Race, Romance, and Retribution: Courtney Milan and the Romance Writers of America

You might think that the world of romance novel writing (known as Romancelandia) is a genteel place removed from the pressures and conflicts of the everyday world.  The RITA awards, shown are above, are awards given yearly by the Romance Writers of America (RWA) association to celebrate excellence in Romance Novels.  This year there will be no RITA awards ceremony as the RWA is in turmoil after a series of events that seem like something out of a novel.   A short summary:  Courtney Milan, a well-known and popular romance writer of color, is suspended by the RWA on ethics violation charges after commenting that another RWA member’s book was full of stereotypes, accusations discovered to be false and/or exaggerated, and members leave RWA and publishers pull out of events.  Author Hillary Monahan puts it better in this tweet:

Chinese American author critiques white woman’s portrayal of Chinese Americans, white woman calls her a neo-nazi for it, RWA backs white woman and censures author, -BACKLASH-, RWA rescinds censure, everyone eats a giant holiday meal, RWA roils in own vomit.

Missing anything?

To say that the plot thickened after the initial suspension would be terribly cliched but accurate.  Courtney Milan worked diligently with the RWA to make it more inclusive, serving on its board and even winning a service award in 2019.  The 20 year old book she was calling out, definitely had its problems.  Here is an excerpt from Milan’s tweets on the book:

“Madam Chin lifted her head in a small gesture of defiance.  “You know how the women of the household behave.  We remain inside of the walls of the women’s compound; we are demure and quiet, as our mothers have trained us to be.  We walk with eyes lowered politely, and may not look higher than a man’s breast.”

As Perez Hilton sarcastically notes regarding the book’s writing, “This was in 1999 and not 1899.”

The Vox article points out that this incident is not surprising when a mostly white institution like the RWA tries to be more inclusive and attitudes that were acceptable in the past no longer are acceptable, citing a similar backlash that happened in Science Fiction a few years ago.  Another fascinating aspect of this story is Courtney Milan herself.   Courtney Milan is the pen name of Heidi Bond, who has had an incredible and varied career that includes earning a Masters degree in Physical Chemistry from Berkeley, serving as a law clerk at the US Supreme Court, and teaching as a law professor.

This story has even more twists and turns than the few I have mentioned and makes for some absorbing reading.  If you are more interested, I suggest taking a look at the following takes on the controversy:

(photo credit:  Barbara Samuel under Creative Commons 2.0)

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“Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens” Debuts January 22nd on Comedy Central

Actress, comedian, and recent Golden Globes winner Awkwafina will be debuting her new Comedy Central series on January 22nd:

“Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens” makes its debut Jan. 22. The series, inspired by her real-life upbringing in New York, also stars BD Wong (“Mr. Robot”) and Lori Tan Chinn (“Orange Is the New Black”) as characters based on the father and grandmother of the actress.

Comedy Central’s press release describes the show as follows:

“… half-hour scripted comedy inspired by her real-life growing up in Queens, NY. Raised by her Dad (BD Wong) and Grandma (Lori Tan Chinn) alongside her cousin (Bowen Yang), Nora Lin leans on her family as she navigates life and young adulthood in outer borough-NYC.”

The first season will be comprised of 10 episodes, and has already been renewed before its debut for a Season 2. I’m looking forward to checking the sitcom out, and I hope it’s as funny as ‘Kim’s Convenience.’

 

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Jonny Kim, ex-Navy SEAL and Harvard doc, is now the first Korean American Astronaut

I had heard of Jonny Kim and his amazing accomplishments, including his training to be an astronaut, but now it’s official:

“Graduating from Harvard Medical School and being a part of the Navy SEALs must not have been enough accomplishments for Jonny Kim. The 35-year-old is now the first Korean-American to become a NASA astronaut.

Kim, along with 12 others, graduated last week from NASA’s Artemis program, allowing the astronauts to be eligible to participate in missions to the International Space Station, to the moon and even Mars.

After he graduated high school in Los Angeles, Kim joined the Navy as a Seaman recruit, which eventually led him to obtain the elite military status of a Navy SEAL. He served as a combat medic, sniper, and navigator on more than 100 combat operations across two deployments to the Middle East, NASA said.

Kim went on to earn his degree in mathematics at the University of San Diego and a doctorate of medicine at Harvard Medical School. At the time of his astronaut candidacy selection in June 2017, Kim was a resident physician at a hospital in Massachusetts, according to NASA.”

Prior to Kim, the most impressive Asian American, at least on “paper” that I had read about (and eventually got to meet) was Yul Kwon, winner of Survivor.

2017 NASA Astronaut Candidate – Jonny Kim. Photo Date: June 6, 2017. Location: Ellington Field – Hangar 276, Tarmac. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

Here’s Kim’s official NASA bio page. I’m looking forward to Kim getting into space!

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Jeremy Lin and the “Chink the Armor” ESPN Headline Writer

When Anthony Federico came up with this boneheaded headline about Jeremy Lin having a bad game against the Hornets, he certainly wasn’t expecting the world of hurt that soon would be heading into.  His name was leaked, he was instantly villainized, and he was fired.  In this story from Boston Public Radio station WBUR, he talks what happened and how he became a Catholic priest.  What fascinated me the most about his story was an incident I had not heard before, when Jeremy arranged to meet him and what happened in that meeting.

He told me that he didn’t think that the headline was racial in intent, and that was so huge to hear,” Federico recalls. “I’m eternally grateful to him for his kindness. So we talked about the headline for a few minutes, and then we talked mostly about the world and our faith.”

Federico views that conversation as a turning point for his mental health.

“Very much so,” he says. “I felt like like that was a moment of, ‘Wow, he didn’t have to do this.’ In fact, it probably would have been easier for him to just let it go. That is the kind of gesture that someone doesn’t forget.”

That story made me appreciate Lin that much more.  It also reminded me of how graciously he dealt with Kenyon Martin’s criticisms of him twearing dreadlocks.

Anthony Federico, as the interview mentions, is now a parish priest in Connecticut.  Jeremy Lin, after winning a championship with the Toronto Raptors, is now with the Beijing Ducks.

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Asian American Frozen Foods: CP’s Authentic Asia™’s ‘Shrimp Wontons’

I saw CP’s Authentic Asia™’s ‘Shrimp Wontons’ at Costco and thought I would try them out, since I had recently reviewed some surprisingly good frozen pork soup dumplings. I forget how much I paid for this package, but I think somewhere between $5 to $10.  Anyway, below is my review of and experiences with this item.

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2020 Golden Globes: Awkwafina, First Asian American to Win Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy

If you watched the 2020 Golden Globes television and film awards show, you watched Asian American history being made, as Awkwafina became the first woman of Asian descent to win Golden Globe for lead actress in a comedy for her lead role in the film, The Farewell:

“Awkwafina is the second woman of Asian descent to be nominated in the category in two years. Last year, her “Crazy Rich Asians” costar Constance Wu was nominated for lead actress in a movie comedy/musical. (Olivia Colman won that year for her performance in “The Favourite”). Sandra Oh had a historic win at the 2019 Golden Globes, taking home the award for lead actress in a TV drama for her work on “Killing Eve,” making her the first actor of Asian descent to win multiple Golden Globes (Oh was previously recognized in the TV supporting actress category for her work on “Grey’s Anatomy”).”

Awkwafina had some stiff competition:

Image courtesy of the Hollywood Foreign Press

In The Farewell, Awkwafina plays Billi, an American woman whose family has chosen to keep the truth of a terminal diagnosis from her grandmother in China. Her role is much more on the dramatic side rather than the comedic side though … so it’s a bit odd I find how the Hollywood Foreign Press has the two different categories – Best Motion Picture – ‘Drama’ and ‘Musical or Comedy.’

Except for The Farewell, I have not seen the other films, so I can’t comment on the other actresses’ performances.  Emma Thompson and Cate Blanchett are iconic veteran actresses.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I enjoyed The Farewell and could definitely personally relate to the premise of the film.

I think that Awkwafina was honestly surprised that she won.  She thanked A24 Films, Shuzhen Zhao, the amazing actress who played her grandmother, , Lulu Wang, the writer/director, and her dad, to whom she joked that she finally found a job, and finally her mom, who passed away when she was 4.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, you should!

 

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Missing Persons Case, Los Angeles area: Richard Im

UPDATE 1/10/2020: The family is still searching and has provided a link to digital assets (flyers, updates, canvassing maps, etc) here:

https://bit.ly/2N5Od2v

I normally do not post things like this, but I have a personal connection to this case. A good friend reached out to me with the following:

This past week, my brother-in-law left home with just the clothes on his back, no ID, no wallet, no phone, nor personal belongings. He left a goodbye letter for the family. We are in the process of searching for him and starting digital campaigns.

The following note was submitted to NamUs in hopes that the missing persons case will be posted on their site.

Circumstances of Disappearance: Richard Im went missing from his mother’s home sometime between 11:00 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2020 and the early morning of Jan. 2, 2020.

He uncharacteristically hugged all family members present in the home before he went to sleep on Jan. 1. He left a goodbye note and money for his mother. He did not take his cell phone, nor wallet containing his ID, bank cards, and money with him. He did not take additional clothes. Family looked at his web browser history and saw that he had made donations to various charities in the days before he left. He has also talked about going off to live in the mountains/forest.

Family believes he is what the Japanese call a “hikikomori,” a person who becomes a hermit/shut-in after experiencing traumatic event(s). He recently walked over 6 miles from his mother’s home to Eaton Canyon to meditate for most of the day. Family suspects he may have gone there or a similar place, off the grid.

If you have any information about Richard’s whereabouts, please contact:

San Gabriel Police Dept.
626-308-2828
REPORT NO.: 2020-00025

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Asian American Frozen Foods: Synear’s ‘Pork Soup Dumplings’

When I was shopping at Ranch 99 (that’s how I call the Asian supermarket chain), I saw Synear’s ‘Pork Soup Dumpling’  (also known as ‘Xiao Long Bao’ – or XLB’s abbreviated) in the freezer section. It brought me fond thoughts of Din Tai Fung. I like to try new things whenever I visit the supermarket, so I thought for $3.99, I’d give it a try.

The package itself contained 18 frozen XLB’s, and I could fit into my steamer about 15 (before steaming):

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Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj: ‘Don’t Ignore The Asian Vote In 2020’

Recently, comedian Hasan Minhaj did a terrific piece on his HBO show, ‘Patriot Act,’ highlighting the issue of not ignoring the Asian American vote in 202o:

The Asian American population has grown large enough to swing elections, but it remains one of the least politically active groups in the country. Hasan travels to Asian American communities to hear the issues that matter to voters and to sit down with two politicians running to represent them––presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Cory Booker. Hasan also reaches out to more conservative voices in the Asian American community, but gets barred from an event featuring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump.

As you know, Asian Americans are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Minhaj makes the point that although we’re seen as the ‘model minority,’ we’re not when it comes to voting – something that we have been trying to highlight and shame Asian Americans into voting:

“Indeed, data on the 2018 midterms shows that the voting rate of Asian Americans stood at 42 percent. In comparison, the voting rate among white eligible voters was 57 percent, AAPI Data points out.

Historically, neither Democrats nor Republicans have sufficiently reached out to the group, with a 2018 survey revealing that the majority of Asian Americans had not been contacted by either party. Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder of policy research & demographic data organization AAPI Data, told NBC News that this is in part due to campaigns lack of awareness, lack of staff capacity, or willingness to devote resources to outreach.”

In this piece, Minhaj interviews presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Interestingly enough, Minhaj shows how presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker has reached out to the Asian American community.

I emailed this link to a lot of my politically active friends and they thought this piece was terrific – which I agree. It provides a lot of background and context to Asian Americans and our civic engagement.  Minaj also highlights the fact that Asian Americans are making significant difference in battleground states like Virginia and Nevada (something that presidential candidate Vice President Biden hasn’t ignored).

You can watch ‘Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj’ on Netflix, but normally a good portion of the show is available for free on YouTube.

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Disney’s ‘Mulan’ – Official Trailer

Disney’s live action film trailer of Mulan dropped recently:

“When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father. “Mulan” features a celebrated international cast that includes: Yifei Liu as Mulan; Donnie Yen as Commander Tung; Jason Scott Lee as Böri Khan; Yoson An as Cheng Honghui; with Gong Li as Xianniang and Jet Li as the Emperor. The film is directed by Niki Caro from a screenplay by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Elizabeth Martin & Lauren Hynek based on the narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.””

I’ve never actually seen the 1998 Disney animated film ‘Mulan, but I was aware of the “historial” Mulan when learning Chinese(I think), in a Chinese language book (but I could be wrong …).

Given the nature of the film, I wonder if they did all the dialogue in Chinese as well for the China market. It would be kind of weird to see a film set in China sub-titled in Chinese speaking in English (or dubbed in Chinese). From the trailer, it looks to be somewhat fantastical, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The film comes out March 27th, 2020.

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Viral Ad: A Star Wars Experience for All

This ad from Globe Telecom, a telecom provider in the Philippines, cashes in the upcoming hype for Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker.  It has an unexpected ending that I hope people do not spoil when sharing it.   We have posted a number of Thai TV commercials in the past, and it’s great to see a commercial like this from the Philippines, although I am not used to seeing Tagalog TV with subtitles!   Interestingly enough, I didn’t find out about this from anyone who was Filipino, but it was from a work colleague who is white.   My Filipino work colleagues had not seen it either.

According to this article from Ad Age, the ad was created by Wunderman Thompson Philippines and dedicated to the company’s Chief Creative Officer Dave Ferrer, who recently passed away and was a big Star Wars fan.

I really enjoyed this commercial – hope that Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker will be even better!

(h/t:  Casey)

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Asian American Commercial Watch: Yamaha Piano Red Envelope Commercial

When I saw this television commercial recently by Yamaha, I felt like Yamaha is really targeting and reinforcing the Asian stereotype that we all play the piano or violin. LOL!

But seriously, it was only after watching the commercial on YouTube and seeing the title of the video as ‘Yamaha Piano Red Envelope Commercial’ did I realize that this was directly targeting Chinese Americans, or more broadly, East Asians, since giving red envelopes is very traditional, especially during the Lunar New Year. There is a specific Mandarin version of the commercial as well.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see a happy Asian American family in a U.S. television commercial, especially with the kid seemingly enjoying playing the piano.

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