Modern Love: When a Dating Dare Leads to Months of Soul Searching

 Since the beginning of time (or at least me being on the Internet since in the Fall of 1989), I’ve seen the topic of Asian American women having a preference for white men being a subject of consternation. And certainly more so since I’ve been blogging for 8Asians and been on Facebook.

So it was quite a pleasant surprise to read this piece by San Francisco-based venture capitalist Andrew Lee in The New York Times about an experience he had during a first date:

I smiled, expecting something from one of the countless jokes we had shared that day. Instead, she said, “You’re the first Asian guy I’ve ever gone on a date with. I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

After talking nonstop all day, I was at a loss for words. Because here’s the kicker: Sarah is Asian-American. Her parents immigrated from Taiwan. Mine came from mainland China.

“If things don’t work out,” she said, “would it hurt your confidence?”

“Hey, don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’ve got enough confidence for both of us. When my friends ask what happened, I’ll say, ‘She had everything going for her, but sometimes things get between people.’” I smiled. “‘Like racism.’”

She gave a halfhearted laugh. “I’m sorry. It’s not that I don’t like Asian things. I love all Asian food, even stinky tofu. It’s just that I’ve never really been attracted to Asian men. I think it’s because there weren’t a lot of Asians in my small Texas town. All the Asian men I knew were either my friends’ dads or like nerdy brothers to me.”

I swear, I laughed out loud when I had read “Like racism.” The whole piece suscintly and at times, poignantly describes the issue that many Asian American men face dating in the U.S.

I had a close Asian American friend that experienced something like what Andrew had described, when an Asian American woman said that dating Asian men reminded her of her father and brother.

The piece is written beautifully and has some twists and a somewhat unexpected ending. I loved the piece, but there are a lot of haters out there too that hated it … and hated Andrew and/or Sarah.

Living in the Bay Area, I noticed on Facebook that we have 52 mutual friends, so I’m hoping to meet him one day and possibly interview him on his piece.

8Books Review: “I Love You So Mochi” by Sarah Kuhn

Sarah Kuhn’s new YA novel I Love You So Mochi is an utterly delightful book about self-discovery, romance, family relations, and good eats. Kimi is at the end of her senior year in high school when she receives an unexpected plane ticket to Japan — from grandparents she’s never met. In Japan, she goes on adventures where she learns about her family, her passion, and, of course, there’s a very cute boy.

I’ve loved Sarah Kuhn’s work since I first picked up Heroine Complex, the first in her series of books about kickass Asian American superheroines, the kind of thing I wish I’d had growing up. I Love You So Mochi is no different.

It’s fun-loving, heart-warming, and investigates the complexities of Asian Mom Math. In addition to the whirlwind of Kimi’s love life, there’s also a moving exploration of family bonds, as Kimi gets to know her grandparents for the first time, and starts to understand what’s been left unspoken between herself and her mom, and between her mom and her grandparents (I don’t want to give any details away, but tbh I teared up a bit).

And there’s always a line that makes me laugh out loud. In this case:

What. Is this extremely handsome piece of mochi trying to flirt with me?”

You have to read the book for it to make sense, but it’s worth it — an ideal summer read.

Wong Fu Productions First Season of Yappie (Young Asian Professional)

I first learned about Wong Fu’s ‘Yappie’ scripted web series on this NBC Asian America article about Wong Fu Productions & Yappie:

“With more than 3 million subscribers on YouTube now, and 500 million-plus views, Wong Fu Productions — created by college friends Wang, Wesley Chan, and Ted Fu — has ambitious credits to their name that includes multiple web series (including a YouTube Red series starring “Glee” alum Harry Shum, Jr.), music videos, and two feature-length films (their most recent one hit Netflix in 2016).”

Wong Fu became a viral YouTube sensation back in 2006 with their first original waaaay back in 2006 with ‘Yellow Fever.’ I think my favorite Wong Fu video though has to be the VERY well produced and HILARIOUS (at least to me) ‘Asian Bachelorette.’

Yappie is self described as:

“”Yappie” is a single-camera comedy that explores the social and racial issues related to the contemporary Asian American experience from the perspective of Andrew and his bubble of friends who are all “yappies”[a slang word to describe a “young Asian professional who acts like a yuppie.”].

Asian Americans are an often overlooked minority in the US for a variety of reasons, and we’re creating a show to examine and share these causes and their effects on an entire generation.”

I watched all five episodes as the episodes were released and really enjoyed the series. I think Yappie does try to explore, often in a humorous way, the typical arguments around the whole Asian American dating dynamics and inter-racial issues around that have been around since the beginnings of the Internet (if you remember USENET news and soc.culture.asian.american, then you know what I am talking about …)

Also, the first season does dig into the awkward social stratus of where Asian Americans are found among our multi-cultural society within the United States. We’re definitely not treated like whites, but not like African Americans, Hispanics or Native Americans.

As someone who is way more politically involved than my fellow Asian Americans, I feel as though Yappie also exposes how apathetic Asian Americans can be in living in their own bubble – especially as portrayed in Yappie, which takes place in LA / Southern California. I think Asian Americans have a different kind of experience elsewhere in the U.S., especially in states with not a lot of Asians or other minorities.

Below, after the break, are all five episodes of the first season of Yappie.

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Panda Express’ “Breaking the Ice”

I just saw this new Panda Express TV commercial, “Introducing Peking Pork – Breaking the Ice“:

“New Peking Pork from Panda Express is peking your appetite with crispy pork chop bites, hand- cut peppers and white onion, wok-tossed in a sweet and sour glaze. It’s American Chinese comfort food that’s made to satisfy in any situation.”

It surprisingly stars Wong Fu Productions’ Philip Wang. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Wang star in a TV commercial. Also, I think this is the first Asian Male / Hispanic Female pairing in a commercial ever. Additionally, I wonder if we’ll start to see more of Wang in TV commercials, then television and then movies (like how Randall Park’s career progressed).

The premise of the TV commercial is that Wang plays the Asian American boyfriend who is bringing Panda Express takeout to his Hispanic girlfriend’s home. The woman’s father is not exactly that friendly – until Wang offers (or is “breaking the ice”) some Peking Pork for the father to try. After that, the father lets down his protective guard.

Kristina Wong’s “How to Not Pick Up Asian Chicks”

I think I first heard of Kristina Wong (“solo performer, writer, actor, educator, culture jammer, and filmmaker”) around her antics of trying to marry her dream husband, Taiwanese American NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin, and her viral TV interview on  which was freaking hilarious on why everyone wants to date Asian women. Last April 2016, I also had a chance to catch her live in her excellent, excellent solo performance of “The Wong Street Journal.

Wong has now released a web series called “Kristina Wong’s How to Pick Up Asian Chicks” that has funny women like me, Asa Akira (the porn star), Amy Hill (“Crazy Ex Girlfriend” and “Unreal”) and child actor Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (“Modern Family”) and 15 other APIA women. The premise goes:

“Essentially, there exists a genre of self-published books written by white men on how to pick-up Asian women with such literary titles as “Asian Milf Hunting” and “Everyman’s Guide to Asian Sex.”  In the spirit of Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” I had Asian American women read and respond to some of their writing on camera.  I bought six of these books (with my hard earned money) and we are releasing one episode per book!”

Here are the videos – enjoy!

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8Books Review: “Heroine Worship” by Sarah Kuhn

Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn is the riveting sequel to Heroine Complex, starring not just one, but two badass Asian American superheroines. You may or may not recall that I loved Heroine Complex when it came out last summer. The first book in this series followed Evie Tanaka as she morphed from sidekick to full blown superhero with fire throwing powers. Throw in a budding romance thrown in and an at times testy relationship with her best friend, boss, and San Francisco’s beloved superhero Aveda Jupiter, and it’s a thrill of a read. Now in Heroine Worship we switch gears to focus on Aveda, formerly Annie Chang, who is now sharing the spotlight with Evie. We follow Aveda/Annie as she struggles with a demon-less SF, deals with the fact that she’s been a less than great friend to Evie, and where she falls in the Aveda-Annie spectrum. The plot revolves around Evie’s engagement and impending wedding. That backdrop provides all the necessary quirky props, settings, and bridal beasts, but in the end, like the first book, this one is really about Evie and Aveda/Annie’s friendship.

Heroine Worship starts a bit more slowly than its predecessor. And I think it’s only natural that fans of Complex love Evie a little more and Aveda a little less. Aveda spends the first half or so behaving in expected Aveda ways (mostly a belief that she knows best), but in the second half, the novel really takes flight. We get more of Aveda/Annie’s back story, including a wonderful and deep set of scenes with her Chinese parents about expectations, pride, and family. We get a fun and sweet romantic line. We get more feelings (FEELINGS!). And we watch Aveda become comfortable with herself as Annie and what that means. It’s really in that journey that she ultimately enamors herself to us readers.

Heroine Complex is the book I immediately sent to my friends. I have already followed up with them for Heroine Worship, accompanied with the advice, “Keep reading, it’s worth it.” And when you’re done, schedule a viewing of The Heroic Trio.

 

‘Dr. Ken’ & ‘FOTB’ – Watershed Moments for Asian Americans Adolescents on TV

With the end of the 2016 – 2017 traditional broadcast network television season ending, it’s been an amazing season for Asian Americans – with two Asian American family show sitcoms into their second and third seasons with Dr. Ken and Fresh Off The Boat respectively. Unfortunately, Dr. Ken won’t be around in the fall for a third season.

However, I did want to highlight one aspect of the television season for both sitcoms that really stood out – the storylines of Molly & Jae on Dr. Ken and Alison & Eddie on Fresh Off The Boat. Having been born and raised in Western Massachusetts, I was only one of a handful of Asian Americans in my high school graduating class of 270+ students. The closest statistics I could find was that in 2000, my town was 3% Asian American (I grew up in the 1980s, so definitely less than 3%).

So when first seeing the episode (S02E12 – “Ken’s New Intern” – air date: January 6, 2017) where Molly and Jae express their feelings to each other and then kiss, that was a big deal to me. Now I can’t say that I’ve watched every single episode of every broadcast television series where there have been Asian American teenagers dating, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the first to show a realistic relationship between two Asian American teenagers:

I particularly like how Krista Marie Yu portrayed Molly as emotionally vulnerable and that the character Jae was not a stereotypical looking geeky Asian guy (or God forbid,  Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong)

Then, a little more than a month later on Fresh Off The Boat, there’s an episode and plot line about Eddie’s first kiss with Alison (S03E13 – “Neighbors with Attitude” – airdate: February 14, 2017), where Eddie and Alison eventually do kiss, despite some obstacles in Eddie’s plan during the episode:

After getting over a bit of nostalgia from the musical interlude of Janet Jackson’s “Again” briefly playing in the background, I realized that I probably watched the first ever interracial kiss by an Asian American middle schooler and his white girlfriend on broadcast television.

Continue reading “‘Dr. Ken’ & ‘FOTB’ – Watershed Moments for Asian Americans Adolescents on TV”

Asian American Commercial Watch: Kay Jewelers’ “With This Ring”

I haven’t caught this on TV yet, but saw this Kay Jewelers’ commercial posted on Facebook recently – where Kay Jewelers shows men proposing to women asking them to marry them.

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What is notable of course is that in one particular case, we see a handsome Asian American man proposing to an attractive blond white woman. Usually, the pairing is often the opposite … I think the first time I noted this was in a McDonald’s commercial. Kudos to Kay Jewelers on going against the grain …

 

8Books Review: “The Wangs vs. The World” by Jade Chang

wangsJade Chang’s novel The Wangs vs. The World  follows one crazy Chinese American family as they try to piece their lives back together after the economic recession of 2008. Mr. Charles Wang  is a self-made man who immigrated from Taiwan and made a fortune with his beauty product empire. But a series of bad choices leaves him completely emptied out (house and cars included).

His family, including his second wife and three (almost all) adult children to dramatically change their lives and revisit their goals. Charles secretly hopes to the small amount of money he has left to retake his family’s ancestral land in China, while his oldest daughter Saina prepares for the arrival of her frazzled family. Instead of rags to riches, it’s riches to rags–an immigrant story turned on its head.

This book is an entertaining ride, exploring each character’s back story and current travails with wit and humor. And with a fresh voice, Jade Chang provides wry commentary on our modern life. At the heart of it all is an endearing story about a family coming together in the midst of a lot of sh**.

He never should have fallen for America. As soon as the happy-clappy guitar-playing Christian missionary who taught him English wrote down Charles’ last name and spelled it W-A-N-G, he should have known….In Chinese, in any Chinese speaker’s mouth, Wang was a family name to be proud of…But one move to America and Charles Wang’s proud surname became a nasally joke of a word; one move and he went from king to cock.

These are the moments that make you chortle to yourself quietly, or bemusedly note the bitter yet strikingly accurate commentary on the world, and turn to the next page.

 

8Books Review: “Not Your Sidekick” by C.B. Lee

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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.

“What Would You Do?” – White Woman Introduces Asian Fiance To Disapproving Parents

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.”

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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.

NYC Theater Review: “Green Card: A New Musical”

GreenCardGreen Card: A New Musical takes on immigrant artists and the American dream in a new musical from young director Dimo Kim. Playing at Theatre at St. Clement’s until August 26, it focuses on the story of Han, an actor and a South Korean immigrant living in Harlem with an expired visa who, as a result, can’t find work. And because he can’t find work, he can’t get an artists visa. Hijinks ensue. Han finds himself entering a fake marriage for a green card with Mia, in exchange for a sizable sum of money. They fumble through immigration interviews and the turmoil of a new relationship, fake or not. As to how Han’s girlfriend Kim feels about it? You’ll have to watch to find out.

This is an energetic musical with young talent and carries a relevant and provocative story in need of telling.

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