Mama runs inside to bang on the bathroom door and yell Chinese vocabulary words at me—yellow light, borrowed light, get in the car, open. I dip my head underwater so every word sounds like a vowel, oceanic and slow.
A collection of essays, poems, and stories by Asian American writers that trouble, expand, and redefine the space of the camp
The dysthemic artificial intelligence scientist took a book of poetry off the shelf and sat on her couch. What was she ushering in and what was a grand program for which she was simply helpless agent?
These are all birth stories, but I will not tell you mine.
I keep the butts of my clove cigarettes in a candy tin. I pound it shut, hide it away. So it stays a secret.
The doll stares at its owner, eyes sparkling with cruelty. It wakes the baby up, hands her the toy block. The baby, as though possessed, crams the toy in her mouth.
The world held us / In glass circles
My child, we all become white-haired soon enough.
This was the first time he had seen so many exiled Tibetans of his own flesh and blood in a foreign land. Though they were only a few feet away, it was as if they were separated by ranges of mountains.
From its very beginning this story is fated to be exposed by the light.
‘Shayan closed his eyes and played for a couple of minutes. His touch was impeccable. His timing was flawless. His body movements were graceful. He ended on a C flat with his eyes still closed.’
All my early life was tied up in tales of nasi goreng.
The masjid wasn’t even close to finished, but our fathers were starting from the top and were building their way down.
They always had us at hello, the Americans.
‘I ventured out one morning and, from the lawn, I stared at all of the green beaks. I tried to count all of them but there were more buried, slumbering birds in our garden than I knew numbers for. And I remembered how in winter they left us and the air was so quiet and empty.’
Through stories, essays, and poems, writers imagine new narratives that speak to Trump’s Muslim ban
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.
In video games, the fear of the sudden propels you forward. Not so in life.
From comfort food to college applications, this zine showcases the stories of undocumented women from the Asian Diaspora
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?”
‘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.’
‘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.’
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.”
‘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?’
‘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.’
‘That first day in America, she didn’t know the difference between police officers and immigration officers, or between waiting rooms and holding cells.’
‘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.’
‘The signs were like a collective raft, keeping them afloat as they waited on responses to their calls of distress.’
‘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.’
‘He lingered on the edges of my social field of view, here in the basement lab where it was hot and loud’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘I’m conducting an experiment for escape.’
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 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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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!’
‘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?’
“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.”
‘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.’
‘We pulled together as much of our body parts as we could. We collected everything we lost in sleep, everything we gained, as a three hour-long silence spread over Kathmandu.’
‘The bags of paper are bodies, sitting on ledges, tucking their legs into themselves, folding smaller, hugging themselves for comfort.’
‘Whether they know it or not, they are Middle-English archetypes, judges of good taste. Self appointed gatekeepers. In a word, critics. They know art when they see it and frankly it’s not brown.’
‘Here in New York, however, the boat had a different meaning: a migrant who, despite all the baggage he must carry, is still afloat.’
Brooklyn, Opium, Diaspora, Imodium. The celebrated writer in conversation on the release of River of Smoke in 2011
‘She planted the tiny sleeping nuggets into the ground, as a small prayer. One day, they would metamorphose, escape into the world as something altogether different.’
‘What he saw in this other world was the dust on men, not men themselves. It was the color of the land, not a history the land told.’
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.
‘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.’
‘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.’
“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.”
‘Perhaps it was not what he did so much as how he put it. He insisted on “killed” not “terminated.” He refused “vertical chamber apparatus” in favor of the lurid “pit of despair.” But he also called love “love.” What reason was there to pretend otherwise?’
‘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
‘As children, she liked purple, I liked pink. She liked turkey, I liked ham. She liked American cheese, I liked Swiss.’
‘The Korean community has a special name for the LA riots: Sa-I-Gu, Four-Two-Nine, the day it all began.’
One night, I said, I wish I could tattoo myself onto you.
“The mother, seeing her one-armed son standing in the doorway, was not surprised. It was as she had foreseen.”
In a collection of poetry and prose, writers respond to the work of Bengali photographers exhibited in Eyes on Bangladesh
“Someone is stalking Whitney Houston and I have been hired to be her bodyguard”—an excerpt from Tom Cho’s Look Who’s Morphing
“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.”
An excerpt from Chang-rae Lee’s On Such A Full Sea
We were both Ahab; the difference was that Einstein, when he set out on the ink-black sea, knew not what monster he had been pursuing.
“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.”
Swati Marquez interviews Bushra Rehman on her new work of fiction, Corona.
An excerpt from Sinan Antoon’s novel, “The Corpse Washer”
A man in search of his ex-lover looks back on his coming of age—from Manil Suri’s pre-apocalyptic novel set in Mumbai
“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.
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.
“I want a literature that is not made from literature.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“My father’s warehouse was close to the decayed parts of the harbor, which rambled on into the slums built by smugglers and sailors.”