Viet Thanh Nguyen’s expertly and cunningly crafted debut novel The Sympathizer dictates a confession in the years after the end of the Vietnam War. At it’s very base, this is a spy’s story. Told from his perspective to an unnamed Commandant (and equally so to the reader), the narrative unfolds from shortly before the so-called fall of Saigon in 1975 when Communist forces took over the city from the Republic of Vietnam.
“The Sympathizer” is a man who sees things from both sides, a Communist mole who at times feels conflicting individual loyalties, to people and causes. Though a plot moves the tale along, the true strength of this book lies in the moments where the narrator reasons through his thought process in an almost stream-of-conscious manner that is utterly rational, convoluted, and simultaneously cynical and optimistic–which is to say, incredibly smartly written. From the very first paragraph, Nguyen draws you in…
I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I observe the world in such a fashion, I wonder if what I have should even be called a talent. After all, a talent is something you use, not something that uses you.
And so the story unfolds, with the narrator turning his wit against one and all, from the Americans who supported and trained South Vietnamese during the war, to the South Vietnamese generals who hold on to hope beyond hope after being exiled in the chaotic flight from Saigon, to the Communists who dictate the spy’s missions.
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In 1996, the United States Congress ordered a new look at the stories of Asian American soldiers to see if any were passed up for appropriate medals. As a result, in 2000, Frances Wai’s Distinguished Service Cross medal was upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Wai was a noted athlete who was killed in action the Philippines in 1944. I thought it appropriate to remember Captain Francis Wai on US Memorial Day as someone who was the exact opposite of so many Asian American male stereotypes.
Three Asian American/Pacific Islander MMA fighters won at UFC Fight Night 66 in Manila (Pasay to be exact) Philippines. Jon “The Super Saiyan” Tuck, the first Chamorro signed to the UFC, submitted Tae Hyun Bang, by rear naked choke. Mark “the Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz won his last match before retiring via unanimous decision over Luke Barnatt. In his return to the UFC, Phillipe “The Filipino Assassin” Nover won a split decision victory over Yui Chul Nam. I thought he lost that deciding critical second round, but it was close.
It’s interesting how the UFC has used Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to enter new markets in Asia. Cung Le, known in Asian for his action movie roles, headlined the UFC’s first event in China and later coached the Ultimate Fighter China. Asia is not that far for Jon Tuck (he’s from Guam), who also was on the main card with Le in Macao in that first event. Mark Munoz did tours and rallies in the Philippines to bring a UFC event there. Munoz sold his MMA gym Reign and retired in order to spend more time with his family.
A 16-year-old exchange student from Taiwan staying with a host family in the United States visits Yellowstone National Park, stands three feet away from a live wild bison, turns her back to it for a picture, and is gored in the back by the wild bison, as reported by CNN. The girl was serious wounded but the injury was not in critical condition. She was with her host American host family on the visit.
My father developed an allergy to shrimp, one of his favorite foods. When he ate shrimp anyway, my mother warned him in Tagalog that he would get itchy. “Then I’ll scratch,” was his reply. While I laugh when I think about that story, for other Asian Americans, reactions to food allergies are not at all funny. 18 year old BJ Hom died from eating a dessert that he did not know contained peanuts. A recent article by Grace Hwang Lynch (of the Hapa Mama blog) points out that Asian American children are 40% more likely to have food allergies than the general population, according to this 2011 study published in the Journal Pediatrics, but less likely than whites to have a confirmed food allergy diagnosis. She also mentions that Asian American food allergies tend to be different from those of other Americans.
I’m a fan of the now completed AMC series ‘Mad Men,‘ (though I have to say, relative to ‘Breaking Bad,’ I thought was somewhat over-rated). This past week, ‘Mad Men’ concluded its series and the last scene is with one of the most famous, recognized and successful television commercials of all time, Coca-Cola’s ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke Commercial‘ – and quite possible the first Asian American Commercial Watch post I would ever write – if I were a brilliant genius baby, since the commercial first aired in the year I was born in 1971.
In watching, and re-watching the famous Coke ad, I couldn’t help myself in noticing these Asian faces (amongst others in the crowd):
After reading this Slate article on “What Coke Taught the World 111 56 13 The “It’s the Real Thing” ads were among the first to recognize the market potential of a multicultural America.” – and replaying the commercial many times, that I thought I should blog about this commercial and agree with these sentiments:
“The hilltop commercial was among the first that Coca-Cola shot in full color. More important, it was perhaps the nation’s first colorized one—an unusual advertisement that admitted a possible multicultural future beyond whiteness.
Conceived during the fall of 1968, the Real Thing commercials would incept the drink into a new dream of America, in which divisions between young and old, counterculture and mainstream, Black and white, poor and rich, liberal and conservative had been resolved. In this era of fragmentation and unrest, it was time for the universal drink, like Brand U.S. itself, to reassert some alpha swag.”
To be honest, I am shocked that Coca-Cola does not have a higher quality video of their iconic commercial hosted on YouTube or elsewhere (like their homepage!).
A lot of people didn’t like the ending of ‘Mad Men’ in regards to the main character, Don Draper, but to me, it’s clear that he returned back to New York City and created the the Coca-Cola commercial in ‘Mad Men”s fictionalized world.
When I’m Stateside, I actually hardly ever have donuts. But when in Asia, with Mister Donuts in easy access, I have donuts almost every day. Not a bad thing, but it does make it a bit of a relief that Mister Donuts isn’t here in Los Angeles yet because I would either get sick of them really easily or gain a lot of fat weight quick from eating way too many of them or both. Last time, it was Mister Donuts in Taiwan, this time it’s in Japan, and there seem to be way more Mister Donut shops in Japan than in Taiwan. And every time I see one, I would buy a dozen and snack on them all day, sharing some with friends, of course.
Part of the fun is trying all these different unusual flavors. Of course, I don’t always enjoy every donut I try, but I quickly figure out which ones are my favorites. This trip, I realized that I really love the cream filled ones, and I tried and love the cronuts or croissant donuts, especially the ones filled with cream! Seriously delicious!
This week, on May 12, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Washington, DC. Nearly 2,000 community members, federal officials, and guests from over 40 states and the Pacific Islands came together to connect with one other, share their experiences and stories, and gain tools to mobilize their communities to continue expanding opportunity for AAPIs everywhere.
President Obama sent a video message to the Summit participants:
Throughout this summit, we heard the same clear message across federal government: we are working hard to better reach and serve the dynamic and diverse needs of our nation’s growing AAPI community. That is precisely why WHIAAPI focuses on building bridges between government and advocacy groups, institutions, and local communities. To further these goals, we focused our plenaries, fireside chats with government leaders, nearly 25 panel discussions, and brown bag lunches – on highlighting and addressing issues that impact AAPI communities around the country. Topics discussed spanned the gamut, from bullying and harassment in schools to the power of immigrant and refugee voices to social entrepreneurship.
Check out the Flickr photoset from the day: https://flic.kr/ps/UJEah
Submitted by Ruel Gaviola:
PBS has a full schedule of programming for Asian Pacific Heritage Month, including over two dozen films streaming online.
“Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this May and every day with a special PBS collection of stories that explores the history, traditions and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”
Among the titles to keep an eye out for:
Soul of a Banquet
Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry
Ana May Wong: In Her Own Words
Road to the Globe, Pacific Heartbeat
A Winning Girl
After a thorough nationwide search, CAPE’s Board of Directors is excited to announce the appointment of Michelle K. Sugihara as its new Executive Director. CAPE is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to improving Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) images and representation through media and entertainment. In partnership with industry sponsors including Warner Brothers, NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Final Draft and Verizon, CAPE’s signature programs include the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, #IAM Campaign, educational panels and networking mixers targeting emerging and established entertainment industry leaders and creative talent.
“We’re thrilled that Michelle has joined the CAPE team as an integral part of our organization,” said Wenda Fong, CAPE Co-Founder and Interim Executive Director. “Michelle’s non-profit experience, strong community ties and legal background make her well-positioned to lead CAPE and take us to the next level. Her ability to address issues both analytically and creatively will serve her well as Executive Director.”
As Executive Director, Sugihara will lead the organization and advance CAPE’s mission of championing diversity by educating, connecting and empowering AAPI artists and leaders in entertainment and media by focusing on fundraising, programming, strategic growth and operations.
I admit it, I’m a popaholic and I’m proud. Not sure what that is? It’s a person who loves watching videos of pimples, cysts, blackheads. The bigger, the better. For a long
long long time, I never told anyone. I mean, once in a while, it slipped out. I’d show my wife a video that I liked. Her disgusted face was enough to reinforce that I shouldn’t share my love/fascination with anyone else. My wife is legally obligated to love me. Everyone else, not so much.
Anyway, that’s why I was so excited when I saw this article about Dr. Sandra Lee on BuzzFeed. I realized I wasn’t alone. There are people out there like me — and not just a few, but a lot! And the more I read about Dr. Lee, the more I admired her. She’s helping people and creating hours of entertainment. I thought it was time to introduce the world of poaholic’s and Dr. Lee to 8Asians.
I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Lee and ask her a few questions:
1. Tell us a little about yourself. e.g. Where did you grow up? What is your profession? And the most Asian of questions, what university did you go to and what degree(s) did you get?
My dad and mom came to America (Queens, NY) via Singapore and Malaysia the year before I was born, so that my dad could complete his dermatology residency in New York (yes, my dad is a dermatologist too (now retired)). I’m Chinese, but my dad’s from Singapore and my mother from Malaysia.
I was born in Flushing NY, but we all moved to Southern California when I was about 5.
I’m a board certified dermatologist, but I mainly consider myself to be a dermatologic surgeon, and I specialize in skin cancer surgery and cosmetic procedures and cosmetic surgery (I do liposuction, laser resurfacing, eye lifts, etc.)
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So after eating mostly train bentos and convenient store food for the majority of the trip, my friends and I did give ourselves a little break from the cheap eats and forked over some dough for a fancy feast up at the Tokyo Sky Tree 634 Musashi Restaurant. Needless to say, the meal was not only delicious but gorgeously presented with a beautiful night view of Tokyo city on top of that to boot. The main course was venison, and after my run-in with the rather pushy Miyajima deer (more on this later), I had to qualms about chowing down on this deer meat.