‘The Chinese Exclusion Act’ on PBS Reminds Me Asian Stereotypes Haven’t Changed Much

The other night, I had the chance to stream The Chinese Exclusion Act, a nearly two-hour film documenting the events that led to America’s one and only piece of legislation targeting a specific nationality and race, as well as the aftermath and eventual repeal. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law in May 1882 and didn’t end until December 1943.

Much of the film centers on the mid- to late-1800s, and yet it feels timely because many of the stereotypes originating from that era still persist to this day, continuing to shape US media portrayals of Asians as well as how many Americans still view the rise of Asian countries such as China.

Here are 4 stereotypes from the 1800s that have still survived – sometimes in slightly different forms – to this day, as mentioned in The Chinese Exclusion Act.

#1: The stereotype of Asian men as “inferior”

A few years ago, I wrote Debunking the “Model Asian” Myth: Five Ways Asian-Americans Still Face Discrimination for Hippo Reads, which includes the following paragraph:

Justin Chan spoke for generations of Asian men when he wrote, “Are Asian Men Undateable?” in Policy Mic. Years of pernicious stereotypes have branded Asian men as emasculated, weak, asexual, and even too small in a certain department—essentially, editing them out of the most eligible bachelor pool. Not surprisingly, Freakonomics calculated that an Asian man would need to earn $247,000 more than a white man to be equally appealing to a white woman. That’s like requiring every Asian guy to own a Bentley before asking out the white girl next door.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that, back in the late 1800s, when Yellow Peril took hold, white Americans cast Chinese men as being inferior to white men, as experts point out in part 1 of The Chinese Exclusion Act (emphasis added):

John Kuo Wei Tchen, Historian: So what happens is that class and racialization converge – get confused. And the “Coolie question,” and the Chinese question, really become the big question nationally of labor and class.  Can the American man compete with this degraded Asian male form of labor?  They don’t eat as much; their nerves are farther away from the surface of the skin, so they don’t feel as much; they eat rats.  You know, all this  gets played out even more and more around not just class lines and racialization, but also around gender.  The Chinese male is inferior – is not the same as white manhood, right.  So you have that famous cover – “Meat versus Rice.” American manhood vs. Asiatic coolie-ism,?   And, of course, the Asian male is inferior – but tenacious, because there are a lot of them.  So they’re dangerous because they’re so many of them, right.  Not because they really rival the actually superior white male.

#2: The stereotype of Asian women as “sexualized”

A major stereotype that still persists is this idea of Asian women as sexualized and subservient (see Kristina Wong’s post earlier this year titled I Give Up On Trying To Explain Why The Fetishization Of Asian Women Is Bad).

And again, we see echoes of that stereotype in the late 1800s in America, prompting the 1875 passage of the Page Act, which forbade the immigration to America of those coming to work under contracts and as prostitutes. The latter prohibition was aimed squarely at Chinese women, as The Chinese Exclusion Act explains (emphasis added):

Scott Wong, Historian: There developed this sexist, racist, misogynist attitude among Americans, that Chinese women were naturally prone to become prostitutes.  And, therefore, Chinese women, who wanted to come to the U.S., had to prove that they were never prostitutes; that they weren’t prostitutes then; nor would they ever become prostitutes.  Now, of course, one can’t prove what will not happen or happen in the future.  So many women chose not to even go through that humiliation. So we had that first act that’s passed, that is very racial and gender-specific.

#3: The stereotype of Chinese “stealing jobs/opportunities from Americans”

When major elections roll around in America these days, there’s one thing you can count on – those politicians claiming China is “stealing” jobs and opportunities. And as Chinese students still comprise the largest group of foreigners studying abroad at US institutions of higher education, you’re sure to hear complaints from Americans, alleging Chinese are also “taking away” slots at colleges and universities that belong to American students.

Sadly, this narrative has hardly budged from the late 1800s, when white workers concocted this stereotype that Chinese were also plundering their economic opportunities back then, as The Chinese Exclusion Act noted in years following the California Gold Rush (emphasis added):

Narrator: As surface gold in the river beds became scarcer – hydraulic mining run by companies increasingly displaced the lone prospector panning for gold.

Ling-chi Wang, Scholar: A lot of white independent prospectors went bankrupt and became unemployed. But instead of turning their anger against the gold-mining company and the water company for exploiting them, they turned against the Chinese.  They say: “Ah, the Chinese were here.  They take away our jobs.” And so that is really the beginning of white working-class agitation for Chinese Exclusion.

#4: The stereotype of Asians — including Chinese — as “perpetual foreigners”

Back in 2016, Christopher Hoffman penned the post Perpetual Foreigners: A Reflection on Asian Americans in the American Media, commenting on a racist segment aired on Fox News titled “Watters’ World: Chinatown Edition”, and noted the following:

The larger problem is the segment clearly challenges the American identity of Asian American citizens in Manhattan’s China Town. Frank H. Wu’s Race in America Beyond Black and White defines this idea of Asian Americans as the “perpetual foreigner.” By assuming Chinese Americans have a better relationship with the country of their ancestral heritage, Watters is placing Chinese Americans in a second-class citizen role, unable to fully adopt all the characteristics to become a full citizen of the United States of America. This idea of the “perpetual foreigner” is not limited to Chinese Americans, but a xenophobic image many Asian Americans from a variety of Asian backgrounds must face.

This xenophobia can be traced back to the late 1800s and the Chinese Exclusion Act itself, where people believed it was impossible for Chinese to ever be fully American, as The Chinese Exclusion Act explains:

Martin B. Gold, Attorney: It really did two things.  One is an exclusion from immigration, and the other thing was an exclusion from citizenship.  at the time there were approximately 105,000 Chinese in America.  Now, they were just two-tenths of one percent of the overall American population.   So what happens to the people who are already here – people legally in the United States?  And what that law said was, “These people cannot assimilate.  They are too different in terms of their culture – in terms of their appearance – in terms of their language – the clothes that they wear – and the food that they eat – and the gods that they worship.  They cannot assimilate into the American population.  And in that sense, they are different from European immigrants.  So we’re going to make, as a Congress, a judgment.  We’re going to say that because they are an unassimilable population, they cannot come to the United States, and those that are here cannot become American citizens.”

If you haven’t yet viewed The Chinese Exclusion Act, I highly recommend streaming it — and noting how the legacy of oppression still lingers to this day.

What do you think?

Interracial Divorce and Asian-White Couples: It’s Not What You Think

In the world of English-language WeChat official accounts, if there’s one topic guaranteed to get coverage, it’s interracial marriage – and divorce.

The other day, someone shared an article* with me about this very issue, which asserted that such marriages were “tricky”. The article backed up its premise of marital instability with a certain “cute, handy chart” from a Thought Catalog piece, which drew on data from the 2008 study “But Will It Last?”: Marital Instability Among Interracial and Same‐Race Couples referenced in a Wikipedia article about interracial marriage in the US.

In particular, the statistics on Asian Male/White Female (AMWF) couples appeared rather alarming. Based on data from the 2008 study, AMWF marriages had a 59 percent greater chance of ending in divorce.

Whoa.

Granted, this wasn’t as high as the divorce rate for marriages between Black men and White women, deemed 200 percent more likely to split. But it also didn’t compare favorably with White Male/Asian Female (WMAF) marriages, with only a 4 percent likelihood of divorce.

So was the data illustrated in the “cute, handy chart” right about interracial marriages of Asian men and White women? Are our relationships really that vulnerable to divorce?

The short answer is, not necessarily.

Driven by curiosity, I headed over to the very Wikipedia article the Thought Catalog piece referenced to look at the section on marital instability among interracial and same-race couples.

Yes, there was the data from the 2008 study.

But — and this is a BIG but — there was also data from the 2009 study Marital Dissolution Among Interracial Couples which painted a completely different picture of the situation in Asian-White marriages compared with White-White marriages.

In this 2009 study, Asian-White marriages were the least likely interracial pairing to result in divorce, with even lower divorce rates than White-White marriages.

Or, as the authors of the 2009 study put it, “Mixed marriages involving Blacks were the least stable followed by Hispanics, whereas mixed marriages involving Asians were even more stable than endogamous White marriages.”

I was stunned.

The new data from the 2009 study in the Wikipedia page.

Why did the author of the Thought Catalog article and subsequent “cute, handy chart” ignore the 2009 data?

Well, it’s true the data wasn’t in Wikipedia when he was working on his article. (See screenshots of the page for Feb 13, 2014 and July 14, 2014 as proof.) But seeing as the 2009 study was already published and available in 2014, you can’t blame this on a Wikipedia omission alone.

And while we could sit around and ponder why the author of the Thought Catalog failed to do his due diligence on the subject of interracial divorce, I feel that his “cute, handy charts” (which probably should be renamed “cute, misleading charts”) are symbolic of our human tendency to want black and white answers, even when the reality isn’t so clear cut and conclusive.

It’s worth noting this from the 2015 study Same-Race and Interracial Asian-White Couples: Relational and Social Contexts and Relationship Outcomes, which references both the 2008 study by Bratter and King, and the 2009 study by Zhang and Van Hook (emphasis added):

Research on the outcomes of interracial relationships is inconclusive, with some evidence showing that Asian-White relationships are at less risk for relationship dissolution. Some research on interracial romantic relationships has found that interracial relationships involving Whites and Asians do not necessarily have worse outcomes than their same-race counterparts (Gaines & Agnew, 2003; Gaines et ah, 1999; Troy et al., 2006), challenging the long held notion of relationship dysfunction among interracial couples (Bratter & Eschbach, 2006; Bratter & King, 2008; Eeckhaut, Lievens, Van de Putte, & Lusyne, 2011; Heaton, 2002; Zhang & Van Hook, 2009).

In other words, you shouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions about interracial divorce rates — or worse, enshrine them in potentially deceptive charts — including when it comes to Asian-White couples.

If you asked me what graphical illustration I’d use to represent the outcomes of interracial marriages, I’d say this is more on target:

When it comes to interracial marriages and divorce, we need more people asking the right questions — and less people coming to simplistic conclusions.

What do you think?

P.S.: The data above come from studies on interracial couples in the US. Still, for anyone wondering about interracial marriages and divorce in China, there doesn’t appear to be enough evidence to conclude, as people often do, that divorce is necessarily more likely.

For example, consider this quote from the 2013 study The Rise of Chinese-Foreign Marriage in Mainland China (1979-2010) (emphasis added):

As Figure 3 below shows, the number of divorces registered between mainland Chinese citizens and foreign nationals rose from around 80 couples in 1979 to over 1,000 couples in 2000. That figure increased to over 3,000 couples in 2003, before skyrocketing to nearly 9,500 couples in 2008. It then decreased to around 5,700 couples in 2010.

This decline is consistent with the fall in the number of Chinese-foreign marriages registered in mainland China starting in the early 2000s. The PRC’s Ministry of Civil Affairs began to disaggregate Chinese-foreign divorce statistics in 2005, by including separate figures for those involving ‘waiguoren’. Unsurprisingly, given the higher proportion of other categories of Chinese-foreign marriage until recently, most divorces relate to the ‘Chinese’ categories of Chinese-foreign marriage.

In other words, the divorce rate appears consistent with the rate of Chinese-foreign marriages registered in China, and the authors believe that many of these divorces are still between people of the same race and ethnicity.

* I’ve intentionally chosen not to link to the WeChat article I referenced, but if you absolutely must see it for yourself, search for the official account for HiTouch艾达旗 and check their articles in the past few weeks.

Cambodian Husband Deported from US, White American Wife to Follow Him to Cambodia

As the US continues to ramp up its deportation efforts, the media have documented the casualties of this punitive response toward immigrants in terms of affected families.

A heartbreaking story on PRI I came across the other day details the deportation of a Cambodian man married to a white American woman from Wisconsin:

Lisa Kum has an endless list of tasks every day. The 41-year-old from Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, has a 19-month-old daughter and a high school-aged son. She’s also tending to her health after undergoing elbow surgery earlier this year.

Nowadays, she’s also busy growing her business that sells refurbished HP printer parts — so that she can sell it and move her family to Cambodia. That’s because Kum’s husband, Sothy Kum, was deported to Cambodia, a country he left when he was just 2 years old. She plans to shut down the small business they started together four years ago and start over 8,000 miles away.

“It’s pretty much been pure hell,” she says. “It’s very emotional. At the same time, you have to get up every morning and keep going because what other choice do you have?”

I can only imagine what a nightmare this has to be for her and her family. Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering, what exactly prompted the US to arrest and deport Sothy Kim? The article details that as well:

Lisa says her husband spent most of the last two years in immigration detention, almost as long as their young daughter has been alive. Sothy and his family fled Cambodia as refugees and spent years in camps, first in Thailand and then the Philippines. He arrived in the US in 1981, when he was about 6 years old.

Lisa and Sothy met in 2009 when they worked at the same company. In 2014, they decided to quit their jobs and take the financial risk of starting their own business. Sothy allowed an acquaintance to pay him to send marijuana to his house. He was convicted of possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver.

After serving his one-year sentence in 2016, Sothy was again detained by ICE. Though Sothy was a legal permanent resident with a green card, his conviction made him deportable. He remained in ICE detention until August 2017, when he was released just in time to see his daughter turn 1 and to marry Lisa. But by October 2017, Sothy was back in custody.

The reporter doesn’t probe further into Sothy’s conviction for marijuana, but it follows a sinister pattern in the US — that people of color constitute close to 80 percent of those imprisoned for possession and sales of marijuana, compared with a paltry 4 percent for whites. (And interestingly, with the legalization of marijuana in America, the people who now stand most to profit are overwhelmingly white.)

Does a conviction of this nature warrant deportation? Supposedly only people committing “crimes of violence” should be sent back to their countries, and it’s hard to imagine that any real violence was going on here.

Meanwhile, there’s another question worth asking — is it right to deport a man who came to the US as a refugee, and at such a young age? The actions of the current Trump administration have overwhelmingly shown they have no regard for such people, including the most recent example of ending protected status for Hondurans in the US. But still, it boggles the mind that a country that would welcome a refugee when he was only 6 years old has now shipped him back to his country of birth, despite the fact that he’s lived the vast majority of his adult life in the US.

Lisa and Sothy Kum remind me of so many interracial couples I’ve encountered over the years, and it was chilling to encounter their story in PRI. Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder, what will their lives be like after reuniting in Cambodia? Will they be able to find a way forward for themselves and their family? I know deportation can have a devastating effect on people and their families, as a recent report of the tragic end of one man deported to Mexico revealed.

But here’s hoping their family will overcome these difficulties and start anew in Cambodia.

What do you think of this story? Do you believe Sothy Kim’s crime warranted deportation?

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Movie Is ‘Like the Asian Bachelor’: 3 Things That Thrill Me About the Upcoming Film

As the summer movie season heats up this month, some of us can’t wait until August — or more precisely, August 17, 2018, when Crazy Rich Asians the movie officially hits the theaters. And I’m even more thrilled about the film since seeing the trailer, which dropped last month. Here are three reasons I’m all psyched about the forthcoming movie Crazy Rich Asians:

It’s “Like the Asian Bachelor

That quote from the Crazy Rich Asians trailer nails one of the most exciting things about this movie. The dreamy Mr. Right at the heart of the film — the one every woman desperately wants to snag, not unlike the hit US reality TV show The Bachelor — happens to be an Asian man.

That’s a huge deal.

While Asian actors overall — men and women — rarely play the romantic leads in Hollywood movies, that’s especially true for Asian men, slapped with some of the most damaging and racist stereotypes in popular media. More often than not, Asian men are portrayed as effeminate and even laughable, but rarely the guy you’d swoon over.

So a movie with an Asian man as “the most eligible bachelor” — a guy who’s suave in a tux with a sexy British accent — is extraordinary. It surpasses any romantic leads I’ve ever seen on TV or in the movies played by an Asian man. In a word, it’s groundbreaking.

So is this snippet of conversation in the trailer between the romantic leads Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu):

Rachel: You really should have told me you’re like the Prince William of Asia.
Nick: That’s ridiculous. I’m much more of a Harry.

Loving it!

In This Cinderella Story, She’s Asian

Fans have called Crazy Rich Asians another Cinderella story and it’s an apt comparison. After all, compared to Nick Young’s ultrawealthy family, solidly middle-class Rachel Chu doesn’t have that kind of money or lifestyle. And even though she happens to be his girlfriend, she spends the story fighting for a place with him and in the opulent, over-the-top world he inhabits in Asia.

When was the last time you saw an Asian woman starring as a kind of Cinderella figure in a Hollywood movie? It rarely happens, if at all. So it’s amazing to see that the woman we’re all rooting for to live happily ever after is Asian.

And if the trailer is any measure, Constance Wu truly shines in her role as Rachel Chu, complete with plenty of princess-worthy gowns.

The Entire Cast Is Asian

Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu said, “It’s not a movie. It’s a movement.”

People have been saying this movie is to the Asian community what Black Panther has been for the Black community, and for good reason. Because visibility and representation matters, period.

For the first time, you have a movie where the entire cast is all Asian actors. A movie that lets a variety of characters, with all of their nuances and imperfections and humanity, stand out on the big screen, all of whom happen to be Asian.

Also, when you have a movie populated exclusively by a diverse cast of Asians, there’s no room for damaging stereotypes or racist typecasting.

This is art that sends a strong message — that more Asian actors deserve leading roles in the movies. And if Crazy Rich Asians succeeds, it could lead to many more films headed by a strong Asian cast of characters, meaning more positive portrayals of Asians onscreen.

And that, to borrow a line from a song in the trailer for Crazy Rich Asians, “is glorious!”

Have you heard about Crazy Rich Asians? What about the upcoming movie are you thrilled about?

P.S.: If you need your Crazy Rich Asians fix now, I highly recommend picking up Kevin Kwan’s  Crazy Rich Asians, as well as the second and third books in the series, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. They’re all available at Amazon.com, where your purchases help support this blog.

P.P.S.: If you haven’t seen the Youtube trailer, check it out now:

11 Critically Acclaimed AMWF Movies Worth Watching

Yes, Asian men and White women can love on the big screen and make for enlightening cinema. If you frequent art house theaters and film festivals, or simply want a more sophisticated pick for a change, here are 11 critically acclaimed AMWF (Asian Male, White Female) movies you don’t want to miss, in alphabetical order.

The Big Sick (2017)

Technically, “The Big Sick” is a rom-com, complete with an AMWF couple at the center of the story (Kumail Nanjiani, played by himself, and Emily Gardner, played by Zoe Kazan), which is set in Chicago. But the true heart and soul of this film surfaces when the Pakistani American man finds himself in close quarters with her white American parents, with some unexpected and even heartwarming results. Given that “The Big Sick” received an Oscar nod for original screenplay and many singled out Holly Hunter’s performance as worthy of a nomination from the Academy, any savvy filmgoer should have this movie on their watch list.

Columbus (2017)

The romantic indie drama “Columbus,” with the unusual pairing of an Asian man (John Cho) and a white woman (Haley Lu Richardson) in this architectural mecca of Indiana, has delighted audiences and critics alike, leading many to decry its absence at the Academy awards. As I wrote earlier this year about “Columbus”:

Here’s the best part about “Columbus” – it’s a beautiful movie to behold.

Granted, it might not be an obvious choice for those moviegoers who tend to pass on anything that feels a little too “art house.”

But for those people who delight in great cinematography (the shots really are gorgeous), nuanced stories filled with great depth and feeling, and real-to-life characters, this is a joy to watch.

Many top film critics have named “Columbus” one of the best films of 2017, and it currently has a 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 on Metacritic.

If you haven’t read it yet, check out my post 4 Reasons the Movie ‘Columbus’ (#StarringJohnCho) Made Me Cheer, Beyond its Romance.

The Crimson Kimono (1959)

How could you not love a 1959 film with such a daring movie poster for its time, not to mention being way ahead of the curve on race? Starring the legendary James Shigeta, one of the first Asian American actors to show his sex appeal in the movies as a romantic lead, “The Crimson Kimono” offers plenty of gripping action and a love triangle with an AMWF twist, at a time when interracial love was still taboo and illegal in many places around the world (including America). Since this film is preserved by the Academy Film Archive — yes, the same Academy behind the Oscars — it should be on the list of every serious film buff, whether you’re into AMWF movies or not.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

This American coming-of-age teen flick drew loads of critical acclaim for Hailee Steinfeld’s turn as the protagonist Nadine, turning it into a must-see among AMWF movies. But you should also watch “The Edge of Seventeen” for Hayden Szeto, in his breakout role of Erwin Kim. As I wrote last year for WWAM BAM!

Thank goodness for the new teen movie The Edge of Seventeen, just released in late 2016.

The film features one of the most refreshingly unstereotypical portrayals of an Asian man in a teen movie – the breakout role of Erwin Kim, played by Hayden Szeto.

And surprisingly, The Edge of Seventeen even shares some common ground with, of all movies, Sixteen Candles (Vanity Fair noted “Steinfeld’s character is derivative of Molly Ringwald circa Sixteen Candles”). Who’d have thought?

If you’re hungry for a good teen movie, one with a positive portrayal of an Asian guy, you must see The Edge of Seventeen, featuring Hayden Szeto.

Ae Fond Kiss (2004)

In “Ae Fond Kiss,” cultures collide in the world of AMWF movies when a Pakistani Muslim man and white Irish Catholic woman come together in Glasgow, not long before his arranged marriage to a cousin. The pushback and prejudice from his family and her colleagues will feel like familiar territory to many interracial and intercultural couples. But what makes this story different is that the film shows sympathy to both sides. Plus, there’s strong chemistry between the leads (Atta Yaqub and Eva Birthistle) — and plenty of passion behind closed doors. The film took in numerous awards across Europe, including two at the Berlin International Film Festival and one at the Cesar Awards, and will surely delight anyone looking for a more thoughtful portrayal of the challenges of interracial and intercultural romance.

A Great Wall (1986)

This movie — which tells the story of a Chinese American family visiting relatives in Beijing — enjoyed critical acclaim and was the first American film to be shot in the People’s Republic of China. It also happens to have a rather memorable moment in the history of AMWF movies. As I wrote a few years back:

When Kelvin laid with a white girl on the couch and kissed her in this 1986 movie, some dubbed it the “makeout scene heard ‘round the world” because it was one of the first movies to ever feature an Asian guy and non-Asian girl doing just that. Kelvin brings some serious sex appeal to the scene — his sultry eyes, and even the sensual way in which he pulls at her blouse — despite the fact that they never actually “do it” in the movie. Plus, I love that Kelvin is so alpha, which shatters that despicable “all Asian guys are so emasculated” stereotype.

Whether you’re watching for the groundbreaking cinematography, the exploration of cultural divides or just Kelvin Han Yee, “A Great Wall” is worth it.

Japanese Story (2003)

This quiet romantic drama that sets an AMWF pair — actors Toni Colette and Gotaro Tsunashima — against the backdrop of Australia’s mining country does tug at the emotions (and ilicited a few tears from yours truly). But despite the fact that their love affair is unexpected, it’s also a powerful one that will stay with you long after the credits are over. Given all the Australian awards this film garnered in 2003 — including winning for best film, director, actress and cinematography — any art house movie fan will want to watch “Japanese Story.”

The Lover (1992)

In “The Lover,” a French teenager in Indochina falls into an illicit love affair with an older Chinese man, making it one of the steamiest pairings on this list of AMWF movies. As I wrote a few years back:

My pulse quickens just thinking about Tony Leung in this movie, based on the book by Marguerite Duras. He may not be the hottest looking guy on this list, but he pulls off some of the most orgasmic sex scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie, let alone a movie featuring an Asian man and white woman together. Let’s put it this way — you’ll probably have to pause the movie every time they visit his “bachelor pad” to reach for one of the following: your partner, a cold shower, or a vibrator.

But besides all the sex appeal, the film also received an Oscar nomination for best cinematography and was the seventh-highest grossing film for 1992 in France, where it also earned several Cesar Award nods and won for best music written for a film.

Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)

This inspiring movie based on the memoir of the same name charts the rise of Li Cunxin from a rural impoverished boyhood in China to world-famous ballet dancer in the US. It’s worth seeing just for Chi Cao, who plays Li:

Chi Cao … had me before I even saw the film. Blame it on that photo … where he’s cradling the leg and torso of Amanda Schull (who plays Liz), while studying her with eyes that seem to yearn for more than just perfect point technique. Who wouldn’t want a “private lesson” with him? Chi Cao shows incredible sex appeal, even playing a newcomer to the US who stumbles through his first steps into the world of dating and sex, and shines in some stunning dance sequences that will also have your heart racing.

Plus, “Mao’s Last Dancer” attracted a slew of Australian movie award nominations, including for best film, and won for its original music score. And any serious art house filmgoers will delight in the ballet sequences — they’re just as moving as the story itself, which happens to feature two AMWF romances.

Never Forever (2007)

What happens when a prim white American housewife in New York makes a daring proposal to a Korean immigrant working at the dry cleaners, and unexpectedly falls in love with him? “Never Forever” is quite a sexy affair, with bedroom scenes (and a surprising fantasy) that just might leave you sweating too. But it’s the strong performances by Vera Farmiga, Ha Jung-woo and David McInnis that elevate this emotional romantic drama into something worthy of art house accolades among AMWF movies. It debuted at Sundance and won at the Deauville American Film Festival.

Pushing Hands (1991)

This first feature film from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee probes the cultural spaces that unite and divide an elder Tai Chi teacher and grandfather from Beijing and his son’s family in America, including the white daughter-in-law who doesn’t see eye to eye with him. Any East-West intercultural couple or family will find the cultural clashes in “Pushing Hands” relatable. And under the expert direction of Lee, the film becomes a timeless classic, including among all AMWF movies.

What other critically acclaimed AMWF movies would you recommend for savvy filmgoers?

2018 Blogs by Western Women Who Love Chinese Men

New bloggers added in 2018 (from top left): Adventures in Asia, Anna Recommends, A Koala Girl in a Panda World, A Georgia Peach Blossoming in China, Lingotopia, Let’s Get Additives

It’s March and we’re celebrating International Women’s Day. That means it’s time to update to my list of blogs by Western women who love Chinese men!

This year, my list includes 45 46 different blogs! I’ve still grouped the blogs loosely according to their focus, and tagged first timers on this list with *NEW* for your convenience.

Like last year, the same housekeeping rule applies — blogs must have been updated within the past year to make this list.

So, without further ado…(insert drumroll of choice)…here are the blogs!

Authors/Books
Family and Kids
Personal Stories

Authors/Books

Behind the Story. American writer Nicki Chen married her late Chinese husband in 1967, the same year that the US Supreme Court finally made interracial marriages legal in the US. She’s led a fascinating life indeed, so it’s no wonder that her blog has become a repository for many of the real-life stories that inspire her novels, including this post about some of the stories behind her paintings. Her debut novel Tiger Tail Soup hit the shelves in 2015 and it’s perfect for anyone who loves Pearl Buck’s wartime China stories. Check out my interview with Nicki from September 2014 to learn more about Tiger Tail Soup.

My Half of the Sky. Jana McBurney-Lin, who has a Chinese husband and children, penned the novel My Half of the Sky, which also is the namesake of her writing- and family-focused blog. But as a Tai Chi enthusiast, I loved this older post about trying out this venerable martial art.

Madame Huang’s Kitchen (Formerly Out to Lunch). Carolyn J. Phillips loves to eat, and shares her passion with the world through some of the most authentic and mouth-watering recipes for Chinese food on the web. Don’t read on an empty stomach. She’s also the author of the Chinese cookbooks All Under Heaven and the Dim Sum Field Guide. To learn more about Carolyn and her work, check out my 2012 interview with her, as well as my interviews with her about All Under Heaven and the Dim Sum Field Guide.

Susan Blumberg-Kason. Once upon a time, Susan was a yangxifu, spending time in Wuhan with her Chinese husband and first child. She’s since moved back to her Chicago roots, remarried and added two more children to her family, but is forever connected to China. She offers tidbits of everything from Jewish Asia to raising multicultural kids, as well as regular reviews on Hong Kong/Shanghai/China-related books. If you’re living in or near Chicago, or passing through, check out her book, All the Tea in Chicago. In 2014 she released her long-awaited memoir Good Chinese Wife – if you’re new to the book, check out my interview with her. Susan also contributes to the new group blog WWAM Bam.

Sveta’s Book Review Blog. Sveta currently pours her passion into reading and sharing her latest reads on this blog. She reviews a variety of books, including AMWF reads that might interest followers of this blog, and titles celebrating diversity.

Family and Kids

The Downtown Diner. American Melanie Gao has no pretensions about herself. Her blog is a homey, welcoming little slice of the yangxifu blogosphere, self-described as “Made famous in Beijing, now operating out of Nashville, Tennessee.” She has spoken out about her divorce from her Chinese ex-husband and will always remain my unofficial twin (we really do look alike). She often writes about her two lovely biracial and bicultural children and filed a fascinating post about what Beijing traffic taught her about mass shootings. Thanks for keeping it real, Melanie.

Elfy Jo (Formerly Joke Tummers). She’s a Dutch woman living in Guangzhou with her husband and family, and her China adventure is filled with music. A former member of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, she now teaches musical instruments to young children at her own school and others in the region. She posts about her teaching and family on her blog; you can also learn more about her through this interview posted on my blog last year.

Ember Swift. This Canadian woman is a singer-songwriter, musician, writer and blogger who writes some of the most fascinating and powerful posts on this list about her life (from her marriage to a Chinese guy to raising their kids). Don’t miss the interviews (one and two) with her that I posted up in 2013 just before Chinese New Year. Her blog has become required reading for pregnancy in China as well as navigating the visa issues of having kids with a Chinese national. Congratulations to her for completing her first musical tour in Europe!

Foreign Sanctuary. Constance is a Canadian married to a Taiwanese man who currently calls Taiwan home — and shares gorgeous photos as well as stories from her life. She just gave birth to a baby boy in 2016, and wrote about her take on the joys of being his mom, but also hopes to come out with a memoir in the near future. Enjoy her guest post on my site about how she believes everything happens for a reason (even how she ended up finding love and a new life in Taiwan).

Hong Kong Kisses. This blog is written Canadian woman with a Hong Kong husband and their two young kids living in Canada. She often blogs about her family life, including spending Christmas with family in Canada.

Living A Dream in China. Finnish woman Sara Jaaksola finished her master’s degree in Chinese language education here in China and now teaches foreigners how to speak Chinese from her new office in Guangzhou, China. Also the mom of a toddler, she’s a great example of how you can balance business and family. Check out her recent post on 30 things about her.

Living in China With Kids. This blog by American Charlotte Edwards Zhang aims to help expat parents survive and thrive in China. Anyone raising kids in the Middle Kingdom will enjoy her posts including this one on prenatal checkups and this post on embassy regulations for births abroad. Charlotte was also featured in the anthology Knocked Up Abroad Again!

Lost Panda. Anna was born in Russia and raised in Germany, but she ultimately discovered her love and future in China. In 2014 she dazzled us with her personal stories at The Mandarin Duck, and now she’s doing it again with the Lost Panda, a blog especially dedicated to living in rural China. Some of her cool posts include The Thing I Wish I Knew Before Marrying into a Chinese Family and “Sheng Da Pang Sunzi 生大胖孙子” The pressure of having a boy in rural China. Her blog is also a wonderful resource for anyone curious about what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth in a more rural Chinese city. Don’t miss her interview on this blog about being an artist and China TV host.

Mandarin Stories. Orange rain’s blog originally had a dramatic backstory — even though she was already married to a Chinese man, her family didn’t know about it. Turns out, when she finally revealed her secret marriage to the family, there wasn’t any drama over it at all (nor much reaction, according to her). In 2015  she and the hubby had their official wedding ceremony in Shanghai (which her two brothers and Aunt even attended, their first-ever trip to China) and she posted her gorgeous pre-wedding photos (including pics in a stunning red dress). Congrats to her on giving birth to a new baby in 2016!

Nama Mama. This was one of the most exciting blogs I discovered in 2014 – it’s not often you come across an American woman married to a Tibetan guy living in Xining, Qinghai (with their daughter). You’ll find posts on Kimberly’s blog about Tibetan traditions, such as Tibetan New Year, as well as dispatches on cultural differences in her relationship and a recap of what she did over 2017. Kim is also a contributor to the new group blog WWAM Bam. Be sure to read her guest post here about how she met her husband (who seems like a super-sweet and extra-special guy).

Olivia’s Choice. If the community had a magazine, chances are Olivia Lau could easily be the covergirl. This beautiful and stylish woman from Spain was living in Hong Kong, where she met and married a local man and also ran her own online fashion store. They’ve moved back to Barcelona to work in Olivia’s family store, but still make regular trips back to Asia (such as these dispatches from Tokyo and Hong Kong). Her maternity pictures (she gave birth to their second child in February last year) are stunning.

Shandongxifu. Ericka, who used to live in Qingdao with her Shandong husband, was known by many of us through her posts at the Lost Laowai blog — where she confidently reminded us that Laowai Girls Love Asian Boys. She rocked the blogosphere in 2014 by bravely coming forward with her chilling story of sexual assault in Shenzhen. Now she resides in the US with her husband and their young son. She has recently shared the experience of surviving a hurricane with her family.

*NEW*Squirrels of a Feather. American Marissa Zheng, who lives on the East Coast with her husband and “two rambunctious boys,” loves to blog about everything that matters to families (from saving money to DIY to food). Readers will enjoy her posts on Chinese language learning and family.

Wo Ai Ni. Rhiannon, an American woman who met and married her Chinese husband in the US, creates a whimsical collage of an intercultural family on her site. It’s a snapshot of daily family life — including two blonde-haired children from a previous marriage, and six half-Chinese kids.

Personal Stories

*NEW*Adventures in Asia. Katie, an American living in China, writes about everything from Korean dramas to cross-cultural relationships to expat life. Her “Ask a cross-cultural couple” column offers advice to others (such as changing your name). If you’re planning weddings in two different countries, you might find her wedding experience helpful!

*NEW*Anna Recommends. Also known as “Annareco,” this lifestyle blog by a Beijing-based Polish woman married to a Chinese man is a delight to read, with posts on health, beauty and, of course, love. Recent AMWF love stories on the blog include Seven Days After Our First Date, I Wrote on the Bathroom Door, “He is the One” and I Asked Her to Be My Girlfriend Before Asking Her Out for a Date.

Becky Ances She teaches English in lovely Xiamen and writes frequently about traveling, her students, and expat life (such as what it was like to be in Xiamen during the BRICS conference!). But many of you will appreciate her take on dating Chinese men. You can also follow her at her other blog Badminton Becky! Congrats to her for being featured on NPR!

*NEW*白小颱 Biały Mały Tajfun (Polish). This Kunming-based blogger from Poland has a Chinese husband and a passion for writing about a variety of topics on China, such as the food, Yunnan and Kunming, as well as writing about her own adventures.

Bunny and Panda. A blog by the “Bunny”, a British woman just recently engaged to the Panda (a Hong Konger who proposed to her at the Peak in Hong Kong – how romantic!). They both live in the UK, where they are having a wedding later this year! Readers will enjoy her post on Chinese wedding traditions.

China Doll. She’s a Norwegian woman who went to China when she was 13 and later met her Chinese beau CC (with whom she had an LDR for some time). She now resides in Beijing with her husband. Readers will enjoy her gorgeous pre-wedding photos as well as her four wedding dresses.

Our Chinese Wedding. A blog by Laura, a British/German woman who married her Chinese beau in 2015, sharing all of the ups and downs in the process of getting married in China (from the issues with bureaucracy to bridesmaid dress horrors to even comparisons between wedding guests in Europe versus China). Laura is one of the founding contributors and editors of the new group blog WWAM Bam. Additionally, don’t miss her guest post for Speaking of China on The F-Word: Body Image in China.

Chocolate Chick in China. This African-American blogger is an English teacher based in  China, and you’ve got to love a woman who writes this in her About page: “I have  always been fascinated by the 5000 year old culture and also all the handsome single Chinese men that may never find love due to the fact that they overpopulate the women. so off I go to China to find a different way of life and  maybe a husband too.” Wishing her the best in Fuzhou!

The Dutchinese Couple. Christine is the daughter of Dutch immigrants, Junwen the son of Chinese immigrants. They share their struggles and insights as a “Dutchinese” couple living in Los Angeles in America. My favorite posts include What would attract a White girl to an Asian guy? and this exploration of their own preconceptions and stereotypes.

*NEW*A Georgia Peach Blossoming in China. American Shalita, who is also an Atlanta native, followed her dreams in moving to China, where she met and married her husband. Many of us can relate to her post titled English is NOT his FIRST language.

My Hong Kong Husband. Lina, who hails from Poland, currently lives in Hong Kong with the eponymous husband that inspired her blog — one that has fast become a popular read in the AMWF community. And it’s no wonder, with her funny posts about everything from a survival guide for dealing with mothers-in-law (she calls hers “Momzilla”) to her husband as “pick up artist”. Congrats to them for landing on Hong Kong TV!

Judith in China (in Dutch). This Dutch woman used to live in Beijing with her local boyfriend but has since moved with him to Wuhan. She blogs about life in China, including the things she encounters every day in the country, such as odd things her neighbors do. Her guest post titled “He Feels Horrible About Me Being The Breadwinner” got a lot of you talking.

*NEW*A Koala Girl in a Panda World. She’s “an Australian Koala living and loving life in Hong Kong with my panda man,” posting about everything from Christmas in Hong Kong to Chinese New Year.

Lena Around. Lena is a 20-something Danish girl who is currently working on a master’s degree in Communication in Beijing while traveling in Asia and writing about those travels, China (her favorite place) and love. She’s written about everything from traveling in Southwest China to wondering why Chinese guys ask about her weight. Have a look at her guest posts for this blog, How Asian Will My Future Husband Be?I Shouldn’t Be Dating in My Own Country, and When Tradition Gets in the Way of Intercultural Dating.

*NEW*Let’s Get Additives. This Finnish woman with a Chinese husband shares her life through delightful little comics that capture her thoughts and experiences, such as City of Love (which recalls the day she and the hubby got married) and this year in review for 2017.

Linda Goes East (formerly Linda Living in China). Originally from Germany, Linda followed her heart and passion all the way to China, never expecting that along the way she would end up falling in love with a man from Korea. Now based in Korea, she blogs about everything from life in Korea to travel to AMWF. Don’t miss her guest post for this blog about four things that helped her adapt to life in South Korea.

Life Behind the Wall. The first blog on this list by an African-American woman with a Chinese beau. Jo Gan isn’t your usual expat teaching English in China. An entrepreneur and dreamer, she has become a partner in a bar, started her own band, dated some fascinating fellows (before meeting her sweetheart Jet Liu), and has her own fashion company. Readers will enjoy her take on sex shops in China and PDA in China. Also, check out her interview for this blog, where she talks about some of her entrepreneurial endeavors.

*NEW*Lingotopia. A blog from Miriam, a language enthusiast from Germany who also happens to have a Chinese husband. She says, “I’m interested in languages from a linguistic point of view and because I want to know more about other cultures.” And yes, those languages include Chinese! Readers of this blog might like her posts What’s in a Face? About Stereotypes and Mixing Chinese and Italian (Zhenjie Paifang vs Archi di castità).

Marta lives in China. She’s a Spaniard who met her Chinese boyfriend husband in Suzhou, where she used to work for a manufacturer in the city and now she freelances from the comfort of her home. You’ll love her post on how she met her sweetheart C as well as her many humorous posts (such as this one titled “There’s Too Many People in China”). You can also follow her en espaňol on her Spanish-language blog Infinity Plus One. Congratulations on getting married in 2017!

Mingbai. A Dutch woman with a Chinese husband runs a China consulting and travel business, and maintains a blog written in Dutch mainly about travel destinations in this great country.

Ni Hao Cassandra (in Spanish). Cassandra is a 20-something Chilean who studied for a year Mandarin Chinese in Kaifeng, Henan, China. She has long been passionate about Chinese culture, and also has a Chinese boyfriend (who she posts about on the blog). Check out this post on customs regarding couples and love in China.

The Ruby Ronin. American Mary (who has a white dad and an Asian mom) has long had a love affair with Asia, spending two years in Japan (and learning Japanese), and then four years in China. She’s now living in Texas with her husband (congrats on getting married last year!) and embarking on a new chapter in her life! An interesting recent post on the blog is Guns, an American Way of Life.

Selly’s Little World. Sarah Heintze is a German gal who was residing in Wuhan, China, describing herself as a “Music lover with a weakness for 王力宏 Wang Leehom. Quirky. Cheeky. A butterfly flitting between ideas. In love with exercising, 小笼包 (xiaolongbao) & 热干面 (hot dry noodles)。” She posts on what’s on her mind and what she’s doing. Wishing her the best as she says goodbye to her current situation and moves on to new adventures.

Sincerely, Shalom (Formerly Jew Knew). Eileen’s blog is so lovely and touching, like her pictures of smiling, long-haired women in dazzling rainbow colors. She is married to a man from Taiwan and after living with him in Shanghai and Taiwan, they’re back in the US. Her posts are often quirky and fun, such as this A to Z list of things she loves (A is for “amazing tofu”!).

When West Dates East. Autumn — who lives in LA with her Chinese American boyfriend – writes: “Some swear it’s a myth:  ‘You’ll find a unicorn before you find a white chick who dates Asian dudes.’ Welcome to my blog on unicorns.” She offers a funny and self-deprecating look into her relationship with posts such as Year of the Dawg (or how much a new mattress can improve your life) and Like a Pill. Don’t miss her guest post for this site titled A “Little” Something Red for My Chinese-American Groom.

WWAM Bam (Western Women & Asian Men, Breaking All Molds). The new group blog for AMWF (or WWAM) couples, exploring everything from cultural differences in relationships to stereotypes/racism and beyond. Recent posts include Bi in Shanghai: Waiting for the Right Year, Waiting for the Right Person, How China’s one-child policy is affecting my family life in Europe, and “Kim’s Convenience” in Toronto — Jung Makes Us Sweat. I’m proud to be a contributor – and you’re welcome to join us by e-mailing the blog at contact(at)wwambam.com.

Xi’ananigans. Marissa, an American woman from New Jersey, met her hubby ZJ while teaching English in Xi’an (she married him in China in the most brilliant red gown I’ve ever seen) and in 2014 moved with him back to the States. They’ve navigated the challenges of building a new life for themselves in the US (which has its pluses too). She just had a baby in 2017 – congrats to her! – and also contributes to the new group blog WWAM Bam. Don’t miss her guest post on my site all about how she met and fell in love with ZJ, or the Q&A I did for her blog.

What do you think? What blogs did I miss?

4 Reasons the Movie ‘Columbus’ (#StarringJohnCho) Made Me Cheer, Beyond its Romance

As everyone settled down on Sunday for an evening of Oscars, not even the red carpet glitz and glamour could distract some of us from the movies and actors that should have been nominated. While women and people of color have made strides this year in the Academy Award nominations, some have noticed the lack of Asian and Latinx actors in the mix and the films they appeared in.

One movie that has inspired some to decry its absence at the Academy Awards this year is “Columbus,” led by the talented veteran actor John Cho (in a role that once again proves his star power – and why he was the focus of the #StarringJohnCho movement) and remarkable newcomer Haley Lu Richardson.

I was thrilled to learn about this movie, and truly enjoyed watching it. But beyond just the fact that this is a romantic indie drama with the unusual pairing of an Asian man and a white woman, here are 4 more things that made me cheer for “Columbus”:

#1: John Cho, an Asian actor, is the romantic lead

A few years ago, the TV show “Selfie” came on the scene – with John Cho in the lead role — and I was raving about it for a very good reason:

Just consider that for a moment – an Asian man as the leading romantic role in an American TV series. When have you ever seen that before? It’s historic! If there’s only one reason you choose to tune in to see Selfie, make it this one.

Well, the excitement sadly didn’t last, as “Selfie” was cancelled after only 13 episodes. Yet Cho’s performance was widely applauded — and it left many of us asking, when will he have the chance to be a romantic lead in the movies?

Enter “Columbus.”

In a world where far too many people still don’t think Asian men are sexy, it’s always a breath of fresh air to see movies that challenge that stereotype in a positive way, such as John Cho’s character in “Columbus.”

#2: “Columbus” subtly handles racial identity

The Korean American identity of Jin, played by John Cho, is something we’re reminded of throughout the film – whether Jin is speaking Korean on the phone, or talking about his translation work in Seoul, or even discussing how funerals are handled in Korean culture. But while this is a part of his identity, it’s not something that provides momentum to the story, nor is it or subverted into stereotypes either. Instead, we’re presented with this man named Jin who happens to be Korean American (and is presented very authentically throughout the story), yet Jin is also given room to be a complex individual, sharing thoughts and emotions that make for great drama.

This is, in fact, one of the things that John Cho loved about “Columbus” from the beginning, as he described in an NPR interview:

…race exists very naturally. It’s simply a component of this person’s identity, and it doesn’t drive the narrative. But neither is it ignored. And it’s – I think it’s a very difficult balance to achieve, and it requires a deft touch.

#3: John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson have great onscreen chemistry

When I was watching “Columbus” a second time around and taking notes (yep, I’m a movie nerd), I couldn’t help noticing that many of the moments that touched me most happened when John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson were onscreen. Like when Jin asks her, regarding the piece of modern architecture, “Tell me about what moves you,” a line that feels a bit flirtatious. Or when the two are laughing over that awkward question from Jin about whether her mom does meth, and that laughter is layered over a certain tension that can happen when you’re inching toward closeness and not entirely certain about it. It’s a delight to watch the two of them, whether they’re just hanging out in the front seat of a car or standing among the pews in the breathtaking interior of a modernist church building.

#4: “Columbus” is an incredible movie, period, and deserves every accolade

Here’s the best part about “Columbus” – it’s a beautiful movie to behold.

Granted, it might not be an obvious choice for those moviegoers who tend to pass on anything that feels a little too “art house.”

But for those people who delight in great cinematography (the shots really are gorgeous), nuanced stories filled with great depth and feeling, and real-to-life characters, this is a joy to watch.

Many top film critics have named “Columbus” one of the best films of 2017, and it currently has a 97 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 on Metacritic.

So while you’re in a hurry to catch up on all the Oscar-nominated (or Oscar-winning) films for 2017, be sure to take a moment and see “Columbus” (which you can now watch on Amazon).

Have you seen “Columbus” yet? What do you think of the movie?