The Bittersweet Issue Contributors

October 31, 2011

In April 2010, Akito Yoshikane was invited to edit Redux, Hyphen's section about the perennially hot-button topic of Asian Americans and the media. Yoshikane, a New York reporter for Japan's Kyodo News wire service, brought a refreshing vision: "I feel like responding to the latest misrepresentation stuff is reactive, so I thought it'd be nice to focus on Asian Americans' interaction with various media to highlight our agency." On the occasion of his final issue as editor, he said a highlight of his tenure was interviewing Ben Sun, founder of the early social networking website Asian Avenue, who told him one now-famous social network founder joined Asian Avenue because he had an Asian fetish. Bitter or sweet? "Bitter. I hold grudges." Favorite bitter: yerba maté. Favorite sweet: peanut butter manju from Benkyodo in San Francisco's Japantown.

Photographer Hatnim Lee kept the idea of bittersweet at the forefront while orchestrating this issue's whimsical fashion spread featuring indie songstress Peggy Wang. "When I think of bittersweet, I immediately think of lost love — whether it be romantic love for a specific person or something as abstract as an idea," said Lee, who sought to create a mood that was "quirky and sad but celebratory." Lee's work has appeared in New York Magazine, National Geographic and Nylon, and she was an intern for the iconic photographer David LaChapelle. Bitter or sweet? "I'm a closeted idealist, so, of course, sweet."

In this issue, Lin Yang tells the complex story of the disadvantages Asian Americans face when applying to top universities. Yang, who has written for Taiwan's Central News Agency and Singapore's The Straits Times, acknowledged the challenges of reporting on such a politically charged and often misunderstood topic — in particular, the difficulties in finding hard evidence that Asian Americans are accepted at lower rates than other groups. "No university wants to release admissions rates by race and risk negative press," Yang said. "If we knew which schools treated Asian Americans most unfairly, we could target advocacy efforts." Favorite bitter: going for a long hike with tons of elevation gain. Favorite sweet: mint chocolate chip ice cream topped with Baileys Irish Cream.

Evelyn Manangan-Price said the original title of this issue's short story, about two 20-somethings in the midst of an earthquake, was "Geological Consent." "I wanted that title to tie in how human nature and the natural world can be seen as part of one single, yet powerful, uncontrollable being." It's an idea that perhaps others are grappling with in the wake of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami in March. The San Francisco-based author has been published in The Big Ugly Review and writes a food blog at Bitter or sweet? "Pure, pleasing, beloved and freeing sweetness." Favorite bitter: bourbon dark chocolate truffles. Favorite sweet: a moment that gives your whole being a rush without warning.

Here at Hyphen, we place a premium on hands-on education and self-improvement. So hearing illustrator Rosa Chou proclaim, "I learned how to draw a placenta," brought proud tears to our eyes. Her adorable rendering of the edible organ accompanies a sidebar on post-birth rituals in this issue's Features section. Berkeley, CA-based Chou previously illustrated another comestible, tofu, for Issue 21. Favorite bitter: coffee and 90 percent cocoa chocolate. Favorite sweet: chocolate, "preferably something not too sweet because I’m already sweet enough!"

Photographer Baii Nguyen shot artist and activist Nobuko Miyamoto for this month's story on Miyamoto’s campaign to reduce waste from disposable chopsticks. "I'm very inspired by Irving Penn," Nguyen said. "I wanted to keep the photos simple so the focus stayed on Nobuko. She's an amazing person to photograph." In Issue 21, Nguyen photographed Asian adoptees who have subsequently adopted children from their birth countries. Favorite bitter: mornings. Favorite sweet: tres leches cake.

Dharushana Muthulingam wrote about her experiences as a medical student in this issue's First Person, an experience both cathartic and fraught. "I am always clutching my pearls and reflecting on my daily work, but trying to represent the range of experiences — the toil, the triumphs, the satisfaction, the boring routines — in a singular, deliberate way to an audience felt overwhelming," she said. Bitter or sweet? "Oh, the inextricable bitterest, sweetest together with Tapatio and hypertension-inducing tablespoons of salt."

Illustrator Alija Craycroft created the artwork for this issue's feature on Asian American post-birth traditions. "I really loved the feeling I got from the article relating to the warmth and support of their communities," she said. "I envisioned the final image circled around and nurturing the mother and newborn, and I wanted them to be the center visually and emotionally." Craycroft experienced a touch of bittersweetness herself recently after moving from San Francisco to Brooklyn, NY: "It's been exciting but I'm also sad to leave where I had been for some of the most significant years of my life." Favorite bitter: listening to really sad songs — "Billie Holiday is someone to listen to for that bitterness with a little sweet."

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Lisa Wong Macabasco

Former Editor in chief

Lisa Wong Macabasco joined Hyphen in 2006; she has worked as the magazine's features editor, managing editor, and editor in chief. She has written for Mother Jones, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, AsianWeek, Audrey, Filipinas and ColorLines’ RaceWire. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and co-founded the National Asian American Student Conference. She was formerly an editor at AsianWeek newspaper and an editor in the marketing department of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.