‘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.
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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
“…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”
How fear of the “the mob” turned into racial exclusion. Excerpts from a recently published archive of anti-Asian fear
Actor, writer, and father Randall Park shares an hour on the phone with Ashok Kondabolu, recalling his childhood in LA and how he stumbled into acting.
Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist catches up with documentary photographer Annie Ling at her Brooklyn apartment.
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.
“I logged onto the Internet and searched for others like me. I never found them, but I invited them over to my hotel room anyway.”
“The commodity aesthetic of cuteness, the discursive aesthetic of the interesting, and the performative aesthetic of zaniness help us get at some of the most important social dynamics underlying life in late capitalist society today.”
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.
Remember those “Asian thug” villains from the earliest Detective Comics?
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.
Cultural critic Rey Chow discusses her new book—including how the acclaimed Austrian filmmaker’s “staging of the extreme” gestures toward the pornographic.
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.
Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, on why a feline companion might make you a better writer.
Advice from Catherine Chung, a fiction editor at Guernica and author of Forgotten Country.
“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.
Whiting Award-winner Alexander Chee on post-its, the virtues of retyping, and committing to the process.
The director’s slow-moving films about Tibetan life may feel like documentaries, but according to him, they aren’t.
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.
Following in the footsteps of Dorothea Lange, who photographed stoic, suffering faces during the Depression, the Chinese-born artist traveled across recession-worn America, capturing a different sort of face.
Buwei Yang Chao’s famed 1945 cookbook helped coined the phrase “stir-fry.” “Wrapling” and “rambling,” her words for the simple and ruffle-edged dumplings, were less successful.
“I want a literature that is not made from literature.”
Make no mistake, the pinnacle of all graphic notation is emoji.
Stereogum editor Amrit Singh has a hang with Das Racist hypeman Ashok Kondabolu. Proper nouns mentioned: George Washington, Britney Spears, Jenny Slate (a.k.a. the “Marcel the Shell” girl), and C. Mohan (Bollywood’s most iconic designer).
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.
In an interview about his new book, State Out of the Union, author Jeff Biggers examines Arizona, the so-called “meth lab of democracy,” and the rogue state’s cycles of repression and resistance.
“The first real song I wrote was a book report for Lord of the Flies.”
“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.
Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist interviews Anil Dash, the blogger and technologist, at Financier Patisserie, near Astor Place.
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.
At the Japanese American internment camp site, an art exhibit featuring photographs of Muslims has been the subject of complaints.
The veteran comedian, actor and director was the epitome of Hong Kong’s ’90s-era mo lei tau subculture.
Our mystery veteran agents answer your questions about the book industry.
Poet and journalist Luis H. Francia journeys through Japan, bearing witness to the devastation wrought by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami—and to the creativity arising from these very areas.
Diver Vicki Manalo Draves won two gold medals in rations-enforced London. To celebrate, she ate horse.
Kitamura chats with Hermione Hoby about her new novel, a “collage of colonialism.”
Matthew Salesses on the power of words and appearances.
How did a multinational corporation like Nike appeal to diverse markets without violating the principle of colorblindness that became increasingly and insidiously sacrosanct in the U.S. in the 1990s? A deconstruction of two infamous Tiger Woods ads sheds some light.
How do you get from Cindy Sherman, to Nikki S. Lee, and back?
Queer poet Ching-In Chen’s letter to her younger self procures its epistolary strength from the loosely connected ideas of the zuihitsu.
“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.
Part two of an epic conversation between Ashok Kondabolu of Das Racist and Comedy Central comedian Sheng Wang.
Can a movie that explicitly demonstrates the darkest grotesqueries of pornography actually function as a refusal to condemn it? Tsai Ming-Liang’s The Wayward Cloud hints at this possibility.
“Pacquiao became the second man in boxing history to win world titles in six different weight divisions. There he was: our uncle, our Tito, our brother, our kuya.”
“Since their submission was purely auditory, no one at Sprite realized they were Asian American.”
“My father’s warehouse was close to the decayed parts of the harbor, which rambled on into the slums built by smugglers and sailors.”
Former Marine mess cook John Gun Pin knew how to handle a cleaver. Harley Spiller (a.k.a. Inspector Collector) remembers his old friend, and the last dish he prepared: cured crab, or ha cha.
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.
Ying Li talks to her novelist mother, Lin Chang, about the first Chinese-language TV show to be shot in the United States.
A new Twitter feed goes after those who commit the common crime of misspelling Mahatma Gandhi’s last name.
The Tokyo New Wave actress featured brilliantly in films by Ozu, Mizoguchi, and Kurosawa.
A writer joins a protest against a proposed Walmart in L.A.’s Chinatown.
Over the course of the ’90s, Filipino American scratch crews transformed the realm of hip-hop DJing.
On the domestic terror of the 1990s, and avoiding cultural amnesia.
The transnational writer dishes about Law and Order, her favorite drinks, and less-than-romantic writing habits.
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.
The leaked playlist for the London Olympics opening ceremony is almost absurdly eclectic, and includes the bhangra track, “Nachna Onda Nei.”
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.
Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel of a dystopic ’90s L.A. tangles with both disasters and distractions.
But the media bungles it up with an overly simplistic “Red China” narrative.
A Grantland writer and Nirvana fan ponders the quintessential ’90s question.
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.
An up-close and personal take on the hip-hop group’s love of kung fu.
Spy novels as Asian kitsch.
A love letter to the magazine that defined a generation.
It was a banner year for Asian American narrative films.
The artist’s plastic-bag installations caught the attention of the NYPD.
The Aerogrammes author chats about her preferred superpower and her love of Norton Anthologies.
In the year 2352, they scratch their heads over Instagram, Mitt Romney, Kony, and Siri.
Ma-Yi Theater Company pays tribute to Jessica Hagedorn with a special performance.
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.