[ a r t i c l e s ]
The Question of Being Human
[ The Brooklyn Rail | November 5, 2013 ]
A review of Colin McAdam's A Beautiful Truth
By the end of the book, Looee felt like my child, the injured, misunderstood kid I wanted to hug and assure things would be okay. The kid I wanted to protect and take under my wing. But of course I couldn’t—one, because he’s fictional, and two, because he’s a chimp—and this feeling haunted me for days. I don’t know which reason frustrated me more, but both possibilities pointed to the fact that McAdam has written an unforgettable book, one that, remarkably, had me thinking less about how human chimps can be, and more about what that word “human” even means.
On Asian/Pacific Islander American Stories and Why We Need More of Them
[ The Toast | May 28, 2015 ]
I’m tired of letting those on the outside own the label “APIA literature” in a way that assumes that the white American canon is the center and APIA literature is on the fringes in its otherness. While there are still many, many writers who do, in fact, write about “APIA experiences” well, I believe strongly that APIA literature should not be defined only by these stories. Being an APIA writer is only a single facet of who a writer is—and every writer has their own relationship to that identity. Let us be defined by the writers we are rather than by the stories we’re supposed to write. Or to put it more bluntly: let us define ourselves.
Our Favorite Books of 2016: Fiction Edition
[ Hyphen | December 25, 2016 ]
In a year in which there was so much to cry about in real life, this felt even more important. Our world feels so divided these days, so focused on the ways in which we are suspicious of others, on the differences that we might never be able to overcome. Harm continues to be wrought by the powerful on the weak and voiceless. And yet fiction brings us into the psyches all kinds of people, offering them a grace that is often hard to find amidst the senseless violence and tragedy of the real world. It used to be that all the books I read required me to empathize with people completely unlike myself; now, as APIA fiction continues to flourish in all of its diversity, I get to read books where certain cultural, psychological, and historical markers might be familiar to me. More and more, I feel seen as I read fiction, and that offers me hope. Not just because of the many APIA readers who might feel a sense of validation in having their experiences and histories reflected back at them, but also because someone not APIA might read these books and feel moved by them too. Maybe when we read together, we change together. Maybe that's part of how we make this world just a tiny bit better.
The Dazzlingly Different Worlds Of Chinese Vs. Asian-American Sci-Fi
[ Audible Range | February 24, 2017 ]
With this rise in popularity, it might be tempting to compare the works of Chinese science fiction writers alongside those by Asian-American authors, particularly those who belong to the ethnic Chinese diaspora (it’s important to note that not all Asian-Americans with ethnic Chinese heritage identify as Chinese-American). But does that make sense? Asian-American writers, by and large, are educated in the traditional British-American literary canon, after all. Even while some might have been influenced by the histories and mythologies of their ethnic background, these are American writers who grew up reading the likes of Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and Ursula K. LeGuin, and so in their own writing, they are often in conversation with those traditions, emulating and renegotiating the tropes, styles, and conventions of Western science fiction.
Beloved Asian American Literature You Have to Read
[ New York Public Library | May 30, 2017 ]
In general, I feel ambivalent towards lists of this sort, which, while handy for quick recommendations, are also by their nature exclusionary. A list of Asian American books, therefore, is further complicated by the fact that Asian American stories are already underrepresented in the industry, making it hard not to feel that any list focusing on Asian American writers might hold a disproportionate importance in terms of offering visibility to particular titles. In the face of this added pressure of representation, when tasked with creating a list, I inevitably feel guilty that I will have to leave off so many noteworthy books.
Behold Addiction Aquatic, Taipei’s Leviathan Seafood Paradise
[ Eater | March 6, 2019 ]
AAD feels like the cooler cousin of popular indoor markets like Nanmen, where locals go to purchase produce, pick up seafood, or get meat butchered to order. Inside is spacious but warm, with wood paneling and brown tones accenting everything from the countertops to the beams criss-crossing the tin roofing; pastels on chalkboards describe the day’s specials. Outside, the outdoor eating areas’ greenery and the Edison bulb-filled candelabra centerpieces borrow heavily from hipster beer gardens elsewhere in the world. But with a large food emporium, a standing sushi bar, and a seasonal hot pot restaurant, AAD is unquestionably influenced by the sensibilities of the Taiwanese.
Even Train Rides Are a Chance to Eat Outrageously Well in Taipei
[ Eater | March 6, 2019 ]
To get just about anywhere in Taiwan outside of Taipei, you’ll probably need to travel by train. Taiwan boasts a large and efficient rail network that’s accustomed to serving tourists and commuters alike, from those looking to get to beaches in the south or rice-field villages in the east to those who simply need to head into the city for work. Some destinations can take up to eight hours to reach, and few trains sport dining cars, so the meal of choice for many riders has become the train bento.
Pork Buns Have Become an American Favorite. Why Can’t We Acknowledge They’re Taiwanese?
[ Resy | January 28, 2021 ]
As a Taiwanese American, I’m frustrated to see the popularity of the pork bun decoupled from knowledge of the gua bao. Unlike Cantonese charsiu bao — what I think of when people say “pork buns” — or Shanghainese soup dumplings, gua bao seem to be little known to the American public, and hard to find, at least in its traditional form. At a moment when the American culinary landscape is increasingly including food traditions from outside the West, when diners are willing to try everything from Sichuan dry hot pot to Korean fine dining or Filipino kamayan, how is it that the pork bun’s Taiwaneseness is overlooked? It feels like a metaphor for the ways Taiwan and its culture exist — or not — in the American consciousness: misunderstood, if not downright ignored.
Will Taiwan Finally Figure Out How to Make Babies?
[ Tricky Taipei | January 19, 2021 ]
Despite the low fertility rate in Taiwan, it’s clear there are many people in this country who dream of having a family, although the shape and appearance of that family might be different from what some people might picture. If Taiwan truly wants to be a progressive nation — and not just offer an outward semblance of it — it must offer the same support to same-sex and single-parent families as it does to so-called traditional ones. For a society that places so much importance on family, how can it continue to deny this pathway to those who yearn for it the most?
The Identities of the Women Killed in Atlanta Have Begun to Belie the Suspect's Stated Motive
[ NBC News THINK | March 20, 2021 ]
That is not to say that narrative of the sex worker doesn’t matter in this story: It does, because the suspect’s own fetishization of Asian women is the reason why eight people, including six Asian women, are dead. (The Atlanta police have said that “he had frequented both locations," but have no evidence that he knew the victims.) But by equating female Asian service workers to vessels meant only to sexually gratify him, the suspect had no ability to respect any Asian women who worked in the service industry as fully formed human beings — and apparently no ability to see them as anything other than objects that “tempted” him and thus had to be eradicated, regardless of the jobs they actually performed.
Asian Americans Deserve More Than Tokenization from the Media
[ NBC Academy | May 4, 2021 ]
This is what frustrates me: the issues that have plagued Asian Americans have been happening this whole time — and even before the pandemic — but the sudden interest makes it seem like it’s new. Because of a lack of visibility in mainstream media, this surge in coverage requires context, and there is a need, suddenly, to educate and make legible a community that is often painted as illegible and foreign, a responsibility that falls on Asian Americans writers, thinkers, and activists. And yet, at the same turn, Asian Americans journalists are suspected of being unable to remain objective. It feels like a kind of tokenization, as if the mainstream media should be allowed to pick and choose when they allow an Asian American’s experiences to inform their work.