I have exciting news–I’ve written a new book and it’s coming out September 2018! Hapa Tales and Other Lies: A Mixed Race Memoir About the Hawai’i I Never Knew.
This memoir is my first foray into literary nonfiction. I wrote it last summer upon a visit to O’ahu and Kaua’i. It’s a reflection on my Mixed Race and activist identity through the prism of returning to Hawai’i as a tourist. The book began as a journey to sort out all the ways I’ve been racially stereotyped as a “Hawai’i Girl” even though I’ve never lived on the islands. But it evolved into a book about also examining my Asian multiracial (“mainland”) identity in relationship to land, Indigeneity, and the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement.
It’s been an eye-opening and life-changing experience, to say the least. I remain humbled and am thrilled for you all to read it, enter into your own reflections, and–as with my first book Raising Mixed Race–use the book to hopefully build tougher, nuanced conversations about what it means to be/identify as Mixed Race.
Truthfully, I’m kind of surprised (and you might be too) to see Hapa Tales born into the world at this moment because I’ve been working on another book for years on Asian American women, gender, and race. The latter is still coming, rest assured. But I confess being derailed by all the hateful misogyny of the 2015-2016 presidential campaign which U.S. society seemed to condone, even reward, with the election of a patriarchal president.
I fell into depression for a long time and stopped writing, wondering what the point was of penning a book not just about women but Women of Color, and particularly a group of Women of Color who are imagined to be “doing well” and therefore are often dismissed. In a time of such overt and pervasive anti-woman hate, who would have the capacity–or even care–to listen, to expand their understanding of racialized gender?
Meanwhile I found myself increasingly averse to the media and social media, platforms where I used to see so much interesting, thoughtful writing, but now was seeing endless coverage of 45; epic rants, angry think pieces, frenzied reporting, and repeated images of the president’s face, all of which I found deeply triggering.
It was during this time of despondency, and frankly increasing despair, that I took a step back. Dejected, dispirited, disheartened–writing an academic book in that moment felt too hard. Trying to force my pen was grieving me and hurting my heart. After months of pushing and pushing with no result, I at last decided to be kind and loving to myself instead. I gave myself permission to take a break and consider what I really needed to write and thrive in this moment in history.
At that point we had reached 2017, 45 had been inaugurated and begun his predictably hateful presidency. The first year was not going well. Words and images in the media and on social media had not improved. After so many months of watching voices squelched and truth over-ridden, I suddenly snapped out of my funk and realized what would be salve for my soul. I needed to spend some time writing freely, creatively, from my own voice and from my story. Whatever that turned out to be. I just needed to be.
As it turned out, we were headed to Hawai’i that summer to visit with friends. Despite only ever having visited, Hawai’i is still a place that has real significance for me as an Asian Mixed woman because it comprises the largest U.S. population of people who look like me and is also a place through which stereotypes about multiracial women like myself have long been funneled. I thought it was time to unpack said baggage. I gave myself an assignment: 30 days to free-write around the trip with a goal of 1,000 words per day. That’s it. No expectations. I was not planning on writing a book and I was not doing it for anyone else other than myself and perhaps my Mixed son and husband.
Well. When I finished my 30-day writing project, I looked through what I had written and felt there might be something there, something others might want to hear. I started sorting, shifting, moving words into themes and chapters. I felt compelled and fulfilled for the first time in so long. So, I just kept going for weeks and weeks. When I was done I liked what I saw so I pulled together a review panel to give me feedback. Their feedback came in. I edited and wrote, and edited and wrote some more. Then I started working with a developmental editor.
Today, my memoir is about to head into copyedit, its cover is being designed, promo tour being booked, webpage being developed, and I discover myself back to writing my book on Asian American women with renewed strength and energy. I have long believed in the healing power of storytelling, but this experience has proven even further to me the importance of that conviction. I vouch full-and-whole heartedly for the resilience we find in telling our marginalized stories, especially in hard times, and can’t wait to share Hapa Tales with you this September.