‘First memory of English: my father orders spaghetti from a waitress. / Foreign flowers blossom in his mouth and I’m spellbound in Urdu. // On Friday afternoons, cars spill across a bleached suburb. / Not far from the mosque, look! Crooked lines of devout Urdu.’
‘did I ever tell the teacher / we invented a new language that a pair of six year olds spoke fluent / appeasement she pointed to the globe told me to tell him / this is the world and that is America’
Representing friendship between women of color, making your mom’s stir-fried tomato and eggs recipe, finding strength in the face of relentless fear, and more.
Chinese American writer H.T. Tsiang’s final novel is a Marxist, feminist, pro-immigrant satire of the American Dream. It was published 80 years ago.
‘Cracking the spine, we eat // With fingers mixing and mashing, / ladling for one another, / Karaili, pommecythe, cur-he, / spooning and sliding into our mouths, / Wiping the leaf green.’
Muslim Ban CliffsNotes, honoring the late, great Bharati Mukherjee, why Fred Korematsu’s story still matters today, and more.
‘My wishes are fulfilled with less searching. / My lover rises with a little waiting. / His fresh moustache conquers the cosmos. / Colored by evening, his mole deceives fate.’
Barry Jenkins on Wong Kar-wai, Monica Youn on historical instability, Sara Ahmed on white feminism, and more.
Palestinian American community organizer Aber Kawas reflects on #IMarchWithLinda and putting the spotlight on those who are less visible
‘I roam. Sometimes in solitude; sometimes in a crowd. But unlike a dog, I do not die a little each day, subdued to the loyalty of my master. I die all at once if it must be.’
Delivered on Inauguration Day 2017
Inauguration preparation, deconstructing “Asian America,” cleaning up the mess together, and anti-fascist poetry.
‘When we bury someone, cremate them, mark their grave, thousands of miles from their place of birth, we are in some ways promising that we will return to them and that we will return them.’
‘how to write a thank you letter / how to write a sorry letter. how to write / a letter saying please i’d love / my money back, or haven’t i given / you enough? how to write i love / you i love / you and isn’t that / enough?’
Ashok talks to artist Andrew Kuo about the history of painting, making his own Wu-Tang shirts, and Linsanity
‘The pain entered / me the way the moon / disarms the daya slick blade. / I offered myself as water, / studied its errancy. / What a good citizen, / I thought.’
‘If you spark a flame and turn / it upside down, / you will find it is still / a flame.’
From two World Wars and Partition to 9/11 and India’s Modi, the search for stories that help find our way out of the dark
‘I was still getting used to the place—how quiet the suburbs are, how calculated in their quietude.’
Equipment for frigid temperatures, self-protection in the digital form, tools for resistance, and more.
There are no refractions today / by the pepper flakes— in the glass. // The snails slept by the snap pea hooks / and cradles— I salted them. // Sometimes I drank / from a vapored gas— / I made ellipses with my glass.
Author Jade Chang talks about her new novel ‘The Wangs vs. the World,’ subverting righteous immigrant stories, and asshole as an endearing term.
More resources for safeguarding, taking precaution, approaching danger, and more.
In video games, the fear of the sudden propels you forward. Not so in life.
‘The Daily Show’ correspondent Hasan Minhaj talks to Ashok Kondabolu about his new one-man show, ‘Homecoming King,’ running away from John Kasich, and the role of comedians in the age of Trump.
Another set of resources for transformation, joining resistance movements, building other worlds, and more.
Dissecting the violence of state, warfare, and language
‘i contour my face with sand & it is war paint on the wrong body. i puncture my nostril with steel & that is a war crime on the wrong body.’
‘My father likes silence and the past. // He votes for losing candidates (he is so unwilling to love charismatic men.) / He believes in the things we are given, like decency.’
Additional resources for community protection, healing, security, action, and more.
Karen Ishizuka’s ‘Serve the People’ tells the story of a radical period in Asian American activism, and compels us to ask, where does that lead us now?
Poets Claudia Rankine and Hoa Nguyen speak with Rigoberto Gonzalez about the urgent need for poetry as a force for political change.
‘these games draw lines / between crowds / i am one of many / who wonder, / how come the silicon valley / squats on san josé?’
Resources for support, safety, care, resistance, and more.
To constellate; archipelago. // Portmanteau & neologize. // To fix a golden / foil across the mouth— // a burial mask / to keep the evil out. // To raise walled cities / stone & green with rain.
As Election Day approaches, remembering the story of my parents’ immigrant survival, from Japanese internment to community activism, proves more important than ever.
Memories between oceans, migrations across seas, bodies of water, trout on land, and more.
From comfort food to college applications, this zine showcases the stories of undocumented women from the Asian Diaspora
Novelists Malka Older and Jennifer Marie Brissett discuss the ins and outs of writing speculative fiction
The author of ‘Deceit and Other Possibilities’ on mischievous writing, how journalism feeds fiction, and getting to that “good place” in a short story
‘Here is language, say / it is one you know. Hyphenate / when you can. Steal inquiries, / steel for confusion. Be content / in the discontent of the hyphenation.’
Mapping displacement, resisting settler colonialism, assembling planes, flying south for the winter, and more.
Did she look up, see the lettering on his nametag, N-A-D-A-R-A-J-A, and think to herself, “A Tamil I don’t know? In Findlay, Ohio?”
Writers Jaswinder Bolina, Ching-In Chen, Bich Minh Nguyen and Timothy Yu reflect on their writing processes
Why I flirted with the truth when writing my novel in the first person
When Pearl River Mart closed earlier this year, it signaled long-expressed concerns over gentrification and rising rent prices in Manhattan’s Chinatown. What will its reincarnation bring?
‘A body on all fours, you / prefer crawling over standing, / your face permanently tilted / down, your eyes only seeing / the ground. How beautiful / the view is.’
Resisting co-opting and assimilation with language, un-fixing meaning, connecting natural disasters, and more.
The author of ‘The Loved Ones’ on what we have a right to expect from novels, love beyond blood family, and moving through anxiety and envy as writer
Writer and activist Jeff Chang talks about code switching, his new book ‘We Gon’ Be Alright,’ Asian American spectator status, and President Obama’s favorite comic book store in Honolulu.
‘A family as triangle. Drifting lines. This [mother- father-child] triangle will never be reassembled.’
A return to ghosts, negotiating art and music, borders and bars, political aesthetics, and more.
‘I glanced curiously at the stranger. He looked old and frail. The sky outside the window seemed darker with his figure in profile. Though he was sitting next to us, he appeared to be somewhere else entirely.’
Out of a full-time job and wondering if his first book would ever hit the shelves, Ed Lin briefly ventured out before the camera
Wading through piles of litter, trying to reclaim a car, object relations, lobsters, and more.
‘Night, she tries to define herself but forgets / her skin is already inked into a script.’
Writing magic and mermaids, negotiating boundaries and borders, combatting immigrant detention, living in disaster, and more.
Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye questions Singapore’s accepted national narratives.
‘Dark, dark, too dark a dark everywhere / Lovers drooping their necks / Dark as though picking up that darkness / And, again, inside that darkness / There are wolves and dogs on the prowl’
An interview with Bay Area poet, teacher, and artist Mg Roberts on interpreting graffiti, fragmented immigrant narratives, and how everyday is an opportunity to revise
Urban university politics, labor strikes, skateboard tricks, probably-canned broth, and more.
How the steering wheel / points nowhere except towards itself. / And such is the spinning of the mind: / everywhere. When we drove into new / cities it was only a different shape of haze.
Growing into community action, genealogy, dystopia, and more.
‘Bonita, that engineer from Spain who always worked late, must have gone home already. Yong looked down at his ironed shirt and felt disappointed—if he had done the third floor half an hour earlier he might have seen her.’
Writer Ayesha Siddiqi talks to Ashok Kondabolu about growing anti-Muslim anxieties, her new job at Viceland and what keeps people up at night.
‘No motions./A tonic in page display tufts,/call me switch-foot, a check away from homeless./You get there. Intentional.’
The author of The Fortunes talks about immigrant survival, our multiple selves, and who tells and receives the Chinese-American story
‘Grief is deep green and carries a sharp scent./ Memory and rain are like nothing that keeps./ She disappeared in the season of roubai.’
I see my forebears, warriors in retirement, laboring in endless fields, bustling markets, and desolate seas. One by one they all stop, turn to me, and say: “If you have good hands, anything can happen.”
Coming to terms with my mixed-race heritage as a kid in Southern California’s largest Asian enclave
Remembering family genealogies, the Asian American Movement, solidarity lines, and organizing for liberation.
‘The Night Of’ star Riz Ahmed talks to Ashok Kondabolu about cricket jerseys, patriotism, acting while brown, and race in the UK.
The frustrations and aspirations of the most famous outlaw from Korean pre-modern literature echo a story of modern Korea.
‘Wanting privacy in a police state was sheer stupidity’—to tell the stories of her family in China without the threat of censorship, Yang Huang had to look beyond Mandarin.
Lost memories of India’s Olympic team, transversal writing, translation and multilingualism, the necropastoral, vampires, and more.
‘What else was contained within the pages? What had come before the tofu boxes and dusty scrolls, the grumpy old man who spent his last two decades in America cloistered in my uncle’s back house?’
‘After midnight you assemble your limbs back to / their rightful place as you rid the pressure formed / by all day heat and no privacy.’
‘I lifted / an arm, to signify the range / of human voice. Somewhere in the week, / a detour from grief.’
‘I am, I want to be, the rain, I want to be the ocean, just so I could say back to her: I am home now.’
What the painful process of learning Korean, the language spoken by those who love me, has taught me about facing rejection as a writer
‘How to measure my body home, which is to say, how many names can you give to an immigrant’s geography? Delta Court, Tai Tam, Outer Sunset; finally, a dream to reach the edge of the sea.’
A guide to help you get from here to there while Arab — from speaking Arabic to passing the salt
‘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.’
With Canto-pop star Denise Ho and bookseller-turned-whistleblower Lam Wing-Kee, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is putting the old tactic of boycotts to new use
‘That first day in America, she didn’t know the difference between police officers and immigration officers, or between waiting rooms and holding cells.’
‘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
“It seems that reading Kim Hyesoon in English and from the United States entails a radical re-positioning of one’s reading perspective, from imperial center to the vanishing point.”
‘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?
‘I am looking at pictures on a very large / chair in a room with white / walls my mother wipes daily. / Her shoulder is a shelter on which I arrange / rock formations to resemble skin burdens.’
From Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth” to the FBI files of HT Tsiang, a journey into the archives with Hua Hsu
‘The signs were like a collective raft, keeping them afloat as they waited on responses to their calls of distress.’
Indentured labor in the Caribbean marked the beginning of disease, dependencies, prejudices, and ills that continue to plague Indo-Caribbean communities
‘I told, my dear, I was living living living in the river. / I told, her then, I was dying dying dying not to shiver.’
‘In my favorite fiction about us, I would see you and some bell within me would toll—the way an elephant will walk over the bones of its own kind, know it instantly, and fall down and mourn. Instead, I looked away. What struck me was not like lightning or love, and so I wept.’
The story behind Japanese artist Rokudenashiko’s arrest for her vagina-inspired sculptures
‘When you climb the stairway, / don’t shield your eyes / from the pixels, 30 hertz heat— / don’t shield your awe / from the ghosts of pretty prey’
From Ann M. Martin’s Claudia Kishi to intersectionality, SPAM, and The Woman Warrior
‘I’ve heard the way some people breathe / at night and it made me want / to close their mouths. I think / inside of all of us lies / an animal trying its best to escape.’
Writer and mental health advocate Esmé Weijun Wang talks about languages, love, immigrant children, and her debut novel, The Border of Paradise
‘the games you played as a child: / cracks breaking bones with every step. alive because / that’s your job.’
‘So be / domestic, Bambi / no one kills a pet / So sell your flesh / for fabric, Bambi. Leash / your skin to a lawn / meat yourself.’
‘How should I feel after bringing someone into the world to them have them unjustly taken from me?’
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.
‘He lingered on the edges of my social field of view, here in the basement lab where it was hot and loud’
The author talks about her award-winning collection of short stories, which takes us on a contemporary Sri Lankan’s global journey
‘We begged our bodies for / alchemy, death into new lungs, we fed bread / to the jinn’
‘You’ve memorized its bends like a prayer, / its long silver-gray hair, / its cigarettes, its favorite / songs and curse words, / the holes in its shirts.’
‘He doubts he has the capacity to uproot himself and start over in a foreign land at this age. But times of war and revolution have a tendency to embolden the meek, to electrify the confident.’
‘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.
Follow the work of these ten writers in our online magazines.
Poet Philip Metres talks about why he chose to create an opera from a redacted history of torture
‘At Downtown Crossing // he trail the shoppers, buying nothing, & rub / his rented nose. He know: myself am hell. / His feet unmoved in the snow.’
‘I left them both at the wedding reception. The best man was toasting the groom by listing all the women he’d given up for his new bride, and I’d had about enough.’
‘How many times in the dark? A brick for every freedom to hold its dream in. Will the Sun make his own grim entrance?’
The artist’s interactive graphic novel adaptation of Nam Le’s “The Boat” is an entry point to a conversation about refugees today
You said you were an ant, eyes frozen / on an indigo wave looming over the world. / (You reset every time / you move forward.)
‘Say, I’m here, Dad, my mom said. I’m here, Dad, I said. You have to say it louder so he can hear you.’
The author of the The Queen of the Night talks about being possessed by a woman who never lived and how writing fiction is all about bringing to life the thing you see that nobody else can
‘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’
‘I’m conducting an experiment for escape.’
‘There’s a piece of me / that has never been / to this country and another that never left. // I stare at strangers as if they might be friends. // It took three weeks of traveling / before anywhere looked like home.’
‘He knew the genealogies and coats of arms of / all his neighbors, with pride at its right hand and / cruelty at its left’
He’d gotten used to the routine of filling out the job applications: name, address, past positions, done. But then came that deadly box, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime or felony?’
‘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.’
It was just the right and wrong moment to leave, to go to China, to live in a country where the weight of blackness might not hinder your breathing. And yet, there were things you were afraid of losing.
‘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.’
‘We melted in amnesia, bubbled up / from the ocean, rinsed clean / of appetite, all healed, / all negated, a sequence of two spines / imitating an arrow. A jaguar loved us. / He licked where our hips had been, / and we cucooked in reply.’
In Huan Hsu’s The Porcelain Thief, the search for a family treasure unearths the spell of nostalgia
‘You brace yourself against the oncoming. But today the sea glistens like the fish you used to scale.’
‘we need to reinvent the image of tragedy for the nation everyday / or even in the everyday / get incensed or pretend to be so or else there is no exit and no future’
‘All your potatoes on the ground—you were never meant for this. The camerawoman tiptoes around spilled tubers as she zooms in on your front teeth, tearing open a parcel of dried shrimp. ‘
New York City through Marlon James’ Booker Prize-winning novel
‘Because she had saved my sister once, when my mother tried to pound out the wildness from my sister’s body with both words and sticks, no one ever came to rescue her.’
A graphic memoir on ritual and mourning
‘Murder is to mitosis is to mercy. / We are mostly legs too: part tendon, part pardon, kicking / or curling.’
The Indonesian fiction writer Intan Paramaditha on the political potential of horror and writing as a feminist practice
‘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.’
‘Being alive has again made something new, something that may not be true of justice but is a basic commonplace in evolutionary theory. To forebear is one attitude, rising in an infinite return another.’
‘Shouldn’t be singing such a song, Ravi knew. But what to do? Inspiration, that was what was happening to him. He couldn’t help it. Had to let it out. He was artist. Couldn’t be always thinking about wars and horrors.’
‘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’
An imaginary setting gave me, a child of immigrants, the authority to write about belonging unquestionably to one’s surroundings
‘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 has happened in our era? If just one vocal daring woman steps forth and speaks of the inequalities of the age and criticizes the establishment, especially those who hold authority, then she is immediately muzzled!’
‘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?’
In the mid-1970s, with a DIY fog machine and light stands made of tire rims, Sound Explosion brought the experience of the discotheque back to garage parties, school dances, and weddings.
Sustainable eating can often feel like the privilege of a well-heeled elite, but how do the appetites and labor of New York City’s immigrant communities fit into the picture?
‘And they were a solemn people: naming / the world, mapping it out, arguing about what it meant. Clandestine as / husbands’
‘I wonder what happens to skin when it is robbed of touch. Does it break? Does it know to breathe? Does it forget the painful sweetness of a tickle?’
“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’
‘On the radio they are playing a record that is skipping. A deep-voiced woman joyfully sings, “My life has just begun– gun– gun–”’
Bhargava, the late director of award-winning film Patang, reminisces about growing up in Chicago and his fascination with India’s festival of kites.
“I fear that we’ll remember Fred’s evocative style, but forget his penetrating political substance.” On remembering what not to forget.
Cathy Linh Che talks about her debut collection of poems, Split, and what it means to mimic flashbacks of war, immigration, and sexual violence.
The artist and illustrator of Skim and This One Summer talks about the tension of tween-hood, body types in mainstream comics, and why purple is the warmest color.
An interview with R.A. Villanueva on getting published, what a good GIF and a good poem have in common, and the right way to pronounce GIF
Killed by the Gestapo 70 years ago, today, special agent Noorunisa Inayat Khan inspires with messages in code. A reflection and poem.
I interviewed Michael DeForge and all I got was a story about needles in a urethra.
Ferguson and readings on anti-black racism, Asian Americans, and complicity
Resident comics expert Anne Ishii hangs out with kickass Toronto-based comics publisher Annie Koyama.
Superheroes of color, Arabelle Sicardi, sci-fi films from the global south, Molly Crabapple’s Abu Dhabi, Ferguson, n+1 takes on Tao Lin, and more.
An interview with spoken word duo DarkMatter on radical desis, the legacy of Partition, Twitter poems and The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“Fred Ho flooded my ears with essential facts about the history of Afro-Asian political and cultural struggle”
Shyam Selvadurai’s latest novel reckons with the violence that haunts the lives of many in post-war Sri Lanka.
What the marginalization of Asian Americans in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery says about the appropriation of “cool.”
How Bollywood demo musician Charanjit Singh peered into the future of electronic music
The sounds of Taipei, from farting mopeds to bustling night markets, unfold through tracks by Joy Division, Asobi Sekksu, Dum Dum Girls and more
“It’s always easier to fast with another person. We feed each other our hunger.”
A look back at the history behind ‘American Born Confused Desi’ and where it’s gone since
A group of artists, writers, and musicians led by Kelly Tsai is teaming up to put on a multi-media performance based on the work of Ai Weiwei
Mia Kang interviews filmmaker J.P Chan about his latest film, and casting Asian actors in lead roles
A review of Matthew Olzmann’s Mezzanines
Yuri’s indefatigable effort to build solidarity among all activists and oppressed people is what many will likely see as the hallmark of her legacy.
What time and place can call you home? are you an epiphany? a question? / Is it something / you only pretended to welcome, something you’ve come to regret?
An interview with writer and former editor-in-chief of Missbehave magazine Mary H.K. Choi
How to say milk? How to say sand, snow, sow, / linen, cloud, cocoon, or albino?
I don’t teach my girls / to brave the violence of sun, sons, or stings. / When resources run out, don’t sit there and behave. / Abandon hive.
When Stockton, California was the capital of Filipina/o America. An interview with Dawn Mabalon on the lost history of Filipinos in the organized labor movement, and the stories of women that went untold.
“Eyes will return tonight / with their ghosts / in the shape of tombstones.” On the 25th anniversary of June 4th, 1989.
I look up at the trees. / Like me, they have disrobed. / They have disarmed me
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.
A review of Tarfia Faizullah’s debut poetry collection Seam, and an interview with the poet