After her death, the class continued to meet every week until the end of the semester. What else could we do?
As I celebrate Meena Alexander’s life, and revisit her books, I’m acutely aware of my mistaken impression that there would be so much more time in the future to get to know one another better.
Malayalam, English, Arabic, French: Meena Alexander inhabited all these languages, reminding her of the many homes she had lived in and experienced.
I read and re-read Atmospheric Embroidery so that I could ask her something that would be of interest. But I did not get to ask those questions. Her answers are in the poems.
The opening lines of Manhattan Music are, of course, like a poem: “A summer ago I thought I would lose my mind. Riding the subway. Up and down. Down and up…”
As I looked at her notes from my papers in her class and her emails to me, I realized she had so much belief in my work. She was a teacher who had so much belief in her students.
Meena was the very first poet I discovered who named places and sounds and smells and sights from Kerala, the emerald green, southern-most coast of India.
Meena Alexander taught us that our stories required narratives that were true to the ruptures of our lives.
In mining the contours of being elsewhere, Meena Alexander widened the narrow passage between her birth and her death.
Meena Alexander’s work shimmered with beauty but always—always—the tension of violence quivered just beneath
If I dissolve when the push of the world comes in on me, I know now it is a form of longing, or rather, a longing for form
Essays and remembrances for the late poet, scholar, and essayist Meena Alexander (1951-2018)
In a new portfolio from A World Without Cages, eight incarcerated writers explore the underworld.
I am buried by my own guilt and shame for a crime that impacted the victim, my family, and my community.
The Buddha has been in this prison for as long as any of us can remember. He has always been here, watching over our Sangha meetings, sitting with us in practice.
In prison, most relationships are transactional. Rey, for some reason, shows love to everyone on the cellblock.
Not an assumption; not a name you learned to remember, not a fleshy shape or a face you already recognized
In English, you choose to be gender-neutral. In Indonesian, it’s a gift from the language.
A changing consciousness within Mu Dan’s poetry stirs a listening in his translator
夜來沉醉卸妝遲 || With night you sink drunk slow to undo/ your hair
How the blurring of a relationship may point to a more fertile ground lying between the lines, in which multiple desires can co-exist.
A Sikh American law student writes about working with detained Sikh migrants.
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.
In 2017, we stop a deportation flight to Cambodia with thirty fathers, brothers, and sons on board. A few months later, many of them are deported anyway.
From the border cities of Juárez and El Paso to America’s courtrooms, Sasha Pimentel’s For Want of Water is not a collection to chart a way home. It’s a way to claim one.
This is a rectangular dream / which inevitably brings forth a rectangular waiting / a floating country can’t pillow a broken dream / and I’ve never dared say goodnight
The majority of Palestinians live outside of the occupied territories, awake within a paradox: If it is a demand of land that tethers us, what do we make of those millions of us without a memory of the land to cling to?
Fatimah Asghar’s insistence on joy is a refusal of the demand that marginalized writers flatten trauma for the white gaze
The campus was haunted and we all knew it. That summer we flinched around every corner, put our hands out in front of us when we turned off the lights.
For a film that positions itself as a watershed in the Asian American rom-com canon, when tasked with illuminating romance’s political valences, Crazy Rich Asians pulls up short.
Borders and exclusion are the flip side of identity. They are all components of the question: “Who belongs?”
A collection of essays, poems, and stories by Asian American writers that trouble, expand, and redefine the space of the camp
A personal history of race and the American outdoors, from Chicago’s Red Summer to Japanese American incarceration
On Poetry magazine’s trans and gender non-conforming poets issue and the costs of being included
With only the moonlight, we could barely see what we’d tag. All around my tag were faded names, names we didn’t bother to read in the dark—our graffiti forebears. One day, we too would be unread.
We are our skins; we are our hides. But my skin, and the skin of others like me, has been torn. It is at the site of this gash that our identity coheres, that our identity is espied.
What a review of Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds tells us about critics’ narrow perceptions of immigrant and war-affected identities
CUNY’s legacy, the limits and violence of Asian American success stories, and what’s at stake in the fight for accessible public education
How the Japanese American poet, art critic, and performer helped shape Modernist poetry as he brought Japanese poetic forms into English
That was the ﬁrst time I knew that there must have been others out there, just like me, who were sad and lonely and just wanted some kind of beauty in their lives and maybe for a boy to love them.
I remember exactly where I was when I found out Ren Hang killed himself.
She felt her frozen image splitting, cracking a webbed pattern over her. She fell like shards of ice and glass sprinkling, twinkling, and shattering like diamond rain upon her mother.
In their new poetry collections, Chen Chen and Eunsong Kim offer up new possibilities for kinship and survival.
I am tempted to reframe the flashing atrocities of memory and imbue them with significance—to stave off the cold trickle of fear like germs in the abstract.
For some reason, all of Warhol’s portraits show Mao from an angle that reveals only one of the Chairman’s ears.
Three NYC imams, the Aegean sea, and one writer’s passage toward a new relation to faith
Half-punk, half-easy listening, half-anti-authoritarian troublemaker, half-cheesy lounge music wannabe, how straddling two cultures has shaped my creative life
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.
What gets lost in translation in the myth of American benevolence during the Korean War
Animals are strangely perceptive—in their instinct to survive, they find a home
Nobody can stop things if they want to go back to their roots.
A quest for Armenian coffee in the inauguration’s aftermath led one writer to ask, how much of ourselves do we need to let go in order to see ourselves in others?
When the tide rises, it is easy for the fish to prey on the ant, but when it ebbs, the fish becomes the ant’s prey.
The feeling of being claimed is halfway to feeling home, even if on the inside I’ve often felt like I didn’t quite belong.
One person’s ancestor is another person’s ghost—it’s all a matter of perspective.
Through stories, essays, and poems, writers imagine new narratives that speak to Trump’s Muslim ban
On Marie Kondo and the painful joy of preserving family history
We don’t know what we need because we don’t know who we are. We don’t know who we are because we don’t remember who we were.
How the fight against displacement calls for New York City’s Asian immigrant communities to defect from the “model minority” narrative.
What the parallels between the violent murders of The Walking Dead’s Glenn Rhee and Vincent Chin tell us about being Asian in America.
Thirty five years ago, Asian America’s faith in the justice system was shaken. Have we forgotten the lesson?
Before I could go back to the Philippines in real life, I did so on paper, through my first novel.
Three generations of Cambodian women in my family wrestle with the inherited trauma of the Khmer Rouge
A local art exhibit turns a feminist gaze on Muslim and Sikh women’s head coverings.
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.
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.
Palestinian American community organizer Aber Kawas reflects on #IMarchWithLinda and putting the spotlight on those who are less visible
Delivered on Inauguration Day 2017
‘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.’
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.’
Dissecting the violence of state, warfare, and language
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?
As Election Day approaches, remembering the story of my parents’ immigrant survival, from Japanese internment to community activism, proves more important than ever.
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?
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
Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye questions Singapore’s accepted national narratives.
Coming to terms with my mixed-race heritage as a kid in Southern California’s largest Asian enclave
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.
What the painful process of learning Korean, the language spoken by those who love me, has taught me about facing rejection as a writer
“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.”
From Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth” to the FBI files of HT Tsiang, a journey into the archives with Hua Hsu
Indentured labor in the Caribbean marked the beginning of disease, dependencies, prejudices, and ills that continue to plague Indo-Caribbean communities
As immigrant communities reshape Tennessee’s racial landscape, how the state has become a breeding ground for anti-Muslim sentiment
Solving the mystery behind a Chinese Indonesian writer’s forgotten account of the final years of Dutch colonial rule through Indonesia’s armed revolution
Writers respond to Trillin’s doggerel “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?”
The artist’s interactive graphic novel adaptation of Nam Le’s “The Boat” is an entry point to a conversation about refugees today
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.
In Huan Hsu’s The Porcelain Thief, the search for a family treasure unearths the spell of nostalgia
New York City through Marlon James’ Booker Prize-winning novel
An imaginary setting gave me, a child of immigrants, the authority to write about belonging unquestionably to one’s surroundings
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?
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
When spell check doesn’t recognize your name
‘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.’
‘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.’
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 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’
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 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.
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.
How the feel-good politics of multiculturalism have blinded the literary world to the roots of racial inequality
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
Coming to terms with grief after the 2011 T?hoku 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.
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.
“I fear that we’ll remember Fred’s evocative style, but forget his penetrating political substance.” On remembering what not to forget.
Treating the invisible wounds of America’s violent past, Rajkamal Kahlon edges closer to finding peace in herself.
“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 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.
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.
A review of Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know
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
“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
Where the “Yellow Peril incarnate” meets one novelist’s depictions of China and its diaspora in the early 20th century
Remembering Agha Shahid Ali, 12 years after his passing
Salman Rushdie’s multitudes, from his visionary early work to the celebrity he has become
100 years on, how lessons from the Ghadar movement show the limits of civil rights efforts in the US today.
On the centenntial of its founding, a short history of the Ghadr Party, and the ghosts that live on
Rahul Mehta and new pathways for the hyphenated writer
The legacy of an intellectual friendship in an age of Islamophobia—on the 10-year anniversary of Said’s death.
Notes for a hypothetical interview with the author re: Taipei, living in the present, memory, moral responsibility, technology, zen, etc.
Bill Cheng, Anthony Marra, and the freedom to write what you don’t know.
A look at entertainment lawyer Helen Wan’s debut novel, The Partner Track.
10-year-old Kavi K tells us about Soman Chainani’s new fairy-tale adventure
Where Asian Americans fall in our broken criminal justice system
In his musical operatic tribute to the former first lady of the Philippines, David Byrne leans on pop psychology to tell the story of the “steel butterfly.”
Scholar Vivek Bald chronicles an early lost history of a time of Black-Bengali racial solidarity
“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.”
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.
“Stay with the music, that’s all it’s about anyways.” A night with legendary Chinese jazz pianist Xia Jia.
The director’s slow-moving films about Tibetan life may feel like documentaries, but according to him, they aren’t.
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.
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.
An alarming new documentary blames China for America’s woes.
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.
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.
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?
The Leche author’s first novel—set in Hawaii and replete with lush pop-cultural references—can be read as a postmodern YA gem.
A new documentary about the famed Chinese artist and dissident focuses on his activism more than it does his art.
Queer poet Ching-In Chen’s letter to her younger self procures its epistolary strength from the loosely connected ideas of the zuihitsu.
A new novel, written just before the Arab Spring, tells the story of a hacker turned revolutionary.
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.”
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.
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.
Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel of a dystopic ’90s L.A. tangles with both disasters and distractions.
A Grantland writer and Nirvana fan ponders the quintessential ’90s question.
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.
In the year 2352, they scratch their heads over Instagram, Mitt Romney, Kony, and Siri.
The British desi band’s kitschy, three-chord hit appeared on episodes of Friends and in a Gap commercial.
The ‘90s saw Western designers outsourcing not just manufacturing, but inspiration, to Asia.
Author, professor, and provocateur Amitava Kumar has a very specific question for New York City book clerks.
Delhi-based reggae MC Taru Dalmia travels to villages in India to record songs that speak truth to power.
The singer stars in Coldplay’s perplexing (and embarrassing) “Princess of China” music video.