Having been born & raised in a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts (about 90 miles West of Boston), I’m surprised that I did not come across hearing about Lisa Wong, but I had only started blogging in January 2007 and she was first elected in November 2007. I learned about Wong when a friend of mine posted on Facebook a Boston Globe article about her leaving Fitchburg, where she was mayor – to be with her husband, who is running for mayor of Holyoke, about 1.5 hour drive away:
“Lisa Wong is a rising political star, the turnaround artist in Fitchburg, the first Asian-American mayor in the Bay State [Massachusetts]. … Indeed, Wong will not seek a fifth term. … She had three degrees at age 20. … Wong, 36, was a high school valedictorian who went on to earn three degrees from Boston University, run an economic empowerment group for women, and win the historic mayoral election by the time she was 27. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she grew up in North Andover, one of three children in a quiet family. She came to Fitchburg around 2001 to lead the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority.”
Fitchburg is 3.6% Asian. I was just looking up the demographics of my hometown (not far from Holyoke), and although I was subconsciously aware that it was predominately white, I didn’t realize it was 95% white (according to the 2000 census). So I have to imagine it was even whiter when I grew up there in the 1980s. Massachusetts overall is 6% Asian.
In any case, I’m glad to have learned about Wong, though I vaguely recall an Asian American running for some elected office in Massachusetts who would have been a first for something, but not sure if was for a mayoral position.
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While researching places to go in Kyoto, I have to admit, I was trying to live my Rurouni Kenshin years and wanted to see “old Kyoto” where ever it may still exist, while temples and gardens are key destinations in such a search, I realized that I would also have to find *streets*.
Thanks to the efforts of Kyoto citizens to preserve the historic architecture and vibe of their ancient city, there are certain areas that have preserved traditional machiyas, two-story live-work homes that have shops on the first floor. One of such places, a twin pair of streets that I had to track down were Ninen Zaka (2 Year Road) and Sannen Zaka (3 Year Road). The belief is that if you trip on the Ninen Zaka, you’ll have 2 years of bad luck, and three years if you trip on the Sannen Zaka. (I’m happy to report I didn’t trip at all.) These two roads run up towards the Kiyomizudera, my temple of non-destiny that I missed in my two visits to Kyoto throughout my life. Because this temple has been there for centuries, these two roads have always been there for quite some time as well, and they have been servicing pilgrims to the temple and travelers to Kyoto for hundreds of years.
Included in this year’s edition of The Best American Poetry, edited by Sherman Alexie, is a poem worthy of significant controversy. It is a poem by one Yi-Fen Chou, the Chinese pen name of a white writer named Michael Derrick Hudson. Yi-Fen Chou is in fact the name of a woman Hudson attended high school with in Indiana.
There has been a lot written about the whole debacle, from the New York Times to Asian American Writers Workshop. (Debacle being only one of many applicable words to describe this infuriating if sadly unsurprising additional episode in the long saga of a problematic publishing world that is somehow well-acknowledged, and yet simultaneously discounted and in perpetual need of reiteration).
But the best thing so far (in my opinion) is from Jenny Zhang, “They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist” for Buzzfeed. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety, but here are some excerpts, because THIS:
I won’t be scandalized by a white man who hasn’t considered that perhaps what helped his poem finally get published was less the fake Chinese woman he pretended to be, and more the robust, unflappable confidence bordering on delusion that he and many privileged white men possess: the capacity to be rejected forty (40) times and not give up, to be told, “no we don’t want you” again and again and think, I got this. I know what will get me in. What may be persistence to him is unfathomable to me. Continue Reading »
Many years ago I was amazed when The Wife, a Registered Nurse, looked at someone at a party and immediately (and correctly, more on that later), pointed out that the person was a diabetic. I wondered how she figured that out, and after reading this National Institue of Health (NIH) press release about a recent study of diabetes occurrence in the US, it seems that the fact that the person was Asian American, and Filipino in particular, results in a higher probability that she was correct. The NIH created the graphic to the left which shows that Asian Americans sampled have a much higher incidence of Diabetes than non-Hispanic whites and that half all Asian American cases are undiagnosed.
Tanwi Nandini Islam’s debut novel Bright Lines is a coming-of-age story for three young girls in Brooklyn and a family trying to find itself. Ella returns home from college for the summer to see her aunt, uncle, and cousin in Brooklyn, her adopted family after her parent’s death. The girls–Ella, her cousin Charu, and their friend Maya–explore the city, boys and girls, their sexuality, their identities. Hashi and Anwar, the parents, immigrants from Bangladesh, try to balance their work and a relationship laced with the past.
The story is overflowing with plot which no overview could possibly give justice to and it is the plot that keeps the reader engaged as much as the characters who dominate. Of the several characters, Ella and Anwar are the most compelling and detailed. Their relationship also embodies the book’s thematic twists and turns about family, love, and how the past haunts the present and a search for home haunts each in a different way.
The first part of the story takes place in Brooklyn, a summer of exploration, confusion, and frustration. The girls bike around the city, seeking escape from their homes. The parents separately delve into their passions, business and otherwise. The pages are filled with friction, even amidst summer’s frivolity, and the complex web of character relations begins to emerge. The second part sends the family on vacation to Bangladesh, where the new setting refocuses the multiple identity crises in the family and they are reunited with Ella and Charu’s grandfather and uncle. With a lot packed into these pages, it is an almost overwhelming whirlwind with generations, couples, families, cousins, friends, lovers, immigrants, New Yorkers, all trying to untangle their selves and a complex web of relationships. Yet this active fervor captures the trials of growing up or growing in general in exactly that it does sometimes all happen at once.
Although we’re nearing the end of the summer, I’ve only recently noticed this Simon Premium Outlets tv ad:
I was wondering if maybe Simon had in mind targeting Asian Americans or Asian tourists looking for a good deal, or if this actress was casted race-blind? Or maybe Simon just advertises with attractive women in their ads, regardless of race.
The image above is of Kiyomizudera buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, the night I was there. Except I wasn’t there. I had walked up to the temple that New Year’s eve in 2014 and found it closed. What I didn’t know was that the temple would open up a couple hours after I had arrived at the temple for New Year’s lighted up viewing. So I missed this amazing sight. Yeah, pretty much.
This was not the first time I missed a chance to see Kyomizudera. When I had visited Kyoto for the first time with my family nearly two decades ago, my brother and I had told my mom that we were sick of seeing temples and wanted to wander on our own. While we discovered Dance Dance Revolution, our parents went to Kiyiomizudera without us.
So I currently call this breathtakingly beautiful temple my temple of non-destiny since I basically missed both chances I had to visit it.
When I first started blogging for 8Asians back in 2007, I started to learn more about Asian Americans in the political realm, including fundraisers such as Norman Hsu (since convicted in 2009 and imprisoned), and even blogged about him a few times as more details became available regarding his criminal charges.
Hsu was convicted in Ponzi scheme, and recently granted the Wall Street Journal his first prison interview about politics and denying that he broke campaign-finance laws:
“The 64-year-old Mr. Hsu, who admits he ran a fraudulent investment scheme, is a reminder of the risks that campaigns take in relying on big donors who round up money from others. Such “bundlers” need influence or money to tap vast networks of donors and acquaintances, and most do so within the law. But on occasion, such fundraising techniques come back to embarrass campaigns—though usually to a smaller degree. … It is illegal for supporters to give more than $2,700 to a candidate for a primary or general election. But it is legal to bundle money from friends, family and colleagues and channel it to candidates, which can reap rewards ranging from hard-to-get restaurant reservations to ambassadorships.”
Hsu seems pretty adamant that he didn’t break any campaign laws, but did mix his business interests with his interest and involvement in politics. His campaign finance violations represent 52 months of his 292-month sentence.
Hsu is somewhat reminiscent of the earlier Asian American 1996 campaign donation scandals by Charlie Trie, Johnny Chung, John Huang and James Riady, Maria Hsia, and Ted Sioeng. These series of fundraising scandals is often noted for turning off Asian Americans, especially the older first wave of immigrants from the 1960s, to participate or contribute to campaigns.
Many statistics quoted about Silicon Valley diversity often lump Asian and Whites together vs Hispanics and African Americans. This sorting implies that there is some kind of unity between Asian and Whites in Silicon Valley. As a longtime resident, I have found that Silicon Valley is highly segregated, and this piece from a Silicon Valley student now at Harvard looks at that segregation from another perspective. Samuel Liu talks about the Asian/White divide where he went to high school, a high school where mostly white administrators worked hard to make sure that the school wouldn’t be “too Asian.” How true are his observations? I think he hits the mark on much on a lot of things, hints at phenomena that doesn’t get talked about, like the Indian party scene, but misses on other divides in the valley. Continue Reading »
I saw this Liberty Mutual Insurance commercial recently. This commercial is part of a series of commercials of insurance customers stating how insurance and insurance companies should work. This particular ad describes a decreasing car insurance deductible:
“At Liberty Mutual Insurance, for drivers who enroll in Liberty Mutual’s Deductible Fund, you could lower your deductible by $100 every year until you end up paying no deductible at all. And not only that, once your deductible is gone, you can continue to bank that $100.”
I mostly remember the ads because they are always shot with the Statue of Liberty in the background, and if I recall correctly, this is the first Asian American I’ve seen in this series of ads.
The Heian Shrine is one of those major stops in Kyoto. It’s one of the main shinto shrines in the country, and its torii is one of the largest in all of Japan.
It’s a symbol of revival for Kyoto after the capital was moved away to Tokyo, and they’ve kept the city thriving by becoming modernized while at the same time preserving a lot of the old traditions and cultures.
Alvarado Middle School in Union City California will officially change its name to Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School this September. Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz were farm worker labor leaders instrumental in the founding of the United Farm Workers. The change was not without acrimony. The school board decision was made with a close 3-2 vote. Some parents opposed the change and set up this change.org petition to have the decision reversed. Racist graffiti was later found on local Filipino businesses, some with apparent references to Alvarado Middle School.
One fifth of Union City’s population is Filipino, as are one third of its students.