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.

Katrina's Vietnamese Victims

I've been searching for news about the Vietnamese Americans who were hit by Katrina. Not only did a large number of Vietnamese settle in the Gulf Coast, but many of them depend on the Gulf for their living. They are shrimpers.

Back when I was a reporter in Texas, I went down to the little town of Palacios, Texas to write about Vietnamese American shrimpers. I went shrimping with them one morning. And it was not easy. We had to get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and crawl out into the water to drag the nets. We didn't bring the nets up until well after the sun had come up. I had never seen live shrimp before. I was not used to seeing them a completely different color, and staight, not curled.

You Can Comment Away Again

Several things:

  • I got an email today from a friend confirming that our New Orleans friend and his wife are alive and well, and had made it to Houston. I am so relieved. I knew they had the means to get out of there (money and car) unlike some other people, but I don't know if they would have left the city. I just couldn't see them leaving. Still don't know what their story is, but at least I know they are safe.
  • Some thoughts over here at Poplicks on the media's obsession with reporting on the looting down there. It's about poverty and race, stupid.
  • New Orleans on My Mind


    This was forwarded to me in an email. Caveat: I'm not sure whether or not these were the actual captions written (though it would not be surprising), and who wrote them. The same person? Different people?

    Our founding publisher, Yuki, is from New Orleans. Luckily, her family evacuated in time, though they are now without homes or jobs for many months. I've also not heard from a writer friend of mine; we had not kept in touch recently. But our other friends have not heard from him either.

    I-Hotel Rises from the Ashes

    The I-Hotel reopened yesterday, 26 years after elderly Asian American immigrants were literally dragged from their apartments and the building was demolished. All for the rising properly values in the Financial District. Lawsuits ensued, protestors and senators got involved, and now a 15-story building is opening in the old Manilatown. It not only has low-cost senior housing, but a community center and a rooftop garden. Sounds really nice. Has anyone checked it out yet?

    Read about the I-Hotel here in today's SF Chronicle.

    The East Bay Express has some coverage on two Asian American music acts this week. First, a story on Golda Supernova, in all her superb divaness. The story also goes a bit into the Pinoy arts scene, the efforts of Bindlestiff to become a bonafide nonprofit, and why some people (Golda included) would rather it not.

    The same writer also has a story on Bento, a local alternative rock band that apparently has a devoted following of swooning girls. If the name sounds familiar to you, maybe it's because we reviewed them in issue 6. You can swoon over them yourself Sunday when they play at the Oakland Chinatown Street Fest.

    Badminton Badasses, a Pinoy Rocker & the Crazy Lady

    Yesterday I received a surprise gift. (That's the best kind, the surprise kind.) It was green totebag with two badminton rackets. It says "badminton" in a curly script, just so no one gets confused about what's going on here and mistakes it for some other racket sport. Now, I don't have any special affinity for the sport. I think I tried to play a game once some 15 years ago. Basically I know nada, so I thought I'd do a little reading up in case anyone asked me "why badminton?" (Why not?!)

    Turns outs that Asians rock this sport. Two Asian Americans, Tony Gunawan and Howard Bach just won the World Badminton Championship in men's doubles. Bach is a SF local too and grew up in the Tenderloin. The US team beat out the Indonesian team to grab the title. (Gunawan is originally from Indonesia and is a celebrity there.) The list of winners is a list of Asian names. Indonesia's Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat won the men's singles and China's Xie Xingfang won the women's singles.

    piNoisepop 9 Starts Tonight


    Hey Bay Area folks, piNoisepop the Asian American underground music fest starts today at Bindlestiff Studios. Three days of music coming your way. Kris Racer of Chicago, whom we reviewed a couple issues ago, will be playing tonight. Tomorrow night at SomArts Cultural Center another band we wrote about, Say Bok Gwai (that's Canto for "Damn white guy"), takes the stage with local luminary Golda Supernova. From Monument to Masses and The Skyflakes play Saturday.

    Read about piNoisepop here in the San Jose Mercury (You have to sign in. Boo!)

    Todd, Manly Man

    Most of you probably know by now that Hyphen is an all-volunteer effort. Yup, all the writers, editors, photographers, business staff, the folks who mail your subscriptions -- they all have day jobs (if they aren't in school or in between jobs.) But some of us have better day jobs than others. Take our contributing music editor, Todd Inoue, who works by day at the San Jose Metro. OK, I know that it's not every week that an alternative newsweekly can afford to send Todd to review a bunch of spas. But still, how can we not be totally jealous?

    Lumpia in the White House and Air Guitar Battles!

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth this weekend at the Nihonmachi Street Fair in J-town, especially those of you who supported us by buying an issue or subscription. It was not as sunny as we would have liked. In fact, it was kind of cold and foggy -- not great conditions for tabling outdoors. But we still had a good time talking to folks about Hyphen. We even sold one of our famous duct-tape wallets. Yes, I'm sad to announce that the "Heiress" wallet, featuring many windows & compartments, is no longer available and was snatched up by a passerby. But many other duct-tape wallets, lovingly made by Hyphen staff, remain. You can check them out at any of our events. Maybe we will get around to putting them up on the website one day soon.

    No White Boys

    To follow on the ever-present discussion about white men-Asian women couples (last seen on our post about Bitter Asian Men) here's a controversy brewing in Oakland:

    There's an art show up at the Asian Resource Gallery in Oakland called Not So Lang (pretty): Why Two Chinese-Cali Artists Don't Date White Boys. Haven't gotten down there to see the show myself, but apparently there is a T-shirt in the show with "I Don't Date White Guys" stenciled on it. This upset some people.

    Even More Racist Radio - Enough Already!

    And you know, it just wouldn't be a normal day in this world without another radio DJ saying racist shit. JR Gach and Pi (a.k.a. Shawn) on WRCZ 94.5 FM in Albany, NY referred to Asian Americans as "slant-eyed gooks," and characterized blacks as "cotton-pickers" and criminals.

    Transcripts and more info here at Asian Media Watch.

    What's in a Name?

    I've been following this case about NY Times reporter Judith Miller and Time reporter Matthew Cooper. Miller was jailed yesterday for refusing to name a confidential source for a story. Cooper avoided jail time by agreeing to testify, saying that his source had talked to him and Oked it. In the same case, Time Inc the corporation was also held in contempt and agreed to turn over Cooper's notes. (Lesson here: never talk to a Time reporter.)

    Princeton Sicko Update & an Ant Invasion

    So, I know you probably read this blog for the Asian American-ness of it. Hyphen is an Asian American magazine after all and maybe you want to know what the latest news is in Asian America, or get into a debate over race, or just see what the Hyphen staff is up to.

    Perhaps you want to find out what happened to Michael Lohman, that Princeton grad student who was caught pouring his semen and urine into the drinks of Asian American women. And also secretly cutting their hair and saving it for masturbation. (Read the original blog posting here.)

    Margaret Cho Slays Me


    On Friday, I and 4 other Hyphen staffers went to see Margaret Cho at Davies Symphony Hall in SF. She had two back to back shows (SF is her hometown after all). I've seen her perform twice before when I was living in Houston. Always a good time.

    We went to the second show and it was completely packed. I've never seen so many cute gay boys in my life. We had awesome seats -- we were only about 10 rows from the stage.

    Asian American Politicians Make Good

  • Things are looking good for Jun Choi, who's likely to become the next mayor of Edison, NJ, racist crap not withstanding. Read about it here: "Choi's primary win signals emerging diversity in Edison."
  • Down in my native country, Jennifer Kim wins a city council seat in Austin, TX. She's the first Asian American and the youngest person ever to serve on the council. She's only 23! Talk about overacheiver.
  • And librarians everywhere rejoice. House votes down parts of the Patriot Act.
  • 60,000 Chopsticks

    Two interesting stories in the SF Chronicle today.

    First, Bench, a Philippines-based clothing store, is following Jollibee's lead and opened a store (complete with Filipino mannequins) in Daly City. They'll probably do brisk business.

    In the Datebook section is a story about artist Donna Keiko Ozawa who has made a sculpture out of 60,000 pairs of chopsticks to call attention to how wasteful we are with the disposable utentsils. (She collected them over a month at several Japantown restuarants.) I couldn't agree more. I've always felt bad about using them and try to take them with me when I leave (but often, I forget, just as I often forget to take the doggie bag.) Recently, someone gave me a plastic set in a cute little carrying case, so I try to carry those with me everywhere.

    OK, back to my lazy Saturday afternoon. You know it's a lazy day when I'm just getting around to the paper at 4 pm.

    Hot Lesbian Love Story


    Alice Wu's Saving Face opens this month in cities across the U.S. If you haven't already heard me gush about it, well, let me gush for you again. It's a cute and funny romantic comedy about Wil, a talented surgeon who hasn't come out to her mom yet, who falls in love with Vivian, a free-spirted ballerina. And then there's Wil's single mom, played by the unfailingly beautiful Joan Chen who moves in with Wil after she gets kicked out by her own father because of a surprise pregnancy. While Wil struggles to keep her relationship on the down low, mom sits on the couch eating up a storm and watching Chinese soap operas. Generational conflict. Mother daughter relationship. Culture clash. Love story. Lots to explore in this film.

    Of Moving & Magazines (& Sandra Oh)

    Sorry I've been MIA from the blog (not that I assume you've even noticed). I've been apartment hunting and packing for the last few weeks. Finally moved this weekend. Now that the madness is (mostly) over, I can pay a little more attention to the rest of the world.

    I've lived in this last apartment for 3 1/2 years, which is the longest I've ever lived anywhere, save Mom & Dad's. When I came to California from Texas 4 years ago, I didn't have too much with me. I had moved alot during college (once, 7 times in a year, yes 7), so I had gone against the pack rack tendencies so prevalent in my family and shed a lot of stuff.

    I think I need to do that again, cuz man, it was a bitch to move. I've got a lot of crap now. I completely filled a truck and felt embarrassed about it. On top of my own stuff, Hyphen has no office and most of its stuff was stored in my apartment. The new apartment is smaller, so I've been running around, trying to divvy up the goods among different staff. Still, I had to move plenty of Hyphen boxes.

    Who You Calling Oriental?

    From Livia Ching, one of Hyphen's copy editors

    I don't have a whole lot of free time to surf the Internet so when I do I try to make it count. It's always been fun to see what new scandals are revealed through the paper trails of the rich and famous and notoriously stupid on The Smoking Gun.

    I was reading about Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride and about the mess she made in Georgia. A few of the emails that came in about what a "bowser" she is and how the search was a total waste of time were amusing. I laughed when a couple people wrote in to suggest she get medical attention for hyperthyroidism because her photo showed her eyeballs popping out of her face.

    However, when I got to e-mail #23, I stopped laughing.

    Sex & Party (not together though)

    Got back yesterday morning from Slant in Houston. (That's the Asian American film festival I curate down there.) And by morning, I mean 2 a.m. (California time). My flight was delayed on account of big Texas thunderstorms that were cracking the sky and shaking rain all over. Thanks for everyone who made it out to the films, in spite of the rain. And thanks to the Aurora Picture Show for hosting my fest for 5 years now. They are truly one of my favorite spots in all of Houston. They show all sorts of new media and are housed in an old church building that was built in 1928. Check them out if you're ever in Houston.

    Another Day, Another Racist Radio DJ

    Seems like every couple of months, we write about some radio DJs who say stupid racist shit on the air. This time it's two hosts on New Jersey 101.5 FM's talking about Jun Choi, who is running for mayor in Edison, NJ. Details here at Poplicks, where you'll also find a link to the transcript. (Hot 97's Miss Jones, by the way, is back on the air.)

    Here's an excerpt:

    Craig Carton: I'm using Jun Choi [said in fast-paced, high-pitched, squeaky voice] as an example of a larger problem.

    Ray Rossi: and you know...

    Carton: We're forgetting the fact that we’re Americans.

    Rossi: You know that he’s going to get the... whatever that vote is

    Carton: And here's the bottom line... no specific minority group or foreign group should ever ever dictate the outcome of an American election. I don't care if the Chinese population in Edison has quadrupled in the last year, Chinese should never dictate the outcome of an election, Americans should.

    Lotsa Paper Cuts This Weekend

    When we say that Hyphen is a grassroots, by-the-seat-of-our-pants organization, we're not exaggerating. We do EVERYTHING ourselves. Not because we're particularly industrious, but because it saves money. Subscriptions, bookstore sales and advertising doesn't pay all the bills. Not even close. Our writers, editors, designers, illustrators and photographers generously donate their talent. We would like to pay these amazing people. But for now, we've got to pinch every penny twice. If you’ve ever donated to us, you can be assured we’re not spending your money recklessly. In fact, we've done some pretty ghetto things to stretch our dollars to the max (doing our part to keep that stereotype of stingy Asians intact).

    Surprise in the Mail


    One fun thing about working at a magazine is that you get a lot of mail. Checking the mail has always been one of my favorite things to do every day. But unlike your mailbox at home, where you find a lot of bills, our PO Box always has something unexpected. The best are subscriptions from readers, an affirmation of our work. We love the scribbled notes. And your checks of course. But we really get excited about folks subscribing from a ways. No disrespect to our local readers in the Bay, but when mail comes in from Wisconsin or Maryland, our imaginations start to run wild. Who are you? How did you hear about us? What are you like?

    Eddy Zheng's Last Chance

    From our Director of Photography, Seng Chen:

    I'm a procrastinator. If there's a way to avoid something until the last second, I'll do it. The more important it is, the longer I'll put it off. On a last minute assignment, I'll procrastinate to protest of the lack of preparation of my taskmaster. Don't they know how long these things take? Once you factor in an appropriate amount of time for reading catalogs and watching TV instead of doing work?

    But there are some things that have deadlines, real ones. The assignment might go away and you might be none the worse for it- because no one really, really expected it do get done - but you know you should have and could have done them anyway. Because they aren't about getting around your responsibility, they have an affect on other people's lives.

    Eddy Zheng is in danger of being deported to China. Why should you care?

    Republican Clashing with Bush over Internment Memorial

    Link time! Here's a couple stories in the news:

  • One of California's most powerful Republican House members, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, is clashing with the Bush administration, which opposes his proposal to authorize $38 million in federal funds to preserve the camps where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. The National Park Service says they have nothing against the idea, but that it's just going to cost too much money. Click here for the full story in today's SF Chronicle
  • Lan Samantha Chang to Lead Iowa Writers' Workshop

    Fiction writer Lan Samantha Chang, whom we talked to in issue 4, has been named the new director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the most pretigious creative writing program in the country. Awesome. Not only is she the first Asian American, but she's also the first woman to lead the workshop in its 70-year history. Associated Press story here.

    Another Asian American Doctor


    I've been watching Grey's Anatomy, a new hospital drama about surgical interns. Sandra Oh has a prominent role as Cristina Yang, an uber-competitve tough cookie who looks out for herself and doesn't seem to have much interest in the human aspects of being a doctor -- she's in it for the amazing science of it. Nothing seems to make her more excited than the thought of scrubbing in and cutting some people up.

    At the Printers!

    Once again, our fabulous Art Director has pulled an all-nighter to get an issue of Hyphen to the printers. For the last week, I've been working the equivalent of two full times jobs. After my real job (you know, the one that pays), I head over to Stef's house and the two of us stay up all night making all sorts of adjustments and changes, trying to get everything just right. Sometimes we were joined by one of our designers, Andy.

    This is going to be the best looking issue yet. Full color inside and out. Big, beautiful photographs. Matte paper. We've got some good stories too -- a look at Korean adoptees returning to Korea, interviews with M.I.A and IQU, and a first person account by David Miyasato, who sued the Army for trying to get him to serve in Iraq via a backdoor draft. We're very excited!

    How to Please Your Man, Again (really, is it that hard to figure out?)

    Is it just me or is there a new magazine born everyday for Asian Amerian women? Three or four years ago there seemed to be just a handful. In the last two years though, there's been an explosion.

    In Issue 5 of Hyphen, we reviewed 5 of them in our story "Going Glossy." But we spoke to soon. Our story could have been twice as long because there's a hell of a lot more mags than I originally thought. Honestly, I'm having a hard time telling them all apart. Is the market so vast and demanding that we need to have 10 different magazines? I guess we would if they all catered to different niches, but a lot of them seem to follow the same hetero women's magazine format a la Glamour. Some fashion spreads, some beauty product reviews, an enterprising "How to Turn Your Guy On" list, a "How to Get Ahead in Your Career" story and of course, a relationship columnist. In short, a bunch of fluff.

    A Chubby 13-Year-Old Boy


    Saw Michael Kang's The Motel last night at SFIAAFF's closing night. A coming of age tale about a chubby 13-year-old boy who helps run his family's seedy motel. And he hates it.

    Also enjoyed this one a lot. As an audience member pointed out during the Q&A, there are a lot of stereotypes in this film -- dorky Asian boy who can't get the Asian girl, stern Chinese mom, hard-drinking Korean man -- but none of the characters came across as stereotypical.

    Gangsters, War Stories, and Women Named Grace Lee


    Everyone's a critic this week! My turn to weigh in on films I saw this weekend.

    On Thursday, I Saw Saving Face which was really enjoyable, though perhaps a little too cute. Her hotness, Joan Chen, plays a widowed and pregnant middle-aged mom who refuses to name the father of her baby. She moves in with her surgeon daughter, who is hiding a secret of her own – she hasn’t come out to her family. Mom is ostracized from the Chinese community and her own family and sits in her daughter’s apartment watching Chinese soaps while she’s off at work. It had some really funny moment, some good lines: "One billion Chinese people. Two degrees of separation." And it's quite an accomplishment for being Alice Wu's first feature film. The movie was billed as the first Asian American lesbian feature-length film. Is this true? I can't believe there hasn't been another one. Maybe it's the first lesbian romantic comedy starring Asian Americans.

    Film Festival Fever!


    Earlier this week we had our cover shoot for issue 6. In a tattoo shop. I'm not going to tell you what it is yet, but I think it will be one of our best covers yet.

    Tonight the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival kicks off. Several Hyphen staffers will be seeing the opening night film, Saving Face (pictured above) and attending the gala where Dan The Automator will be entertaining.

    Busy Bees

    Hey! Sorry I've been MIA from the blog these last couple weeks. Busy busy busy. I'm on my lunch break right now, scarfing down some pasta. We had a meeting at my work yesterday with a catered lunch. I saved the leftovers for today's lunch. Yes, I'm a frugal Asian. I'll go anywhere for free food. Or, that could also be the journalist in me. Wanna have a successful press conference? Promise lots of free food.

    Hot 97 Still in the Hot Seat

    Hello Monday. It was a long weekend filled with Hyphen events and appearances. First, thanks to those who stopped by to talk to us Saturday at the Asian American Music Conference, where Audrey was holding down the fort, and the Independent Press Association conference, where I spoke on a panel about niche readership. One thing that was brought up during a discussion at the latter was that some magazines have friendster profiles to help keep in touch with their readers and announce events. Hyphen is one such magazine, so if you want to be our friendster, just look us up! We always love hearing from readers. (If you do a search, our first name is Hyphen, last name is Magazine.)