AAPI Art and Literature Commemoration

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Art and entertainment writers Marina Lee and Sarah Delima celebrate African American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with their favorite works from the AAPI community.

“Soft Sciences” by Franny Choi

In a daily landscape of sexual violence and the fragmentation of gender identities actively oppressed by patriarchy, Franny Choi queers the cyborg in his collection of biting poetry about technology and bodies. Mainly modeled on scientific tools such as the Turing test and definition matrices, Choi never shies away from her condemnations of reducing people with marginalized gender identities to sexual beings, and sexual deviants, confined to services. cisheterosexual men in power, continually used and abused to maintain that power.

Her explicitly sexual language is far from an understatement, using her linguistic prowess to highlight the lack of a gendered voice and the resulting lack of power. She scathingly asks us what it means to exist when your articulators are stolen from you, when your personality is violated, when you are minimized, objectified, exploited and overwhelmed. What can it mean to seek sexual liberation after such processes? What can it look like? Is there such a thing as sexual justice in an increasingly technological world with a base in all harmful “-isms”? None of these questions are particularly straightforward in their constructs or answers, and Choi makes sure we sit down with those characteristics.

What I find most compelling about Choi’s poetry is that it is not a collection of healing poems, as I think many women are supposed to create in the realm of poetics. That’s not to say that there is something particularly wrong with this kind of poetry – there certainly isn’t. The problem lies in the expectation that women have to heal, and it is better if they heal properly. Choi’s poems are the antithesis of this in their bold and messy portrayals of evil and its consequences. Choi also explores the fetishization of Asian women, making several references to Kyoko from the acclaimed film “Ex-Machina”, looking at the relationships between artificial intelligence and sexualization in the context of these intersecting identities. This sexual oppression is multifaceted, and Choi’s account of Kyoko’s story highlights a kind of revisionist story in the recovery of language. I highly recommend this collection if you are ready for the rage, reveal, and revolution.

– Marina Lee, Senior Editor

“On Earth, we are briefly magnificent” by Ocean Vuong

I had the pleasure of attending two live Zoom readings from writer Ocean Vuong this school year, and neither was disappointed. His tales and poetry about the life of a Vietnamese refugee and a queerness life strike with an emotional intensity that hurts, tears and reminds. Vuong recalls both international and interpersonal violence, and reading the cross-examination of these two planes of existence is a truly unique and haunting experience, where you are brought to moments of beauty and breath under such circumstances.

What I appreciate about Ocean Vuong and his readings is that he doesn’t hesitate to emphasize his own position as a creator and to discuss the roles of poetics and politics. In light of the recent violence against Asian Americans, Vuong pointed out that what often ends up happening is the encouragement to turn to books to learn more about people who have been abused. against them and how their specific identity played a role in their victimization. However, Vuong emphasizes in his own work, that what he writes will likely never be read by people who hold the identities he writes about, and that this literacy, access to those books, and language are all a sub- product of immense privilege. Along with this, there is also an agency that he describes in self-articulation and in the target audience, although there is no ultimate control over the audience that ends up receiving him.

Vuong also expresses the strangeness of expecting poets to set politics instead of politicians, and why people turn against art when it doesn’t save the world. Vuong discusses structural inequity and how art shouldn’t have to fill that role, and I wonder in his words, why we never expect accountants, insurance brokers, intruders, mechanics, realtors, and CEOs fix all of society the way we expect artists to, and why art is continually devalued when it fails that impossible goal. From Vuong’s work, I have a sense of art as individuality, art as exploration, and art as communication and assurance of existence among other human beings.

– Marina Lee, Senior Editor

“Minor Sentiments” by Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong’s book “Minor Feelings” was an incredible read to explore the position of Asian Americans among race relations in the United States and what collective diasporic trauma occurred while it was in hiding. An important aspect addressed is the anti-darkness in Asian-American communities, the need to dispel it and the need for solidarity in order to work for liberation for all. Hong highlights these relationships and the existence of concurrent truths that one group of people can be oppressed, but also actively oppress another group by defending white supremacy. Hong discusses the myth of the model minority and how that too is particularly in the service of white supremacy.

In addition, it highlights how our media consumption is influenced by our positioning. As an Asian American and longtime fan of director Wes Anderson, I found myself particularly drawn to a section on the movie “Moonrise Kingdom”, where Hong discusses the time period in which it is set and the background. missing history. The film is set in the 1960s, during an extremely intense time of civil rights movements, protests and legislation. What particularly interested me was Hong’s discussion of how the film is a mark of soft, nostalgic whiteness that contributes to the longing for “good old” where the world was supposed to be less complicated.

This historical erasure is a privilege in media representation where white individuals can simply exist in stories that do not center on oppression. I felt this contributed to his discussions of how the activism and oppression of Asian Americans is often subdued in historical accounts of activism in the United States, where the experiences of Americans d Asian descent are desaturated and militarized against other people of color. Hong does not overlook any stone of white supremacy as she explains, “Pure white racism… has been splashed across all media as violence against civil rights activists escalates. Whites looked at themselves and looked at what their story had done, like a domestic animal whose face is sunk in its own urine ”(Hong 72).

– Marina Lee, Senior Editor

“Souls of Yellow Folk” by Westley Yang

Wesley Yang’s collection of essays, “The Souls of Yellow Folk,” dissects the Asian American experience through works that reflect both heartbreaking and humorous experiences. Throughout the collection, Yang acts as a provocateur for readers unfamiliar with his outspoken humor. Some essays present Yang grappling with his identity as an Asian American – a term Yang replaces in favor of the more evocative phrase “honorable white person,” particularly in relation to his career as a writer in France. grass. He laments the so-called “liminal space” that Asian Americans occupy in the racial stratification of America, a space that simultaneously strengthens the status of Asian Americans in the eyes of white society while perpetuating the invisibility of Asian creatives in an already competitive journalism industry.

Other works in the collection are in-depth profiles of cultural figures who Yang says reflect the lived experiences of other Asian Americans. Among these figures is renowned media maverick Eddie Huang. Yang’s witty and incisive writing style pairs well with Huang’s brash and domineering personality. The eclectic duo deliver an interview in which Huang recounts their experience as the inspiration behind the ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat”. Huang sprinkles his personal account with humorous anecdotes about his immigrant family’s experiences in America and how his fascination with hip hop culture clashed with his parents’ mentality. Such examples of Asian-American assimilation form the backbone of Yang’s collection and help create a more nuanced picture of Asian identity.

– Sarah Delima, editor-in-chief

Images courtesy of Amazon.com and Rakuten Kobo.
Illustrations courtesy of Nicholas Regli for The UCSD Guardian.

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