#JustAsianThings

unnamed.jpgRamen, Nyan Cat, Adidas, you name it. We’re obsessed with them. Children of East Asian descent share a common bond over Asian food, Asian memes, Korean fashion, and just being Asian. We love to yell at those who think fortune cookies originated in China (it didn’t), and indulge in inside jokes that only we understand. We are hyper-aware of the common Asian stereotypes, and we just want to explain seven that we really enjoy.

1. “Why are you so red?”

ME: Don’t worry, this happens all the time.

For real, though: That East Asian friend who turns beet red after two beers is having an allergic reaction. The Asian flush syndrome is common among individuals of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent. It happens when the body does not metabolize alcohol efficiently. Most Asians lack acetaldehyde dehydrogenase—an enzyme that breaks down components of alcohol into smaller harmless substances. Unfortunate, I know.

2. *Insert a math equation*

ME: I know I’m Asian, but I’m not a math person.

For real, though: According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Asian countries—like Singapore and Hong Kong—clinched top spots on mathematics performance in 2015. However, the secret to being good at math is not genetics. There is a common belief that Asians are naturally good at math, but their talent is a product of passion, hard work, and ingesting effective teaching strategies. Richard E. Nisbett, author of Intelligence and How to Get It, says that Asian students are taught to persevere in the face of failure, and to receive criticism “in the service of self-improvement.” We could very well be experts in building sand castles if that is what our culture fosters and hones as a fundamental life skill.

3. “Do not drink cold water!”

ME: Hey mom, I love you, but I can drink whatever I want. Drinking a glass of cold water will not cause cancer, it will not make me catch a cold, and it will not make me fat. I will not forsake my lovely cold brew, ugh.

For real, though: Ever wondered why Chinese restaurants readily serve hot water? According to ancient Chinese medicine, drinking hot water is believed to promote blood circulation and toxin release. Mixing cold water with hot food causes an imbalance of your body’s internal temperature, and is thus deemed “not good for you.” As a devoted hot water drinker herself, my mother claims that drinking hot water is simply “better for your health.” I think that drinking cold water isn’t bad, it is just better to drink hot water. Well, according to the Chinese.

4. “Don’t forget where you come from!”

ME: Mom, I promise I’ll have some rice and boiled vegetables for dinner. I just really want pizza for lunch.

For real, though: Sometimes, parents refuse to listen to their small Asian millennial/child (because you’re not officially an adult until you’re 30.) You try your hardest to explain how things are done differently in America but to no avail. You resort to reasoning or educating your parents to become ‘more American.’ Then, you are forced to empathize with their viewpoints, and accept them for who they are, where they come from, and the customs of your Motherland. You are not alone.

5. “No shoes on my rug, PLEASE, I beg you.”

ME: Don’t step on my rug with nasty ass shoes, what’s wrong with you? It’s so hard to clean.

For real, though: It’s true. Always take off your shoes in an Asian household unless advised otherwise. It is customary in Asian cultures to remove footwear before entering the house because the house symbolizes someone’s personal space. In the past, homes in Asia were usually built two feet above ground level for ventilation purposes. This design enabled dirty shoes to be left at the entrance because wearing shoes indoors interrupts the serenity of the home. Many activities in the home are centered around the floor as well. For example, it is Japanese culture to eat on low tables while sitting on floor. That is why it is so important to keep the floors clean. This custom is still in place today.

6. “Wow, you’ve gained a lot of weight!”

ME: What am I supposed to say in response to that? Well, you did tell me that I was too skinny last month, Aunty Wendy.

For real, though: If you come from an Asian family, I can totally relate. You should not feel ashamed for gaining weight because for starters, it is normal, and second, emphasis on weight is exaggerated, and appearance is simply not a taboo subject to talk about, especially in the Chinese culture.

7. “Can you teach me how to use chopsticks?”

ME: I actually fail as an East Asian because I do not use chopsticks the right way.

For real, though: Here’s a step-by-step guide:

113595-How-To-Properly-Use-Chopsticks

 

 

Advertisements

China Neck Deep in Pollution

photo-1465403157034-1d5e05cc2ac0

Algal blooms saturate the trash-laden waters of China. Industrial and agricultural waste is vastly unregulated and allows the toxic runoff to flow freely through Chinese currents and waft through the dense air. According to factsanddetails.com, one-third of industrial waste goes unregulated in addition to nearly 90% of household waste flowing into limited water sources. Contamination is widespread across every major city, without any backup water sources or filtration and treatment solutions in sight. Almost half of state rivers are so polluted, that the government had to report that they were unsafe for human contact.

Bodies of water in China come in all colors of the rainbow, from the deep bluish purple of indigo dyes to bright pinks and reds, to the fuzzy greens of algal blooms. People are exposed to high concentrations of arsenic and sulfates, as well as radiation. Almost half of the water available in the northern part of China is unfit for human consumption. Measures have been taken by the Chinese government, as well as other private institutions, to help combat the epidemic of water pollution.

However, even with the closing of several offensive factories and nearly 132 billion dollars allocated to aid the cleanup, China’s situation grew worse. Acid rain is now a prevalent problem in the country, affecting roughly half of the cities in the country, which could lead to loss of crop yield, erosion, and further acidification of their already tainted waters. Officials have tried to brush off the issue by saying it was mostly caused by the waste of citizens, ignoring the impact that private companies, pollutant industries, and agriculture have on their environment.

The damage shows not only in their surroundings but in the health of their people, which has seen a sharp rise in cases of cancer due to the pollution. An estimated 5.5 years are taken off of the life expectancy of a person born in Northern China due to air and water pollution. It seems that nobody is willing to take responsibility for the crisis, at the cost of the people’s well-being, the safety of the environment, and global health and prosperity. With China’s primary focus being economic growth, their government has little time or money allocated to funding Chinese civil rights such as healthcare, safety regulations, and environmental health. Fiscal prosperity can only last if there are resources and a place for them to grow. China’s economy has seen exponential growth, why can’t its environmental health, too?

Featured Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

Poser

D65CA5E8-A8EF-48E8-B081-013FB6DE5BA9   To be completely honest, I am much more inclined to be a poser than an enthusiast for my subculture. I am of Southeast Asian descent (born and raised in Singapore), and am allowing myself to shamelessly declare my distaste for spicy food, glutinous rice, and bak kut teh (a popular Chinese pork ribs soup). My mother thinks that I am a disgrace to my Chinese heritage, but I recieve her harsh critique with as much pride as I can master.

   My friends, let me tell you that the power of globalization, or should I say, “Americanization,” rings true. Despite what I tell myself, people remind me over and over again that I do not truly belong in that little Asian bubble I call home.

   “You aren’t really one of us, are you?”

   “You’re not Chinese enough… blah blah blah.”

   “Woah wait, you don’t sound like us either.”

   There are so many personalities captured in who I am, and it becomes exhausting sometimes. The last time I checked, Miley Cyrus is back to producing country music, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, Miley, yes! Stick to your roots, Miley! Yeehaw! As elated as I am for my childhood icon to make a comeback, I empathize deeply with Miley, because both she and I fell prey to identity crises.

   Spending a good amount of time thinking about which subculture I belong to is puzzling in itself. Shouldn’t the feeling of belonging be inherent? Attending an international American high school the past two years in Singapore didn’t help. I tried to commit to behaving and speaking in a way that I was used to at home, but was easily swayed by my influencers. Finally, after two partially confusing years of high school, and a vigorous self-prognosis, I have decided to live life with each foot in a motley mix of subcultures. I realized that the more I skim the surface of manifold coteries, the closer I get to finding my authenticity—what feels right, wrong, or meh.

   As I draw closer to the end of my labyrinthine diary entry, my advice to all the people reading this is to be a poser. Be a damn poseur if that is all you can manage for the time being because I can assure you that most of the people around you are doing the same thing. So, if you change your mind about the traditional Chinese pot stickers on Saturday night family gatherings, and decide on burgers, great! If strictly listening to American music makes you feel good, but also like an active contributor to cultural dumping, I say do it. And, if pondering over who I want to be today, tomorrow, or for the next five days makes me inauthentic, I’m offering the sincerest of apologies, because I can’t quite possibly live my life another way. Well, at least for now.

 

Check out our latest Spring 2017 issue!

Huzzah! Our Spring 2017 issue is now digitally available for all our readers! In it, you will find exciting articles such as Korean beauty products, a book review on a refreshingly satirical novel about AAPI culture, Asian representation in the mainstream media, amongst many more.

On a side note, keep an eye out for much more fresh new blog posts and content coming soon!

You’ve Got Male: Pop Culture has No Love for Asian Men

Asiancliehs
Photography by Michelle Yan

This piece was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue

Not to fuss over crumbs, but a funny thing happens in the comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The white female protagonist runs into her bro-y old flame from ten years ago and finds out he’s moving back to California. This encounter revives her obsession with him, so she hauls herself across the U.S. to be near him.

By the way, he’s not into her. Oh, and the man in question is Asian.

American pop culture regularly emasculates and degrades Asian men. A sampling of Asian typecasting: The kung fu master, the Crazy Asian, the one thirsting after the pretty white girl, the pervy reclusive dork who, despite his sexual appetite, never gets any. What these roles have in common is how they depict Asian men as sexually repulsive and  subservient, if not the entertaining monkey who’s too FOB-y to be taken seriously. These representations create a complex interaction between racism and misogyny as commentary on what constitutes not just a real man, but a real person.

You’re not supposed to love these Asian men because they’re sexual naked mole rats. Not desire them, not want to feel their skin run hot under your hands, not think they offer anything besides being the self-hating object of punchlines about small dicks.

Continue reading “You’ve Got Male: Pop Culture has No Love for Asian Men”

We Did It! The Spring 2016 Issue is Here

Hey everyone! We’re excited to announce that our Spring 2016 issue is finally out! You can check out the digital issue below on Issuu. Inside, we have stories on the model minority myth, Chinese students at American private schools, the complex politics of Aziz Ansari in Master of None, and more more more!

Our amazing creative and editorial teams worked tirelessly to relaunch ALINE and reshape its brand into a smart, provocative publication that takes on complex issues with sensitivity and sometimes, a sense of humor. Please check out the pieces inside and feel free to share. We’ll also be republishing stories from the issue for easier reading and sharing. Look for them this week!

Things I Read This Week #2: Scouring the Sea for Those You Love, Good and Bad Smells, and the Things Her Father Carried

window_desk
Photo Credit

Welcome (and apologies for the unannounced break. It’s capstone season yall!) to the second “Things I Read This Week,” where I get to share the longform essays and pieces I’ve been reading this week and talk at length about things that don’t necessarily belong anywhere else on the site. Some of these will be hilarious, others will hit too close to home, and others still won’t reveal to you their true importance until they’re ready, or something like that. This week we have the search for the Ghost Boat, a Louisiana DA straight out of white supremacist hell, straight men and their desire for trans women, freelancing advice, and more.

I try to feature writing from new and familiar sites, so feel free to share your favorites with me in the comments.


“Revenge Killing”, The New Yorker

This reads like a dystopian nightmare, the kind where people in a small town see your family as animals and kill your loved ones without remorse, first responders only save the human Americans, and cities poison their residents with impunity.

There are no words to describe the blatant, dogged commitment to extermination that swirls within this story, not least the monstrous Louisiana DA who makes it his personal mission to destroy black men. A powerful, powerful story.

Not long afterward, another 911 operator called a dispatcher and asked what was happening at the address. “They probably slept on the damn baby,” the dispatcher said. “There’s a hundred folks in that damn house.”

And after the ambulance came:

The families began knocking on the windows of the ambulance, asking the driver why he hadn’t left for the hospital. The paramedics reported to their dispatcher that they were surrounded by a mob; they worried that there was going to be some sort of riot. “If the crowd gets bad, we don’t have anything—there’s no protection,” one paramedic said later. “We had to leave for our safety.” The ambulance drove away with its sirens and lights on, but switched them off as soon as it turned the corner.

“Ghost Boat”, Medium

The disappearance of 243 refugees in the Mediterranean. Countless others lost at sea, the smell of their corpses so bad it coated the water for as far as 900 meters. This ongoing series uses crowdsourced reporting that’s sucked in everyone from experts to journalism students to fishermen in Zarzis who’ve been pulling bodies out of the water in a mission to find the Ghost Boat.

By the time the third part of this series came out, the number of refugees who’d drowned between North Africa and Europe broke 3,000. It brings to us over and over again the moment refugees realize their boat is sinking. It is ever-conscious of the horror of dying at sea. And here is why this series is so important: In part 3, writer Eric Reidy finds out where the bodies of those refugees go.

Walking over the nondescript ground, I was imagining the bodies buried in piles under my feet. Those corpses had an identity—they were people. And those people had families, friends, loved ones, maybe children, who, like the Ghost Boat families, are in limbo: suspended by nagging questions.

When We Ask Straight Men About Their Desire for Trans BodiesHarlot

Not quite a long read, but an important piece on how wanting to have sex with trans women is not the same as loving them.

The camera frames a trans woman’s crotch, the narrator explains that there are men who are actually proud to hit that, and the implication is that there’s nothing normal about finding trans women fuckable. We’re a riddle. A cocktail that’s made with equal parts misogyny and gay panic. The camera puts culture several steps removed from us, and that’s the way things will remain for the foreseeable future.

And:

For many of us, the best-case scenario is that we end up with a man who wants a trans woman because that’s what he beats off to on the Internet, because he pictures us as adhering to a strict, rigid femininity, because he expects us to be thankful for the attention.

Our Pungent History: Sweat, Perfume, and the Scent of Death, Collectors Weekly

As much as I love things that smell good (yes to peppermint plants, no to Yankee candles), I’m just as fascinated by pungent smells. I have a special place in my heart for pieces that dive into the fun and nasty carnality of the human body, such as this one.

The Freelancers’ Roundtable, Longreads

This has all sorts of detailed, insightful advice on negotiating contracts, developing and pitching stories, and revision nightmares helpful for young writers/journalists trying to break into the industry. If you want a tangible guide that keeps it real, this is a good place to start.

The Daughter, The Los Angeles Times

I came across this piece a couple of years ago, but dug it up again as guidance for a story I’m writing on how our families’ baggage affect us. It covers two important stories: It profiles a young girl who survives her father’s murder-suicide, and it touches on the larger truth of immigrant parents (my parents, your parents) who love their children to pieces, do the best they can, but still crumble under the weight.This piece resonates deeply with me because it made me reexamine my own relationship with my father, and try to understand and forgive his limitations.

The sparse, compassionate prose is exceptional and all too rare with stories about Asian families.

The Man Who Sailed His House, GQ

And now, one of my all-time favorite pieces. GQ recently reposted this piece from its archives for the 5th anniversary of the 2011 Japanese tsunami, along with the original illustrations by the award-winning Yuko Shimizu. Hiromitsu Shinkawa was rescued at sea on the roof of his house, which had been swept into the ocean in the same catastrophic rush of water that killed his wife. It’s a beautiful, epic piece that reconstructs the moment the tsunami hit to the hour Shinkawa is rescued. It nails every detail while managing to imbue the writing with a numb acceptance that everyone and everything he used to call home is gone. The writing shudders with grief and loneliness. Forgive me for quoting such huge chunks, but every sentence streams into the next:

If you could see anything in the grip of this monster, fifteen feet down, you’d see your neighbors tumbling by, as if part of the same circus. You’d see huge pieces of house—chimneys and doors, stairs and walls—crashing into each other, fusing, becoming part of one solid, deadly wave. You’d see shards of glass and splintered swords of wood. Or a car moving like a submarine. You’d see your thirty pigeons revolving in their cage. Or your wife within an arm’s reach, then vacuumed away like a small fish. You frantically flail. Is this up or down? Something is burning inside now, not desperation but blood depleted of oxygen. What you illogically desire more than anything is to open your mouth wide and gulp. You scissor your legs. In some eternity, the water turns from black to gray, and gray to dirty green, as you reach up over your head one last time and whip your arms down, shooting for the light.

This piece intrigues me because the tone is such a risk. It uses second person, a particular tone that’s part epic and part stream-of-consciousness to tell Shinkawa’s story back to him. The risk is it can sound patronizing, self-indulgent, or both, but here it reads as gut-wrenching eulogy.

This ending section kills me every time:

These are strange days, in this anonymous eight-story beige structure where, at first, you know nobody—and where the world carries on without memory, the bustle of salarymen in the stations and streets, traffic rushing somewhere. You say nothing about who you are to the neighbors but spend your time trying to keep busy, all in order to forget, too. Unbidden, you begin a daily sweeping of the walkways at the complex. You and your broom, hoping to make yourselves useful. You also try to spend time with your grandson, who is now a short commute away, but of course, mothering doesn’t come as naturally to you as it did to Yuko. And so between your parents, who sit all day watching television in sad nostalgia for everything lost, and your daughter, whose life is busy and now motherless, your displacement is complete.

I posted this roundup early to make up for being MIA, but check back next Friday for more!