I find communicating with my mom really difficult, for lots of reasons, but mostly because she’s an immigrant. So like any millennial I guess, I made a zine about it. It is filled with beautiful stories and pictures of my friends sharing their own difficulties relating to their parents which helped me to feel less alone. I actually had this idea 4 years ago and finally, finally completed it. It’s 45 pages long and has a hand stitched-binding. If you are interested in having a copy I’d be happy to share it and send one to you (cost is only printing and postage)!
how can a whole person
with laughter and love and light
become a pile of ash?
staring down at her tan particles
now sifted over the frozen grass
I consider how the wind might pick her up
and toss her into the trees
how she might dance in the air for a moment
how the birds might peck at her pieces with curiosity
I think about how the snow will melt
and soften her like wet sand
how the rain might run her into puddles, down gutters, out to streams
I imagine how years will pass and the compression of seasons
will press her further into the ground
becoming the layers of stone she once admired
how her particles might seep to the roots of trees and flowers
wiggle among the worms
how inevitably she will become spread out
one with nature and earth
in a way that perhaps she was before
and perhaps she could be again
Recently I read Zami: a New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde and was really swept away by her writing. I think some of what I admire about Audre Lorde’s writing is that her details are not laborious or burdensome. Her realizations are simple, elegant, and moving, never cliche or trite. The way she understands a truth about her life offers her readers a new language — a new way to understand — and I think that impresses me the most.
It’s hard to start writing after reading something that feels so effortlessly powerful. I put off writing, then publishing this blog for a long time. As I read and re-read it seems eternally unfinished. As a meditation on what it means to have a family lineage you aren’t well connected to, on grief, on being Chinese, I have Audre Lorde level feelings about these things, but my thoughts don’t always assemble into as smart or compelling words and phrases as I would like.
My mom sent me 5 pictures of herself, her sisters, and her parents. She sent these 5 pictures to me several times, still not quite understanding how to translate the pictures from Whatsapp to iMessage. I was, at first, confused. What are these pictures and why did you send them? I’d seen some of them before, but not all. I wonder how important to Mom it was that I see them, as if her accidental duplication of messages were made out of an urgency to ensure I saw them. And by virtue of seeing them I begin to keep some of her history, her parent’s history. My 公公 died almost 2 years ago. 婆婆 is longer dead now, 10+ years. I wonder what these pictures evoke for my mom and what she hopes will live on in me as I (barely) remember them.
I think this way when I share things about my dad sometimes. So much of my life is asking others to bear witness for me, to hold sadness and joy with me, of course, but I think history is becoming my most important ask. We are the keepers of others’ histories, and I remember this every time I talk to my middle school friends. To even remember that someone existed and loved fishing and motorcycles and and all of their specificities is to hold a place for them and that’s the best way to honor our dead that I’ve found.
Moving from confusion, I was quickly mesmerized by these pictures. I am mesmerized by these people I don’t really know, but their imprint in my life is deep and still felt through their shaping of my mother who has, of course, shaped me. I love looking at my 公公’s face and identifying my mom’s nose and lips. I love looking at 婆婆’s mysterious (to me) and quiet beauty, truly knowing so little of her other than her back-breaking work for her family, stern demeanor, and surprisingly gentle expectations. I love wondering who they were. I love looking at their pictures together and wondering about the love and time they shared together. How did they grow together and grow apart? How did they love and understand and care for each other? I don’t know.
I look at these photos and wonder about how to hold ancestors in your heart. How to think about how people you think of as generally removed from your life and your creation of self, have actually woven themselves through you and continue to exist in you. Isn’t that one way to become immortal? We continue to exist through shaping people who will inform and shape other people therefore continuing something of ourselves … or whatever. Look, I’m not trying to find a definitive answer to meaning or existance, because, really, we’ll eventually all be forgotten. I’m just thinking.
Looking at these pictures of my 公公 and 婆婆, something else stirs in me. In loving their faces and loving the thought of them and the ways they’ve influenced my mom and myself, how is this an entry point for learning to love Chineseness, my Chineseness? I find Chineseness incredibly hard to embrace sometimes. An ethnic group that occupies both oppressor and oppressed, I can’t always distinguish between a) internalized racism, b) anger at the ways in which some Chinese Americans have desperately sought to align themselves with whiteness (eg: mobilizing against affirmative action and embracing anti-blackness), and c) anger at the ways the Chinese government enacts neo-colonialism in East Africa and violently oppresses Tibetans, Uyghurs, and their own people. However, even in this paragraph I’m reminded of how “Chineseness” isn’t simply one thing, or a group of things. The Chinese diaspora is large, approximately 50 million people, not including the 1.4 billion people living in China, and has several significant political, historical, and cultural schisms (eg: Taiwan and Hong Kong).
I almost always err on the side of disagreeing, mistrusting, and finding frustration with Chineseness. I don’t always find things to love or find pride in. However, at this time, this COVID19 time, I am reminded that we weren’t given the name “Yellow Peril” for nothing. White America has never loved Chineseness either, and at best accepted a highly muted, restricted, and sanitized version of it. I am reminded that American has and still continues to associate yellow and brown bodies with disease, danger, and untrustworthiness. Don’t forget that Chineseness in America has long been monitored, controlled, disparaged, our labor abused, our ethnicity tested and found to be unworthy, inscrutable, disgusting, only palatable now if within a very specific, affluent, white supremacist paradigm.
Loving Chineseness is hard and having pride in it is hard. Maybe loving Chineseness, for me, begins with seeing beauty in my mother, and in her mother and her father. I am finding a new pride in their strength, calm, consistency, and compassion. It is unfamiliar and halting, yet exciting. I am reminded I am still growing into myself.
I write this blog not confident that anyone will read it or even sure my writing has a point. I write because I hope to untangle my thoughts into coherent ideas and it would be a great side effect if it had the power to touch someone else.
There is universality in the biopic.
We all live, we all die, and we all attempt to bring meaning to our existence.
At humanity’s core, we all share the same organs and emotional mechanisms to navigate the world around us. We may live separate lives, but we are cosmically linked by our shared social experiences. When growing up, I figured myself a bit of a Nihilist with a Hobbesian outlook towards human nature. However, as I’ve grown into adulthood and witnessed the greatest struggles and sacrifices around me, I’ve come to conclude that compassion outlasts any pessimistic philosophy in vogue. Belonging to the last of the millennial generation (circa 1995), my entire adulthood has been punctuated by sociopolitical division.
For me at least, the biopic serves as a balm to this scald created from our divisiveness, always reminding me that humans are capable of great feats, and so too am I.
Considering the Academy has just released their (unsurprisingly) white and male dominated nominations list earlier this week, I thought it was important to add my own solution to this controversial public arena – the death of the award show.
In this evolving technological age where the degree of subliminal consumption of creeds, ideologies, fantasies, and narratives would make Don Draper cum in his trousers, the public’s ownership of this media it consumes calls into question any authoritarian bodies that wish to mandate their opinions take place higher on the entertainment hierarchy than those of the avid home-viewer. However, as institutions continue to try and control audience taste through paywalls, the democratizing force that is the streaming world refuses its attempts to do so.
Despite awards shows often being grandiose and status-driven, historically they’ve served as points of connection between the film industry and the audience that paid to view it. In a period rife with unemployment and economic destitution, the American public had limited opportunities to connect to the people behind their beloved screens. Thus, awards shows not only legitimized a fantastical market by given it status but they also helped engender future sales.
Contemporary America is not so ruled by these machinations. With the democratizing factor that is invasive technology, the secrecy of the entertainment industry is no longer as apparent. Even the most amateur of filmmakers can watch a few Youtube videos and create their own deliciously crafted short-films. This coupled with the ever-increasing accusations against industry magnates for sexual harassment, embezzlement, education scandals etc… awards shows no longer hold the same glamour that they once did.
In fact, we currently bear witness to the slow dissolution of these awards shows as they try to adapt to this unstable terrain which asserts accountability before entertainment. In 2020, The Academy Awards will go without a conventional host for another year in a row and the most recent edition of the Golden Globes mistakenly relied on a previously successful veteran host to crank out jokes which would have been better served at the start of the previous decade.
Perhaps I’m being too critical of a night meant to be lighthearted and beautiful. Or perhaps by attacking the awards system, I’m circumventing having to navigate and comment on the complicated social issues rampant in the entertainment world. Either way, declining viewership and increasing participant ambivalence only helps prove my point that the season of the awards show is almost at an end.
Here’s to having 2020 be the death-date on the tombstone of the awards season.
When Guilu invited me to join this project, I was pretty unsure of where to begin. She had shared her posts with me before and I was always impressed by her eloquence and transparency – y’all know she’s got a way with words. So I wondered, could I do that? Could I, Queen of Unfinished Things, actually complete projects and then share them? It’s been difficult to imagine, as my depression has kept me down and stuck for a few years now. But this past year in particular, one of the worst by far for me, I really didn’t think I would bounce back from. I guess that’s what’s surprising about trauma, sometimes it shakes your foundation so hard that you have no choice but to start rebuilding. So I’m trying, block by baby block.
I’m trying to recognize the small victories – all of the things I’m doing right, or maybe even well. My therapist has promoted this practice, and it’s helped me to not get so discouraged. Makes me catch myself when I look around at the boxes in my room or lists in my notebook or stacks on my desk, take a deep breath, close my eyes, and pick one thing. Even if I can’t finish it, just break it into little chunks and start. I realize that this sounds pretty basic to a neurotypical person, but for folks like me, it is so easy to get overwhelmed, discouraged, and immobile. To reason that you’ll never achieve it all, so why attempt to achieve any of it?
This is my first go at a blog, and I must admit I find putting my thoughts out into the ether quite terrifying. But I’m at a point where something like this could potentially help me. I’m trying to reevaluate and reset my life. Figure out what it is I’m moving towards and what steps I need to get there. So in lieu of typing up a bullet point list of my aspirations (cause lord knows I don’t need more lists to agonize over), I thought I’d share a recent journal entry of mine which addressed some things I’m trying to achieve. Seemed like a fitting start.
Trying to be gentler with myself, but also less self-destructive. Trying to cutback on drowning my feelings in weed and alcohol. Trying to make healthier food choices (kind of). Trying to stop eating once I feel full – I hear putting your napkin on your plate helps with this. Trying to be present in my body and listen to it better. Trying to do more yoga and dance and deep breathing. Trying to address my myriad of health concerns, go to the doctor, take my medicines on time. Trying to slowly chip away at my To Do’s, bit by bit, into chewable pieces. Trying to set and maintain clear boundaries in relationships, not letting myself get bogged down by the pain of others. Trying to actually pursue my desires and not let fear run my life. Trying to read more and go to bed earlier. And on that note, goodnight.
My friend is creating a children’s book where the mandate is “We aim to show young children of color that the world is not only theirs, but it is worthy of protection and love.”
What does it mean to teach and given children new narratives through which to find and value themselves? I love this idea though that the stories we tell children are so valuable in shaping their lives and realities. What would society look like if more children of all genders, races/ethnicities, and abilities had the message of their value and importance in this world reenforced? How do we celebrate children of color and children of other marginalized backgrounds?
With those thoughts and feelings I sat down to crank out a few pages of what I might have liked to see in a children’s book when I was younger. In retrospect, I would have loved to spend more time thinking about how to integrate themes to connectivity to the earth and ecology, but given that I thought, created, outlined, and painted these few pages in about a day, I’m pretty happy with the final result.