I had a great 2018. It was busy. Twelve months filled with all the things I love to do: photography, writing, creative community-building, artivism. I’m humbled, also grateful and proud. As I’ve said before (and as many of you know) it’s not easy sustaining this work. Spiritually or financially. Artivism is inspiring and fulfilling, at the time it is fraught, emotional, and often not lucrative. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture. There were many moments in 2018 when I wanted to give up. I was in low spirits this holiday season. But pulling out my calendar and looking at the roads I’d traveled, left me with a positively different feeling.
I have to commend the way mixed-race is being talked about in the UK right now. I also need to give a nod where it’s due—to Meghan Markle, Black Mixed American, former actress, now Prince Harry’s wife and Duchess of Sussex. Markle’s highly visible presence in the United Kingdom and openness about being Mixed has shifted a lot of narratives. I know the conversation about Markle is complex and multi-faceted, at times fraught and triggering. I recognize as a non-Black womxn, there is much I can’t speak to regarding Blackness, colorism, colonialism, intergenerational trauma, etc. Before I continue, I highly encourage you to seek writings by Black and Black Mixed womxn on these critical, necessary topics.
What I wanted to add here is that seeing ourselves in national leadership matters a lot for mixed-race people too. In equity work we always reiterate this phrase: Representation Matters. I confess it gets tiring repeating it. Especially, as in the case of multiracial representation, when you’re not sure if anyone else is listening, or, they are listening but pushing back. Then, something will happen that returns me like a slingshot to the ongoing importance of these two words for multiracial folks. At the moment, it’s been watching how Markle marrying into the Royal Family, and becoming pregnant with a Mixed child, has opened the door for more representation of Mixed people in the UK. Check out this media round-up since May . . .
It’s been three months since Hapa Tales and Other Lies came out. I’ve done seven events in five cities. Hands down, the best thing about touring has been convening with Mixed folks all over the US; sharing our experiences and art, and building together. At the moment I’m just back from the Bay Area where we held a Hapa Tales event at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC), co-hosted by Eastwind Books.
Based on Jenny Han’s novel of the same name, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a high school rom-com about three Asian Mixed sisters growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Released this summer by Netflix (the same week as Crazy Rich Asians) the movie made huge waves for representing an Asian American story and casting Vietnamese American actress Lana Condor in the lead role. Critics and viewers adored it. The film quickly became one of Netflix’s biggest hits and a notable player in the rom-com renaissance.
The Covey girls, who are Korean and white, live with their single white father Dr. Covey (John Corbett) in a Portland suburb. Their Korean mother passed away when they were younger. Condor plays middle child Lara, a dreamy, introverted teen who likes to stay home with her sisters, bury herself in romantic novels, and write love letters to crushes that she never mails. But when oldest sister Margot (Jannel Parish) leaves for college and Lara becomes even more withdrawn, youngest sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) decides to mail five of Lara’s love letters. As a mortified Lara is forced to step into the world to deal with being outed, she discovers new friendship, social confidence, and real-life romance.
To All the Boys is endearing in ways. I love rom-coms and this one satisfies superficially, seeped in pop culture, with its charming but conflicted lead characters and quirky supporting cast. Condor is such a compelling actress and her take on Lara Jean as a self-reliant but cautious Snapchat Gen teen, is refreshingly sincere. The movie also portrays three Asian biracial girls living in the Pacific Northwest, a theme I have an obvious stake in being an Asian biracial woman who has lived in Seattle for seventeen years. I wanted to adore this movie as much as its many rave reviewers. But I have to confess; I had a pretty tough time watching it…
I should be sleeping. After days of work travel I’m surprised to find myself awake after only five hours. But, I can’t sleep. My mind is buzzing, spinning, winding out. Because I just spent the weekend at Facing Race 2018 in Detroit. Let me throw a few names out there and you should get a sense why my brain is swirling the way it is: Bree Newsome, Hari Kondabolu, Tarana Burke, Linda Sarsour. Starting to get the magnificent picture?
I’m about to be in the Bay Area for two Hapa Tales and Other Lies events soon and want to invite you to both of them! You’ll find me at the Howard Zinn Book Fair in San Francisco, December 2, presenting on critical multiraciality. You’ll also find me at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, November 30, for an awesome (and rare) gathering of Mixed writers, authors, and poets. This Oakland event is especially near and dear to my heart because, as I’m always saying, there are still few spaces for multiracial-identifying people to gather and discuss our unique experiences living in a highly raced and racist country. At the Asian Cultural Center, there will be readings followed by a panel conversation and Q&A with all us creators. Take a look at the outstanding artists joining me and please come be a part of our evening if you can. We’d love to see you!
Hapa Tales and Other Lies at Oakland Asian Cultural Center
Friday, November 30, 2018
Oakland Asian Cultural Center
388 Ninth Street, Suite 290
Oakland, CA 94607
This event is free and open to the public.
Facebook Event Page: Hapa Tales and Other Lies @ Oakland Asian Cultural Center
ASHA SUDRA ~ Asha is an artist, educator, and revolutionary. Originally from LA, she worked as a community organizer for workers/tenant rights, anti-police brutality, and anti-domestic violence, as well as a coach with the non-profit Playworks in East-Oakland. Her passion for social justice informs her work educating youth. She is currently an 8th grade teacher and is actively training teachers around California how to teach with a social justice lens in order to create authentic change using Teaching Tolerance. As a performer, she has toured London showcasing her poetry, including at the famous Troy Bar, Emceed the Womxn’s March in January 2017 and performed in 2018, as well as performed at the March For Our Lives Event in 2018. She has also Emceed the Womxns Showcase for all 3 years, featured at Cinequest Film Festival in 2017 and 2018, and graced the cover of South Bay’s CONTENT magazine in August of 2017. KQED created a short documentary on Asha and her artistry this summer. Her music, art and spoken word act as a mirror into the passion and activism she lives out daily.
WEI MING DARIOTIS ~ A San Franciscan born in Australia, Wei Ming is an Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, with an emphasis on Asian Americans and Chinese Americans of Mixed Heritage and Asian American and Chinese American Literature, Arts, and Culture, at San Francisco State University. Wei Ming co-curated and co-edited War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art, an art exhibit and related book. She was the Special Guest Editor of the 2012 issue of Asian American Literatures: Discourses and Pedagogies, on Mixed Heritage Asian American Literature. She also co-coordinated the Inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, at De Paul University, in 2010. Her poetry has been published in Mixed Up, Too Mixed Up, 580 Split, and Yellow as Turmeric, Fragrant as Cloves: A Contemporary Anthology of Asian American Women’s Poetry.
NIA MCALLISTER ~ Living at the intersection of blackness, womanhood, art, and activism, Nia uses writing as her sharpest tool for understanding and interrogating the complexities of her mixed identity and the world around her. As a Bay Area born poet, avid reader, environmental justice advocate, and museum professional, Nia draws creative inspiration from ideas of home, environment, and identity. In her work at the Museum of the African Diaspora and as a Bay Area Liaison for Blasian Narratives, Nia enjoys connecting her artistic outlets with opportunities for community engagement. In recent years, Nia has begun contributing to online poetry collectives, cultivating networks of writers through social media, and regularly performing at and hosting open mic around the San Francisco Bay Area.
FREDRICK D. KAKINAMI CLOYD ~ Fredrick was born in 1955 in Ōme, Japan to an African-American father in the U.S. military and Japanese mother. He received a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation. He has been a teacher and consultant in cross-cultural, intercultural, diversity and anti-oppression trainings for over 40 years, and is regularly involved in academic, arts, cross-cultural, interdisciplinary spirituality and social justice/anti-oppression programs in person, online, in print, and on radio and television. He has been published in Oakland Word, the National Japanese American Historical Society Journal, as well as on Discover Nikkei, an online journal. His poem For Kiyoko, Epitaph/Chikai was published in Kartika Review Spring 2012 issue and was exhibited in Generation Nexus: Peace in the Postwar Era exhibit for the grand opening of the Historical Learning Center for the National Japanese American Historical Society in San Francisco in 2013. His essay: On Being a Black-Japanese Amerasian Being, will be included in the 2017 anthology: The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century. He was a chief organizer for the first-ever symposium on Japanese war brides at the University of Southern California in June 2018. His first book: Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific, is due for release in March 2019.
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.
I did it.
I took a DNA test.
I spit in a little vial, wrapped it in the paper envelope they gave me, and mailed the whole thing away. Despite knowing DNA tests are white-biased and notoriously bad at identifying the heritages of People of Color, despite knowing I was giving my DNA to complete strangers to analyze—I did it, anyway.
This is not a post explaining the details of DNA test science because others have already done so. I’m not here to write about which companies my family and I used because this isn’t an advertisement and anyway none of the companies are great at the moment. I’m also not going to critique the way DNA tests reinforce the erroneous belief that race is biological because, though we really need to talk about that, I have a different goal at the moment for my 1,000ish word limit. Specifically, this post is about how DNA testing can impact a biracial person’s sense of identity . . .
Photo by Devon de Leña
Last Wednesday, September 19, we launched Hapa Tales at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. A typical author event at Elliott Bay, they told me, averages around 30 people. But for our event, an astonishing 120 people showed up to celebrate, twice as many as I’d hoped for. Three rows of chairs were added at the back of the room. Elliott Bay sold out of books. The following day, Third Place Books (the only other local store carrying Hapa Tales to my knowledge), had two copies left. The night was uplifting and inspiring, and my heart is fuller than it’s been in a long, long time.
I’m super excited to head to Minneapolis next month for a special Hapa Tales and Other Lies event at Moon Palace Books! This will be the second stop on my book tour where I’ll be joined yet again by some radical Mixed Race performers: Meghan Kreidler & Diane Miller, Nicola Koh, and Marcelle Richards (see their bios below). The Twin Cities is a really special region of the US for Asian American artivism. Of all the places I was asked to come do an event, this was the place I was asked to visit the most. So, I’m really looking forward not only to sharing my work, but also engaging with and learning about the artist and activist community in MN. Please come out and join us!
Hapa Tales and Other Lies at Moon Palace
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Moon Palace Books
3032 Minnehaha Ave.
Minneapolis MN 55406
This event is free and open to the public.
Facebook Event Page: Hapa Tales Launch @ Moon Palace
MUSIC / MEGHAN KREIDLER ~ Meghan is an actor and musician based in the Twin Cities. She has worked with Theater Mu, Mixed Blood Theatre, Guthrie Theater, Children’s Theatre Company, Ten Thousand Things, Theatre Latte Da, Workhaus Collective, Park Square Theatre, and History Theatre. She is a Monologue and Teaching Artist with Penumbra Theatre’s Race Workshop. Kreidler is a graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre BFA Actor Training Program. She is a recipient for the 2017 Ivey Award for Emerging Artist and Overall Excellence in Ensemble with Mixed Blood Theatre’s production of Vietgone. She was also named 2017 City Pages Artist of the Year. When Meghan isn’t performing in plays you can see her front local rock and roll band Kiss the Tiger. www.meghankreidler.com www.kissthetiger.com
MUSIC / DIANE MILLER ~ Diane is a singer, songwriter, rapper, writer and talent buyer. Her work has been featured on MPR, NPR, Music Blog, Prairie Public, City Pages, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, TEDxFargo, and countless more regional media blogs and sites. She’s been voted “Best Musician” by her peers in Fargo, ND. Her band D Mills & The Thrills has several times been noted “Best Original Band” of Fargo and “Best Hip-Hop Group” of North Dakota. Diane recently moved to Minneapolis to pursue music as a performer, writer and booker. Prior to pursuing her passion for music in Minneapolis, she served as the editor-in-chief of High Plains Reader, Fargo’s alternative newsweekly, and as director of The Aquarium, Fargo’s premiere indie music venue.
STORY / NICOLA KOH ~ Nicola is a Malaysian-Eurasian and Tetris demigod with two master’s degrees in Protestant theology which they lost their faith getting and an MFA from Hamline. Their work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Southwest Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection, and others. They were a 2018 VONA fellow and a finalist for the 2017 Glimmer Train Fiction Open.
CEREMONY & WORDS / MARCELLE RICHARDS ~ Marcelle is a mixed race (Korean and white) genderfluid writer, shamanic practitioner, freelance editor, and self-taught artist. They were born in Honolulu, HI, and spent most of their life in California and Madison, WI before moving to Minneapolis last November. Their writing is informed by their travels, which have taken them across the U.S. and abroad; this fall, they will conduct ancestral and spiritual research in Korea. They have a B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where they were a UW-Madison Writing Fellow. They were a food and features writer for several years for Isthmus and Our Lives Magazine in Madison, but their storytelling is now taking a turn for more experimental and expansive forms.