Claire Light

Desi Fashion Designer Convicted of Rape

File this under "Asian Shame":

Indian American fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander was convicted of 20 counts of serial rape this week.

The 35-year-old designer was featured on "America's Next Top Model" and has worked with celebrities like Paris Hilton, Oprah Winfrey and Mary J. Blige. He was born in India and emigrated to the States to study design. His work is described as fusing east and west (argh).

He's convicted of luring several girls and women aged 14 to 21 to his apartment with promises of modeling contracts, then raping them. His family has been campaigning to get the Indian government involved, to no avail. They say he was framed, but the arguments made on his support site seem flimsy at first glance.

Not much comment to make here. Here's his website if you want to see his designs. And see the interview above from about eight years ago for a little -- in hindsight -- creepy discussion of his being raised by women and encouraged to be a brat. It's too bad: he's well-spoken, particularly for someone in the celebrity-ridden fashion world, and his perspective is interesting. In another life he'd be a role model ... in fact, he probably has been. Just that thought, more than anything, makes me shudder.

Asian American Women (and Men) Win!



Some of the big news of this election is that we've just seen "an upward shift in the number of women who were elected to political office" (says's women's rights blog). Women are now in the majority in the New Hampshire senate (!). (To balance that out, though, South Carolina now has an all-male senate. Boo.) The total number of women in Congress (federal, that is) went up from 16 to 17 percent.

And, according to and Emily's List, we have a number of Asian American women in office after election 2008! They appear to be mostly incumbents, but here's the list so far:

Prop 8: People of Color Show Whites How Discrimination is Done

Edited to removed photo. Sorry, folks, I wasn't thinking about copyright!

Okay, this has to be said:

While we're all celebrating President-elect (squee!) Obama and reveling in the enormous turnout of African American and Latino voters that helped seal the deal, let's not forget that the forces of bigotry and discrimination won a huge victory on Tuesday ... and that in great part precisely because of the huge turnout of voters of color.

Drawing Across Difference

Artist Jenifer Wofford makes connections.

IF YOU WERE WONDERING what happened to the pluralism of the '90s, it hasn't gone away. It's just mutated.

While for many artists starting their second decade, melding and multiplicity are concepts easily enough abandoned, there are a few, like my friend Jenifer Wofford, who've built a practice on those bones.

What Constitutes a Minority Again?

What does it mean to be a minority? And what does it matter?

With Obama downplaying the race factor, Hillary supporters and critics alike highlighting her almost-cried-but-didn't moment, and Edwards recently -- and oddly -- referred to as a "minority" on the Tyra Banks Show last week, I'm a little confused as to the role race and gender (and sometimes class) are playing in this election on the Dem side.

The petit oiseau of Asian Am folk jazz

I first caught Cynthia Lin's show at the HotHouse in Chicago over a year ago, where the diminutive singer/songwriter was crooning "Skipping in NYC," a catchy little love song that takes place somewhere between Sixth Avenue and Chinatown. At 5'2", she's the Taiwanese-American petit oiseau of folk jazz, reminiscent of Edith Piaf and Joni Mitchell, with a big voice and jazzy melodies.

The Epidemic You Don’t Know About

A press conference in New York City last month addressed an issue that often goes ignored but is already affecting many Asian Americans in the 21st century – Chronic Hepatitis B.

A study released by pharmaceutical giants Idenix and Novartis revealed some alarming figures. A survey of 301 CHB patients (55% of whom were Asian American) indicated that not enough CHB patients or the general population are properly informed about CHB and its causes, although the similarities to the HIV epidemic are obvious.

In the U.S. and estimated 1.25 million people are critically infected with HBV 2 -- Asian Americans make up more than half of this number.

* One in 10 Asian-Americans has CHB, compared with one in 1,000 for the general U.S. population:
* 1 in 10 Chinese Americans
* 1 in 12 Korean Americans
* 1 in 8 Vietnamese Americans


Last week I turned in my last story to Civiane (copy editor) and Cielo (art director) to take forward into the newly glossy realm of print existence in Hyphen. The story -- an investigation/"think-piece" by Wendy Cheng on the new role Vietnamese Americans can play in post-Katrina New Orleans -- is just the kind of story I imagined, even dreamed about, Hyphen producing when we first started the magazine. My dream Hyphen story combined political passion, investigative journalism, theoretical savvy, writing chops, and an ability/willingness to speculate, dream, prescribe, and stick one's neck out. Did this piece hit all of these notes perfectly? No, of course not. But for me, after struggling through eight issues to learn how to be an editor, finally getting to edit such a piece is ... satisfaction indeed.

Asian Nations Helping Katrina Victims

Anyone who knows the AA communities knows that our folks maintain close ties with government and service organizations in our countries of origin. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Asian countries are being mobilized through the efforts of their overseas children to send help to Katrina victims. Here's a short list of current efforts from the past two weeks:

Katrina Hits NOLA's Bangladeshi Community

Ursula passed along this article (pasted below) from the Foil-I mailing list (provenance, Weekly Kagoj) about New Orleans' Bangladeshi Immigrants. A consequence of the destruction that we hadn't foreseen: some of the ... uh ... browner foreign students studying in the hurricane region might have a problem transferring their studies to other cities. Let's keep an eye on this one.

Just Say "Low" to Drugs

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine may help unravel why some racial groups show greater sensitivity to certain drugs. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington University in St. Louis studied the genetic makeup of patients on the anticoagulant drug warfarin, prescribed to prevent blood clots after heart attack, stroke or surgery.

Indian American Health

Within a month Hyphen's Body Issue (Issue #7) will be out and you'll be able to read about new research on a variety of diseases affecting Asian Americans, especially those associated with poor diet: cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although all Asian Americans continue to be neglected by the medical research establishment, this article suggests that South Asian Americans may be disproportionately affected by the physical consequences of assimilation.

Foreigners Have No Rights in Our Country

Have you guys seen this article in the New York Times from two days ago? The Syrian-born naturalized Canadian citizen who was snatched in Kennedy airport and deported to Syria to be tortured because the US gov't decided he was a member of Al Qaeda is suing. The government is now arguing in court that "Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food." For some reason, it's the last item that gets to me. Denied food? Why would you want to do that?

Iranian Americans, Know Your Rights!

I don't have much comment about this story, because it just makes me too angry and sad. These three Iranian brothers, one of whom came to the U.S. for his education and the other two who came over to escape the revolution, were caught in the triple bind created by our government's "war on terror", often actually a war of terror on our own residents. They've just recently been released after being detained for more than three years. Horrifyingly, their release was only secured by an investigation into the beating of one brother for standing up for an ailing fellow detainee. I love my country, but I am so ashamed of this government we allow to act in our name.

How to Kill a War

On the fourth of July I sat on my cousin's deck, getting a slow sunburn and eating cold potluck. So far, so American. I also fell into a brief, if inevitable, discussion on the State of the Nation with a couple of friends, one of whom, apparently, had let her affinity group disperse. The inevitable upshot of the discussion was that we all believed that the hundreds of thousands of people who marched against the war in 2003, and the millions who disapproved of it, would rise up in support of some positive action ... but that no one had yet to propose a truly effective action.

Some rumblings from that conversation and from a recent article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, have turned my attention towards a new initiative, currently limited to San Francisco, but with the potential to become a nationwide effort.

Geek Attack!

Hello from Wisconsin, the cheese state! And when I write "cheese", I mean it metaphorically, as well as literally. I wandered to the state capitol building yesterday (I'm in Madison, natch), drawn there by the sight of crowds and the sound of punk rock. There, at the weekly farmers market, I saw a band composed of 10 - 14 year olds, playing a remarkably competent cover of Green Day's "Longview", with a blonded woman not much older than I am -- very obviously one of the bandmembers' mothers -- dancing away furiously as he sang "My mother says to get a job but she don't like the one she's got."

The Colonial Me

The Colonial Me was born on distant shores and flew on a jet plane to a parallel life in a new land, wailing and shitting her diapers. There, a culture rich in means, but starved in education, rejected her with television and gap-filled history books, ravished her heritage with stereotypes and unbelievably corny magazine advertisements. They married and had many misunderstandings. Apparently, true multifculturalism had yet to be invented.