE on Twitter. I’m talking a real-life legit public sociologist utilizing social media to disseminate research and interesting things to the masses. She’s my social media idol.

She also writes pieces for mainstream media outlets like Elle, Remezcla, and Huffington Post. Honestly, I don’t know where she finds the time to write, attend media events, make time for her students, and be there for her family.  WHY DO WOMXN OF COLOR ALWAYS DO IT ALL AND MAKE IT SEEM SO EFFORTLESS (even when it’s totally not and they always put 150% of their time and effort into everything). I honestly just want to slow-clap it up for Nancy just for being her. YOU GO, NANCY.

I’m also going to put out a shameless plug and say she also was kind enough to sit down and talk with me on my podcast last year about Crazy Rich Asians and the importance of seeing yourself represented in tv shows and films.

Honestly, Nancy is the person I turn to when anything in Hollywood seems a little…off. She’s usually the first one to say, “yep…that’s racist”, but does so in a way that makes you understand the ramifications of these things. It’s truly a unique and important skill that I don’t know I’ve fully developed yet…but I’m working on it.

Next on the list is someone who I totally wish was my friend, but we’re not friends. I do think we’d get along though judging from how our past selves used fan fiction to cope teen angst and adolescence.

Yulin Kuang is a writer, director, and filmmaker. What’s so cool about Yulin’s work is how many iterations her films and series go through…it’s honestly a real privilege as a viewer to watch how her ideas change over time. Her series, I Ship It, started off as a mini film on YouTube, then expanded to a web series on the CW Seed, and now there’s a sequel to the web series that will actually air on the CW this summer. As someone who dabbled in Harry Potter online role playing (okay, I’m a real nerd, I know) and read other people’s fan fiction pretty often, it was so cool to see how the idea of fan communities could be used as premise for a mainstream film/series in a way that wasn’t cheesy or over the top.

I saw her speak on a panel in LA once after she released her short video series, Tiny Feminists and I just wanted to go up and hug her on the spot. This article highlights some of her other work — Kissing in the Rain is easily one of my next favorites. It’s so simple, but ultra-hilarious.

Now, Yulin, is writing for Jade Palace, a new film from New Line Cinema, and I couldn’t be more excited for her and for what this means for providing increasingly nuanced representation of Asian families in a broadening media landscape.

Thank you, Nancy and Yulin for doing things that little me always dreamed of doing. Y’all are true inspirations.

Have any recommendations for other #AsianAmericans who work in the entertainment industry? Drop me a comment and enlighten me!

APAHM Tributes: Day 3

It’s Day 3 of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month already and I haven’t dropped the ball yet!

I’m definitely, severely procrastinating on finishing my thesis, but this is still related because it’s about #AAPIs…right? So, this is fine.

Anyway…for today’s edition of #APAHM tributes, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight two really cool people that I actually know and that younger Christina would have loved to know too.

I think a lot of young Asian Americans have similar stories about feeling out of place in our youth. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and had always felt like I needed to compartmentalize my life into different categories because of my Chinese heritage. I didn’t have many well-known cultural icons who I could point to and say, “see, so and so is doing this thing, so it’s not weird that I do it too!” when interacting with my non-Asian friends.

So, today I want to acknowledge the tremendously hilarious work of Kristina Wong. Some of you may already know her or have heard me yap on and on about how cool she is on my podcast earlier last year. Kristina is a performance artist and comedian who I am so thrilled to be name twins with! Her latest exploration into the realm of social justice and comedy is her web series, Radical Cram School–basically a “Sesame Street for the resistance” wherein she teaches young Asian American femmes and nonbinary kiddos about social issues. It’s so amazing. I binged all six episodes in one night last year.  And Kristina and her colleagues are working on producing season 2! If you’re interested in supporting their work, you can donate to Kristina’s birthday fundraiser here.

Next up is my new friend, Jasmine Cho, the founder of Yummyholic.  Jasmine just got a research grant to pursue research that connects the art of baking to mental health. She’ll be running trauma-informed bake therapy sessions with clients and staff members of Center for Victims in Pittsburgh. She’s just super rad. But, the reason I’m highlighting her today is because she singlehandedly wrote and illustrated a children’s book that features Asian American heroes. She legit inspires me all the time and she doesn’t even know it! The book isn’t yet available for public purchase, but it will be VERY SOON on Amazon. You can preview it here, and you should, because it’s so good. SO. GOOD.

My ideas of the world would have expanded earlier on if Jasmine’s book was in my life before. I remember as a kid constantly checking out an illustrated book of the story of Fa Mulan literally every month because it was the only children’s book I could find in my elementary school library that had anyone who looked like me in the story.  (AND AS A SIDE NOTE, I JUST FOUND OUT THAT THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN & ILLUSTRATED BY TWO PEOPLE I INTERVIEWED FOR MY THESIS. What is the universe even doing?? Anyway, check that book out too).

Today, even in the midst of prejudice, I’m hopeful for young AAPI kids because of the strides that Asian American womxn have made to create the cultural productions we ourselves needed as children.

Kristina and Jasmine, y’all rock and I am proud to highlight you both today!