What is Hyphen?

Hyphen is an Asian American magazine that covers arts, culture and politics with substance, style and sass.

Hyphen was conceived in 2003 by San Francisco Bay Area journalists and community leaders who saw the need for a publication about Asian America that would go beyond Lucy Liu, sushi and yet another examination of the “model minority” story. With award-winning design and fresh perspectives that aren't just about identity issues, Hyphen covers the artists and change-makers who are shaping what it means to be Asian American. By showcasing people outside the boundaries of stereotypes, Hyphen acts as a cultural catalyst, inspiring its readership to branch out — to do, think and create.

Hyphen is not-for-profit and run by volunteers. The hundreds of hours spent by writers, artists, editors, circulation managers, designers, web gurus, bloggers, event coordinators, grant writers and everyone else are all unpaid. It's a labor of love.


Why is your magazine called Hyphen?

Hyphen refers to the debate surrounding so-called "hyphenated identity." Some Asian Americans resist the idea that they are somehow not fully "American" when they are labeled "Asian American." Others wear the identity proudly, while some shrug it off as irrelevant. We believe these differences of opinion reflect the dynamism and complexity that define today's Asian America. Our magazine uncovers these tensions while exploring what it is that ties us together.


Does the "hyphen" stand for "Asian (hyphen) American?"

No. We do not hyphenate Asian American, or any other ethnic minority. The hyphen has been controversial in Asian America and many people have fought hard to remove it. Without the hyphen, Asian American is comparable to young American, or liberal American — it provides extra and optional information about this American. With the hyphen, the "Asian" part becomes a necessary component, as if Asian-Americans are a different set of people from Americans: a contiguous but non-overlapping set in the Venn diagram.

We chose the title Hyphen for a lot of reasons. For one, it symbolizes the controversy of ethnic identity and representation in America — the issues that have galvanized the community in the past — and asks an silent question: What will we be fighting for in the future?

Secondly, we liked the idea of the hyphen as a connector. As a punctuation mark, the hyphen acts as a bridge between meanings. As a magazine, we aspire to build bridges within and beyond the Asian American community by provoking thought, upending assumptions, and inspiring action We'd like our magazine to serve as a bridge between the diverse populations included in the term "Asian American" and also Asian America and the rest of the world. We'd also like to be a link between people and organizations and ideas.


Whom does Hyphen cover?

We cover people of Asian heritage who live in the US, Asian Americans who live abroad, and the issues and events that affect them. This means you won't find articles on geisha girls or the latest Hong Kong kung fu movie import. You're more likely to read about a fifth-generation Japanese American performance artist who dresses in geisha drag or the new indie flick by a film school dropout about Korean Americans in dystopian Orange County.


Why is Hyphen a not-for-profit?

None of us are out to get rich. Hyphen's goals are to be a catalyst for our community, educate and increase awareness, and provide coverage and analysis of issues affecting Asian Americans — and to have fun while doing so.


Do all Hyphen staffers have day jobs?

Yes, except the people in school, “between jobs,” or working nights.


Who are Hyphen's readers?

Hyphen readers are mostly Asian American, in their 20s and 30s, and college educated. Many of them live in California and New York, but we have Hyphen subscribers all over the country, and also abroad.


Will I be interested in Hyphen if I'm not Asian American?

We certainly hope so. Through our news, profiles, arts coverage, analysis, fun and frivolity, we strive to reveal the many faces of Asian America — things that break down the stereotypes and challenge mainstream images. Well-told stories have a universal human appeal, and that is the standard that we set for ourselves.


Why are all of the Hyphen staffers so good looking?

That's a mystery to us, too. I guess we're just lucky.