To be undefined in a binary is a terrifying thing. To be undefined in a predominantly black-and-white binary is even more terrifying, as terrifying as it is tragic. As an Asian American living in a community where Chinese-Americans are the majority, I’ve had the privilege of having my race spotlighted, especially in the narrative of politics. Here in Northern California, we have leading political personality Evan Low representing the 28th district. We have Kansen Chu, a first-generation immigrant from Taiwan, as assembly member of the 25th district. And when Kamala Harris, first Indian-American to serve in the United States, was elected, we all cheered. Here was a day in history where our race was being featured. Here was the day that our stories would start being told in not just the realm of public policy, but also in the way we lived our everyday lives. For those living on the margins, representation is a powerful, tangible, object--it changes the way we feel not just about the world, but also ourselves.
The first time I was born was in a generically bedded, white-linen stretcher in a California hospital; the second was across a fake wood-topped table from a classmate whose sister had gone to Harvard, a finished softbound copy of a very famous American novel in my lap. The first time I was given all the normal constituents afforded an infant—arms, legs, two slivered excuses for human eyes—and the second, a purpose for which to use them.
You don’t find poetry that rhymes nowadays.
I guess I’ve always been aware of that nuance, but I chose to ignore it in the dreamy light of postmodern aesthetics and its baroque aftertastes. It’s worthwhile to wonder if rhymelessness is even a problem. After all, free verse is the child of progression. Lose the shackles of stanza, the claustrophobia of meter, and the unholy reductionism of iambic nonsense; and behold a poetic jewel of a boundless, voidless voice. At least that’s the theory meandering about recently.
And people wonder why I’m a pessimist.
It was sitting over a plate of mushu pork pancakes that I first came to understand what was accountable for the night’s considerable and warming sort of success. It was a suburban Chinese restaurant lined in Spartan, oversized décor definitive of a certain excusable and unintended ugliness; clear glass cubes lent the space in between the restaurant’s respective rooms strange clear columns like children’s blocks piled out of uniform stacking; oversized photographic prints of Asian women looking out of dark eyes and kimonos composed of fire-truck red and salmon pink monopolized the walls; hangar-like windows looked out on the scenery of a suburban parking lot which in the summers birthed the triangles of barbecue and potato-rounds and beignet food tents.
Last year, a speaker came to our school for our bi-annual Development Day, a day in which the student body would participate in activities relating to personal development. This speaker was a filmmaker, a storyteller of women's stories. We listened to her discuss the oppression of girls, the misogyny present in everyday life, and the changes we could implement to enforce the concept of gender equality. When it was time for the Q&A session, a girl came up. "How," she asked, "can I, as a woman of color, become a part of the movement to advocate for the feminism you speak of when women of color face very different problems?" The question rang in the air; we waited for the speaker's response, expecting it to have a meaningful impact -- or at least, some sort of an acknowledgement of the very different category of marginalization.
We talk about writing, people, the things that inspire us. Anything worth putting the written (and spoken) word to.