‘That day, I came of age / And became a child.’
Leland Cheuk and YiShun Lai discuss their debut novels, dysfunctional families, and writing the Asian American antihero
‘I remember when I first learned my ABCs. A is for apple, B is for bird, and C is for cat, but further experience taught me, that ABC means American Born Chinese.’
To get free, to tell the truth, sometimes requires new language that might not fit through that narrow channel of the dominant culture.
‘Sometimes you are damaged. You think poetry will repair you. You think poetry should repair you. You shake your fist at it when it doesn’t. You walk hand-in-hand with your damage, into the world. You do not speak. You are surprised when people register you are there.’
‘there was / my mother packaging miàn tiáo by the sink. / breath in the morning. breath in the afternoon. / the way history comes back to haunt me with / a plump fist. the way my mouth, a cave, opened / and closed.’
‘Imagination can make things more real than they would be if they were just reported from real life’—the author of In the Country speaks on writing stories of south-south migration and when not to be faithful to a map.
‘You hold the knife, you drink the sorrows. / You burn your hands making tea. / When something hurts, / You no longer feel rage. / You wipe up the mess. / Outside, dusk is the color of Violet and ash.’
From the slave ship Zong to the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru, two experimental poets draw on legal papers and ship records as they raise spirits from the sea
‘I wanted to be the last of my people, / a girl without mother, father, sister, brother— / a girl belonging to no one, / my only belongings a cormorant skirt / and a cage of tiny birds.’
‘Danny’s hands dropped to his knees as he gasped. He felt something…a fist pressed against his face. I’m being punched, he thought as he fell. This is me being punched. It was a familiar feeling. Almost nostalgic.’
Poets Monica Sok, Aimee Suzara, and David Mura explore their political landscapes through poems on the Khmer Rouge, the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, family, and antiblackness.
My shadow turned to rust / …dust at the first strong wind / … the lungs of others / …hard to breathe / …to follow me / No one to lick out your lungs? / – sweep out the curious orange flakes?
When we point towards the horizon and say this is the color / of our grandfather, we do not know for how long // the night will carry your shade or what winds / brought you here.
‘The right to hxstory is the right to know. / I need to know how my mind is theft. / My body is property because my mind is theft. / I say “woman” and I can still move my mouth.’
We graze our fingers through damselfish schools, // but our appetites are as insatiate as the sea is for land. / We gnaw the shore, legs wound in seaweed, / skin flayed by the tongues of clams, pulling, pushing.
‘At Downtown Crossing // he trail the shoppers, buying nothing, & rub / his rented nose. He know: myself am hell. / His feet unmoved in the snow.’
‘How many times in the dark? A brick for every freedom to hold its dream in. Will the Sun make his own grim entrance?’
You said you were an ant, eyes frozen / on an indigo wave looming over the world. / (You reset every time / you move forward.)
‘All the bitter things, one by one, in a rush, / She wants to swallow. Clothed in blueblack scales in a forest of iodine-colored seaweeds, / She wants to be chased by a shark.’
Journalist and music critic Hua Hsu talks to Ashok Kondabolu about the best and worst of his dad’s record collection and how his fascination with rap beef inspired his upcoming book
‘my hulled hands crash against the tide / to the unloved I will offer / a part of me / in hope my wards will be made complete / for another life’
‘when I am dark/ when I am no more light/ when I am no / more an abomination/ when I am no more shame/ when I am face / again/ when the collective being of me worships god, family, / education and the collective administrative silver spoon, / then I will be back in the fold.’
‘When the Japanese were in power, I realized that the Dutch East Indies with all of its aristocratic ways, was finished. I must have the guts to say goodbye to it. And whatever fate befalls me, I will remain here.’
‘We are given a face, / which means we are given / a vessel of blood to call body, / & lungs–that know the alchemy / of altering wind into breath–the way / plants are always transforming / someone’s last words / into oxygen.’
‘You brace yourself against the oncoming. But today the sea glistens like the fish you used to scale.’
‘Murder is to mitosis is to mercy. / We are mostly legs too: part tendon, part pardon, kicking / or curling.’
‘In this way, people kept talking about her, and she continued to come to family gatherings. In the eyes of my relatives, she remained a problem that refused to be simplified.’
‘If not agates, then barnacles, if not / sweet-smelling seaweed, then shattered shells./ The traveler need not journey on. // If not mussels, then sea glass, if not // smooth surfaces, then rocks pocked by anemones. / The traveler’s journey is one of return.’
‘Match lit by a shadow’s curiosity. / Though I was not there for it, I still tasted their meat // and their marrow held a sweetness.’
‘Do you hear / the rainfall beating / on cowhide skin / father? It is the life / of autumn, / supernova / booming’
‘Your mouth a little wound with a little reason to be / involved is why alienation is a body part, which moves / you to harshly ask if death really wanted what it wanted, / if its sole duty is to be observed all the time.’
‘but what if it was something once / vulnerable, downy, and warm? // something severed or stillborn? // something with pulse and blood / and breath bitten right out of it?’
‘And they were a solemn people: naming / the world, mapping it out, arguing about what it meant. Clandestine as / husbands’
‘Pastor says / abstain, says sins of the flesh, says hell. But when we see the boys / with their strong corded necks that make us crazy, we want and we do not.’
“ALL WILL COME BACK FROM ROOTS – NOTHING KILLS BLACKBERRY – BUT WHERE ARE ALL THE SPARROWS”
“When she began crying, I thought about the rainfall in Viet Nam, how she said it was so heavy a person could hide in it.”
‘They love long hours of blackout. / They love this snuffed out match / of a little city. To the dust that separates // stained lace. To the poor / thrum of humidity.’
‘The first boy that I dated weighted down his coif / with so much hair gel that the crest atop his pate / was hard as horses’ teeth’
‘Last week some of the other kids dug a hole to China in the dirt lot behind the Purtells’ house. Down at the end of Locust Street, that swampy neverland that reeked of skunk cabbage.’
‘Where was Mas Han? What was he running from? And why hadn’t he called or tried to get in contact with me? These were my questions, those of a wife, a woman, who had no idea how what had happened would affect the fate of the Indonesian people.’
‘On the radio they are playing a record that is skipping. A deep-voiced woman joyfully sings, “My life has just begun– gun– gun–”’
‘No others no-place/what to do but hoard the remaining solaces’
Debut novelist of The Hundred-Year Flood talks lower-body ghosts, communication subterfuge, and American entitlement
‘It was the mind repeating itself out of hope— / a mind that inhabits the same metaphor over and over’
‘When I ask, the histologist responds, / Cells have no color. / We use ink to color the slides.’
‘I relinquish / the greatest thing I have / for my greatest wish. / I turn into sea foam. / I learn nothing / ceases to exist’
“in the jungle they hide until / the seekers, bearing lime leaves jail / them in the silver night.”
US immigrant law’s influence on the “model minority” myth, “giving circles,” and a WWII veteran/rebellious photographer
Never / reaching orgasm, / the colony names its price and I, / hot cent of foreign cash, / sell it slant. Daughters / say it with ozone: my sex is a metaphor / for too much / good luck.
Feminist sci-fi movies, queering Islam, and injustice in America
Be calm. Soon / we will bear sentimentality, scent / what is lost in these cells with carrion, / asphodel, turpentine, forsythia / blooming somewhere in the dark.
Sandra Bland, reparations for British imperialism, building solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, and more.
I didn’t expect him to smile and say, “I love you,” as Americans did. I had never seen him smile and I would never expect him to embrace me; he never had. But perhaps there was some way—some subtle, casual way—that he could acknowledge my worth.
When did I first realize my parents were not infinite? / That I could see the end of them? Past their capes & catchphrases?
Beloved Nintendo president passes, body shaming Serena Williams, and fighting the “model minority” myth
eating crabs with your fingers pre-Spanish fork and spoon and pre-KFC native chicken you can be served by dancing feathered natives that is true it all tastes good
Celebrating America, appropriating kimonos, a badass Desi henchwoman, and much more on this week’s roundup from the interweb
‘The image of my small life without the young man was one of a library with its doors locked, or simpler and more terrifying, that of a book with half its pages missing.’
Writer-artist-professor Tan Lin talks fictive relatives, the narrative of an immigrant TV culture, and ‘becoming Chinese’ in America
how to be clear as the earth without clinging to the sand? / flowing through my hands like water / one seed clings to my palm
Queer Asian American history, “racist Asians,” Bobby Jindal’s shaky start, and two landmark birthdays
‘Our apartment, our home, became an unfamiliar space. We still slept in the same queen bed, but no longer did we speak of upgrading to the capacious king. We could now easily fit two additional people in the valley of the bedsheet between us.’
‘in the haiku I send her / and the silence she sends back, / hell no, nan da yo, / call it off, snap it shut, trash / it, just let it be, let me be’
“The month in question was April, the cruelest month. It was the month in which a war that had run on for a very long time would lose its limbs, as is the way of wars.”
Bhargava, the late director of award-winning film Patang, reminisces about growing up in Chicago and his fascination with India’s festival of kites.
She petrified her / Secrets. “About what?” / That she’s been chosen. / “She chose silence.” How? / “Like the light, deeply / Fissured.
Grappling with Black deaths, tackling Western literary thought, celebrating Ramadan, and more.
How scared God must have been / when the woman who ate all the fruit of the tree he’d planted / was cutting out each red body from / between her legs
‘Over the past three years, the desert had become Hiroshi’s home. Hacienda seemed very far away to him, both in terms of time and distance, and he didn’t want to go back.’ An excerpt from Gene Oishi’s Fox Drum Bebop
The writer discusses China before and since Tiananmen, abandoned enemy spies, and how solidarity will build a nation.
Upon entering a shrine, it seems to hold ghosts / The belly of an abbess suggests pregnancy / Behind a heavy curtain, the suggestion of people
They send flowers before guns now / all the thorns plucked from the stems. / An order to weave the dirge / before the mortar sings.
TV as a battleground for diversity, JiHAE’s newest video, the lack of AA tech execs, and more.
At the short end of Bombay’s boom-to-bust cycle
as if smell promises taste and always delivers. / Pleasure, when observed, wets into compulsiveness.
Obama on emojis, Pacquiao v. Mayweather, protests on the Japanese Prime Minister, and more.
Tasty Chinese-Mexican food, Zayn’s post-One Direction plans, review of The Sympathizer, and more.
Body-shaming culture, Purdue’s new cultural center, representation in video games, and more.
The relationship of food and culture, an interview with Kevin Na, the poorly conceived #RaceTogether campaign, and more.
Peek behind the scenes on an Asian American foodie adventure, attend boba school, learn where New Orlean’s two Chinatowns went, and more.
I went to see what people are really like / in a thousand human ways.
Nina Pham’s path towards recovery, the legacy Momofuku Ando leaves behind, Jin’s comeback story, and more.
“Fred Ho flooded my ears with essential facts about the history of Afro-Asian political and cultural struggle”
A review of Matthew Olzmann’s Mezzanines
In response to the Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown of 1989, the Asian American Arts Centre organized a landmark exhibition of artworks. To commemorate the protest’s 25th anniversary, The Margins partnered with Creative Time Reports to interview the artists involved.
“…I was more apprentice than student, and he was more family than friend. Our time together bridged the waters of music and delved into politics, healing, life, and death.”
In 1999, Fred Ho reflected on his political and musical evolution, from the Asian American Movement on.
“Spock was good in math and science; so was I. Spock tended to suppress his emotions (his human side), and so did I.” Fred Ho on coming of age.
A former student recalls the ups-and-downs of Ho’s cult of personality.
Colleagues, collaborators, and friends remember political and musical visionary Fred Ho.
“Someone is stalking Whitney Houston and I have been hired to be her bodyguard”—an excerpt from Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing
With the novelist who long thought she was a Korean American impostor
The author of Picking Bones from Ash on Japanese Buddhism, tsunami survivors, and her trip into the “exclusion zone”
The L.A.-based music critic-scholar on border crossing, his “West Coast vibe”, and why we should leave the guilt and take the pleasure
An excerpt from Chang-rae Lee’s On Such A Full Sea
“It had always been that one of Norton’s fondest dreams—the dream, I think, of many brilliant and overextended men—was that one month, or one year, he’d find himself in a warm place with absolutely no commitments.”
This New York-based poet once dreamt of being a trapeze artist.
On Sunday afternoons, you may often find poet Kazim Ali at the roller rink.
A native son of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the author of the Detective Jack Yu series makes a mean pitcher of Bloody Mary.
Watch the conversation between the BaoHaus bad boy and the Hot 97 host
Asian American Writers’ Workshop cofounder Marie Myung-Ok Lee kicks off our new weekly Q&A series with writers.
In three decades, the United States will have a “majority-minority” population. We asked four artists to consider this demographic shift. Here is Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter, an abstract artist and painter who draws on the visual elements of graffiti culture.
“I suddenly noticed an odor in the air. It was sweet and persistent but not at all unpleasant. I took a deep breath and let myself be guided by the smell.”
“Nut was hungry. Nut had to move.” Originally self-published in 1935, this hallucinatory, quasi-experimental novel follows the peripatetic musings of a young man throughout a single day in Depression-era New York.
Easy Rider and recently deceased Dennis Hopper apparently had a collection of “Chinese” warrior prints that went up for bidding. Except that the warrior is not Chinese… or a warrior…
Scholar Vivek Bald chronicles an early lost history of a time of Black-Bengali racial solidarity
Ocean Vuong, in search of the “new erotic,” guest-curates a portfolio of poems in time for Valentine’s Day.
Link-bait for the Monday-challenged.
Link bait for hump day.
In three decades, the United States will have a “majority-minority” population. We asked four artists to consider this demographic shift. Sharing his vision of 2050 is Jeff Ng, a designer better known as jeffstaple and the founder of Staple Design.
In three decades, the United States will have a “majority-minority” population. We asked four artists to consider this demographic shift. Here is Jaret Vadera, an interdisciplinary artist based in New York and interested in the hidden structures of power.
Baohaus bad boy and Workshop board member Eddie Huang reads from his new memoir tonight. Where will you be?
Link bait for the Monday-challenged.
In an excerpt from a forthcoming book, English professor Min Song reflects on undergraduate “Great Books” courses, the Helen Vendler-Rita Dove debate, and the first time he read a Siu Sin Far story.
In three decades, the United States will have a “majority-minority” population. We asked four artists to consider this demographic shift. First up is An Xiao Mina, a designer and artist who focuses on the role of technology in building communities.
An interview with journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai, whose book Scattered Sand tells the stories of Chinese migrant workers—direct from their mouths.
The two comics chat with fellow comedian Jen Kwok about emergency generators, censorship, and the most-viewed YouTube video in Pakistan.
Originally published in Japanese in 1925, this naturalist noir masterpiece follows itinerant day laborer Ishikawa Sazuko as he prowls the back alleys of Los Angeles, looking for a meal, a job, or just some companionship. With an introduction by translator Andrew Leong.
“I have a mole on the bottom of my foot, and some of my more superstitious relatives told me that if you have a mole on the sole of one foot, you’ll always yearn to visit new places more than most.”
“Stay with the music, that’s all it’s about anyways.” A night with legendary Chinese jazz pianist Xia Jia.
Orhan Pamuk and Mo Yan, Noble Prize winners in Literature, were both writers-in-residence at the prestigious International Writing Program. An interview with IWP’s current director about one of the program’s founders, the remarkable Chinese novelist Hualing Nieh.
“I want a literature that is not made from literature.”
It’s the year 2352, and the Walrusoids are at it again, speculating over divorce, SB 1070, some tall Asian guy named Jeremy Lin, and movie theater masturbation.
Fellow sci-fi writer Vandana Singh quizzes the award-winning, short-fiction master on his axiomatic approaches, paradigm shifts, and whether he would ever own a digient.
“Our Mordor was the same. Our Frankenstein was the same. Our Tinker Bell was the same. We didn’t have to imagine Davy Jones—a graphics company in Silicon Valley was manufacturing him for us. We all picked our visuals from the universal pool. The individual monster was dead.”
An alarming new documentary blames China for America’s woes.
“I absolutely did not set out to write a lesbian Cinderella. It wasn’t the story I intended to tell, so it took me a while to come around to the idea of telling it.”
The journalist and debut fiction writer chats with fellow Grantland writer Hua Hsu about his new neo-noir novel, grading papers, and Duck Down videos.
Qiu Miaojin—one of the first openly lesbian writers in ’90s post-martial-law Taiwan—committed suicide at the age of 26. What follows is an excerpt from her “survival manual” for a younger generation. With an introduction by translator Bonnie Huie.
In Athens, an historic square and neighborhood now home to porno theaters, sex stores, and “café” brothels, is alive with immigrants—until it isn’t.
Our mystery veteran agents answer your questions about the book industry.
Searching for something that you can’t encounter on a college walk? Apply to be a fall intern at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.
A new documentary about the famed Chinese artist and dissident focuses on his activism more than it does his art.
Drum roll, please. The results of our “Gao Kao” contest, co-hosted by Wall Street Journal “Tao Jones” columnist Jeff Yang, are in.
“Only when the Imperial Wang—or as they say in English, “The Wang of Wangs,” is shoved directly in the face of the public, will the Emperor’s potency be fully apparent.”
“Fry these days! Maybe he had been exposed to too many pesticides as an egg.”
Various communications methods are being developed: email, SMS, etc. Do you think the letter is replaceable?
“Assume the fish are swimming in clean, pollution-free water. Assume any cloudiness to be a consequence of naturally occurring solvents or debris.”
“They say to write something new you’ve got to be lost.” An excerpted video conversation featuring the Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of Free Food for Millionaires.
In the first installment of his interview column, “The Cornering,” Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist chats it up with Comedy Central comedian Sheng Wang. They also traipse the streets of Chinatown. Look out for part deux of this interview next week.
The Tokyo New Wave actress featured brilliantly in films by Ozu, Mizoguchi, and Kurosawa.
A round-up of articles, interviews and videos featuring Salgado, who was recently among the first undocumented immigrants to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine. The artist and activist will be screenprinting at AAWW’s launch party tonight.
A former Rockstar Games developer’s new project about the Iranian Revolution has gotten him labeled a spy.
Compared to China’s national university entrance exam, the gaokao (lit., “test you must ace or work as a menial laborer for the rest of your life”), the SATs are a stroll in the park.
The inaugural installment of our publishing advice column. Send our Agony Agents your most pressing book industry questions!
The acclaimed Thai filmmaker sits down with novelist Katie Kitamura for a conversation about narrative vs. storytelling, black magic, and migrant populations.
Spy novels as Asian kitsch.
A love letter to the magazine that defined a generation.
The author of The Collective chats with AAWW executive director Ken Chen about windsurfing, his writing chair, and the best way to eat eggs.
The British desi band’s kitschy, three-chord hit appeared on episodes of Friends and in a Gap commercial.
On rural Chinese costume jewelry, and eerily quiet portraits.
The ‘90s saw Western designers outsourcing not just manufacturing, but inspiration, to Asia.
Author, professor, and provocateur Amitava Kumar has a very specific question for New York City book clerks.
Delhi-based reggae MC Taru Dalmia travels to villages in India to record songs that speak truth to power.
The singer stars in Coldplay’s perplexing (and embarrassing) “Princess of China” music video.
In Japan, stationery magazines repopulate like bunnies.