Melissa Hung

Founding Editor

Melissa Hung is the founding editor of Hyphen. She was the editor in chief for the magazine's first five years and went on to serve in many other leadership roles on the staff and board for more than a decade. She is a writer and freelance journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Pacific Standard, Longreads, and Catapult, among others. A native Texan, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

SF Pride & DesiQ2006

This weekend here in San Francisco, it’s Pride. Hyphen is co-sponsoring the API Wellness Center’s booth at Pride. Check out their website to learn about their programs for gay men and the transgender community. And stop by the booth. We’ll have some free mags to give away!

Also, Trikone will be doing their part by hosting DesiQ2006, a conference on South Asian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. It starts tomorrow.

The Vincent Chin Memorial Chapbook Prize

Just wanted to publicize this chapbook. One of these days, we'll have a place to post Call For Entries, etc. But for now, we'll mention items from time to time on our blog. Here's the posting:

On June 19, 1982, in Detroit, Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat by a man and his stepson. The two laid-off autoworkers mistook Chin for Japanese — an Asian group they blamed for the ailing U.S. auto industry. The assailants never served jail time, and later federal civil-rights courts acquitted them entirely of the crime.

The Not-So-Glamorous Life of Publishing

My head’s been wrapped around that other little project I have on my plate, the Slant Film Festival, which takes place this weekend in Houston at the Aurora Picture Show. The Aurora is a really great arts space. It was originally built as a church in 1928. The pews are still there, but now people go there to see cutting edge film — a different kind of church. If you’re in the Houston area, please stop by at one (or both) of the screenings — one is Saturday night and the other is Sunday afternoon. We have an excellent line-up of films this year. Details here. I’ll be bringing some copies of Hyphen with me as well.

It's super busy around here at Hyphen. That's cause Issue 9 has just landed. We just spent all of Tuesday night stuffing the mags into envelopes to mail to you, dear subscribers. Everyone, from editors to event folks to our web team, was there pitching in. We do everything ourselves — from stuffing the issues with subscription cards, to sealing them in envelopes, to dragging them all to the post office. We also have to prepare packing slips to mail to our distributors. And here in the Bay Area, we personally work with many of the independent bookstores who carry us. That means this weekend, Hyphen folks will be driving around, picking up old issues, dropping off new ones. It's a lot of work.

Do We Know Who We Are?

By Sonny Le, Hyphen Advisory Board Member

Our personal identity is a reflection of how we see ourselves, based on family and ancestral history and growing up-experience and what we believe to be perceived by others. As Asian Americans, our identity is fraught with unintended and unwanted connotations. Given the diversity within the communities and how much of our experience has been defined by and filtered through popular media, inventing and/or reinventing who we are seems to have taken on a new dimension.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many of our parents are either reluctant to shed light on their past and their coming-to-America experience or simply offer inexact accounts.

Kid Punished for Filipino Eating Habits

I've got two stories for you. File the first one under appalling and ridiculous. A 7-year-old Filipino Canadian student has been repeatedly punished by his school for his eating habits. Basically, he's just eating Filipino style -- with a spoon and fork. The school administrators find this a "disgusting" habit.

When the mother contacted the principal, “He said, ‘Madame, you are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat.’

The mom filed a formal complaint.

The principal, not the kid, should be getting disciplined.


This week is "National Muticultural Cancer Week." Well, whoop-dee-doo. It's always some week or another. And you know, a week of this or a week of that usually doesn't do much for me. It's just a week, and gone in a flash before the message barely gets out.

But this week is personal. The word cancer is personal.

Where are Asian Americans in the Immigration Debate?

Looks like the immigration bill has stalled for now.

Where are Asian Americans in this debate, though? Not in the streets protesting. And sadly, not making much of a presence. Why? Apathy? Fear of rocking the boat? You can't tell me it's disinterest. After all, we are some of the country's newest immigrants. I hate to say it, but some of us seem to live up to the stereotype of meek quiet Asians.

Yesterday's California Report on NPR notes that the protests have been comprised mostly of Latinos and asks how Asian Americans see their role in the immigration debate. Audio clip here.

Chicago Asian American Showcase

Tomorrow kicks of the 11th Annual Chicago Asian American Showcase. Damn, 11! I remember going to the second and third ones back when I lived there. Makes me feel old. It's put on by the folks at FAAIM (that's Foundation for Asian American Independent Media). This year the film festival linup includes:

What's Wrong with Frank Chin
The Achievers
Asian Stories - Book III
Only the Brave
American Fusion
The Slanted Screen
Eve & the Fire Horse
Punching at the Sun
Red Doors
To You Sweetheart, Aloha
Sound X Image –Tatsu Aoki
CATE - Tatsu Aoki

Go here to see the schedule and buy tickets.

Spelling Bees and Other Controversies

In non-film festival news, here's a couple stories that have grabbed my eye lately.

  • San Gabriel, California gets the first Asian American mayor. Council member Chi Mui was sworn in this week as the as the first Asian mayor in a city where one in two residents is of Asian descent.
  • Bay Area Immigration Rights Coalition has started a hunger strike in San Francisco to protest a proposed immigration bill. They will be striking for a week to bring attention to Senator Arlen Specter’s bill. The bill designates all undocumented immigrants as aggravated felons. It also expands the definition of alien smuggling to include thsoe who help illegal immigrants that are already here, so day-labor centers, churches, health clinics and others who serve undocumented immigrants would be criminals too.
  • One Day til Film Fest!


    Only one day til the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival starts! I'll be at the opening night film, Americanese by Eric Byler. (Byler was the director of Charlotte Sometimes, which screened at the festival three years ago.) The film is based on Shawn Wong's novel American Knees. I'm curious to see how this novel will be translated on to the screen.

    Here's a story in the Chron about our friends who run the festival: Asian American Vision Expands.

    Better get your tickets now because screenings tend to sell out, especially on the weekends. That goes for me too. I've usually mapped out what I will be seeing by this point, but this year I'm behind and haven't read the catalog yet! Any recommendations? What do you plan to see?

    Chloe Dao Wins Project Runway

    Some of us here at Hyphen love us some Project Runway. Last night Chloe Dao won season 2.

    Now, I don't have cable so I haven't been following along exactly. I had no idea she's from Houston (my hometown!) nor that she owned this boutique called Lot 8 (which I had already heard about from my friends in Houston before the show). I'm totally dropping by the store next time I'm in town. I want to hear more about her story. About how she's one of 8 sisters, how her family fled following the fall of Saigon, how they ended up in Houston.

    Here's an interview with Dao before her win. Anyways, now we can add her to our chart of Asian American reality show stars that ran a few issues back. Whoo hoo!

    The Problem With Crash

    By William Wong

    It may be churlish to insert a dissonant note in the lilting symphony of praise that the Oscar-winning best picture, Crash, is getting these days, but here it is: As impressive as Crash is in showing the multidimensional humanity – the good, the bad, and the gray in-betweens – of Los Angelenos of different ethnic backgrounds, the movie continues a Hollywood tradition of mostly one-dimensional portrayals of Asians.

    Oh, no, you say: Not another yellowish whine! If Crash weren’t about complex racial and ethnic relationships, then my complaint would, indeed, be inappropriate, paranoid even.

    But that was exactly the point of Crash, to portray the nuances of Los Angeles’s – and by extension, America’s – racial and ethnic relationships. So why would it portray East Asians in such an inept and unflattering way?

    Hyphen Live on the Radio

    Hey New York, Hyphen will be on the radio today from 7 to 9 pm. We'll be on the Asia Pacific Forum, a progressive Asian American radio show which is broadcast on WBAI 99.5 FM, a Pacifica station. Guests on the show include our Todd Inoue, music writer and editor extraordinaire; Kai Ma, the reporter who wrote about (and experienced first hand) Korean booking clubs in our most recent issue; Lisa Katayama, who wrote about transgender issue and immigration in our Body Issue (after that we prompty snagged her as an editor), and a few other Hyphen folks. Maybe me. Maybe erin, our publisher. (We're going to flip a coin for it). The show will be hosted by Ursula Liang, who contributes to both Asia Pacific Forum and to Hyphen, where she's our sports editor.

    Hines Ward & the Multiracial Dream

    The Seattle Times ran this story on Hines Ward, the Super Bowl MVP: Biracial Super Bowl hero is big hit in South Korea. Hines is half Korean, half black—his mother is Korean and his father was a black GI. This isn't the first story on this subject. I wonder if it's blown up by the media, or if they really are as crazy for him over there as they say. The story addresses the contempt in Korean society for mixed race people. But times are changing. People seem to be more open, letting go of old prejudices.

    Sometimes though, it seems that people enthusiastically embrace all things multiracial and multicultural just as a way to show how modern and with it they are.

    Updates: Operation Meth Merchant, Voting Woes

    Time to catch up on a few stories that we've reported on in past issues of Hyphen.

  • Here's an update on the Operation Meth Merchant story that we covered recently in issue 8. If you haven't been following, 49 people were charged in Georgia of selling over the counter meds that can be used for making meth. Forty-four of those people were Indian American. The Indian American community said, "Hello?! Racial profiling?!" The ACLU decided to step in and help.
  • Teased Kids in Grade School? You Have a Future in Radio!

    Please note there are two people posting on this blog entry. On January 30, Melissa posted:

    Happy Lunar New Year.

    Not to start off the year on a bad note, but here we go again with radio personalities who think it's funny to make racist comments on the air.

    Last Tuesday on Adam Corolla's radio show, he and his sidekick were commenting on the Asian Excellence Awards, put on by AZN TV. They claimed they had a clip of an award being presented on the show, which ended up being two guys saying nothing but "ching-chong" for 52 seconds.

    Indie Magazines Converge!

    Just got back from the Independent Press Association's 10th annual conference where erin, Ben and I represented. It's always great to meet folks from other indie magazines. There's lots of networking, and a schedule full of workshops to sit in on about topics like how to increase circulation, how to create good covers, how to market online, and so on. It's nice to be in a room full of people who go through the same struggles you do creating non-corporate, non-mainstream media -- people who've decided to take things into their own hands.

    The Idea of Covering

    This story, Out of the Closet, But Still Under Cover, ran in the SF Chron books section yesterday. The review on Covering by Kenji Yoshino, was written by Sandip Roy (a Hyphen advisory board member and sometimes contributing writer).

    Covering is what you do when you've come out but tone it down in some circumstances. The example Roy gives is you go to a family gathering and you bring your significant other, but you're careful not to show any affection with each other. And covering is not just a gay thing, but something that anyone might feel they have to engage in. The examples Roy cites are "whether it's Ramon Estévez becoming Martin Sheen or Margaret Thatcher using a voice coach to lower the timbre of her voice, or Franklin Roosevelt hiding his wheelchair behind a desk before Cabinet meetings, everyone covers."

    Whoa, Margaret Thatcher used a voice coach? I totally missed that one.

    Yoshino's argument is that this may seem like a small, innocous thing, but it's actually an assault on civil rights.

    The Asians are Coming (this Thursday at least)

    Hey, self promotion time! I'll be speaking at a panel this Thursday at Third Thursdays—the monthly dinner series about Asian American community issues.

    The title of the program is "The Asians are Coming" (which comes from a Beau Sia poem) and is about Asian American media in the internet age. Here's a brief description:

    Bloggers and artists can now create content online on their own terms—in a cheap, easy, and unprecedented fashion. But are the same online trends also responsible for the steady decline of traditional media?

    The Name Game

    Here's a story at my alma mater about the propensity of Asian Americans changing their names, usually to something more "Americanized."

    The story says, "It is most common to place an American name in front of the native Asian name and to go by the American name." It also quotes a professor, who says of the Asian American student body at Northwestern University: "In all my time here I’ve only known about three Asian American students who grew up here but use their Asian name and don’t have an American name.”

    Good Riddance 2005

    Hello. Happy New Year. Some of us at Hyphen are still on vacation, but most of us are back. I just got back from Texas where I was caught in a little holiday tradition called Family Drama. Which unfortunately was exacerbated by a family emergency. Then I came back here, got in my car, and the accelerator got stuck, which is kind of scary when you’d like your car to stop. Did I mention that I also got food poisoning in Arkansas and spent 4 hours in the ER? Anyways, good riddance 2005. I’m hoping for a calmer 2006.

    Here at Hyphen, we have lots of things in store for the year. For one, Issue 8 is here! Soon we’ll have the new cover and table of contents up so that you can see what’s in the issue. Subscribers will get their issues this month.

    Our editors are already working on stories for Issue 9, due out in the spring. We also have grand plans to redesign the website (If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comment section below), and will be holding some of our usual events as well as some new ones.

    Geishas are Blue-Eyed?

    Here's a Japanese review on Memoirs of a Geisha. The writer seems annoyed at what she calls the "kitschy oriental cliches"

    Unfortunately, the whole thing reeks of a souvenir shop extravaganza, like they upended the shelves of Oriental Bazaar right onto the streets.

    How about some cliches about Asian women? This story looks at the stereotypes that are perpetuated in the film. Hollywood loves a stereotype or two.

    Has anyone seen this thing yet? Can you explain to me why the print ad shows a blue-eyed geisha?

    Last Minute Gift Ideas


    Photos by Seng Chen

    Hyphen Holiday Gift Guide
    Goods made by Asian Americans

    If you’re anything like us, you’re a last-minute gift shopper. Good thing shopping now is as easy as pointing and clicking. (Let’s say it all together now: What did we do before the Internet?)

    Need some last-minute ideas? Hyphen’s here to help. Our first piece of advice? Stay away from the malls. Instead, find that one-of-a-kind present from an independent designer, artist or small business. Throughout the year, Hyphen brings you creative goods in Take Out, our products section. Not only are these items unique, but they are all made by Asian Americans. Here’s some of the items we’ve covered in past issues, as well as some new ones. Now go out there and stuff some stockings.

    Grace Lee Project Opens in New York

    New Yorkers, the Grace Lee Project opened last night at the Film Forum in New York. If you missed it on the film festival circuit last year, you should check it out! I've been a fan of Grace Lee's work since programming one of her short films in my own little film festival in Houston. The subject for this film is a seemingly simple one. Grace interviews a bunch of other women named Grace Lee, creating a thoughtful and funny exploration of the identity of Asian American women. But don't take my word for it. Here's a New York Times review by Stephen Holden.

    Speak Arabic = Police Custody for 3 Hours

    This is an announcement and shameless self-promotion. But what can you do when you can't afford advertising in other media outets?

    Hyphen is hosting a trivia night tomorrow. Click on the guy to the right there. Or you can click here for the info too. We've got some prizes for the winning team, and even if you don't want to play, stay for the party afterwards.

    Also, if you're buying anything from Amazon for the holidays, and you want to help Hyphen out a little, please go to the Amazon site from the Hyphen site. All you have to do is click on the Amazon ad that is below in the right-hand column. Hyphen will get a little change for the referral. It's just one small way to help out your friendly neighborhood volunteer-run nonprofit magazine.

    OK, now for some news.

    From my Weekend Reading: Being Outed & Geishas

  • A high school student, Charlene Nyuon, is suing a school district for outing her sexual orientation to her mother. Nyuon is being represented by the ACLU. And a judge just ruled that she can continue with her privacy suit. Her mother is supporting her, which is cool. Here's a quote from her mom, Crystal Chhun

    "I am very glad that the judge agreed Charlene can continue to stand up for her rights. I love and fully support Charlene, but that’s not the case for every gay student out there. The person to decide when and how to talk with our family about her sexual orientation should have been my daughter, not the principal.”

    Right on, mom!

  • The Guy With the Broken Penis

    So, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy on Sunday. If you follow this blog you will know that I watch it because I like Sandra Oh and also well, as a friend of mine puts it, it’s like Ally McBeal MD. Totally guilty pleasure.

    The show is about surgical interns at a Seattle hospital. The title character, Meredith Grey, has been depressed lately because a one-night stand turned out to be her boss at the hospital, and then turned out to be married and on the run from his cheating wife. Meredith knew nothing about the existence of her boyfriend's wife. At the end of last season, Wifey, also a top-notch surgeon, shows up the hospital to win her husband back. So this season, they reconciled. Everyone works together, just to make it as drama-filled as possible. Yes, Meredith has a totally unenviable situation, but must she go through every episode whining, pouting and being completely self-absorbed? (I am so over her character.) To deal with her pain, she’s having lots of one-night stands.

    This Holiday Season, Buy Indie

    The day after Thanksgiving, on what they call Black Friday, I was awoken by a phone call. It was from my sister and mother, who were pawing their way through an outlet mall. They had called to say they wished I was there to help with the shopping. (I suppose it's a tradition in my family, like so many other people's -- this shopping on the busiest shopping day.) They were a few hours ahead of me in Texas, so I forgave them for calling so early, mumbled a few words of encouragement, and fell back asleep. Later in the day, they called again to tell me what spoils they had won. The were at the mall for about 4 hours and had only managed to go to 3 stores. "We didn't even get to look at handbags and shoes!" my mother exclaimed. And I knew she would have stayed another 3 hours to look at handbags and shoes if only other family functions had not gotten in the way.

    Academic Overachievers


    There's been a lot in the news lately about overachieving Asian American students. You've probably already heard about the book above. The Korean American sisters who wrote it were recently profiled in the New York Times, extolling the virtues of strict Asian parenting. (Neither of them are educators or parents for that matter.) Their message seemed to be, "Hey, we're not really all that smart and neither are other Asians. We just work really hard and our parents made us do it!" Now, lucky you, they’ve written this book so that you non-Asians can learn these mysterious Asian secrets and succeed too!

    Daniel Dae Kim - Sexiest Man Alive?

    OK, so this is not exactly serious hard news here, but we could all use a little hard body news once in a while... Daniel Dae Kim has made People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" list. On their website, you can see some of the photos of those who made the list, which includes the usual suspects (Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, blah blah). Vince Vaughn made the list (eh?) and there's a really super cheesy photo of Mr. Jessica Simpson (or maybe not anymore, is the ring on or off?) -- Nick Lachey. But who cares, back to Daniel.

    Baseball, Katrina, Porn

  • Some thoughts on Kim Ng applying to become the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Will she get the job? The writer of this story thinks Major League Baseball is not ready for a woman to be in charge.

    Ng's name may look familiar to you because a year ago she was on the receiving end of some messed up racial remarks from Bill Singer, a Mets scout (and a former Dodgers pitcher), who derided Ng's Chinese heritage by speaking in mock Chinese. Thankfully, he got canned for that.

  • Harajuku Girls Escape!

    On Halloween night, I went to San Francisco's Castro neighborhood, which is a SF tradition. On that night thousands of people converge on the city's favorite gay neighborhood, including lots of people who don't usually step foot there (let alone in any of SF really) otherwise. I had not been to the Castro on Halloween in 4 years. I was actually there to be an extra on a friend's friend's friend's movie. (His movie takes place on Halloween.) Honestly, I'm not sure what the attraction is with the Castro on Halloween. I'm all for people watching, but walking around in a big crowd of people who are just, um, walking around, is not very exciting, even if they are in costume.

    Wine, Chocolate, Theater -- What's not to Love?

    Our friends at the Asian American Theater Company have got some events coming up you should check out. First, on Saturday November 5th, is Sweet, a fundraiser with wine, chocolate and theater. (Sounds like a good combination to me.) The party starts at 6 and goes on til 4 am.

    Also, running November 3-20 is the world premiere of Banyan by Jeannie Barroga. AATC describes Banyan as a modern-day variation on the Wizard of Oz, incorporating Pilipino fantasy, folklore and humor.

    Want to go to both? You can get a discount on entry to both events for $50 (saves you $15). We've got the secret password for you. Just enter the code "Sweet" when you purchase tickets online. (Click on the links above to find out more and buy tickets.)

    Party Tonight

    Issue 7 Party tonight! Hope to see you there.

    Some links:
    Immigrant students who are victims of Katrina are afraid they'll be deported Their visas are tied to the schools they attend. But the schools they were attending are not open. What to do? Tulane had a large number of students from Bangladesh, as well as from India and Pakistan.

    Story about LA's K-town where Latinos are learning Korean, Koreans are learning Spanish, and no one seems to have much use for English. Reminds me of my grandparents, who owned a store in El Paso, TX for thirty-something years. While my grandpa is fluent in Canto, English, and Spanish, to this day my grandma is better at speaking Spanish than English. Must have been a pretty shocking sight for some folks to see here -- this little round Chinese lady cussing like crazy in Spanish.

    The DC APA film fest begins October 6th.

    Issue 7 is Here!

    Hello from Hyphenland. We've been busy getting the new issue (#7) out to subscribers and stores around the country. Watch your mailboxes! And in case you haven't heard, we're throwing a party this Friday to celebrate the release of the Body Issue. You're invited!

    Wish I could say more, but I'm pretty swamped and can't even get through all my emails. In the meantime, here's a couple things I've seen online the last couple days that I thought might interest you.

    Matchmaking Trauma

    My mother calls me the other day and says, "There's been something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about." Uh-oh. I brace myself, "OK, what is it?"

    "Don't be mad," she prefaces. Double uh-oh. Then she asks, you remember So-and-So's Mom, right? (Note: I've never met So-and-So or his mom. So-and-So’s Mom is friends with my mom. Why she doesn't just refer to her by name instead of referring to her son is beyond me.) Well, it turns out So-and-So's Mom has a friend. And that friend has two sons. They are both doctors. One is 30 and married. The other is 33 and unmarried. I can see where this is going.

    Stuff For You To Do

    There's been a few stories I've been meaning to link to. Sorry if these seem old (some of them came out earlier this week) and you may already know about them. What can I say? It's way busy over here. We're preparing for the arrival of Issue 7, The Body Issue, which is showing up any day now! Lots of prep work goes into getting ready to mail them out (which we do ourselves. we don't have the luxury of using a subscription fulfillment service) and delivering them to bookstores (which we also do ourselves.) Hyphen -- living the DIY dream (or nightmare).