When we printed Kim Liao’s nonfiction short short, “How to Be a Good Chinese-Jewish Hapa” — her first creative publication – we knew she’d go on to verb our world. Now a Fulbright Research Fellow working on a book about her grandfather’s role in the Taiwanese independence movement, Kim talked with us about the piece reprinted this week and her research for her book Girl Meets Formosa.
What inspired this story?
So, it’s funny, but Fringe’s call for submissions to the ETHNOS issue actually inspired this piece! I had been working on a few different essays about the difficulty of establishing a multiracial identity, in school, relationships, and as a writer, so all of these themes were in the forefront of my mind. I had also just begun to commit time and energy to working on a family memoir about my father’s Chinese-Taiwanese family, and the long-lost stories that neither he nor I had ever known about. So this was the content.
For the form, I really wanted to try to write something targeted for Fringe, and then shop it around to other places if your magazine didn’t like it! And I knew that Fringe was best represented by sharp, shorter, punchy pieces that would read well online.... more »more »
Danzy Senna subtitles her latest book, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, as a “personal history” rather than a memoir. The difference between the two terms is subtle but important–the book is as much a chronicle of her ancestors and a racially-divided world as it is a story of her own life.
Outwardly, the book hinges on the relationship between Senna’s parents: Fannie Howe, a writer from the prominent white Boston upper-crust, and Carl Senna, a black intellectual from fuzzy Southern origins. The unlikely couple married in 1968, full of hope and revolutionary zeal, only to divorce in 1975, their union a victim of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and the social pressures of an inter-racial marriage on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. More significant, however, is the relationship between Senna and her father. At the book’s core is the author’s dogged search for information regarding her father’s roots–an often exhausting and heart-wrenching search that propels her on a journey through the South.
I found myself completely wrapped in the tangled threads of Senna’s family history, eager for her to solve the mystery of her heritage. However, there was something keeping me from becoming completely involved in the story–something in her tone... more »more »
Have you ever wished you could shed your exterior and hop inside someone else’s skin, to literally walk in their shoes, even just for day? By altering every aspect of your physical being, morphing ones self into another race or gender you would be allowed a secret passage into the world from their eyes. Now I’m not speaking about an upgrade to your fantasy look, a supermodel body, fix your nose, younger looking skin. No, I’m talking about taking on the exterior of someone from a complete alternate walk of life to oneself. To experience how the world responds, if only your physical being was transformed, the different limitations, the expectations, the remunerations a person from another sector of society encounters.
When I purchase a train ticket here in Cape Town, the conductor will always issue me a first class pass, (which is more expensive and allows you to travel in a separate more quiet metro-plus carriage), even though I have not requested one.
One day the woman beside me on the train looked over at my ticket, and questioned as to why I was paying for first class and riding on third class. I always travel third-class, and being a naive... more »more »
When I checked my email this morning I received the most annoying forward from my aunt. It was entitled “Black and White” and detailed all the nostalgic wonders of the 1950s. It was filled with ridiculous photos and some equally ridiculous statements like, “My mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn’t seem to get food poisoning” or “we all said prayers and sang the national anthem, and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention.” There were also, bizarrely, four references to spanking children.
Since living here in Africa we have adopted the fondly used acronym, TIA, This Is Africa. TIA is used to excuse some of the most absurd, ridiculous and uncanny things that will cross your path in this nation. Happenings that make you want to scream for an explanation, but alas, this is Africa, you most certainly won’t get one.
Explaining the concept, simply does not suffice, but let me allow you into a little of the notion here in South Africa, fondly coined “job creation”. The idea is developed to decrease unemployment, and encourages self-initiative and small businesses. It really is a brilliant ploy, and I believe it is working wonders, the out workings of which make a very interesting city for a foreigner to enjoy. Aside from the commonly seen jewellery and bead making, wire twisting and other colourful crafts, are the ‘street vendors’.
Traffic light intersections are more like a mobile shopping mart. From the comfort of your driver’s seat you can view any array of objects from phone chargers to magazines, belt buckles to lamp shades, all at the convenience of your car window. They are avid salesmen too, very convincingly pleading you to buy these random contraptions you... more »more »
I recently came across the blog Stuff White People Like. Since its launch in January of this year, it has received over 18 million hits and 4,000 comments. The blog reads like a satirical handbook on how to understand white people by examining what they like.
At first I had to laugh that the first season of Arrested Development (#38) is in my DVD player, I recently received an invitation to an 80s party (#29), and I just made plans to meet a friend this weekend at our favorite breakfast place (#36).
As I thought more about the list, I noticed that it really only describes a particular brand of white people (seen every day here in Cambridge). One commenter agreed that the list is more “a qualitative outline of the young, faux-activist, indie-lifestyle, suburban white person, than of the caucasian race itself,” and it is more of a description of “an emerging pop culture stereotype than a racial one.” One of the posts even clarifies that white people don’t like “white people who vote Republican.” Obviously not all white people can identify with this list, but it’s a pretty accurate list for those who do.
With a satirical tone and focus on describing a cultural... more »more »
This week is your last chance to submit writing on ethnicity and race for our second anniversary issue. We are particularly in need of art submissions!more »
The Ethnos issue is coming, and we’re still looking for submissions.
We’re looking for writing that navigates the complexities of ethnicity, race, and identity, and are accepting work in the genres of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, criticism, and cross genre, as well as original artwork. Experimental and political work are always welcome. See the site for complete guidelines.
We have extended the submissions period — it now closes DECEMBER 31, so there’s still time to get your work in.
While we always judge your work on its literary merits alone (using a blind submissions process), we are are particularly interested in publishing minority writers, and intended this special anniversary issue to help us get the ball rolling.
Why wait? Send us your stuff!more »
There’s something about reading a book by someone you see on a regular basis—something that makes the book somehow more personal, more complex, more relevant to your own daily life than it would be had it been written by a complete stranger. This is how I felt, at least, when reading Jump at the Sun, the newest novel by Emerson Writer-in-Residence Kim McLarin. With each page, heroine Grace Jefferson’s story seemed entwined with my own.
Except that Grace Jefferson is an affluent, married, African-American mother of two—demographics I know nothing about. Also, though McLarin is a familiar face around Emerson, I have never had her as a professor or really even spoken to her. So why was reading this book such a personal experience? McLarin’s writing is so visceral and her characters so real that we, as readers, are drawn inside the book.
Jump at the Sun tells Grace’s story from her own point of view, with flashbacks woven in throughout telling the stories of her grandmother and mother. As this triumvirate... more »more »
I’m pleased to announce that submissions for Fringe’s second anniversary theme issue, Ethnos, writing about race and ethnicity, are open from now until December 15, 2007. You can read more about the theme on our submission guidelines page.
We had some hot debate about this theme. At first we couched it as “Racism,” but that seemed too combative and in opposition to last year’s Feminism issue — racism is a problem while feminism is a movement trying to help people. We wanted to read empowering work. The less-slanted theme of “Race” was suggested, but discarded because it seemed American centric. Finally we arrived at “Ethnos,” a Greek word that seemed geographically neutral, but likely to garner us the kind of submissions we want.
I think we discussed the word to be used so extensively, because at the editorial level, we’re predominantly white (with one Chilean), and sensed we were treading on delicate and unfamiliar ground. Early on in our development, we all agreed that the struggles of feminism are linked with the struggle for racial equality. We felt and still feel empathetic to brown writers, many of whom face the same challenges as women writers — the difficulty of early publication when so... more »more »
As a promotion for the Simpsons Movie, 7-11s around the country have been turned into Kwik-E-Marts. My first thought was “how cool,” but after reading both Angry Asian Man’s and Ultrabrown’s blogs about the promotion, I’m not so sure. Both bloggers think the character of Apu is racist, or at least that the promotion focuses on the racist aspects of his character (Too Sense applauded the Simpsons for complicating Apu’s character, but noted that the Kwik-E-Mart promotion included none of this complexity). One particular objection was that actual desi owners of stores participating in the promotion are having this racist caricature thrown in their faces — they have to dress up in a uniform modeled after Apu’s.
Well, color-me educated! As a clueless white chick, I didn’t realize that many South Asian folks were offended by Apu. For all the other clueless white folks, here’s why Apu is/might be racist(please add reasons I may have missed in the comments):
- He has a poorly done Hindi accent, and is voiced by a white dude. Some have likened this to white dudes who put on blackface for minstral shows. Desidreaming has an interesting post on this — the discussion in the comments is also intriguing.
In this Advice Goddess blog, Amy Alkon discusses a piece by Christina Hoff Sommers from the Weekly Standard. The Sommers piece beats the old horse, stating that American feminists have blinders on when it comes to helping out women in foreign countries. As the article points out and Alkon foregrounds, it is tempting for American feminists to draw sweeping and inaccurate parallels between the oppression of women in America and the oppression of women in other countries. For example, Eve Ensler compares optional vaginoplasties to female genital mutilation.
My take on this is that yes, American feminists often do have blinders on when it comes to international feminism, but also that engaging in international feminism is more ideologically complicated than it seems for two reasons:
1. Many non-American cultures feel (justly) threatened by globalization. Feminism is often equated with western/white culture. Therefore, adopting feminism can be perceived as abandoning one’s own culture. Many women chose to cling to the old (and often misogynist) ways because it is more important to them to preserve their culture than to gain freedom.
2. Given the above situation, what is a western feminist to do? Let’s say I want to free a community of women from the burka.... more »more »
I’m not sure when it first hit me: the moment my professor announced that she agreed that Muslim women in the UK should have to remove their veils, or later, when she looked directly at me and told me that postmodernism doesn’t exist—that my American education had essentially mislead me down a path of ignorance. Wait, no—maybe it was Tony Blair’s speech on the need to assimilate if you want to live in Britain. Ah, who can keep count… Regardless, it’s been hard to ignore the fact that perceptions on race and nationalism here in the UK are not nearly as advanced as many would like to believe.
As an American living abroad, I expect to become the effigy at times of all things evil. Bush has managed in the last six years to not only reduce the value of our dollar, but to create a stereotype of Americans that is deeply disturbing. And, to be honest, the anti-Americanism I’ve experienced thus far living in Scotland has not been too bad. They’re subtle things, like the gentleman that heard me speaking to a friend the other day and pointed, courteously enough, saying: “You—back home.” What I don’t expect is to see it in academia.... more »more »
Kudos to the Washington Post for running a feature on feminist art in last weekend’s outlook section. I found the section to be well rounded — it focused on individual artists, like Judy Chicago, the ghettoization of feminist art, and modern female artists as well as the history of feminist art.
Of course, what section on feminist art would be complete without a new action by the Guerilla Girls? This time around, the girls point out the ABYSMAL representation of women in our nation’s art museums, and in the chat, GG Frida Kahlo points out “The Hirshhorn Collection for example is 85% male, 15% female yet the art work on exhibit right now is 95% male and 5% female. Women artists, under-represented in the collections, are being further edited out of the exhibitions. It’s even worse for artists of color. And these museums are our national museums, supported by our tax dollars. Everyone has the right to complain about it.” The stats for white artists vs. artists of color are even worse.
Want to complain? Here are the contact emails for the museums mentioned in the GG Action:more » more »