On Sunday, October 14, we held the second leg of my Hapa Tales tour at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis. Honestly I wasn’t sure what would happen because I’ve never been to the Twin Cities and it’s not my lived-in community. But, of all the places I had been asked to visit on my book tour, the Midwest was the most requested (over places like Los Angeles or the Bay Area). And wow am I glad I went.
Moon Palace Books is a large indie bookstore. It’s bright and spacious with a cafe and staged backroom venue. When I first walked into that backroom and saw the rows of chairs that had been set up for our event, I’ll admit the tiniest bit of worry. I didn’t know how many chairs would be filled. But there was no need to worry because we—meaning myself, the artists and community–packed that room. There were 75 people in attendance and, like Elliott Bay, chairs had to be added. Some folks were standing. Later, we sold out of books again.
Singer-songwriters Meghan Kreidler and Diane Miller performed a gorgeous four song set on keys (Meghan) and guitar (Diane). Then, we got a little encore. Diane Miller is also a rapper and freestyled to Meghan beatboxing. Diane recently moved from Fargo to the Twin Cities in September. Following, writer Nicola Koh read a beautiful, painful, poignant piece “Forgive Not My Transgressions,” on faith and being Malaysian Eurasian. Nicola recently earned their MFA from Hamline University.
In the audience, we were honored with the presence of a Kānaka Maoli Aunty who gave us the gift of her Native language and Indigenous wisdom. She let us know why it’s important not to call the US continent “the mainland” in the fight for Native Hawaiian sovereignty (and helped me correct my pronunciation of Honolulu). Additionally, there were quite a few non-Indigenous Asian American attendees who had connections to Hawai‘i through having lived, been born or raised, and/or having family on the islands.
We were also honored with the presence of four Midwest Mixed members including co-founders Alissa Paris and Owen Duckworth. In 2014, Paris and Duckworth started a series of recurring dialogues for mixed-race identifying people in the midwest. A committee formed out of the dialogues to plan a conference for more outreach and in 2017 the first Midwest Mixed Conference was convened in St. Paul. The next conference is coming up this July 2018. Midwest Mixed also organizes other events throughout the year such as continued dialogues as well as socials and other gatherings.
There were lots of other Mixed folks in the room as well. More than I expected, actually. On the last census there was a 51 percent increase in the number of Minnesotans who self-identified as more than one race. One in six people in Minnesota were multiracial, compared to one in ten nationwide, and their stories are coming forward. For example Joel Peterson, mixed-race Korean transracial adoptee, published his memoir Dreams of My Mothers a few years ago, and shortly thereafter Minneapolis artist Leslie Barlow exhibited a series of paintings of interracial couples and families called “Loving,” inspired by the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia.
Overall, I have to say, the midwest community in that Moon Palace room felt strong, tightly woven with love and listening, and a deep respect for the arts. That is a voice of the people of course. But I learned too there is a well-established arts infrastructure in the Twin Cities which means robust funding for artists and arts organizations. Thanks to the support of artistic director Randy Reyes and videographer Kevin Duong of Theater Mu, for example, our event was well-promoted and filmed. Theater Mu is one of the only Asian American theater companies in the entire country.
Which might explain why, when we reached the end of the night’s program, Q&A mostly ended up storytelling, sharing, and more creative-making by Mixed folk in the room–rather than questions. Which I loved, loved, loved. In the current political climate where we are fighting to breathe and keep hold of our truths, art and storytelling seem more important to me than ever. It was a joy and privilege to receive everyone’s words and creativity. I feel immense gratitude for a second heart-filling book event. Thank you, Twin Cities.
Next stop, opening for PC Muñoz’s HALF-BREED tonight at the Hugo House in Seattle!