by Irene Villaseñor
Falling asleep while reading the Joy Luck Club (1989)
During breaks from IQ testing in elementary school
Must mean I’m one overworked Asian kid
But the truth is that book bored me–and I’ll fast forward
throughout its movie adaptation too. Mishima
was way more exciting because I’d rather be
a Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea than Waverly Jong.
I don’t know how I’m supposed to interpret compliments
That I’m beautiful like Mulan, especially when it’s coming from
sweet elderly Chinese women–like my acupuncturist. Am I
pretty like Disney’s Mulan (1998) or historical Hua Mulan?
Bridal Mulan or Warrior Mulan? Do they really think the only
striking reference I’ll have of an attractive or powerful Asian
woman is a cartoon? Or are they assuming I’d be familiar with
ancient Chinese poetry due to my studies? I will never know.
Nutshelling Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother (2011) means pointing
out Chinese people in the Philippines circled their wagons and
defended themselves by pursing excellence as their main protection
in hostile environments. But ended up eating their young in the
process. And some people keep spreading this disease.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) may just upgrade old Asian stereotypes and
introduce new ones. Already there’s disapproval for a casting as a leading
man Henry Golding, who’s half-white. But his other half is Iban from Borneo.
That part of his heritage comes to the fore because I’m not looking for
whiteness. But seeking instances where being indigenous isn’t shameful,
ugly, remote, brokeass, or backward buffoonery. If more Asians could see
and value indigeneity, then maybe whiteness would be less important.
By Kai Mora
I had my face pressed up so hard
against the glass
my nose spread across my face
I was trying catch a glimpse
of a dead body on the newsroom floor
the one from this morning
or perhaps the one from the day before
Couldn’t find one tho’
Somehow no news is good news
“You won’t find it there
only by the candle light vigil
adjacent to the corner store
by way of the shrieking mother”
then I started thinking
about how the rotting flesh would stink up the place
and maybe one of them would vomit on live T.V.
like any other day
I asked the mother if that’s what she wanted
“No news has ever been good news”
Not here, I thought
especially not here
I turned on the radio
hoping to escape on the radio waves
listen to a story or two
instead I heard the ramblings of an indignant man
What a lousy host
Is no news good news?
I called in immediately
got put on hold
so I counted all the money I had in my pocket
he answered and I said
“I have 22 dollars
and I’ll give you each one
to stop all that damn
That day I found out
That no news really is good news
By Stacie Evans
I am not supposed to be beautiful. If I am famous – a singer, an actor, maybe I can be pretty, maybe striking, maybe exotic. Because then I am an exception, I can break the rules. But me – plain, ordinary, everyday woman – no. I am not supposed to be beautiful.
If I am beautiful, equations don’t square. If I am beautiful, where is the logic in keeping me hidden, selling me relaxers and skin-lightening creams. If I am beautiful, there is no need to cover my thick, nappy hair, hide me in the kitchen, shame me for my hips and thighs, mock me for my lips.
So I am not supposed to be beautiful. That is the forever domain of light women, of white women, of any-shade-brighter-than-mine women.
My neighbor, walking home beside me in sixth grade, told me I was pretty. He said it with a clearly confused wonder, “You’re actually pretty,” he’d said. He couldn’t understand it. But then he worked it out, settled me into a category that explained how I wasn’t ugly: “It must be because you don’t have those nasty liver lips like most Black people do.”
Because even at 11 years old, he understood that I wasn’t supposed to be beautiful, that beauty in my face was some dangerous anomaly, some breaking down of natural law.
I am not supposed to be beautiful. My mother and her mother and all of her foremothers – we, none of us, are supposed to be beautiful.
And yet. And yet. And yet.