The Faces Behind Hyphen: erin Khue Ninh

August 15, 2010

Who are those hardcore souls who give so much of their MSG-laced sweat and hot sauce-induced tears to Hyphen magazine? This month, as part of Hyphen’s fundraising campaign, you’ll get to know some of these ass-kicking heroines and heroes who aren’t anyone’s sidekicks or comic relief, and who live beyond the final scenes. Way beyond....

erin Khue Ninh (Hyphen blog coeditor) is one of those people you almost instantly feel like you’ve known forever. Her infectious energy, laughter and candor are refreshing, yet also comforting in such a way that you find yourself almost having to hold back from reminiscing about your own past and starting every sentence with, “Do you remember when we....?” So it’s really no surprise that this person whose personality translates well on the phone is also the person who works in the virtual blog world of Hyphen.

How and when were you first introduced to Hyphen?

Back in the day, Hyphen put on a couple of speed-dating events. ... In February 2004, a friend sent me the email about it, and the website seemed respectable. So I go. I saw an issue at the event, and offered to stuff envelopes -- but nobody called me! When I finally tracked down someone to recruit me, my first project was a fundraiser, doing holiday gift wrapping in a storefront at the Bay Street Mall in Emeryville, where Tea Cake Bake Shop is now. For my first staff position I named myself human resources and operations manager, and focused on recruiting and training volunteers. I was publisher for a while, then in the last year and a half became blog coeditor with Sylvie [Kim].

What do you think makes Hyphen so unique?

We’re all volunteers, and though we would like to change that so that we can pay people, the volunteer structure has some strengths. More flexibility, and there’s a self-selective quality so that the people who stay involved are passionate with a lot of talent, ability and dedication.

What kind of impact do you hope it has?

I would like to see it be the go-to place for left-leaning Asian Americans in their 20s to 40s. I don't think I really understood what "community" meant before I found Hyphen, I've never known what one felt like before. I hope it becomes that for more and more people.

How have you seen it change over time?

There's been some expansion and contraction as people come and go. Most significantly, I've seen Hyphen's biz side grow in the last few years, becoming more stable, savvier, and more professional. These biz people we've got now -- they're pretty smart. 

How has your relationship with/perspective of API issues changed over time?

In my early twenties I had more of a militant edge, mostly saw things to be mad about. Now my politics are progressive, but less pessimistic. Okay, maybe still pessimistic, but less pissed.

Do you tend to crave sweet or savory food more?

Sweet. I think?

If you had to choose your last meal on earth, what would it be?

Not sure. It may involve bacon.

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?

I don’t feel guilty about the things I like! I feel a little guilty about that.

Did your parents make you go to language school?

No. We lived with my grandma, so she taught us.

What are you listening to now, in terms of music?

Nothing right now. I sold my stereo with the 51-CD changer, and now I have no access to my CDs.

Do you prefer to eat family-style or order individually?


What would your superhero alter ego be?

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the comic series Elf Quest. Some of the characters had a duality of powers: a person could heal or kill, with a thought! So I would want to be that one, uh, and use my powers for good.

Please donate to Hyphen to support the work of our hard-working volunteers. A healer cannot heal only on bacon alone....




hi erin! i recently subscribed to the hyphen magazine rss feed via google reader.  i was surprised to see your name pop up in my feed, but i remember that you said you worked for <em>hyphen</em>.  keep up the good work! :-)   ~beno

yay x 2 to hear from an old friend -- who's also a hyphen reader!  :)   hope you & K are doing great.


  Shade and Sweet Water Erin, While I think its admirable to reference such a holy text, or as the elves might say "scroll of colors", I find it hard to believe your obsession was worthy of any sort of jail time or extensive therapy, not on face level at least.  First, the characters were elves, not people. But maybe you were confused with all the persecution they elves faced at the human's hands. Maybe that caused you some some sort of animepamorphic Stockholm syndrome? Or perhaps you were referencing the single human who did have elven abilities? In either case the elves and that single human both lacked the ability to heal with their thoughts. The healers on the world of two moons need close proximity to heal. I think the kind of stereotyping in your statement is both dangerous and ill informed. Imagine the disaster of keeping your healers in sending range during a battle and expecting to survive... frightening. I wouldn't fight along side that superhero commander. Maybe...maybe the hero question should really be, "What would your villainous alter ego be?" Why? Because what you did get right is part of a darker tradition of elven powers. There is one elf, "person", who did shape shift into human form and did kill with their thoughts. They also had an obsession and, uh, used their powers for "good*". Well, hopefully I haven't offeNded you. We all kNOW where your heart Is... LoL. Shade and Sweet Water, -Did I just level up or what? P.S. ELFQUEST** _____________ *see the top of the pyramid on the stereotyping link (this is an amazing btw, even though its being referenced in farce) **an amazing comic series:      What would your superhero alter ego be? When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the comic series Elf Quest. Some of the characters had a duality of powers: a person could heal or kill, with a thought! So I would want to be that one, uh, and use my powers for good.  

You, me, soju, and some NERDING OUT, please.

But first you have to give me some time to catch up on my ElfQuest b/c you have just badly schooled me.  Human?!  There was a human with powers?  Wait, wait!!  I only read the first 8 graphic novels.  Some of us were both nerdy and deprived...

Thank you for the gift of ElfQuest online, o high one, and curses for stealing the rest of my summer vacation.

As for this elves not people business, I use the term "person" in the same sense as the Supreme Court of the United States, whereby hell, if a corporation is a person, an elf damn well can be.   :)

Elf rights!