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!

APAHM Tributes: Day 2

I think being considered Asian American is a little bit of a misnomer, not because I think the term is inadequate, but of how quickly someone’s history is dismissed once you hear or see that term. It’s as if once you add the “American” addendum to the “Asian” label, people think they know you.

It’s what a lot of the Chinese and Japanese American activists from my research on Asian American activism in the 1970’s struggled with. It’s what I’m still struggling with.

I’m going to be clear about this. Being Asian American does not mean we only consider our Americanness and Asianness in isolation. I believe that our identity as Asian Americans has to be intricately tied to our history as a diasporic people. We are and have always been in movement, sometimes by choice, but often times through force.

For today’s highlighting of AAPI figures, I’m thinking a lot about how our histories of immigration & displacement, and the interconnected legacies of imperialism shape our identity and our future as a force for progressive social change.

A lot of what I know about my identity as an Asian American is informed by those in the Asian diaspora who actually aren’t “American”. I believe we learn a lot about ourselves when we think about just how broad our community can be.

Arundhati Roy has been my favorite author since high school. The God of Small Things entirely changed my ways of thinking. I had never felt so strongly connected to a novel before. When Ammu tells Rahel that the things you say can make people love you less, it felt like my lungs collapsed. I remember saying horrible things to my mother as a snarky teen, and Roy just knew how to tear into my heart, but in the best way possible. And this was a work of fiction.

Her non-fiction writing, I didn’t discover until later. Her biting criticism of British imperialism, of Hindu nationalism, of forces that tear apart families and countries speaks to me in ways that I never knew was possible. The way that I think about myself as a colonial figure, as simultaneously oppressed by white supremacy but also as an oppressor who benefits from Western imperialism and U.S. nationalism makes me uncomfortable and extremely angry.

I think, as Roy’s novels and articles have taught me, this kind of uncomfortability is the beginning of a deep interrogation of how we fit in the world. While #APAHM is a celebration of our accomplishments and the triumphs of our ever-widening community, it must also be a call to reflect on our harrowing past, and how we can work to move forward together.

What authors, thinkers, and artists in the Asian Pacific Islander diaspora have pushed you to think beyond the limits of a fixed nation-state based identity? Share with me your thoughts!

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

It’s May 1st. Your social media accounts are probably brimming with posts about Asian Americans for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (#APAHM) and/or #MayDay (for labor rights).

Well, time to add a post from me into the mix.

I always talk about how when I was younger, I clung to figures like Mulan and Lucy Liu because they were the only Asian womxn I knew of. But really, my mom was my first Asian American hero. And work had always been a part of my momma’s life. Growing up, she worked two jobs, was always tired, but made it seem easy. She always reminded us that even though she worked tirelessly, her own mother worked that much more. When I think about how my grandmother must have been exploited in sweatshops and fish factories, I think…this isn’t the past. This is still happening all the time to other #AAPIs and immigrants. This isn’t the “better life” that we assume will be waiting for us.

What I’m arguing now for #APAHM, is that labor rights and celebrating the accomplishments of #AAPI folks shouldn’t be done in isolation. AAPIs have been a source of exploited labor for generations. Let’s not forget our past (eg: Chinese railroad workers) or pretend like our communities aren’t currently fighting exploitative employers in restaurants and nail salons.

The lack of representation of AAPI people in the media, in the academy, in spaces throughout the US is troubling. The exploitation of our work, whether it’s minimum wage (or lower) labor or hitting the bamboo ceiling in corporate and academic environments, isn’t going away anytime soon.

How do we feel hopeful without ignoring the constant struggles we endure?

In these times, I turn to the many amazing #AAPI folks doing incredibly important, enriching things for our community and beyond.

This month, I’m going to highlight #AsianAmericans and those in the diaspora who do some really cool things that I think y’all should know about (some related to labor rights, but some also not).

FIRST UP:

– Artist, Natalie Bui has illustrated a great post documenting the history of Vietnamese manicurists and their struggles: https://www.instagram.com/p/BucsCDihrVG/

– Ai-jen Poo’s work with the National Domestic Workers Alliance has given support and resources to domestic workers all over the country–many of whom are of Pacific Islander and South Asian descent: https://www.domesticworkers.org/

MOREOVER, Ai-jen has collaborated with incredible womxn like Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood & Alicia Garza of #BlackLivesMatter to start the Supermajority, a national membership group for womxn across the country to mobilize, run for public office, and hold public officials accountable: https://supermajority.com/about-us/

Have people to tell me about that are part of the #AAPI or Asian diasporic community? Drop me a comment!

safe.

i’m not sure how to do this anymore.

i keep thinking about how absolutely unfair it all is.

do people ever remember the things they do if it didn’t viscerally impact them, but it altered someone else’s personhood?

i don’t ever want to give the past and people who have hurt me that much power. what does that say about me?

i’m so tired of going back to this, but what else can i do except write?

i can be happy and relaxed, but out of no where, i just feel so small and sad that men always take things without our permission.

i think the hardest part about it all is that i compartmentalize my life in ways that make it nearly impossible for me to be fully honest with the people i love.

i am so angry, so angry, so angry.
and then on some days, i am okay.
i am happy, even.
i wouldn’t be this person without that hurt.

this poem is dedicated to the men who have hurt me in big ways and small. i’m not happy with it yet, but like life, it’s a work-in-progress.

Safe.
4.30.19


i have never felt safe with a man–
not since you.
not since early morning, glazed eyes, limp arms, heavy heart,
soul-floating.
 

out of body experiences are not
always
euphoric.

i have not felt safe since
5 months of acting–
brave face,
plastered smiles,
heart-racing, fingers laced
l o v e,
we called it.
my performance was so convincing
i nearly believed it too.

i have not felt safe since
dark club nights,
white fingers, condescension,
alcohol and swaying and not enough time to say
no.

i have not felt safe since
hot hands, clocks ticking,
cars and traffic and too much noise,
shallow breaths,
followed by months of silence.

when i think about
the fear i feel,
i also think that
living in safety
does not mean we are
where we belong.

sometimes a poem
is a placeholder
for the next hurt,
because there is always
a next time.

sometimes it is shock absorption,
a place to lay your head,
a salve for throbbing hearts.

sometimes,
the poem becomes a swan song,
becomes a fight,
helps you route your way
to happy,
to closing doors,
to safety.

 

a long overdue life update & 26th birthday request

Dearest family and friends,

It’s been quite some time since I last posted an update and so much has happened in my life. I tried really hard to make a cute newsletter to email to everyone, but after a lot of technical issues, I figured posting on my blog would be much easier.

I’ve been living in Pittsburgh for the past year and am now in my second year of a five-to-seven-year-long PhD program in Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh.

I’ll admit, moving across the country has its challenges. Building new friendships and creating a whole new community out of nothing is hard. Concepts like “imposter syndrome” and “microaggressions” and “structural inequality” have never felt more real than they do when I’m in the academy. I’ve had some very low lows, and the highs didn’t seem very high.

I spent the last year trying to understand how my studies and my research could have a bigger impact. Was a PhD the right path to tackling the myriad of social problems we face today? Did anything I think actually have value? Would people at the university ever take me seriously? Being a young womxn of color in an institution built to serve upper class white men was and is not easy. Unfortunately, I went into a tailspin and retracted into my own head, taking a break from activism and being involved in the community.

But, now that I’m turning 26, I think it’s time for me to regain the fight and courage I had when I was in California.

For my birthday, in lieu of gifts, I’m urging my loved ones to consider donating to Yemen Aid.

Those who know me know that I’m always highly critical of humanitarian and development aid. I’ve asked friends who are knowledgable about the war in Yemen to recommend organizations that are impactful, transparent, and ultimately have the interests of all Yemenis regardless of their religious and ethnic identities.

To me, the traumatic effects that war has had on the people there should be a topic on everyone’s mind.

Over 10% of the population is internally displaced. 85,000 children have died of starvation (a conservative UN estimate) since the beginning of the war in 2015. 14 million people are at risk of famine. These problems don’t even touch the issues of trauma and physical violence inflicted on the Yemeni people.

To be honest, the neglect from the international community is absolutely sickening. I see the news headlines and read posts from my friends who have worked with Yemenis, and things just feel hopeless. Our political leaders have shown zero interest in caring for survivors of war. And our nation funds and supplies many of the weapons that Saudi has used in their attacks on Yemen.

It is pretty clear that the problems faced by Yemen (and exacerbated by the culture of war that we all engage in) won’t be solved by a simple birthday fundraiser. But, I have always believed that consciousness raising can change lives. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be spending 7 years of my life trying to become a professor.

I’m urging you, even if you cannot donate, read about what’s happening in Yemen. As an educator and researcher, it would make me incredibly happy to know this (lengthy) post sparked something in you and helped you learn about an issue you may have not understood before.

This is a link for my fundraiser for Yemen Aid. If you feel compelled to donate to another organization related to Yemen relief, please let me know. And as always, if you have questions or just want to catch up on life, I’d be so happy to!

Thank you for continuing to be a part of my life in little and big ways. I hope that this next year will bring us all a little more peace and clarity.

With love and light,
Christina

if they come for me

if they come for me,
don’t cry on the television.
don’t let them tell you
not to make it
political.

when a white man,
who is angry and believes
i have taken
something from him,
walks into a
classroom,
grocery store,
church,
nightclub,
synagogue
and shoots with reckless abandon,
know that this could have been
prevented.

if they come for me,
search my computer,
look through my phone,
scour my social media accounts
for proof that i was here.

when the media
tries to demonize me,
and the public lets them,
you can try to defend me
and remind them that i was
human
too.
you will probably fail.
they already know what they believe.
they have already won.
i am dead, after all.

if they come for me,
hold each other close.
laugh about the things i said.
talk about the dreams i had.
eat all of my favorite foods.

when people organize to march,
prepare for the worst.
there will always be a worst.
more grief,
more anger,
more fear.

if they come for me,
do not leave flowers where
my body was found.
do not speak my name in hushed tones.
do not make it a battle cry
either.

when my family holds a service,
let them grieve in peace.
do not wear red.
on New Year’s, you can
wash your hair and
sweep the floor.
all the luck has left us
anyway.

if they come for me,
you can be angry,
confused,
overwhelmed.
loss will do that.
remember to breathe,
even if i am not.

when enough time has passed,
speak.
write.
make them listen.
do not let them come for another.

if they come for me,
what will you say?

if they come for me,
let them point fingers.
they will label it “mental health”,
forget the word “terrorist”
because his skin is pale.

if they come for me,
you will know the truth.
you will wish you could have
protected me from men
who hate me
because i am me.

the war is far from over.

make change.
do not be quiet.
let them hear how
loss sounds.
let them see how
seeds grow.

you are coming for them now.