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May 28


[ let us define ourselves]

For a very, very long time, I resisted being called an "Asian American writer." The term conjured up immigration narratives, stories about generational differences, and bowls of rice. In fact, for a long time I wanted nothing to do with "Asian American writing," not because I had anything against the Asian American community (quite the opposite, in fact; unlike some of my peers, I never had a large peer group of white friends and felt most comfortable around Asians), but because I hated being pigeon-holed. I hated that expectations were being put on me that I felt were not true to who I saw myself. I resented the fact that I should have any burden of representation when my white American counterparts could seemingly do whatever they wanted. I didn't want to have to talk about my Asianness, I didn't want to have to have that conversation at all.


Maybe it's because I came to the conversation with so much resistance, so grudgingly, that now I feel very strongly about the topic. I'm indignant that these conversations have to be had at all, because what the young writer version of me wanted was just to write whatever she wanted. I'm indignant that people have to be corrected or that terrible lists have to have their flaws pointed out to them. I am indignant that every time someone gets it wrong or wants to push "the Asian thing" on a writer, it's usually at the expense of focusing on the merits of their work in a ton of other ways. Because of this indignation, I can't not say something.


So I did.


Nicole Callahan of the The Toast kindly asked me to write about APIA literature, bad lists, and anything else around the topic I wanted. So I did. I've been waiting a long time to write about this. I don't think I'm saying anything that people haven't been feeling for a long time. But I hope it's not just APIA writers that read it. I hope those in power read it, because they're the ones who we apparently have to convince.


Thanks to Nicole for being a great editor, and also for making space on The Toast for these conversations to occur.



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