erin K Ninh

contributing editor & blogger

erin Khue Ninh is a former blog editor and onetime publisher of Hyphen, who won't seem to go away. She now teaches literature in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Aside from Hyphen, erin believes in recycling, Planned Parenthood, and Type A first-borns.

Gift Guide: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Causes

Which of the following is a good reason to donate:

  • People on your gift list are do-gooders/don't need more stuff.
  • Year-end tax-deductible write-offs.
  • Community orgs doing vital, meaningful work.
  • Your faithful Hyphen staff swear by these causes.
  • Any of the above.

Crazy, but true: That there question has no wrong answer!

Free Online: '9500 Liberty' and 'Wo Ai Ni Mommy'


We thought you might want to know that two of this year's acclaimed film festival features are available to view online, for free, for a limited time. See below for reviews from our writers earlier this year. And click on their titles to see the films. 

9500 Liberty will be available until election day, Nov 2.

Turning Japanese American

For years now, whenever non-Asian people have attempted to bond by announcing to me that their spouses are some flavor of Asian, I've made a mental W sign and probably rolled my eyes. Usually they're implying that they're cultural insiders because of these spouses, a notion I've found to be just so much baloney.

But I probably can't afford to be quite so dismissive going forward because, I dunno, am I doing something similar?

Action Pact: Joining Forces with Asian American Action Fund

Starting this week, folks, we're supercharging our political coverage with the help of our friends at the Asian American Action Fund. Their team of bloggers includes lawyers, at least one judge, and some major policy wonks -- so we're psyched to borrow their X-ray vision on the parties, the leaders, the legislation that Asian Americans should know about.

And in return we're excited to lend them our favorite hoodies and vintage shades. Can't infiltrate the arts and culture scenes like we do without the right get-up.

Publish and Perish: We're Talking about You


Actually, we're talking about Asian Americans online: the bloggers, the journalists, the YouTube celebs, and you -- the readers and viewers of above fare. And here's the kind of stuff we'll be dishing:

With newspapers and magazines folding like dominoes around us, what's a journalist to do? Much less one who thinks this niche called Asian America needs covering?

If bloggers (and KevJumba) are the rising voices of Asian American media, then does great responsibility come with great power?

Where are We? California Redistricting Sorely Lacking AsAms

Always we carp about not being represented. Where are all the Asian Americans on primetime TV? Why so few in the higher corporate executive tiers? Where are all the positions for us in government?

Well? The lines are being drawn. Where are we?

California voters passed a proposition a few years ago demanding a say in how voting districts are drawn, because the demographic and party distribution across districts can make it possible for minority voters to make an impact on statewide elections -- or dilute their ballots into statistical insignificance.

Meet Melissa! Love Her Like We Do

She founds magazines. She makes stop-motion videos. She eats lots of cheese. And she runs an Asian American film festival in Houston!

Our Melissa is amazing. But she can't keep doing that last thing, without you.

You know the story: budgets slashed, arts organizations flailing. Slant: Bold Asian American Images turns 10 in 2010! But it won't happen this year if she can't raise the money to fund it. She doesn't need much (an incredibly modest $1,500 for a festival! resourceful, this one), so do help, where even a little will do an awful lot.

(And a note to filmmakers: the deadline to submit work to Slant is January 30.)

Where You Have All the Answers

blue ribbon.pngMultiple-choice questions you can't get wrong? Maybe filling in bubbles or blanks brings back fond memories of acing standardized tests. Or maybe this is finally your chance to make that parental dream a reality! Either way, take the Hyphen reader survey: all your answers are aces with us.

Hyphen loves your input all year 'round, but only for a brief window each winter do we offer this nifty form, to make telling us about yourself so easy. Window closes January 20th, though, so nab your 5 minutes of nostalgia now. And you may just win an iPod nano from us. Like you'd need anything else to brag about.

Survey here.

Congrats to Mr. Hyphen 2009: Pahole Sookkasikon

Mr Hyphen 2009 for blog (5 of 5).jpg

He's So Money: Newly crowned Mr. Hyphen 2009 Pahole Sookkasikon. Photo by John C. Liau.

Even the Pacquiao-Cotto fight couldn't stop Hyphen fans from turning out in droves this past Saturday to cheer for their favorite Asian American men at the fourth annual Mr. Hyphen contest. With a shot of talent, a shot of fashion and, in the words of one of the judges, "a lot of soul," there was something for everyone. At the end of the night, Pahole Sookkasikon took home the crown and $1,000 for his chosen nonprofits, the Thai-American Scholarship Fund and the Asian American Donor Program.

More Notice for Getting Noticed: Mr. Hyphen


You've got a little more time -- but just a little -- to grab the crown, the cash, the belt, and the bragging rights. We're taking Mr. Hyphen applications through this Sunday, October 11th.

See here for how. See below for why. Hyphen hearts you, Anthem.

* * *

What's the best part of being a Mr. Hyphen finalist?  Real talk, it's difficult to choose between:

- Bringin' sexy back
- Meeting Miss San Francisco (2007 Mr. Hyphen judge)
- Drawing valuable attention to your community
- Connecting with the amazing human beings behind the coolest arts and culture magazine in America
- And have I mentioned, HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE???

Vincent Chin, Luis Ramirez: How to Weigh a Hate Crime

Last July, Luis Ramirez, a Latino immigrant who worked in a factory, was brutally killed by a gang of drunken white teenagers motivated by their dislike of the growing Latino population in their small coal mining town of Shenandoah, Penn. Two of the young white men who killed Luis were recently acquitted by an all white jury of all serious charges including third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation.

The facts of this case sounded all too familiar to those of us lawyers who work on civil rights cases. They mirror the facts at the heart of the 1982 Vincent Chin hate crime case.

The above comes from an article by a lawyer at Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) of Los Angeles. Do read it where it lives, and come back.

I've been thinking (and talking, and writing) about hate crimes quite a bit lately. Attended a conversation at the UCSB residence halls last night, where students were working through their views of the recent racially-motivated assault on campus. The conversation also came on the heels of a screening of the excellent new documentary on Vincent Chin, the night before.

The students opened by piecing together a definition of a hate crime. What kinds of acts fall under this legal category? Identity-based violence takes many forms, they recognized. Not all of it physical, not all of it criminally prosecutable.

In the eyes and on the books of civil rights law, I'm told, the racial, sexual, or say religious basis of a crime becomes an "enhancement" to the basic criminal charges, of assault and battery, say, or first-degree murder. And that's how/why we want them prosecuted: because the crime was "enhanced," i.e., made worse, by its hateful nature.

But I'm realizing there's an irony in this. In cases like Luis Ramirez and Vincent Chin, the judicial process has seen fit to treat the racial nature of the attacks not as enhancements, but as diminishments -- mitigants so powerful as to turn a murder into a beating, or a crime into nothing at all.

Reflections on a Hate Crime at UCSB

Word about the racially-motivated attack on two Asian American men at UC Santa Barbara last March has been traveling through the online social networks and cropping up in the blogosphere for some time. Mainstream media hasn't carried much on it, though, since things have been kept fairly quiet during the investigation, so for some of you, this may be the first you've heard.

To Get or Give: More Holiday Gift Guide

Moonpillows mochi truffles. Local secret available only to those of you in Southern California.
Chewy-soft mochi on the outside. Soft chocolate ganache -- with flavors like
maple-pecan or pumpkin spice, eggnog or chocolate mint (with candy
canes crushed into the filling!) -- on the inside. Everything scrumptiously hand-made. Find them at the Brentwood farmer's market on Sundays, or online (but with SoCal delivery only). Get some if you can...

For the artist or writer on your list, there's Lynda Barry's newest book What It Is, her remedy to writer's block. Through comics, drawings and worksheets, she shares her method of putting away self-defeating demons and conjuring up memories and images to kick start the creative process. She also teaches a class on this method, if you're lucky enough to be in a city she's visiting.

What's the New Black? Shifting Sands of Race

Earlier, we mentioned Jeff Yang's musings that Obama might be categorically Asian American in a way that transcends biological race.

In interesting counterpoint to that is a conversation I recently had with a friend who speculated that Vijay Singh -- and not Tiger Woods -- may be professional golf's "colored person," if by that we mean a category that renders invisible, unwelcome, or second-class those who are tarred with it. Singh has been cast as an uppity and hypermasculine threat to a gentleman's game; he gets a fraction of the press he deserves, and seems to be the guy that the establishment would love to watch fall on his face. So, pointed out my friend Sameer, might it be said that Singh is categorically Black in a way that also transcends biological race?

See here for Sameer's recent, deftly measured article on Singh for SI's golf issue. And come back if you'd like to comment on the shifting meanings of race in a world that "postmodern" seems almost too quaint a term to describe anymore. It's not that race has disappeared or become null and void; but the categories are certainly more supple now, in ways that both give us a lot more freedom of movement, and make it incredibly hard for us to tell where the sand-traps ahead of us lie.

Due Shortly

Marianne Villanueva: "Mayor of the Roses," issue 6
Sabrina Tom: "A Dead Letter Love Story," issue 7
Lara Stapleton: "what we can get away with," issue 8
Danny Thanh Nguyen: "Davydia," issue 9
Katinka Baltazar: "Vertigo," issue 10
Preeta Samarasan: "Our House Stands in a City of Flowers," issue 11 *winner 2007 contest*
Brian Leung: "Librarians on Ice," issue 12
Philip Huang: "Pineola Inn," issue 13
Diana Ip: "Drunken Chicken," issue 14
Sung J. Woo: "Translation," issue 15
___you and your story___, issue 16


Asian American boookstores are priceless -- precarious and brave. What Advanced Searches on Barnes & will never yield, what the shelves of Borders can't be counted on to carry much less surrender -- the Asian American bookstore will have gathered and displayed for you, rows upon rows of just the things you might not want to miss. It's like having a literary personal shopper.


Hullo. Hopefully some groggy, post-holiday blog readers snapped to attention on that one.

Sale. Yup, once a year (and once a year only!) Hyphen reduces our online subscription rates. From the standard $18 for 4 issues (which is already so cheap, we make no money off of it once you cover printing & postage), to $15 (which is actually less than our barest costs of production).