‘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!’
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?’
‘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.’
Fabulism as conflict, punchlines, symbolic white space, and more
As George Takei’s Allegiance makes its way to Broadway, a look back at how choreographer and dancer Michiko Iseri went from the Heart Mountain incarceration camp to the first production of The King and I in 1951
“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.”
When spell check doesn’t recognize your name
‘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.’
‘My father had seen us wrestle the men, had seen our bodies thrown into the sea of their desires, had seen my mother part the waves: Samira en Moses, minus divine intervention.’
‘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.’
‘For me, who grew up and became an adult during the New Order period, I was conscious of a historical and political absurdity. I began to feel that there were some Indonesians who had become invisible.’
‘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
19 writers respond to Michael Derrick Hudson’s yellowface
‘We pulled together as much of our body parts as we could. We collected everything we lost in sleep, everything we gained, as a three hour-long silence spread over Kathmandu.’
‘The bags of paper are bodies, sitting on ledges, tucking their legs into themselves, folding smaller, hugging themselves for comfort.’
‘Whether they know it or not, they are Middle-English archetypes, judges of good taste. Self appointed gatekeepers. In a word, critics. They know art when they see it and frankly it’s not brown.’
‘Here in New York, however, the boat had a different meaning: a migrant who, despite all the baggage he must carry, is still afloat.’
‘We saw innocence and wisdom in the dark, leather-faced fishermen in Colaba, their broken down canoes resting ashore amidst tin shanties with colorful blankets bleached by the sun and salt of the Arabian Sea’
‘When I ask, the histologist responds, / Cells have no color. / We use ink to color the slides.’
Brooklyn, Opium, Diaspora, Imodium. The celebrated writer in conversation on the release of River of Smoke in 2011
Modern Indian artists looked westward after Partition, away from the nation. An exhibit of two periods of avant-garde Indian art juxtaposes their work with contemporary artists, who ask how India can awake as a nation.
What does it mean to be a guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair? John McGlynn talks about the Lontar Foundation’s role in bringing Indonesian literature to the world and his own path from puppet maker to translator.
‘The world has a sleek, hot belly / A cue of white space, an inch or several yawning before the drop, towards volta’
‘She planted the tiny sleeping nuggets into the ground, as a small prayer. One day, they would metamorphose, escape into the world as something altogether different.’
“in the jungle they hide until / the seekers, bearing lime leaves jail / them in the silver night.”
Whether it’s Japanese dancehall pioneers, Eddie Huang’s parachute, or Roxane Gay’s advice on procrastination, we’ve captured some incredible moments you won’t want to miss.
“I didn’t care whether they understood me, then I said, ‘Hello, hello,’ again, soldiers climbed out of their foxholes and looked at me, they couldn’t understand, but they knew where I came from, they just looked at me”
US immigrant law’s influence on the “model minority” myth, “giving circles,” and a WWII veteran/rebellious photographer
‘What he saw in this other world was the dust on men, not men themselves. It was the color of the land, not a history the land told.’
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 author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer talks about reshaping histories of the Vietnam War and finding humanity in the inhuman.
“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.
Gene Oishi, author of the novel Fox Drum Bebop, reflects on the Japanese American story beyond the wartime experience.
Poet Don Mee Choi discusses the myth of fluency and what happens when translation is allowed to be hysterical
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
‘Perhaps it was not what he did so much as how he put it. He insisted on “killed” not “terminated.” He refused “vertical chamber apparatus” in favor of the lurid “pit of despair.” But he also called love “love.” What reason was there to pretend otherwise?’
What recent race scandals by avant-garde poets Kenneth Goldsmith and Vanessa Place have to do with sunglasses, the invention of the fingerprint, and the atom bomb.
“In my desire to be Nude / I clothed myself in fire:— / Burned down my walls, my roof / Burned all these down.”
‘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
Such atonalities / caught floating through four centuries / in flagrant delicto bear witness
The writer discusses China before and since Tiananmen, abandoned enemy spies, and how solidarity will build a nation.
‘As children, she liked purple, I liked pink. She liked turkey, I liked ham. She liked American cheese, I liked Swiss.’
swimming six thousand feet to the surface / the lights lure curiosity / from a sudden clearing / to the gingerbread house / where a hand has lighted the wick
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.
‘The Korean community has a special name for the LA riots: Sa-I-Gu, Four-Two-Nine, the day it all began.’
At the short end of Bombay’s boom-to-bust cycle
Obama on emojis, Pacquiao v. Mayweather, protests on the Japanese Prime Minister, and more.
If these are ghosts, trace them / in the dismal notes of the gutter, / the window’s drumming murmur
I was the smell of ripe lemons in his oxbone nation. I was never / brave. But, he let me eat butter, held me like an egg.
I will float down the stream / until it ends. / Until it ends, the mines avoid me.
The Australian comedian chats about Iggy Azalea, why he doesn’t write jokes for white people, and the power of post-9/11 comedy.
The novelist talks about his favorite samurai movies, the violence of imperialism, and his struggle to remember Japan
I live inside this world that lives inside / me: in this dream, there is nowhere to hide.
Tasty Chinese-Mexican food, Zayn’s post-One Direction plans, review of The Sympathizer, and more.
One night, I said, I wish I could tattoo myself onto you.
“Every word becomes dangerous when words fall into a wave of social movements.”
“The mother, seeing her one-armed son standing in the doorway, was not surprised. It was as she had foreseen.”
Body-shaming culture, Purdue’s new cultural center, representation in video games, and more.
My mother left my father more than once. A favorite / family tradition observed when I was four. / Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Leaving is easier / the second time.
Bushra Rehman’s “Two Truths and a Lie” writing workshop was held up at gunpoint last fall. Three writers tell the story of what happened and join a conversation about gentrification and police violence in NYC.
The relationship of food and culture, an interview with Kevin Na, the poorly conceived #RaceTogether campaign, and more.
Rage dented the silver / trashcan / “fire-crack” or “schrack”
Peek behind the scenes on an Asian American foodie adventure, attend boba school, learn where New Orlean’s two Chinatowns went, and more.
How the feel-good politics of multiculturalism have blinded the literary world to the roots of racial inequality
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.
The work of nine ekphrastic poets
In a country where every other street corner, rice field, or pagoda is potentially the former site of a mass crime, how Cambodia has imagined collective reparations after the Khmer Rouge
I should have pinned you / to that wall, but you have walked already / out of that drawn-on door.
The 2015 Caldecott Honor-winning artist talks about adoption, race, and visibility in the coming-of-age graphic novel This One Summer.
A conversation about humor, race, and the search for decolonized jokes
Coming to terms with grief after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
Amarnath Ravva’s American Canyon gravitates between Northern California and South India as he reenacts rituals and shares histories of both his homes.
A poem in memory of Eric Garner: “No offense, Officer, if I don’t / take to your charm offensive, or is / it your offensive charm”
Toronto-based graphic novelist Elisha Lim talks about the people behind their latest book 100 Crushes, their Singaporean-Catholic aversion to gluttony, and what jealousy is really about.
With alluring and peculiar prose and a playfully erratic approach to structure, Ghalib Islam’s debut novel mirrors the anxiety of buckling under the burden of surveillance.
“In the smoke, they forget their bare feet / as they see their faces more clearly than ever… No trial can strike down / their small and fragile umbrellas.”
The National Book Award finalist and author of An Unnecessary Woman talks about mothers, thievery, and his homebody fabulousness.
“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
Treating the invisible wounds of America’s violent past, Rajkamal Kahlon edges closer to finding peace in herself.
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
“…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.
To succeed in America means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past. Vijay Iyer’s speech to Yale’s Asian American alumni
A review of Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know
In a collection of poetry and prose, writers respond to the work of Bengali photographers exhibited in Eyes on Bangladesh
Abeer Hoque interviews a celebrated Bangladeshi documentary photographer whose work recently made its way to an exhibit in New York City
Vijay Prashad at the Brecht Forum. Plus, how Kumar Goshal (1899-1971) carved out a theory of US imperialism in the African American press.
“Someone is stalking Whitney Houston and I have been hired to be her bodyguard”—an excerpt from Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing
An interview with Akhil Sharma, author of Family Life, on how to write a novel that has no plot, literary modernism’s influence, and remembering India
“While a part of me was glad I wasn’t like my brother, no part of me wished to be more fortunate than my mother.”
Gaiutra Bahadur unearths buried stories of indenture—those of women who battled rigid patriarchy on either side of the black water.
Lessons on how life in the US was worth much more if spent in solidarity with those who suffer at its heel
Cultural critic Vijay Prashad and legal scholar Aziz Rana discuss the legacy of multiculturalism, and what’s left of third-world solidarities.
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”
“Asian American Poetry” is not a manageable category—it is not a list.
How fear of the “the mob” turned into racial exclusion. Excerpts from a recently published archive of anti-Asian fear
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
From Ibn al-Nadim’s Kitāb al-Fihrist to Al-Mutanabbi Street
An excerpt from Chang-rae Lee’s On Such A Full Sea
Where the “Yellow Peril incarnate” meets one novelist’s depictions of China and its diaspora in the early 20th century
An interview with the exiled Chinese poet on writing from prison, false patriotism, and the responsibility of intellectuals
We were both Ahab; the difference was that Einstein, when he set out on the ink-black sea, knew not what monster he had been pursuing.
An interview with author Phong Nguyen on his latest book, Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History
My palms cannot hold back the shifting currents. / They can slap a rhythm, hoist / a banner, hold / your face tenderly between them
Remembering Agha Shahid Ali, 12 years after his passing
An interview with poet Tung-Hui Hu
Salman Rushdie’s multitudes, from his visionary early work to the celebrity he has become
I hate you, poem, for wanting to know the truth. / The truth is, I trusted the sky. / Trusted it wouldn’t throw things at us
The rivers / and trenches glossed with light / know we are so relentless as to plan / for catastrophe
An excerpt from Coolie Woman, Gaiutra Bahadur’s new book about hidden histories of indentured labor migration
100 years on, how lessons from the Ghadar movement show the limits of civil rights efforts in the US today.
The key to enjoying the jubilant, fleshy dread of Feng Sun Chen’s supercut poem is appreciating what one might call the bodily turn in poetry.
Poetic responses to the literature of the Ghadar movement
On the centenntial of its founding, a short history of the Ghadr Party, and the ghosts that live on
A photojournalist returns to his ancestral home to capture what is left of a long history of migration between China and the US.
The salty snacks, unlikely yarns, and auspicious readings at this year’s AAWW food and books festival