Author of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop and Who We Be, Jeff Chang’s latest book We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation is an incisive series of essays looking at race in America. Drawing on recent events, including Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, and #oscarssowhite, Chang outlines a contemporary crisis around issues of race, division, and a repeating cycle that needs to be halt. We Gon’ Be Alright is, at its heart, a call to action. But it is also a call for thoughtfulness and an understanding of how we got to where we are. If Who We Be took that history and went deep into it, this latest series of essays takes the current moment and draws it out to explain where we are, the conversations we are having, and the ones we should be having.
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Aubergine, a new play written by Julia Cho, opens today at Playwrights Horizons in New York City. Running through October 2, it’s an emotional story about family, death, and food. Ray’s father is home on hospice with his son Ray, a first-generation Korean American chef, who is struggling with how to manage and how to cope. To notify his father’s brother, he calls on his ex-girlfriend Cornelia to tell him in Korean. When his uncle unexpectedly shows up with a soup recipe, Ray is thrown into new challenges–including a live and very expensive turtle, his own relationship with his father and career as a chef, and an uncle who speaks a different language. Rounding out those who care for Ray’s father is Lucien, the hospice worker, who offers his own perspective on death and the dying, and whose lines provide the play’s title.
Full of depth, Aubergine is a quiet play in many ways, yet it is incredibly moving. Cho deftly deals with that most human of events–dying and death–without being heavy handed. And through it all, food, its meaning flooding memories and interactions. I should say too that this is not a depressing play, despite dealing so intimately with death. “Catharsis” is the word Playwrights’ artistic director uses to describe the feeling. I would call it a kind of fullness, the feeling the audience carries out the door with them. Continue Reading »
A survey conducted by New America Media shows that people of color do care about the preservation of public lands. This is confirmed by the fact that Fremont’s Mission Peak is a favorite place for Asian Americans to hike, and its popularity is causing problems. The city of Fremont has decided to place restrictions on parking, leaving certain areas of the neighborhood near the Stanford Avenue trail head available for parking only by residents on weekends and holidays. The affected area is shown within the yellow border in the picture above.
Certain streets are available all the time as are the spots near the Ohlone trail head. Specifically for the weekend, the following are available:
If you look at the comments from our post on the crowding problems, people on both sides of the issue feel pretty strongly, and to no surprise, the Fremont City Council’s decision raised mixed feelings.
Although Number Two Son recently went to Mission Peak with his friends, I wondered if it had become any less popular with Asian Americans since I last wrote about it two years ago. I quickly found a planned Asian American meetup that involved hiking Mission Peak. I’ll have to let my kids know about the parking changes. The resident permit system goes into effect on October 1, 2016.
I had first heard of Stephanie Murphy while seeing a DailyKos headline on Facebook titled, Dems come through at the last minute with competitive district (FL-7) … and what a candidate!:
“Murphy isn’t just a young up and comer—she has quite a resume. She is a former national security specialist, and an executive at Sungate Capital, where she is responsible for leading investment efforts and implementing government initiatives. She was the director at the Center for Innovative Health Care, and is also a professor of business and social entrepreneurship at Rollins College.
Not impressed yet? Okay. How’s this: she is also an expert on foreign affairs. She has served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received the prestigious Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Her bio notes that she worked on a wide range of security issues from counterterrorism to foreign military relations.
She also serves on several nonprofit boards and somehow finds time to be wife and mother of two young children.
Still not impressed? Very well. How about her backstory? She left a Vietnamese refugee camp when she was six months old, and her parents worked as laborers while she and her brother became the first of her family to go to college. She is the epitome of the American dream.”
and recognized her when she spoke at the AAPI Caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
My friend Otto Lee happened to be hosting a fundraiser in downtown San Jose and I was able to meet and chat with her.
What was interesting to hear from Stephanie was how much her opponent, long time Republican incumbent, Congressman John Mica, is openly supporting Trump for President:
“Kris Hammond, an elected delegate to the 2016 GOP convention who also is a member of #NeverTrump, tweeted news of Mica’s love for Trump. “Rep. John Mica says ‘I love Trump,’ then says joking but open to supporting,” Hammond tweeted. “Likes his immigration stand & business cred.””
Also, what I thought was a touching moment was when someone introduced a fellow Vietnamese American immigrant who came to the U.S. during middle school or so, and was about to go to college. Stephanie was impressed. She came to the U.S. as a refugee as a baby, so she essentially grew up speaking and understanding English (she also speaks Vietnamese, Spanish and Japanese).
Stephanie spoke about her experience working in Japan – and even after studying textbook Japanese in college – when she arrived in Japan, felt helpless and truly felt what her parents must have felt as immigrants to the U.S. She began to fully appreciate what her parents went through as she often had to be a translator for her parents. That story reminded me of what it must have been like for my parents to have immigrants in the 1960s, which must have been a whole lot tougher!
Stephanie has a real chance of winning this Congressional District 7 in Florida, as she’s got the backing of the Democratic Party:
“DCCC Chairman and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico announced Friday Murphy would be added to the PAC’s Red to Blue program, which provides training, money and assistance to candidates in races throughout the country that Democrats target, thinking they can flip them from Republican control.
In this case, Murphy is seeking to take on a well-entrenched, 12-term incumbent in Mica.”
Due to redistricting, the district is more balanced in regards to registered Democrats and Republicans. So I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing Stephanie defeat this 12-term Trump-loving incumbent!
Our very own Akrypti has been quite busy since she went on a hiatus from covering APA social politics for 8Asians. She’s taken the tarot world by storm with her first book Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth back in 2015. Since its publication, Holistic Tarot became a bestseller in its category and has gone on to win four prominent book awards.
Now Akrypti—I mean Benebell—is coming out with her second book, one that circles back to her heritage and roots. The Tao of Craft: Fu Talismans and Casting Sigils in the Eastern Esoteric Tradition covers the history and cultural practice of Fu talismans, a form of sigil spell-casting, from its shamanic roots during the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties (roughly 2100 BC to 256 BC) and through its peaks in practice to the suppression and castigation of it during the Qing. More importantly, The Tao of Craft is arguably one of the first books published in the English language to cover the practical and instructional aspects of crafting Fu talismans and East Asian metaphysics, sorcery, and witchcraft.
At 600 pages, The Tao of Craft is a tome of a book. I sat down with my old friend Akrypti—again, I mean Benebell Wen—to talk about her second publication. The book will be out in stores September 27, but you can pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House, or through your favorite bookstore.
JOZ: So we’ve been good friends and have known each other through 8Asians for over a decade. Yet it was only a few years ago that I learned you were into metaphysical practices. Can you tell me more about that?
BELL: I’ve been into that kind of thing as early as I can remember and read books on these topics as soon as I gained literacy. Prior to the publication of Holistic Tarot, you’re right, I didn’t talk about these interests with others, and post-publication of the tarot book, I was thrust out of the shadows and put in a situation where I had to talk about it to promote my new book. That happened before I was actually ready for it, so it was interesting.
The Tao of Craft, I feel, is relevant to the Asian American community, which is why I think I’m okay with the Akrypti and Benebell link now. It’s relevant not just because I cover esoteric Taoism from a Chinese historic and cultural perspective, but for another funny little reason. You don’t see many Asian Americans writing prominently about esoteric Taoism. By and large publications on this topic are by white men (or native Chinese people who co-author with, you guessed it, white men). Ceremonial magic generally, whether you’re referring to Western mystery traditions or Eastern, is dominated by white men. That in part motivated me to speak up and attempt to have my voice heard in such an arena. I’m also hoping The Tao of Craft will appeal to Asian Americans.
JOZ: Why do you think The Tao of Craft is important for the Asian American community?
BELL: I can only tell you why this book was important for me. It brought me closer to my ethnic and cultural roots. I gained an appreciation for the depth and breadth of Chinese spiritual history. In so many ways, understanding all that I’ve come to understand through the research and writing of The Tao of Craft, I’m even prouder now of my heritage than I was before. For me, there’s something activist about reclaiming long-neglected spiritual traditions. The book is a resource for Asian Americans who want to reconnect with those roots.
To get a taste of the book, check out this appendix, which is a summary of the history of Taoism that I touch upon in The Tao of Craft. You can read more excerpts from the book here.
JOZ: Why do you think Asian Americans, most of whom I presume are not practitioners of Taoist magic, would be interested in this book?
BELL: The bulk of the book is research. It’s about history. We start with Neolithic shamans and archeological findings of oracle bones in northern China and how that became integrated into the talismanic practices of Taoist priests. We touch upon the political activism of Taoist ceremonial magicians during the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Many of the Eight Immortals were historically documented figures that later became mythologized. The legends we grow up with about how the Chinese civilization was founded by the Yellow Emperor involve magical battles and spell-crafting. Magic and esotericism are intertwined with military strategy.
We look at several well-known Taoist magical lineages or mystery traditions and how they influenced Chinese history. Why are Buddhist and Taoist practices often intertwined? What are the origins of the Chinese lunar calendar? To me, the Chinese metaphysical principles of Qi, yin and yang, the Wu Xing, Ba Gua, He Tu and Lo Shu are provocative. As a Chinese/Taiwanese American, The Tao of Craft pays homage to where I come from. To realize that in the nucleus of who I am is this incredible history feels empowering. If for nothing else, this book should be interesting to Asian Americans for the research aspect.
JOZ: Are you afraid that linking your past work under Akrypti with what you’re trying to do now under Benebell Wen will somehow discredit one another? Do you think Asian Americans who resonate with your race politics militancy will be put off by your dabblings in the metaphysical world and fans of your metaphysical work will be put off by your race politics?
BELL: Yes, of course. And it’s bound to happen. The only thing that comforts me, even though it doesn’t really comfort me, is everything I’ve written, whether it was under Akrypti here at 8Asians or now through my books, is authentic and sincere to who I am. Also, those who decide one discredits the other aren’t being rational; they’re being emotional.
JOZ: So are you a full-time writer now?
BELL: No, I am still working as a lawyer full-time, though I’m at work on a third book already and will continue to research and write books on the side. I’m living out that tiger mom’s dream and also my own.
The Tao of Craft will be released September 27, 2016. You can pre-order now via Amazon.
The publisher is currently running a contest and you can win a free copy of the book before its release date. To enter, check out the details here. Deadline for the contest is September 16.
It has been a good summer for fun-loving, ass-kicking Asian American superheroines, and if you’re not already, get on board for C.B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick. Its biggest flaw? Being the first in the series, leaving us on the edge waiting to find out what happens to Jessica Tran (I did not realize I was getting myself into a cliffhanger until I was off the cliff and there were no pages left).
Jessica is the daughter of mid-class local heroes, but she doesn’t seem to have inherited any powers. Living in the 22nd century after World War III and the emergence of a hero gene, Jess is just your average teenager. You know, who ends up getting caught in the middle of some high-level secrets involving the Heroes League and the Villain Guild, all while falling in love and dealing with some intense family drama. Not Your Sidekick is a compelling teenage superhero love story and is a joy to read.
Anxious about college and resigned to not having superpowers, Jess applies for and lands a great internship, where she works beside her long-time crush Abby. But then there’s also her mysterious co-worker “M” who walks around in a robotic suit. As Jess starts to unearth the secrets of her job, she also gets caught up in a larger conspiracy, learning new information about her parents, her sister who is also superhero, and naturally, her own capabilities. Naturally weaved in to the larger epic-type narrative are bits about immigrant life, authenticity and being Vietnamese, and young love. If the epic narrative begins to show itself early on (no jarring surprises), these moments of heart and growth keep the novel interesting and fresh.
I look forward to seeing what the next two books in the series bring for Jess, her girlfriend, parents, and sister.
Recently, ABC’s tv show, “What Would You Do?” did a segment to see what would strangers do or react if they happen to see a white woman introducing her Asian male fiance to disapproving parents:
“While out to lunch, a white woman surprises her parents with news she’s newly engaged to her Asian fiancé, but they shockingly disapprove.”
If you’re not familiar with the show, this is the premise:
“The program features actors acting out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras videotape the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. Quiñones appears at the end of each scenario to interview bystanders and witnesses about their reactions.”
I was pleasantly surprised to see the strangers trying to comfort the actors playing the mixed race couple or trying to alleviate the concerns of the woman’s fake parents.
I’m not a regular watcher of the show, but I do remember seeing this segment either on TV or via social media: “What Would You Do? Bike Theft (White Guy, Black Guy, Pretty Girl)”
And pretty much reinforces the unconscious bias, systemic racism and stereotypes we still have in our country.
CBSN anchor and CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano has been named the moderator of the 2016 vice presidential debate, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced today. Quijano will be the first anchor of a digital network to moderate a national debate in a general election campaign.
The debate will be held Tuesday, October 4, at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. It will be the only debate between the two vice presidential nominees, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Governor Mike Pence. The 90-minute debate will be presented live, without commercial interruption, at 9:00 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network and CBSN.
“It’s an honor to be chosen to help bring the issues of this critical election to the public,” said Quijano.
“Elaine connects today’s digital audiences with this historic 2016 campaign,” said CBS News President David Rhodes. “Her perspective, dedication to political reporting, and important role on CBS News’s live-streaming platform make her an ideal choice to lead the only vice presidential debate this fall.”
Quijano leads political coverage on CBSN, the CBS News 24-hour digital streaming network, and has anchored CBSN coverage of primary, debate and political convention nights throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Quijano anchors weekdays on CBSN as well as the Sunday edition of CBS Weekend News. Additionally, her reporting is regularly featured on “CBS This Morning” and the “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.”
The vice presidential debate will cover a broad range of topics to help voters learn more about the candidates and their positions on the issues. The commission organizing the debates said the time will be divided into nine segments with about 10 minutes of discussion on each topic, and noted that the moderator alone will determine the questions to be asked.
In addition to the vice presidential debate, there are three presidential debates scheduled this fall between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The first, to be held September 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, will be moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt. The second, on October 9, will be moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC News’ Martha Raddatz at Washington University in St. Louis; this debate will be a town-hall meeting style format that will also feature questions from the audience. The third debate, on October 19 at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, will be moderated by “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.
Photo credit: CBS News