Dropping a note to say I’m alive. And, “Hi!”
The last few weeks I’ve been absent from the internet but present in the world, trekking from Colorado to Wyoming, Washington to Oregon. Except for when I was reading exceptional things. Here are a few…
Here’s an excerpt. Yapa’s response to the question resonates. Weighing which identity to adopt or action to take at a particular instant, it’s a 50-50 balancing act between observer and participant, outsider and insider.
You also mentioned that your dual ethnicity gives you a double vision, and that your identity can shift depending on whether you’re in mainstream white culture or Sri Lankan culture. How has that shaped you as a writer?
That’s the easy way to explain it, but I don’t think it’s as straight forward as, when I’m in Sri Lankan culture I feel white and when I’m in white culture I feel Sri Lankan. It’s much more fluid than that. The double consciousness is about this perpetual outsider-insider status; it’s a bit of a magic act, and it’s really what, as writers, we train ourselves to do. I was lucky enough—or unlucky enough—to get trained in it just by the nature of my ethnicity. I always felt both a part of things and apart from things. Your observer brain is always on. I remember being a little kid and my parents fighting over whether it was proper to eat with a fork or eat with your hands. As a kid observing those moments, you realize that the cultural norms aren’t set. That got imprinted on me from a young age, and to be free from cultural norms is great for a writer.
As academic Ethnic Studies programs are poised to lose funding, Junot Diaz’s words are powerful:
These days they’re trying to shut down all the Ethnic Studies programs, because they don’t want to produce students who begin by saying, “Yo, it’s f***ed up we’re not talking about us.” And I’m a product of these programs that aimed me directly toward writing about this tiny neighborhood that nobody really knew or thought about. It’s an old pattern, but one that is super-reliable. We’re so erased. If you’re a person of color, if you’re a woman, if you come from a poor background, if you come from a family who worked like dogs and never got any respect or a share of the profits, you know that ninety percent of your stories ain’t told. And yet we still have to be taught to look and to tell our stories. Many of us have to stumble our way through this. Despite the utter absence of us, it’s still an internal revolution to say, “Wait a minute. We are not only worthy of great art, but the source of.” It takes a lot of work to get there.
Thank you, Diaz! The full interview is worth a read, wandering over all sorts of musings.
During the past two weeks I’ve been in two Chinatowns. In both Portland’s and Seattle’s, there are those bold-faced signs with the sloppy, loose fonts that look like rolling egg rolls or klutzy calligraphy brush strokes. Observe:
Okay, so the first doesn’t exactly use that font, but someone definitely took some cheeky swings with the name. The second, however, does employ the font in question. How the heck did it come into being? I thought I’d have go on a wild Google goose chase to find out, but writer Ching-In Chen already goes there. She doesn’t pinpoint the origins, but she does find a whole host of other related fonts and speculation about how they became popularized.
“According to Yanega, a font called Wonton looks like it was modeled after a ‘Chinatown’ typeface found in the Solotype Catalog, a large sourcebook of fonts gathered by font devotee Dan X. Solo, along with Mandarin, Cathay, Chopstick, Shanghai, Fantan, Pekin, Susie Wong and Hong Kong.”
Susie Wong? Who’s that?? I guess I’ll have to go on a wild Google goose chase after all.
The New Superman is…Chinese! And Written by Gene Luen Yang
Angry Asian Man
“‘Superman is the embodiment of a universal ideal,’ Gene said. ‘He crosses cultures. What I’m really excited about with this book is that I get to take that ideal and play with it within another cultural context.'”
HOW COOL IS THIS! I love Gene Luen Yang for “American Born Chinese,” which my friend declared every Chinese American boy should own. Well, I’m a girl and I love it too. I also own “Boxers and Saints.” Some of my friends and I were lamenting the absence of Asian super heroes in popular American lore, so the arrival of Kenji Kong is none too late.
Nina McConigley Reads from Her Forthcoming Novel
Wyoming Public Media
If given the chance, I’d love to take a writing class with Indian American author Nina McConigley, who grew up in Casper (where I was born) and now teaches in the Honors Program at the University of Wyoming. She also won a prestigious PEN Open Book Award for her work “Cowboys and East Indians.” The link above points to a recording of her reading from “The Call of Migratory Things.”
What else should I read?
– Sara Hayden