Call me “Helpless”, but after watching the live-stage performance of the musical “Hamilton”, I simply had to write about Phillipa Soo, who originated the role of Eliza Hamilton and also happens to have a Chinese American father and a European American mother.
The YA novel Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell features a white girl and a biracial Korean boy falling in love in high school. While this sounds like just the kind of book I’d embrace and promote on this blog, Eleanor & Park is actually rather racist.
This novel dishes up awful representation of Asian characters, which will then get translated onto the big screen. And the thing is, such representation in the media does indeed matter.
A recent article titled The Psychology of Racism noted that media is one of the major areas that can amplify racism, as summarized in a post on Psychology Today:
The sixth factor the authors identify as contributing to racism in America is the media. The authors cite clear evidence that demonstrates people internalize what they watch on TV. A very early example of this research occurs in a 1963 study where preschool children witness aggression on TV and then imitate that aggression in their lives. The paper is the first in a large body of research that demonstrates how people internalize what they see in the media. The authors also cite clear evidence that the American media portrays idealized representations of White Americans and marginalizes and minimizes people who are not White.
So problematic portrayals, such as in Eleanor & Park, do have real-world consequences in terms of racism. In this case, the forthcoming film will further bolster negative stereotypes about Asians.
Nevertheless, it’s just not right that Eleanor & Park became a best-seller and now will be made into a film, as noted in Vice:
…as books like Eleanor & Park continue to find success, the representation conversation will churn on with depressing regularity. It hurts to see that not only has a white author, catering to young people, has sailed along without reckoning with her racism, her fetishization and her lazy caricatures; she’s been rewarded with even more success. It’s hard to blame Asian Americans for focusing on the things that make us feel invisible, even if these debates may muffle the least visible among us.
What do you think about the outcry over racism in Eleanor and Park and the forthcoming film?
I tried so many interesting dishes including grass jelly, sea coconut sago, cheng teng, salted green bean bun, egg tart, soya beancurd and fried durian. If you enjoy watching a good taste test video, check out the latest Food Vlog from Pooja & Robbie!
If you’re looking for a new vlog to watch on Youtube, check out Pooja and Robbie, a Chindian (Chinese and Indian) couple who does videos highlighting their multicultural family backgrounds (Indian, Chinese, Singaporean and American) and culture.
Imagine that, while riding the bus, a passenger approached you and told you to “go back to your country”.
That’s what happened to a friend of mine during her brief stint living and working abroad in the United Kingdom, a time that shattered the idyllic notions she once harbored about the West.
The animus behind this and other similarly racist encounters she experienced had shocked her. She had never thought people could be capable of behaving like that in public.
Her story, however, didn’t surprise me－and not just because I had seen many reports over the years on racism in the UK, or that I had read Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge’s award-winning deep dive into race relations in her country.
Rather, it was because I had lived a version of it in the United States with my husband Jun, when we resided there for nearly eight years. That period served as a painful education in just how widespread racism and discrimination was in my own country. I saw the many ways, both covert and overt, in which people treated him worse than his white peers.
I shouldn’t have needed an education like this to realize that the scourge of racism and discrimination still thrived in the US. And my friend shouldn’t have had to spend time in the UK to discover the truth there.
The protests that have emerged in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other people of color have made it impossible to ignore what has been dubbed the pandemic of racism, an epidemic that didn’t begin in 2020. It has infected societies like the US and the UK for hundreds of years－and it is not a relic of the past that has magically disappeared.
Some literary dreams come years in the making, such as for Canadian author Sabrina Mailhot and her newly published debut novel “Au Crépuscule” (At Dusk). Written in French, the story first began as a class exercise and later grew into a passion for her, which eventually found publication, with the encouragement of her husband, who is Chinese.
Author Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang recently kicked off a project titled Creatives in a time of Covid 19, and I was thankful she reached outto me for an essay about how I’ve been creative during this time. She just recently published my piece, titled When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Cooking. Here’s an excerpt:
The shiny new pressure cooker propped up in the corner of my kitchen in Beijing, China had become the latest cooking gadget I was swooning over before Chinese New Year’s Eve in 2020, when my husband and I would prepare a dinner to mark the holiday.
Days before this paramount holiday, as I was beginning a flurry of online searches under the keywords “pressure cooker vegan recipes”, news surfaced that Wuhan was going on lockdown because of a novel coronavirus outbreak.
Days later, the rest of the nation was urged to stay at home, avoid gatherings and wear masks due to the virus.
Most restaurants had already closed for the holidays, but my boss nevertheless urged us to avoid those eateries still doing takeout. “It’s safer to cook for yourself,” she said.
Even before the coronavirus, I preferred my own kitchen to dining out. Yes, part of it was my fussy vegan palate, which the Beijing restaurant scene could never entirely please. But cooking had also long served as a creative ritual that comforted and grounded me through ups and downs, as I tapped into the power of a delicious meal, which could redeem an otherwise mediocre or even disastrous day.
So as the virus threatened Beijing, I turned to the kitchen.
And since the virus is still threatening Beijing once again, you can guess where I’ve found my sanctuary these days. 😉
The best-selling debut novel by Celeste Ng titled “Everything I Never Told You”, a dark story centering on a family with a Chinese American father and white mother living in 1970s small town America grappling with an unimaginable tragedy, will be developed into a TV series, as reported by Variety.
Everything I Never Told You touched me on a personal level. Naturally, I was drawn to the family at the heart of the story. I write about Asian interracial relationships and am married to a Chinese national, so it was refreshing to read a book featuring an Asian father and a white mother raising mixed-race children. More importantly, Everything I Never Told You perfectly captures the insidious nature of race-based discrimination in America and reminds us that Asian Americans are not in any way exempt (despite the pervasive “model minority” stereotype about Asians which I previously debunked on Hippo Reads). While Celeste Ng set her novel in the 1970s, my husband (who lived with me in the US for nearly eight years) also faced discrimination similar to what the novel’s father, James Lee, suffered in the story. When I was reading Everything I Never Told You, I felt as if the Lee family’s sorrows could easily have been my own. It was an incredibly cathartic experience.
If you haven’t yet read “Everything I Never Told You”, you can find it at bookstores including Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.
The year 2020 has unleashed a tsunami of suffering that continues to engulf much of the world, undoubtedly reverberating throughout the lives of everyone across the globe.
In my own personal sphere, I have seen loved ones get furloughed from their jobs under the threat of more permanent layoffs, known friends who contracted COVID-19 (including one hospitalized in serious condition), and watched a restaurant where I marked one of my most memorable evenings with friends close its doors for good. And given that experts have forecast a gloomy outlook for the rest of 2020, it would seem that the global misery wrought by the coronavirus has only just begun.
In trying times like this, I have sought spiritual refuge in stories of resilience amid adversity — such as the tale of Goujian, the king of Yue during the Spring and Autumn period who inspired the Chinese saying woxin changdan, or sleeping on sticks and tasting bile.
It all began when Goujian saw his nation defeated by the Kingdom of Wu, whose king, Fuchai, demanded that Goujian become his royal servant. So the Yue king not only lost his crown but also found himself thrust into the lowest rungs of the palace of his enemy, a prisoner to the whims of a man who had destroyed his country. The demeaning work required of Goujian included mucking out manure as well as acting as a kind of personal stable boy to the monarch, from feeding the king’s horses to leading them whenever Fuchai wanted a ride.
And if you really want to talk about taking crap from someone, consider Goujian’s most legendary deed during his three years serving Fuchai: He tasted the Wu king’s excrement to diagnose illness in a move to gain the monarch’s trust. As repulsive as it sounds, it so deeply moved Fuchai, who saw the gesture as proof that Goujian had wholeheartedly submitted himself in service, that the king set him free.
The latest YA rom-com movie on Netflix, “The Half of It”, offers a smart and queer rendering of the classic “Cyrano de Bergerac” tale in a story that features interracial friendship and flirtation, along with the challenges that face many Asian American families.
The movie’s “Cyrano” is Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a Chinese American high-school student who has parlayed her brilliance into a side hustle writing papers for her peers. She’s also a closeted lesbian, and remains shyly distant from other students (some of whom mock her with racist epithets as she bikes home), apart from taking their cash for homework. So of course, when Paul, the inarticulate but lovable oaf of a white jock (Daniel Diemer), has a crush on the high school’s “it” girl Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), he goes straight to Ellie to help woo her with a letter.
Except for one problem — Ellie develops a crush on Aster too.
Once Ellie reluctantly jumps on board (her own family’s financial situation pushes her to accept), the blossoming interracial friendship between the odd couple of this straight white football star and Asian lesbian and literary wonder drives the story as much, if not more, than the disguised flirtations between Aster and Ellie-as-Paul.
The hardships facing some Asian American families also factor into the story in “The Half of It”. Ellie’s dad, who had arrived from China with a distinguished engineering education, is shunned because of his English and can only land work overseeing a lowly train station in a small town in Washington state. Ellie fears leaving him, especially when she’s the one calling the electric company to learn their payment is overdue and the power will be cut soon.
“The Half of It” delivers many heartfelt moments that transcend the usual boundaries in terms of culture and sexual orientation, and shines with a diverse cast.
What do you think? Have you seen “The Half of It” yet?
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.