Black White & Read All Over // 01

It goes without saying: this week has been rough. The tightrope between resistance and self-care is wobbly and I am no Philippe Petit. One thing I can say is that I’ve been feeling what can only be described as whiteness fatigue, which manifests as literal nausea at the thought of consuming another story that at best treats whiteness as a default and at worst celebrates it (again. and again.). So I’ve been inhaling work by artists and authors of color. Because while we’re boycotting businesses, it is just as, if not more important to boycott problematic storytelling and amplify underrepresented voices.

The House of Aunts by Zen Cho

Ah Ma always tells you, eat the first man you see.

Starts out as a tale of young love between a vampire girl and a boy, then blindsides you as a multi-generational matriarchal love story. It’s also such an accurate representation of Chinese grandmothers and aunts, and made me realize I’d been settling for apple pie and cross-stitch grandmas (not that those grandmas are less valid, but I process that kind of affection cerebrally whereas these grandmas I felt deep in the heartstrings. Because this is what my grandmas and aunts are like! Also, it means so much to read Hokkien in dialogue.)

Another Round Ep. 71: Burn 

Made me laugh and cry on my way to work. I appreciate Bim so much. And the title, the title!

Regina Spektor: The Only Reason I’m Jewish is Antisemitism

I had dumb teenagers telling me to go back to my fucking country. Telling me we were taking their jobs. I got so pissed off I was like, ‘You’d better believe I’m going to take your job, I’m going to take your job and three other jobs, too’.

And yet it doesn’t feel like home; it feels like a kind of ancestral land where I’m in love with a culture that doesn’t really exist. My Russia has gone.

Did not go into a promotional interview expecting to find so much truth. The defiance in vowing to take 3 jobs – that’s going to fuel me for at least a month. And I’ve never really been able to express my relationship with Taiwan (and to a greater extent, China) in anything other than self-doubt and insecurity, but Regina Spektor comes close. Our homelands do become fantasy lands, built on a seabed of mythology and memory. It reminds me a little of Chaitali Sen’s statements on choosing to set her novel in a made-up place.

A Fistful of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

Illustration by Rovina Cai

There was nothing phoenix-like in my sister’s immolation. Just the scent of charred skin, unbearable heat, the inharmonious sound of her last, grief-raw scream as she evaporated, leaving glass footprints seared into the desert sand.

A story of turning the world upside down for family, of realizing the weight of your own hands. I’m slowly discovering Alyssa Wong’s work (“tiny horrors” as she calls it is right up my alley, or as my sister would say, “one of your stories with the gross endings”) and I’m already impressed with how many different parts of the Asian American experience she touches upon.

This poem by Safia Elhillo

Here’s why this poem resonated with me: 99% of contemporary society is based on a faith in abstractions that were dished up by and serve a small group of people. For diasporic peoples, that disappointing reality is underscored by a sense of placelessness. Never completely one or the other, our faith in those abstractions – nation-states, political systems – can never be complete. The only thing I can put complete faith in is my immediate circle. So I cling to the concrete, mundane details that make up my small world. Expressions of affection, the gait of people I love silhouetted against the sun, Saturday morning traditions: these are my monuments.

 

Also: go see Moonlight. Go see Arrival, then read the short story it’s based on, “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. Find some new filmmakers on Youtube and Vimeo and share their work.

Or tuck these away for a rainy day and go breathe in your mother’s perfume, your best friend’s overuse of gifs, the way the pages of your favorite book pucker in the heat. Celebrate your monuments. These stories will keep.

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