I often ask myself what I am learning or bearing witness to by being here. What is in front of me and why. I frequently have no answers to my questions.
We’re looking for creative work about life in jail, prison, and immigrant detention.
i say i’ll be / dressless, skinless, curated / and pickled. i say i’ll give it / all up for a chance to be warm.
Mythologies have their way of explaining the basic human condition: that there will always be some where or thing you wish to get to or back to.
The moon appears / the small clip of a nail a paring knife / a chalk mark / left to linger in the sky
When I was born, my parents put me on a rug on the ground and stood / staring at me until the light outside dimmed and then there in the / darkening we three were quiet for a while
Confronting whiteness, the ghazal as an elegy to queerness, and talking to Valeria Luiselli about American immigration policy.
I could live like this, I thought, lie here / and have my own kind of drifting blue.
We wonder if this is what heaven is like—an old movie theater with thick velvet curtains that part, as the lights dim and the naked cherubs peering down from the blue and gold ceiling vanish, like comets.
Văn An had neglected ritual, not realizing that this was a land now full of ghosts left too long unmoored. That there might be consequences for forgetting to fear.
I dream my mother / unravels / hair out of my mouth / in English / she asks me / to speak Chinese / coils the hair / into a dark gloss / whorled / in her palm
50 years after My Lai, 15 years after Iraq, how much can history really teach us about how we make decisions today?
How do I tell you that I have done this before? / How to build a diorama of what I am not.
Bob Dylan in China, womanhood beyond identity politics, and toughing it out in Cairo.
Writers Weike Wang and Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi read and discuss their compelling and unusual coming-of-age novels with Madhu Kaza.
I am the last of them—a woman with her own dreams, not salvaged from the cloud-based data lake that I created.
The Shanghai Literary Review editors and contributors talk about their creative process, translingual practice, and literary journal publication.
North Korean poetry, slavery and life insurance, and the photography of Japanese incarceration.
Against the mainstream imaginary of North Korea as irretrievably unknowable, Krys Lee and Barbara Demick discuss what it means to tell and imagine stories from there.
The making of a Muslim intellectual, remembering Asma Jahangir, and the urbanization of Chinese fiction.
Hala Alyan, Hayan Charara and Marwa Helal explore the boundaries between personal and political, as well as what a home looks like amidst conditions of war and displacement.
I lay my head down on a pillow pilled / with characters, yellow tracks and traces / of the name I was given.
Remembering the Pulse nightclub shooting, Liu Jian’s latest film, the coded gaze of art history, and more. We also continue our Black History Month series.
The usual / drama of chiaroscuro, / how it begins / in medias res for the sake / of the viewer.
Dina Nayeri, Rami Karim, Alia Malek, and Roja Heydarpour discuss the complex nature of home: a place that elusively remains in flux through return and exile.
Viet Dinh, Oki Sogumi and Janani Balasubramanian talk about care work and connections amidst premonitions of disaster and ecological collapse.
For some reason, all of Warhol’s portraits show Mao from an angle that reveals only one of the Chairman’s ears.
Having two eyes prevents us from simplifying things, from seeing everything around us two-dimensionally. I guess you could say that seeing through two eyes is what makes us human.
My child, we all become white-haired soon enough.
i have seen the line at the bottom of sky crack glimmers of clear light
Think about it: if rain accumulating above someone / resumes descent, where does it fall?
In an increasingly divided world, translated literature brings us closer together. As the year draws to a close, we asked some of our favorite writers, editors, and translators for their recommendations.
Animals are strangely perceptive—in their instinct to survive, they find a home
All my early life was tied up in tales of nasi goreng.
That American thing · The good old good
Pray tell me, how much
are we paying for the sermon?
One person’s ancestor is another person’s ghost—it’s all a matter of perspective.
showbiz etceteras · commercial spaces · newspapered ideas
Before I could go back to the Philippines in real life, I did so on paper, through my first novel.
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.
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.
‘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.’
‘Skin molted like a lazy adder/while sinew pooled like glue.//Bone fractured next/like desert rose glass/then melted too.’
Apply to be a intern at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.
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.’
‘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 Raich? 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.
Poetry mixtapes, music for aliens, Asian American science fiction and more.
‘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’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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?’
‘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.’
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.
More resources for safeguarding, taking precaution, approaching danger, and more.
Another set of resources for transformation, joining resistance movements, building other worlds, and more.
‘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.
‘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.
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
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?”
‘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.
A return to ghosts, negotiating art and music, borders and bars, political aesthetics, and more.
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.
‘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’
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.’
‘No motions./A tonic in page display tufts,/call me switch-foot, a check away from homeless./You get there. Intentional.’
‘Grief is deep green and carries a sharp scent./ Memory and rain are like nothing that keeps./ She disappeared in the season of roubai.’
Remembering family genealogies, the Asian American Movement, solidarity lines, and organizing for liberation.
Lost memories of India’s Olympic team, transversal writing, translation and multilingualism, the necropastoral, vampires, and more.
‘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.’
‘That day, I came of age / And became a child.’
Leland Cheuk and YiShun Lai discuss their debut novels, dysfunctional families, and writing the Asian American antihero
‘I remember when I first learned my ABCs. A is for apple, B is for bird, and C is for cat, but further experience taught me, that ABC means American Born Chinese.’
To get free, to tell the truth, sometimes requires new language that might not fit through that narrow channel of the dominant culture.
‘Sometimes you are damaged. You think poetry will repair you. You think poetry should repair you. You shake your fist at it when it doesn’t. You walk hand-in-hand with your damage, into the world. You do not speak. You are surprised when people register you are there.’
‘there was / my mother packaging miàn tiáo by the sink. / breath in the morning. breath in the afternoon. / the way history comes back to haunt me with / a plump fist. the way my mouth, a cave, opened / and closed.’
‘Imagination can make things more real than they would be if they were just reported from real life’—the author of In the Country speaks on writing stories of south-south migration and when not to be faithful to a map.
‘You hold the knife, you drink the sorrows. / You burn your hands making tea. / When something hurts, / You no longer feel rage. / You wipe up the mess. / Outside, dusk is the color of Violet and ash.’
From the slave ship Zong to the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru, two experimental poets draw on legal papers and ship records as they raise spirits from the sea
‘I wanted to be the last of my people, / a girl without mother, father, sister, brother— / a girl belonging to no one, / my only belongings a cormorant skirt / and a cage of tiny birds.’
‘Danny’s hands dropped to his knees as he gasped. He felt something…a fist pressed against his face. I’m being punched, he thought as he fell. This is me being punched. It was a familiar feeling. Almost nostalgic.’
Poets Monica Sok, Aimee Suzara, and David Mura explore their political landscapes through poems on the Khmer Rouge, the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, family, and antiblackness.
My shadow turned to rust / …dust at the first strong wind / … the lungs of others / …hard to breathe / …to follow me / No one to lick out your lungs? / – sweep out the curious orange flakes?
When we point towards the horizon and say this is the color / of our grandfather, we do not know for how long // the night will carry your shade or what winds / brought you here.
‘The right to hxstory is the right to know. / I need to know how my mind is theft. / My body is property because my mind is theft. / I say “woman” and I can still move my mouth.’
We graze our fingers through damselfish schools, // but our appetites are as insatiate as the sea is for land. / We gnaw the shore, legs wound in seaweed, / skin flayed by the tongues of clams, pulling, pushing.
‘At Downtown Crossing // he trail the shoppers, buying nothing, & rub / his rented nose. He know: myself am hell. / His feet unmoved in the snow.’
‘How many times in the dark? A brick for every freedom to hold its dream in. Will the Sun make his own grim entrance?’
You said you were an ant, eyes frozen / on an indigo wave looming over the world. / (You reset every time / you move forward.)
‘All the bitter things, one by one, in a rush, / She wants to swallow. Clothed in blueblack scales in a forest of iodine-colored seaweeds, / She wants to be chased by a shark.’
Journalist and music critic Hua Hsu talks to Ashok Kondabolu about the best and worst of his dad’s record collection and how his fascination with rap beef inspired his upcoming book
‘my hulled hands crash against the tide / to the unloved I will offer / a part of me / in hope my wards will be made complete / for another life’
‘when I am dark/ when I am no more light/ when I am no / more an abomination/ when I am no more shame/ when I am face / again/ when the collective being of me worships god, family, / education and the collective administrative silver spoon, / then I will be back in the fold.’
‘When the Japanese were in power, I realized that the Dutch East Indies with all of its aristocratic ways, was finished. I must have the guts to say goodbye to it. And whatever fate befalls me, I will remain here.’
‘We are given a face, / which means we are given / a vessel of blood to call body, / & lungs–that know the alchemy / of altering wind into breath–the way / plants are always transforming / someone’s last words / into oxygen.’
‘You brace yourself against the oncoming. But today the sea glistens like the fish you used to scale.’
‘Murder is to mitosis is to mercy. / We are mostly legs too: part tendon, part pardon, kicking / or curling.’
‘In this way, people kept talking about her, and she continued to come to family gatherings. In the eyes of my relatives, she remained a problem that refused to be simplified.’
‘If not agates, then barnacles, if not / sweet-smelling seaweed, then shattered shells./ The traveler need not journey on. // If not mussels, then sea glass, if not // smooth surfaces, then rocks pocked by anemones. / The traveler’s journey is one of return.’
‘Match lit by a shadow’s curiosity. / Though I was not there for it, I still tasted their meat // and their marrow held a sweetness.’
‘Do you hear / the rainfall beating / on cowhide skin / father? It is the life / of autumn, / supernova / booming’
‘Your mouth a little wound with a little reason to be / involved is why alienation is a body part, which moves / you to harshly ask if death really wanted what it wanted, / if its sole duty is to be observed all the time.’
‘but what if it was something once / vulnerable, downy, and warm? // something severed or stillborn? // something with pulse and blood / and breath bitten right out of it?’
‘And they were a solemn people: naming / the world, mapping it out, arguing about what it meant. Clandestine as / husbands’
‘Pastor says / abstain, says sins of the flesh, says hell. But when we see the boys / with their strong corded necks that make us crazy, we want and we do not.’
“ALL WILL COME BACK FROM ROOTS – NOTHING KILLS BLACKBERRY – BUT WHERE ARE ALL THE SPARROWS”
“When she began crying, I thought about the rainfall in Viet Nam, how she said it was so heavy a person could hide in it.”
‘They love long hours of blackout. / They love this snuffed out match / of a little city. To the dust that separates // stained lace. To the poor / thrum of humidity.’
‘The first boy that I dated weighted down his coif / with so much hair gel that the crest atop his pate / was hard as horses’ teeth’
‘Last week some of the other kids dug a hole to China in the dirt lot behind the Purtells’ house. Down at the end of Locust Street, that swampy neverland that reeked of skunk cabbage.’
‘Where was Mas Han? What was he running from? And why hadn’t he called or tried to get in contact with me? These were my questions, those of a wife, a woman, who had no idea how what had happened would affect the fate of the Indonesian people.’
‘On the radio they are playing a record that is skipping. A deep-voiced woman joyfully sings, “My life has just begun– gun– gun–”’
‘No others no-place/what to do but hoard the remaining solaces’
Debut novelist of The Hundred-Year Flood talks lower-body ghosts, communication subterfuge, and American entitlement
‘It was the mind repeating itself out of hope— / a mind that inhabits the same metaphor over and over’
‘When I ask, the histologist responds, / Cells have no color. / We use ink to color the slides.’
‘I relinquish / the greatest thing I have / for my greatest wish. / I turn into sea foam. / I learn nothing / ceases to exist’
“in the jungle they hide until / the seekers, bearing lime leaves jail / them in the silver night.”
US immigrant law’s influence on the “model minority” myth, “giving circles,” and a WWII veteran/rebellious photographer
Never / reaching orgasm, / the colony names its price and I, / hot cent of foreign cash, / sell it slant. Daughters / say it with ozone: my sex is a metaphor / for too much / good luck.
Feminist sci-fi movies, queering Islam, and injustice in America
Be calm. Soon / we will bear sentimentality, scent / what is lost in these cells with carrion, / asphodel, turpentine, forsythia / blooming somewhere in the dark.
Sandra Bland, reparations for British imperialism, building solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, and more.
I didn’t expect him to smile and say, “I love you,” as Americans did. I had never seen him smile and I would never expect him to embrace me; he never had. But perhaps there was some way—some subtle, casual way—that he could acknowledge my worth.
When did I first realize my parents were not infinite? / That I could see the end of them? Past their capes & catchphrases?
Beloved Nintendo president passes, body shaming Serena Williams, and fighting the “model minority” myth
eating crabs with your fingers pre-Spanish fork and spoon and pre-KFC native chicken you can be served by dancing feathered natives that is true it all tastes good
Celebrating America, appropriating kimonos, a badass Desi henchwoman, and much more on this week’s roundup from the interweb
‘The image of my small life without the young man was one of a library with its doors locked, or simpler and more terrifying, that of a book with half its pages missing.’
Writer-artist-professor Tan Lin talks fictive relatives, the narrative of an immigrant TV culture, and ‘becoming Chinese’ in America
how to be clear as the earth without clinging to the sand? / flowing through my hands like water / one seed clings to my palm
Queer Asian American history, “racist Asians,” Bobby Jindal’s shaky start, and two landmark birthdays
‘Our apartment, our home, became an unfamiliar space. We still slept in the same queen bed, but no longer did we speak of upgrading to the capacious king. We could now easily fit two additional people in the valley of the bedsheet between us.’
‘in the haiku I send her / and the silence she sends back, / hell no, nan da yo, / call it off, snap it shut, trash / it, just let it be, let me be’
“The month in question was April, the cruelest month. It was the month in which a war that had run on for a very long time would lose its limbs, as is the way of wars.”
Bhargava, the late director of award-winning film Patang, reminisces about growing up in Chicago and his fascination with India’s festival of kites.
She petrified her / Secrets. “About what?” / That she’s been chosen. / “She chose silence.” How? / “Like the light, deeply / Fissured.
Grappling with Black deaths, tackling Western literary thought, celebrating Ramadan, and more.
How scared God must have been / when the woman who ate all the fruit of the tree he’d planted / was cutting out each red body from / between her legs
‘Over the past three years, the desert had become Hiroshi’s home. Hacienda seemed very far away to him, both in terms of time and distance, and he didn’t want to go back.’ An excerpt from Gene Oishi’s Fox Drum Bebop
The writer discusses China before and since Tiananmen, abandoned enemy spies, and how solidarity will build a nation.
Upon entering a shrine, it seems to hold ghosts / The belly of an abbess suggests pregnancy / Behind a heavy curtain, the suggestion of people
They send flowers before guns now / all the thorns plucked from the stems. / An order to weave the dirge / before the mortar sings.
TV as a battleground for diversity, JiHAE’s newest video, the lack of AA tech execs, and more.
At the short end of Bombay’s boom-to-bust cycle
as if smell promises taste and always delivers. / Pleasure, when observed, wets into compulsiveness.
Obama on emojis, Pacquiao v. Mayweather, protests on the Japanese Prime Minister, and more.
Tasty Chinese-Mexican food, Zayn’s post-One Direction plans, review of The Sympathizer, and more.
Body-shaming culture, Purdue’s new cultural center, representation in video games, and more.
The relationship of food and culture, an interview with Kevin Na, the poorly conceived #RaceTogether campaign, and more.
Peek behind the scenes on an Asian American foodie adventure, attend boba school, learn where New Orlean’s two Chinatowns went, and more.
I went to see what people are really like / in a thousand human ways.
Nina Pham’s path towards recovery, the legacy Momofuku Ando leaves behind, Jin’s comeback story, and more.
“Fred Ho flooded my ears with essential facts about the history of Afro-Asian political and cultural struggle”
A review of Matthew Olzmann’s Mezzanines
In response to the Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown of 1989, the Asian American Arts Centre organized a landmark exhibition of artworks. To commemorate the protest’s 25th anniversary, The Margins partnered with Creative Time Reports to interview the artists involved.
“…I was more apprentice than student, and he was more family than friend. Our time together bridged the waters of music and delved into politics, healing, life, and death.”
In 1999, Fred Ho reflected on his political and musical evolution, from the Asian American Movement on.
“Spock was good in math and science; so was I. Spock tended to suppress his emotions (his human side), and so did I.” Fred Ho on coming of age.
A former student recalls the ups-and-downs of Ho’s cult of personality.
Colleagues, collaborators, and friends remember political and musical visionary Fred Ho.
“Someone is stalking Whitney Houston and I have been hired to be her bodyguard”—an excerpt from Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing
With the novelist who long thought she was a Korean American impostor
The author of Picking Bones from Ash on Japanese Buddhism, tsunami survivors, and her trip into the “exclusion zone”
The L.A.-based music critic-scholar on border crossing, his “West Coast vibe”, and why we should leave the guilt and take the pleasure
An excerpt from Chang-rae Lee’s On Such A Full Sea
“It had always been that one of Norton’s fondest dreams—the dream, I think, of many brilliant and overextended men—was that one month, or one year, he’d find himself in a warm place with absolutely no commitments.”
This New York-based poet once dreamt of being a trapeze artist.
On Sunday afternoons, you may often find poet Kazim Ali at the roller rink.
A native son of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the author of the Detective Jack Yu series makes a mean pitcher of Bloody Mary.
Watch the conversation between the BaoHaus bad boy and the Hot 97 host
Asian American Writers’ Workshop cofounder Marie Myung-Ok Lee kicks off our new weekly Q&A series with writers.
In three decades, the United States will have a “majority-minority” population. We asked four artists to consider this demographic shift. Here is Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter, an abstract artist and painter who draws on the visual elements of graffiti culture.
“I suddenly noticed an odor in the air. It was sweet and persistent but not at all unpleasant. I took a deep breath and let myself be guided by the smell.”
“Nut was hungry. Nut had to move.” Originally self-published in 1935, this hallucinatory, quasi-experimental novel follows the peripatetic musings of a young man throughout a single day in Depression-era New York.
Easy Rider and recently deceased Dennis Hopper apparently had a collection of “Chinese” warrior prints that went up for bidding. Except that the warrior is not Chinese… or a warrior…
Scholar Vivek Bald chronicles an early lost history of a time of Black-Bengali racial solidarity
Ocean Vuong, in search of the “new erotic,” guest-curates a portfolio of poems in time for Valentine’s Day.
Link-bait for the Monday-challenged.