Claire Light

Book Dragon!


This awesome Hokusai dragon was heisted here.

I always wish that Hyphen blog could do more in the way of promoting literature from our communities, but we have a lot to cover and none of us has the time to do the one topic justice (do we?)

Fortunately, we don't have to! Terry Hong at the Smithsonian Institute's Institution's Asian Pacific American program has just started Book Dragon, an APA book blog! Yay! The blog is especially cookin' because she covers basically whatever the heck she feels like. Most of it is APA, but there's some other stuff sprinkled in. Awrsome.

Plus, although the blog is new, it goes back to 2001 right now because

I'm populating this blog both
backwards and forwards – I've got lots of reviewed titles from years
back which I'm adding in slowly (clearly signs of old age, I realize!).

She can get as old as she likes! Read on, you crazy dragon.

Hyphen Lynks: Bad Stereotype! Edition


Ahhh, for the good old days, when we didn't know our house was built on sand. (You know, there's nothing inherently wrong with building on sand, as long as there are no earthquakes or floods or landslides or nothin'. So, you know ... don't build in California. Or Louisiana. Or ... anywhere you'd actually want to build. Then it's a sound policy.)

Asian Women Blog Carnival


Photo of Chinese typewriter from here.

I posted about this a few days ago, but this really needs its own post. The Asian Women Blog Carnival is up, and it's pretty spectacular.

Blogger ciderpress at Livejournal, inspired by a number of other antiracist blogging efforts (google "international blog against racism week," for example) decided to put together a blog carnival for Asians for Women's History Month (which was March.) A blog carnival is where someone names a topic or theme, then bloggers post on that topic or theme and submit their posts to the carnival. The "carnival" part is where all the posts on that theme are posted together, in a sort of mini-library of resources from a particular community of interest.

This one was open to any women of Asian descent and seems to be intended for an annual affair. This first year ciderpress asked for identity pieces, but also anything else anyone had to write. I contributed the linkspost for my Hyphen Women's History Month profiles, and also for a piece I wrote on my own blog about the word "hapa" and cultural appropriation. There are also posts on being Filipina in the Netherlands, being mixed-race "Indo" in the Netherlands, the history of Hmong communities in the US and why this history needs to be taught in schools, how on the internet, nobody knows you're Chinese, growing up Bengali in Malaysia, having to fight to be considered Indian when you're mixed race, why medical outreach into Asian communities is so important, etc.

I've been reading slowly through these pieces and I'm still not done. And I'm not going to link to any of them. You need to go to the carnival and peruse on your own. Here it is again. Go get 'em!

Women's History Month Profile Roundup

moti roti.jpg

Composite image of morphed Asian faces by British Asian artist group Moti Roti.
Well, Women's History Month ended yesterday, so my profiles series is over.

Many thanks to the readers who suggested women to profile. I didn't use very many of these suggestions, not because they weren't good, but because most of the suggestions were either artists/writers, or Chinese. I didn't want to do all artists/writers or all Chinese figures. But that tells you something about who our readers are ;), or at least, about who gets the most press time from our communities.

I've rounded up all my profile posts below, plus a few others from other folks. Please hit me up in comments if you've posted on Asian American women this month and I'll add your URLs to this post.

Women's History Month Profile: Jane Luu


Pretty much every kid on the planet, ever, has answered "astronomer" to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" ... for at least a week after their first visit to a planetarium. Looking at the stars, and knowing what you're seeing, is cool.

But how many of us stick to it long enough to even find out what being an astronomer is about, much less become one?

Chi Cheng Med Insurance Cut Off!

Our fucked up healthcare industry strikes again.

I just heard today that comatose Deftones bassist Chi Cheng's insurance company has refused to continue coverage for his treatment. His family has had to set up a website to solicit donations to support his care.

Cheng was in an automobile accident in November, which might have killed him had three off-duty EMTs not happened to drive by with all their gear. I haven't been able to find any information about why Cheng's insurance carrier decided to drop him when he needed them the most, but if you have a moment, try shooting off an email to Obama or your local or state brass asking them to do something about healthcare in our country.

Aside from playing bass for the Deftones, the Buddhist Cheng is a poet and community activist for homeless youth and battered women. He also has a wife and child. Please consider donating; his condition continues to improve.

Glamour's Close, But No Ceegar

One thing we haven't talked about yet is the start of Women's History Month, which is March. It's a great time to highlight the accomplishments of women, and a lot of organizations are jumping on the bandwagon.

One of the coolest things I've seen so far is a Glamour photo spread showing female "American Icons," played by current celebrities. E.g.: Hayden Panettiere as Amelia Earhart and Lindsey Lohan as Madonna. It's a great idea, and highlights national treasures of sports and political action as well as entertainment.


Hyphen Lynks: All Over Creation

Sorry, but it's raining. I have no little sarcasm, and no made-up theme, for Hyphen Lynks this week. It's just the news, plus a few undigested opinions, from all over the place. Please feel free to insert your own sarcastic comments below. Or to suggest themes. Above, enjoy a vid of Our Tamlyn explaining why everyone needed to vote last November. Glad she did. Why Tamlyn? See below.

Breaking News: Beating Yer Girlfriend Still Not Okay!

Perhaps more horrifying than last week's alleged assault on singer Rihanna by her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, was the general response in blogs and comment threads, excusing Brown and other abusers, and even admitting to abuse on the part of commenters. Yeah, some people were saying that it was okay for Brown to (allegedly) bite Rihanna's body, give her black eyes, and choke her until she passed out, because she pissed him off in a variety of ways.

So, just in case anyone's unclear on this: beating, choking, slapping or hurting anyone physically is UNACCEPTABLE for any reason. Why?

Finally!: Justice for Filipino Veterans

How do you like our new administration so far?

Apparently, your friend and mine Senator Daniel Inouye slipped a provision into the recently passed stimulus package awarding the $15,000 each the US promised to Filipino veterans last year (if they're US citizens; only $9000 if they're not). Now, all it has to do is survive the committee reconciling the differing House and Senate bills.

These Filipino vets were recruited by the US to fight the Japanese during WWII and promised citizenship and payment. Truman reneged and it wasn't until Clinton that any veterans got to emigrate on the strength of their war service.

Last year the Senate awarded the vets a monthly pension, but it was changed to the (honestly, tiny) lump sum in the House. And then they waited for yet another year. That's okay, they'd already been waiting sixty years for what the US promised them. What's another 360-odd days? Especially since this lump sum is just a token.

"This is not a stimulus proposal. It does not
create jobs,'' [Inouye] conceded. "But the honor of the United States is what
is involved.''


Read all about it in the San Jose Merc. And check out our 2007 article about Filipino veterans in Queens, "Still Fighting," in issue 11.

Meme It!: Courage Campaign's 'Fidelity' Vid

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Ready to have a good cry? Pretty much everybody does when they see this, according to Broadsheet.

Please do embed and post this video of all these lovely couples and families who will lose their rights to each other if Ken Starr's legal brief seeking to nullify the marriages that happened in California before Prop 8 isn't stopped.

First Iraq War Criminal an Asian American?

john yoo.jpg

This article in the East Bay Express this week tipped me off to the possibility that that crazy ol' Obama Administration might pursue criminal charges against the torturers and privacy-invaders of the Bush monarchy after all. The idea of prosecutions is gaining momentum and popularity among the votahs. And among me.

... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Whitewash

In honor of the ongoing Avatar controversy (in which a bunch of Asian and Inuit characters from a cartoon are going to be played by white actors in the live-action film) here's a brief and incomplete history of -- not merely yellowface (a blogger recently did this treatment of yellowface in general but I can't find and here's the post) -- but incidence of white actors taking strong Asian roles that an Asian actor might have actually wanted.

Quick Gaza War Update

As the one-week ceasefire in Gaza continues, analyses are coming from all sides.

An analysis from Kaveh L. Afrasiabi at Al Jazeera:

reflection of Israel's diplomatic isolation, in addition to being
condemned by the UN General Assembly in a near unanimous vote, Israel
could only count on the U.S. support at the UN Security Council, which
adopted Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate ceasefire and
withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

... In
fact, once the dust of this crisis settles, it will be abundantly clear
that Israel once again miscalculated the enemy's fighting ability and
resilience, as well as the nature of international response, for
despite a complete complicity by the U.S. media in presenting a
sanitized, pro-Israel version of the war, in the end Israel lost the
publicity war simply because of the egregious excesses of its overkill
in Gaza, causing waves of anti-war protests across Europe that, in
turn, forced the European leaders to relinquish their initial
pro-Israel stance in favor of a more even-handed and balanced approach.

The video above is the first in an hour-long, three-part series from Al Jazeera English called "Gaza in Ruins."

Here's an analysis from Ethan Bronner of the New York Times:

Israel is counting on the idea that with the heavy damage to
smuggler tunnels from Egypt and a mix of technology and policy to
prevent further smuggling, Hamas will not again become the scourge it
has been recently.

Still, the actual damage to Hamas appears to
have been limited partly because it acted so cautiously. There is irony
in this, that Israel, the state with the well-trained army, wildly
pressed the attack, while Hamas, the Islamist militia that supposedly
embraces death, shied from the fight.

The group was by all
accounts able to preserve a substantial portion of its force. Hundreds
of Hamas fighters were reported killed, but general estimates put the
entire force well into the thousands. Israeli military officials said
they saw very few fighters on the battlefield. They came out mostly in
ones and twos and only a few attempted suicide bombings.

Those who know Hamas in Gaza say this was carefully calculated.

Here's a series of shorts called "Inside Gaza" by Guardian filmmaker Clancy Chassay. These include a ride-along and look at Hamas' MO, the death of three militants in Gaza, and the launch of a rocket into Israel using Google Earth to sight targets.

President Obama: Inaugural Openish Thread

I finally decided that I wanted to stand with the
arrival of the new majority. I wanted to join with millions in flipping
a big bird to those who insisted this country was "center-right." No, I
wanted to say, November 4th showed we are progressive-left. Perhaps
even my father.

Still I couldn't get the words of Rosa
Clemente -- the 36 year-old Green Party vice-presidential candidate who
was for many of us just as much a symbol of hope and progress and
change -- out of my head. "If we become the majority," she told me last
summer, "then we're going to have more people like us put into these
positions from really moving us towards justice."

As we look
at who Obama has brought in to his administration thus far, I'm struck
by the notion that perhaps even he doesn't yet recognize the
transformative possibilities of the new majority that elected him.

West said last March, "I told Obama that when he wins -- which I think he
will --I will celebrate for one day, I'll breakdance in the morning and
party in the afternoon. But the next day, I'll become one of his major

Two -- no, three -- views on today: one from the center and two from out here. (The second vid is from Jay Smooth, the blogger who broke the Hot 97 story, lo, these many years ago. The quote is from Jeff Chang, thanks to Momo.)

What do you think about the inauguration? Obama's address? What he said he was going to do? Are we swinging to the left or is Obama walking right? And are we now, officially, "post-race"?

Some rules: please try to stick to the topic of the inauguration and speculation about Obama's first days in office. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on what the significance to anti-racism will be, that we have just inaugurated our first black president. No grandstanding or agendas, please!

Da Twilight Zone: The Week Before 'Bama Edition

There is a place, a place where the policies of two decades ago bump up against the politics of next century, where a first lady's fashion choice is as important as the lives of 400 Palestinian children, where the Chinese are still Japanese in the popular imagination, where real bleeding heart lib'rals are preparing to get up and party at 7:30 of a Tuesday morn. This place is called ... Da Twilight Zone!

Dew dew dew dew ... dew dew dew dew ... dew dew dew dew ... dew dew dew dew ...

The Violence in Gaza Affects Everybody

I know this isn't technically Asian American, but there are now reports that Israel is dropping white phosphorus, a substance that melts human skin to the bone, in Gaza over civilian areas, in contravention of international law. Israel had previously attacked UN aid workers, stopping aid missions to Gaza, and the UN is now actually using the term "war crime" to refer to the "possibility" that Israel has failed to help wounded civilians in Gaza. These war crimes debase us all.

Filipina Nurse Slow-down in the States


Image by Jenifer Wofford, from her series Flor de Manila y San Francisco 1973-78

While I was at my parents' for the holidays, I spoke with a friend of the family who had been helping to take care of my grandmother until her death this spring. This woman -- with nearly grown kids -- had just finished college and was considering going on to grad school in hospital or healthcare administration.

With the US's largest generation ever -- baby boomers -- about to enter retirement age, geriatric health care is the biggest growth industry of our depressed moment. My friend had been getting cold-called all through December by graduate programs anxious to sign her up. It's looking very much like -- for an American of any age looking to get into healthcare -- the goose just started laying golden, golden eggs.

For an American-born, that is. Not so much for immigrants. Because one of the hangovers of the hysterically xenophobic and PATRIOT
ACT-hobbled Bush era is a bottleneck on processing visas and work
permits even for much-needed professionals in under-employed fields.
Another hangover is continuing funding cuts for health care. This is
a formula for disaster in geriatric health care, one in which wealthy
Americans will compete with each other for substandard care, and middle
class elderly will get left out entirely. Forget about the working

Caught in the middle of all of this is the Filipina nurse.

Hyphen Lynks: Christmas Week Edition

751px-Christbaumkugel.jpgYes, that's right, chicks 'n' chickens: I SAID "CHRISTMAS"! And I'm an atheist.

But that don't mean I don't love me some dead pine tree on a stick, hearing seasonal rock songs that might have been clever 25 years ago for the eighty-two-thousand-five-hundred-and-twelfth time, and drinking lactose-intoleration nog. Love that rum and cream, even if I come from a family in which the entire greatest generation was alcoholics so the entire baby boomer generation is afraid to heft one for the holidays. Too Much Information? NO IT'S NOT! IT'S CHRISTMAS!

Anent the season, the news is being softpedaled, I guess because that's how you sell a lot of stuff as a people, we're just optimistic that way. So I had to dig through a lot of "holiday" cheer, bad fusion recipes, and east-meets-west human "interest" stories to bring you the following paltry list of whatevers. Enjoy!

Asian Canadian Fembot

Via Broadsheet I saw this story about an Asian Canadian man who has invented a responsive android that can both do complex chores (including read to you), and also respond to touch (including telling you when it feels pain, and slapping you for touching its private parts.) Naturally, this bot is an Asian female and has breasts and a vagina ... even more interestingly, the inventor appears to be Vietnamese, but the bot is named "Aiko," a Japanese-sounding name.

Live Action 'Avatar' NOT Asian

This is gonna kill me.

One of my favorite TV shows of the past couple years has been Nickelodeon's anime-inflected cartoon drama Avatar: The Last Airbender. Although most of the names responsible for the show are not Asian names, the show takes place in an all-Asian-Pacific fantasy world that actually WORKS. The world is divided into nations modeled on Inuit, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Pacific Islander cultures. That means ALL of the characters are some kind of Asian Pacific. There are no other races/ethnicities.

Aside from this wonderful fact, the show is beautifully done. The music is good (if a little ching-chongy at times), the art starts out good and gets fantastic as the show goes on, and the stories are well-written and full of complex character development. It's really good work.

And then, I found out that M. Night Shyamalan had been tapped to direct a live action film of the series. How cool is that?

So the news this week that the main characters -- who are from Tibetan, Inuit, and Japanese-based cultures -- have been cast and are being played by white actors ... well it just stuck a knife in my heart. It's been done many times before: most notably in the recent casting of white actors to play the distinctly dark-toned characters  in Ursula le Guin's classic magical bildungsroman A Wizard of Earthsea.

But Avatar is different. It's not being adapted from a book. It's being adapted from a television show where the audience has already seen the characters' ethnicities -- and they are distinct, as you can see in the fan video above. Furthermore, the Avatar generation is less fussed about race, and more used to diversity. Casting Avatar all white is just so ... unnecessary.

Why? Why are they doing it? Argh!

I'm sending a letter.


Alien Land and Freedom

Community_Garden.jpgJust for the fun, let's juxtapose two stories this week about Asians coming to California and dealing with land ownership.

The backdrop is the California Alien Land Law of 1913, a law repealed in 1952, which prohibited people ineligible for American citizenship, primarily Asians, from owning land. This was part of a raft of racist laws aimed at controlling Asian immigration, including barring Asian laborers from entry, and restriction of commercial fishing licenses to citizens.

One of the long-term consequences of this series of laws, which began with the Naturalization Act of 1790, was that Asians, although a substantial presence in the US since the mid-19th century, remained permanent foreigners -- literally alienated from the land -- in the American imagination. So, jumping ahead a century or two, how's this gonna play with 1) a conflict between government and squatter farmers, and 2) Chinese real estate carpetbaggers?

Laotian American Poet is 2009 NEA Fellow!


Why is this man jumping?

Well, could be he's just been awarded a Fellowship in Creative Writing by the National Endowment for the Arts! That means $25,000, just for him, and all the status and free drinks a poet can stand.

The man is Bryan Thao Worra,
and he's a Minnesota-based Laotian American poet. Bryan doesn't have an
MFA or formal training, yet he recently won a 2008 Artist Initiative
Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board to market his second
collection of poems, On the Other Side of the Eye,
which is an exploration of Laotian American identity through fantasy,
science fiction, spies, secret wars, and ancient history. Yes, he's

And now my skeletal editors call on me
with their chattering skulls:
"Where are your words for Fa Ngum and Chao Anou,
or the fallen honored at the Patuxai?
In all of this time, surely one word about Vientiane
will not kill you or your friends."

It's hard to answer, sitting down to eat in July.
"Write what you know," my teachers admonish.
Sipping my soda, I turn the pages of a
weathered book of Van Gogh prints
inspired by Hokusai and the Ukiyo-e
and sigh. 

My flag is as obsolete as the word Indochine, and
I realized today I am older than my father lived to be.
It's been too long since I last saw an elephant
or the monstrous river catfish.
They tell me somberly the freshwater Irrawaddy
will be extinct before the next time I come by. 

I couldn't sketch any of them worth a damn if I tried.

A part of me wants to smack the next person
who says I won't be Lao if I don't write about Laos.

-- excerpt from "Japonisme, Laoisme"