Anelise Chen’s latest mollusk column, the painful search for Asian American identity, “anti-blah” writing and more are featured in this week’s link roundup.
In all the books I love, the hero doesn’t strike first. But then again, none of the heroes look like me.
The writer talks about her new memoir, Olive Witch, subverting her identity, and the tenuous link between memory and writing.
Novelist Shanthi Sekaran speaks with Race Forward’s Rinku Sen and Kavita Das about how our immigration system threatens families of color
Half a century on, what does it mean to be part of ASEAN?
Writers Gina Apostol, Ninotchka Rosca, Alex Gilvarry and Melissa R. Sipin joined us for a celebration of legendary Filipino writer Nick Joaquin
For eleven / years I lied about where I’m from, / ashamed by the music of endings, // that deep hollow bell. How much of my yearly / tax is spent to bomb the dirt / that birthed me?, is a question // I never wanted to consider.
On data, food, and criticality under capitalism and the State.
Reads that encourage us to resist complacency and keep searching for new ways of thinking and being in the world–all in the name of self-determination.
Ashok speaks to Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto about her new creative endeavors, Tokyo versus New York, and what gets lost in translation.
Lisa Ko reads from her debut novel; Ed Lin and Jade Sharma read their stories of Asians who don’t fit the model minority stereotype.
What the parallels between the violent murders of The Walking Dead’s Glenn Rhee and Vincent Chin tell us about being Asian in America.
On building bridges in liminal spaces, and carving new pathways through the unknown.
‘Children are playing soldier. / Fetuses ripped from wombs dangle / in nearby trees. Yet he opened his mouth / and a flood of love melodies poured out.’
On accountability – as readers, writers, and members of society.
Watch Thi Bui read an excerpt from her illustrated memoir The Best We Can Do with the help of some audience members.
pink spam injected into the bloodstream / won’t make one minnesotan, / the difference of an exporter and importer, / colonizer and the colonized with a nine digit ssn
Thirty five years ago, Asian America’s faith in the justice system was shaken. Have we forgotten the lesson?
This month in Asian diasporic lit brings new queer desi stories, “badass letters to comicdom,” and love songs from down and out Asian American country music stars.
Writers Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Violet Kupersmith, and T Kira Madden speak to each other about mixed-race identities in life and literature
Marwa Helal reads two poems at the Workshop, including her paen to the Palestinian American rapper DJ Khaled.
On mollusks, writing craft, and writing against whiteness.
Every spring, a deer must shed antlers used for fighting and each bone branch grows back with the thought of my partner’s return this season, and yet.
The writer and teacher speaks on navigating Mississippi’s racial politics and his experience in public education as “forged in violence.”
The poet talks about her debut collection, sharing silenced histories in her writing, and being a “wild girl poet.”
The two poets talk about their literary family trees, poetry as a protective force, and the changing landscape for Muslim American writers.
‘In my sleep, I dreamt of how terrible it would be to not find my way home.’
but this is boring. let’s talk / about something else. people are only lines / written with water it’s not that serious. i just want to drink / my coffee. i just want to think about roses i misheard / the words as a laugh, beautiful like a song of roses
May brings in queer Taiwanese cult classics, erotic manga and the fictional saga of a Palestinian family through the years.
‘This drought of silence / that does not feed me. I mean, I refuse / to hold his vanity. And demand to know / myself better. Cull his soul but only / for memory, carve a history / for myself in which my reflection / alone can be seen.’
The author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace reflects on writing out of desperation, Fiona Apple, and the novel as a ghostly space.
Before I could go back to the Philippines in real life, I did so on paper, through my first novel.
I meant / to just take a photo of you. Forgive // my trespasses, my negatives, / but remember them. My ghosts // were asked to lay in their bed, / and so said: I am not like them // I am not. This is the blood I’ll leave / behind on bark to bark.
At this point I will disobey and say / you are free to go if you choose. Choice is a complicated part of describing / Palestinian heroes or terrorists.
The award-winning writer talks about her new acclaimed short story collection, the anxiety of exile, and figuring out which narrative you belong to.
Oh Mars, you mistook me / for someone / I briefly was. / Girl alight / with impending loss, / vessel for bearing / out an arch / -itectural illusion. A wall / isn’t truly built / to exclude, but to instate / something worth defending.
Ashok Kondabolu speaks to Vijay Iyer about an alternate history of jazz, opening institutional spaces, and the resistance and defiance within music.
‘No words of a Savior are news to a Woman. / No words of a resurrection sound gospel[-enough] / when you are both the Crucifixion and the Crowd.’
Three generations of Cambodian women in my family wrestle with the inherited trauma of the Khmer Rouge
Scotch-taped at the mirrors’ edges were photographs of birthdays, family vacations, running in the rain. Their edges had curled from sixteen years of steam from hot showers and baths.
‘Skin molted like a lazy adder/while sinew pooled like glue.//Bone fractured next/like desert rose glass/then melted too.’
April’s releases by Asian diasporic writers include new works from Samrat Upadhyay, Durga Chew-Bose, and Mai Der Vang.
A local art exhibit turns a feminist gaze on Muslim and Sikh women’s head coverings.
A day without a hate crime, Asian-American activism in 1970s Los Angeles, worlds made possible by the NEA
‘We do not want to hover like a line of fog, a river’s shadow, but slower: shadows in conversation, gentle only when we don’t bother expecting to be heard.’
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee talks about her new memoir, the restorative power of writing, the doubling that haunts her life, and why Slaughterhouse-Five is a permanent part of her mind.
From Hari Alluri’s electrifying poetry to Patty Yumi Cottrell’s dark absurdism, March is a month filled with exciting new releases from Asian diasporic writers.
‘When I held him in my palm, I learned to love what made me. From time to time, I think about my father, his country, clean hands. I like to think of his hands as clean. I like to think I owe nothing to his body.’
The newspapers were quick to christen the members of the underground movement with new names: subversives, communist insurgents, terrorists, guerrillas, rebels. Yet in my mind, they were simply family.
‘A man kisses a pigeon and another kisses a dog and / both times I look away to gather the spikes of trees into a / dripping faucet.’
Language boundaries and the quest for diversity, empowerment, and the need for Feminism and International Women’s Day
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan illustrates the life of Japanese feminist writer Raichō Hiratsuka and her magazine dedicated to empowering women
Carving a subversive current in the cinematic status quo, the deep roots of Islamophobia in America, and the political power of laughter.
The sun sieves through the canopy— / rivers are relenting. My soul seats itself // for the first time. Where it is quiet, it becomes cold. / There is nothing I must do but die— // what joy to let go of all things—what ease to give up.
The author of How I Became a North Korean speaks about the power of fiction to give clarity to the world.
Poetry mixtapes, music for aliens, Asian American science fiction and more.
An interview with the Muslim American writer and activist about how Trump has unintentionally made America great
‘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.’