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The Catalogue: No. 20

Sunday, December 16, 2018


I've never been into online games or video games (other than Neopets and Gaia Online), but I do love board games. I enjoy the competitive nature of games, but also the cooperative nature of games too. Depending on what you and your friends are in the mood for, there'll always be a game to suit that mood.

Here are some of my personal favorite board games you should get for a fun "board games night" with friends. These are simple ways to keep guests occupied while being able to chat, eat cheese, and drink wine!

1. Settlers of Catan
A cult classic board game. Do I even need to describe this game? If it's your first time playing, you may have a hard time 'winning' and the game may seem rather complex, but it's truly easier than you think and soon you'll understand the strategies to winning. BONUS: Buy Seafarers or Cities & Knights if you already have the base game and want something different. 

2. Exploding Kittens
There's no way I can describe the game better than the actual creators, so here's a video explaining the game. I love how simple it is to learn and how everyone can play the game. My youngest brother loves getting my siblings and me to play this with him! Each round is also pretty fast (maybe 10-15 minutes) which can be nice when you want to play something shorter.



3. Cards Against Humanity
This game is rated R!!! I would never play this with a kid or anyone even in high school. But for those in college or already working, this is a super funny party game. It also teaches you a lot about the humor styles of the people you play with as it is a fill-in-the-blank Mad Libs-esque card game. Each player gets cards with offensive, risqué or politically incorrect phrases and fills in the blank of a different card. The "host" then gets to choose whichever card he/she liked the most out of all the cards each player got to put down. Simple and fun! 

5. Codenames
Codenames is an easy game of guessing which words in a set are related based off of hints. There are two teams of players, and each team gets to give one word clues that can point to multiple words on the board to help their other team members select the correct words. I really enjoy playing this game with people I know well to see if we're on the same brain ~wavelengths~. Frequently, we're not but this game is still super fun and usually every round counts which makes it more intense and competitive.

6. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
If you like Mafia, you'll LOVE this game. This is one of my favorite games to play with larger groups, because it's so intense and usually results in some friendly yelling and accusations. Everyone gets a different role from Villager to Werewolf to Seer and more. The players try to determine who among them is a werewolf, but there are characters who are trying to help the Werewolf and there are other characters whose main purpose is to get themselves killed instead of the Werewolf. Unlike Mafia, no "story-teller" or moderator is needed because there's an app that helps narrate. The game is just "one night" aka one round and lasts around 10-15 minutes. This is definitely one of my favorite games I've played in the last year!

Overall, just Google key words like "cooperative" or "short" that you like to find board games / card games that fit what you're interested in.

Happy playing,
CL

I Read Over 100 Books in 2018: Here Were My Favorites

Monday, December 10, 2018


As if needed repeating -- I really, really love to read. At my most recent count, I've finished over 110 books this year (my goodreads total underestimates because I don't log re-reads). But here's why I read, and why it all matters:

The world burned down in 2018. From the deadliest Californian wildfire in modern history to the Saudi-led, US-supported genocide in Yemen to the 300+ mass shootings in the United States in 2018 alone to the migrant families tear-gassed at the US-Mexico border and all the seismic deaths, injustices, and griefs in between. Primo Levi's If This Is A Man was a resurgence of the same haunting: of cowardice at the root of all suffering, indifference at its ugly head. The opposite of death, I learned, is not life but the insisted writing of it, the way literature resists its own burial. Bao Phi's Sông I Sing was a sanctuary for all of my anger, all of my frustration with contemporary Asian American art, self-gentrified and cheaply manufactured, masquerading as radical for audiences too white to know better. (When you can no longer tell / if you're liberating yourself through expression / or selling your oppression / Remember / there were those of us / living here/ who called you / friend.) I learned that I am so, so fiercely protective of Taiwan. I will scorn any writer who dares exploit it, even if and especially when they share my family history. I learned that art will save me, that artists will redeem me, that there exists a sort of person for whom loneliness is a home and not a reason to pull the trigger. I want to be that person. I learned to be very, very sad, and to find peers in this grief rather than new ways to dull it. I am learning that it is better to care deeply than to protect myself from the suffering of others. I am learning to never turn away from all that is difficult to carry, to bear witness and fight the fire instead of walking away.
I'd summarize this year's curation as a poetic and critical meditation on identity, how a paranoia of prejudice arises from the way our contemporary institutions practice it. May we all find ourselves on the other side of the walls.

I also wanted to share - thanks for bearing with me - that my dear Book of Cord was selected by Entropy Magazine as one of the best Poetry collections of 2018. I am so grateful.

Sông I Sing | Bao Phi
“In this strong and angry work of what he calls refugeography, Bao Phi, who has been a performance poet since 1991, wrestles with immigration, class and race in America at sidewalk level. To hip-hop beats and the squeal and shriek of souped-up Celicas stalking the city streets, [Phi] rants and scowls at a culture in which Asians are invisible, but also scolds his peers ‘Bleached by color-blind lies/Buying DKNY and Calvin Klein/So our own bodies are gentrified.’ . . . In this song of his very American self, every poem Mr. Phi writes rhymes with the truth.” —New York Times 

Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education | Noliwe Rooks
Public schools are among America's greatest achievements in modern history, yet from the earliest days of tax-supported education--today a sector with an estimated budget of over half a billion dollars--there have been intractable tensions tied to race and poverty.
Cutting School deftly traces the financing of segregated education in America, from reconstruction through Brown v. Board of Education up to the current controversies around school choice, teacher quality, the school-to-prison pipeline, and more, to elucidate the course we are on today: the wholesale privatization of our schools. Rooks's incisive critique breaks down the fraught landscape of "segrenomics," showing how experimental solutions to the so-called achievement gaps--including charters, vouchers, and cyber schools--rely on, profit from, and ultimately exacerbate disturbingly high levels of racial and economic segregation under the guise of providing equal opportunity.
A comprehensive, compelling account of what's truly at stake in the relentless push to deregulate and privatize, Cutting School is a cri de coeur for all of us to resist educational apartheid in America.

You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin | Rachel Corbett
In 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke—then a struggling poet in Germany—went to Paris to research and write a short book about the sculptor Auguste Rodin. The two were almost polar opposites: Rilke in his twenties, delicate and unknown; Rodin in his sixties, carnal and revered. Yet they fell into an instantaneous friendship. Transporting readers to early twentieth-century Paris, Rachel Corbett’s You Must Change Your Life is a vibrant portrait of Rilke and Rodin and their circle, revealing how deeply Rodin’s ideas about art and creativity influenced Rilke’s classic Letters to a Young Poet.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin | Terrance Hayes
In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country's past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered--the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity | Esther Perel
An affair: it can rob a couple of their relationship, their happiness, their very identity. And yet, this extremely common human experience is so poorly understood. Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, and so too the prohibition against it—in fact, it has a tenacity that marriage can only envy. So what are we to make of this time-honored taboo—universally forbidden yet universally practiced? Why do people cheat—even those in happy marriages? Why does an affair hurt so much? When we say infidelity, what exactly do we mean? Do our romantic expectations of marriage set us up for betrayal? Is there such a thing as an affair-proof marriage? Is it possible to love more than one person at once? Can an affair ever help a marriage? Perel weaves real-life case stories with incisive psychological and cultural analysis in this fast-paced and compelling book.

For the past ten years, Perel has traveled the globe and worked with hundreds of couples who have grappled with infidelity. Betrayal hurts, she writes, but it can be healed. An affair can even be the doorway to a new marriage—with the same person. With the right approach, couples can grow and learn from these tumultuous experiences, together or apart.

Past Lives, Future Bodies | Kristin Chang
PAST LIVES, FUTURE BODIES is a knife-sharp and nimble examination of migration, motherhood, and the malignant legacies of racism. In this collection, family forms both a unit of survival and a framework for history, agency, and recovery. Chang undertakes a visceral exploration of the historical and unfolding paths of lineage and what it means to haunt body and country. These poems traverse not only the circularity of trauma but the promise of regeneration—what grows from violence and hatches from healing—as Chang embodies each of her ghosts and invites the specter to speak.

Plum Rains: A Novel | Andromeda Romano-Lax 
In a tour-de-force tapestry of science fiction and historical fiction, Andromeda Romano-Lax presents a story set in Japan and Taiwan that spans a century of empire, conquest, progress, and destruction.
2029: In Japan, a historically mono-cultural nation, childbirth rates are at an all-time low and the elderly are living increasingly longer lives. This population crisis has precipitated the mass immigration of foreign medical workers from all over Asia, as well as the development of finely tuned artificial intelligence to step in where humans fall short.
In Tokyo, Angelica Navarro, a Filipina nurse who has been in Japan for the last five years, works as caretaker for Sayoko Itou, a moody, secretive woman about to turn 100 years old. One day, Sayoko receives a present: a cutting-edge robot “friend” that will teach itself to anticipate Sayoko’s every need. Angelica wonders if she is about to be forced out of her much-needed job by an inanimate object—one with a preternatural ability to uncover the most deeply buried secrets of the humans around it. Meanwhile, Sayoko becomes attached to the machine. The old woman has been hiding secrets of her own for almost a century—and she’s too old to want to keep them anymore.
 What she reveals is a hundred-year saga of forbidden love, hidden identities, and the horrific legacy of WWII and Japanese colonialism—a confession that will tear apart her own life and Angelica’s. Is the helper robot the worst thing that could have happened to the two women—or is it forcing the changes they both desperately needed?

If This Is A Man | Primo Levi
'With the moral stamina and intellectual poise of a twentieth-century Titan, this slightly built, dutiful, unassuming chemist set out systematically to remember the German hell on earth, steadfastly to think it through, and then to render it comprehensible in lucid, unpretentious prose. He was profoundly in touch with the minutest workings of the most endearing human events and with the most contemptible. What has survived in Levi's writing isn't just his memory of the unbearable, but also, in The Periodic Table and The Wrench, his delight in what made the world exquisite to him. He was himself a magically endearing man, the most delicately forceful enchanter I've ever known' - Philip Roth.

Don't Call Us Dead | Danez Smith
Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don't Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood and a diagnosis of HIV positive. "Some of us are killed / in pieces," Smith writes, some of us all at once. Don't Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America--"Dear White America"--where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara
When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity.
Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Frontier Taiwan: An Anthology of Modern Taiwanese Poetry | edited by N.G.D. Malmqvist
Taiwan has evolved dramatically from a little-known island to an internationally acclaimed economic miracle and thriving democracy. The history of modern Taiwanese poetry parallels and tells the story of this transformation from periphery to frontier. Containing translations of nearly 400 poems from 50 poets spanning the entire twentieth century, this anthology reveals Taiwan in a broad spectrum of themes, forms, and styles: from lyrical meditation to political satire, haiku to concrete poetry, surrealism to postmodernism. The in-depth introduction outlines the development of modern poetry in the unique historical and cultural context of Taiwan. Comprehensive in both depth and scope, Frontier Taiwan beautifully captures the achievements of the nation's modern poetic traditions.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel | Alexander Chee
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.
By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.

With love, love, love -- infallible and unbreakable,
LC

What LC Read: Vol. 13

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
T H O M A S  G U T H R I E

The Official Filthy Rich Handbook | Christopher Tennant
I occasionally dabble in a full-fledged fascination with the lives of the 0.001%. The Official Filthy Rich Handbook opens with The Plutocrat's Primer, a profile of the different ways one might arrive at and experience outrageous wealth. My favorite (if only because I know so many of its descendants) was The Hedger, a new-school breed of money that insists "it's not enough to succeed. Others must fail." Educated at UPenn and Goldman Sachs. Fondest memory: Outbidding Paul Tudor Jones at the Greenwhich Country Day School fundraiser. If Annie Braddock of Nanny Diaries had actually published a sociology study on WASP affluence, this would be it in its best possible form. And I guess if you're a social climber/hoping to marry up (no shame in the upper mobility game!), this book is 200+ pages of dirty talk.
Synopsis: 
A dead-on, deadpan guide to living large in the land of plenty, The Official Filthy Rich Handbook yanks the monogrammed pashmina off a world few mortals ever get to see. Packed with insight and savvy, it brings this rarified universe to scandalous new life, feeding our endless fascination with the tastefully loaded, while offering practical instructions for those who dream of joining them. 


The Devil Wears Prada | Lauren Weisberger
I used to work in luxury fashion (it was a blind interview, okay?) and despite all of the "Devil Wears Prada" references I've made since ("it's exactly like DWP! I too worked for a Miranda!") I'd somehow never read the book. Apparently, I wasn't missing out on much. The movie is just too fucking good, and in a shocking twist of the movie/book paradigm, the book felt like the clunky, embarrassing rough draft of its much better-polished, better-examined screenplay.
Synopsis: 
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about "The Boss from Hell." Narrated in Andrea's smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda's children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day--and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age | David Callahan
I almost went into a career in philanthropy consulting until trusted incumbents hissed at me to run away. I realize now that I, with only four years of Economics studies and a starry-eyed, albeit vague, inclination to "do good" would have been completely unprepared for the complexity and scale of philanthropy. Philanthropy, Callahan writes, "shapes the communities in which millions of people live. Much of this gets celebrated without many second thoughts. Parks, libraries, and museums make cities livable; top universities and medical research centers make them great, attracting talent from around the world. What's not to like? Maybe a bunch of things, from who is making choices over public life to who actually benefits from these choices. What's happening in cities like New York and Houston is a microcosm of a broader power shift whereby private donors-- who are both more numerous and more wealthy-- are stepping into a vacuum created by the decline of the public sector."
Synopsis: 
David Callahan charts the rise of these new power players and the ways they are converting the fortunes of a second Gilded Age into influence. He shows how this elite works behind the scenes on education, the environment, science, LGBT rights, and many other issues--with deep impact on government policy. Above all, he shows that the influence of the Givers is only just beginning, as new waves of billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg turn to philanthropy. Based on extensive research and interviews with countless donors and policy experts, this is not a brief for or against the Givers, but a fascinating investigation of a power shift in American society that has implications for us all. 
RELATED:

What’s more, most Americans don’t attend selective schools like Johns Hopkins. About 75 percent of undergraduates go to a school that accepts more than half of its applicants, and only 4 percent go to schools where the acceptance rate is below 25 percent. Hopkins’s acceptance rate is about 12 percent. Changing things at Hopkins, or even changing things at Hopkins and inspiring other selective schools to do likewise, doesn’t change the situation for the vast majority of college students who won’t attend an elite institution.

I'm probably just naive, but it never occurred to me to critique philanthropy in higher education, particularly if it went to endowments that funded scholarships. I myself attended a relatively elite private university on a donor-funded full scholarship. I've publicly praised and gushed over this. But I realize in retrospect that the quarter million dollars funneled into my little life was a quarter million dollars not funneled into several students attending community or state college whose aggregate returns could have far exceeded mine. It's a tricky one.
The richer schools are getting richer; the poor are getting poorer. Three-quarters of the $516 billion in endowment wealth held by U.S. colleges and universities in 2014 was concentrated in the hands of just 11 percent of schools. When LaGuardia Community College in New York City received a $2 million donation from Goldman Sachs in 2015, it doubled the school's endowment. The gift was unusual enough to make the New York Times. By comparison, Harvard raised an average of $3.1 million a day during 2015. 
Some delicious Asian American/Asian works of poetry/etc. to come.
Love always,
LC

The Catalogue: No. 19

Monday, November 26, 2018


"If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see."
J A M E S  B A L D W I N

This week, in things that make me angry.

I Love America. That’s Why I Have to Tell the Truth About It | Viet Thanh Nguyen for TIME
Being immune to the flag and the anthem does not make me less American than those who love those symbols. Is it not more important that I love the substance behind those symbols rather than the symbols themselves? The principles. Democracy, equality, justice, hope, peace and especially freedom, the freedom to write and to think whatever I want, even if my freedoms and the beauty of those principles have all been nurtured by the blood of genocide, slavery, conquest, colonization, imperial war, forever war. All of that is America, our beautiful and brutal America.
Specter of Meddling by Beijing Looms Over Taiwan’s Elections | Chris Horton for The New York Times
The Taiwan authorities say they suspect that Beijing is also illegally funneling money to political campaigns through Taiwan businesses in mainland China. Late last month, the government said that it was building cases against candidates who were being funded by Beijing and that it had shut down two underground money exchanges through which funds earmarked for influencing the election had been flowing.
Progressive Taiwanese Civil Society Sees Defeat By Way of National Referendum | Brian Hioe for New Bloom Magazine
In the years before the Sunflower Movement and afterward, a certain political consensus came to emerge among Taiwanese social movement activists. Despite the fact that issues as support for gay marriage, opposition to nuclear energy, support for environment-friendly, renewable sources of energy, support for referendum reform, and advocacy for Taiwanese independence may have had no inherent relation to each other, these issues were broadly embraced by Taiwanese civil society under the framework of progressive politics.
Yet referendums on supporting gay marriage, LGBTQ-friendly Gender Equality Education, legal provisions to phase out nuclear energy by 2025, and the call for Taiwan to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as “Taiwan” rather than “Chinese Taipei” were voted down yesterday. 
Scientists ‘Went Rogue’ and Genetically Engineered Two Human Babies | Kat Eschner for Popular Science
“I don’t want to convey that I’m categorically against [gene editing on embryos] ever being done,” says Musunuru. But in this case—in secrecy and without oversight—he says it’s totally unacceptable. Perhaps the biggest problem, to him, is the fact that the two embryos showed evidence of mosaicism and off-target mutations. Mosaicism is when some of the cells in an organism have a mutation, like the one that He was trying to make, but others do not. Off-target mutations are exactly what they sound like: genetic changes that weren’t the ones intended by the gene edit, potentially introducing congenital diseases or other unforeseen consequences.
Lena Dunham Comes to Terms With Herself | Allison P. Davis for The Cut
Dunham internalized the feedback — sort of. It sometimes seemed as if her newsletter, founded in 2015 with Konner, was a line of defense against a certain strain of Dunham criticism: Lenny Letter featured writers and artists of color and LGBTQ voices writing about issues of identity. Somehow — was it the whiff of insincerity that clings to reflexive apologies? — her efforts to use her platform for righteous causes only made people more annoyed by her.
 Can We Ever Really #Cancel Dolce & Gabbana? | Rachel Tashjian for Garage
When fashion fanatics unleash vitriol against Dolce & Gabbana online, that vitriol carries the weight of a hundred other rejections, misdeeds, and pain that can’t be vocalized because of the reality Diet Prada recognizes: at the end of the day, every part of the fashion industry is still tethered to a need for institutional respect. Does #cancel culture ask for structural change to those institutions, or is it asking for the structure as it exists to accept it? 
RELATED:
A Full Timeline of the Crisis at Dolce & Gabanna | Rachel Tashjian for Garage
In anticipation of “The Great Show,” Dolce & Gabbana release a series of video advertisements in which a Chinese model was “instructed” on how to eat various Italian foods, such as pasta and cannoli, with chopsticks. In one segment, the model struggles and giggles with a cannolo as a voiceover says, “Is it too huge for you?” According to Jing Daily, “Many social media users in China labeled this video stereotypical, racist and disrespectful for Asian female upon its release.”
Note: I don't know if I have the bandwidth or ethos for it, but there has to be some article tying together how prestigious Western institutions, be these of art/fashion/commerce or higher education, pander to Chinese affluence without genuine consideration of Chinese people. And in the same vein, the way that access to Western symbols of approval/wealth (European handbags, stints at their boarding schools/universities, being Asia-born but England-educated) have a stronghold in Chinese culture that still reinforces European hegemony. The relationship between those who will accept the cash but not its holder; and those who grovel to hand it over, still. Am I reaching?

Trans Woman Was Beaten in ICE Custody Before Death, Autopsy Finds | Scott Bixby,
Betsy Woodruff for Daily Beast
Even before her detention in New Mexico, Hernández Rodriguez had walked an extremely difficult path on her way to the United States. In an interview with Buzzfeed News a month before her death, Hernández Rodriguez said she decided to flee Honduras after she was gang-raped by four members of the MS-13 gang, resulting in her being infected with HIV.
“She journeyed thousands of miles fleeing persecution and torture at home only to be met with neglect and torture in this country’s for-profit human cages,” Free said.
How a March at the US-Mexico Border Descended into Tear Ga and Chaos | Dara Lind for Vox
Many migrants in the caravan weren’t expecting the wait or the conditions. They’ve already been traveling for weeks, often with children in tow, with the hope of getting asylum in the US. In many cases, they’ve had the mistaken expectation that asylum would be granted immediately after they arrived. That hasn’t happened, and they’re getting desperate. And desperate people do desperate things.
RELATED: 
 Many of the children who will be most affected are the victims of unspeakable violence and have been exposed to trauma. Children do not immigrate, they flee. They are coming to the U.S. seeking safe haven in our country and they need our compassion and assistance. Broad scale expansion of family detention only exacerbates their suffering.
“We don’t have the ability to easily predict [the] effects [of tear gas] unless there is more history of use against children,” Cordesman told The Post. “It looks like we’re setting the precedent.”
And finally, on a lighter note:
The Ultimate Guide to 'Fantastic Beasts 2' | Rob Bricken of Nerd Processor
Can you briefly summarize the movie? A bunch of wizards run maniacally around Paris until Johnny Depp gives a TED Talk. 
With love always,
LC

What Taiwanese Americans Can Learn from Taiwanese Politics

Sunday, November 25, 2018


O R I G I N A L L Y  O N  T A I W A N E S E A M E R I C A N . O R G
One of the opportunities of sitting at the masthead of TaiwaneseAmerican.org is continually engaging with the borders and expectations of this community. What does it mean to be Taiwanese, American, and Taiwanese American? What is our role as citizens of the diaspora? And, heavily on my mind in the aftermath of the November 24th election:

Do we need an acute awareness of — or even interest in — Taiwanese politics to identify as Taiwanese American?

My impulse is to say yes, we do — because what are pride and identity without their due contexts, histories, and traumas? What is Taiwanese identity, if it cannot claim its own protests and absences?
But I also want to recognize the ways that diasporic children inherit the ideologies of their parents, how family histories are often proxy for entire cultures. It is no coincidence that so many poets and artists conflate mother and motherland. For many of us, Taiwan is an enigmatic product of our parents’ imaginations and itineraries. And our parents, the products of a generation defined by emigration, martial law, and political censorship. However you came to identify as Taiwanese American — or even the ways you question it — can be personal and complex; I do not want to serve as gatekeeper to such a fragile sense of self and allegiance.
But here’s what I do want to share with you:
Taiwan held its first direct presidential election the year I was born, in 1996. I’d venture that its democracy is a little like most twenty-somethings: deeply unsure of itself, restless, overwhelmed by its own potential and frustrations. Functional (if like me— barely so). The burden of those who love this twenty-two year old, then, is to forgive its trespasses, its temper tantrums, the many failures and falls that will predate any sort of real victory. A lot of people were disappointed by the outcomes of this election — in particular, the losses for progressive values like marriage equality and sex education. But this referendum was a singular event in the bigger project of a democratic process that can still produce and be better. My father remarked the other day that he hadn’t anticipated how, with freedom and free will, I’d make so many choices he didn’t agree with. Such, I reminded him, was parenthood. Such is a democracy. However it disappoints you, you will keep it alive the same way you brought it into being: with whatever it takes. With indignation, with love, with your fists clenched and arms raised.
Taiwanese Americans, our cousins overseas are more alike us than we think. Whatever languages or politics we share or don’t, know that they, too, are confronting generational differences at the ballot, chipping away at an older, conservative, and fearful hegemony. Just take a look at how comparisons between United States president Donald Trump and Kaohsiung mayor-elect Han Guo-yu challenge us to recognize resentment and fear in its powerful, loud forms. How the racialized identity politics dominating American discourse dissolve when every candidate looks like family. How we can extend our Thanksgiving consciousness of indigenous Americans to indigenous Taiwanese tribes also fighting for lands, rights, and recognition.
If you want to know what is happening overseas, there are dozens of English-language reporters, both Taiwanese and not, creating that bridge for you. As editor of TaiwaneseAmerican.org, my sole hope is to convince you to cross over. I’m asked very often, particularly by first-generations, how we can convince the Taiwanese diaspora to care. I always struggled to articulate any sort of practicality, deferring instead to the poetics of how understanding Taiwanese history allowed me to better understand myself.

But I’m more confident in my answer now: that perhaps dual identities allow us to be doubly empathetic. 

We are third culture kids who will spend our entire lives straddling the borders between tradition and progress. We are the children or grandchildren of immigrants, both undocumented and not. We have been outsiders; we’ve also cast outsiders. We can decide whether to check our racist aunties and conservative uncles. We can decide when to be filial; when not to be. We can protest police brutality in remembrance of White Terror. We can support and donate to Native American coalitions as the descendants of indigenous tribes. We can protect sister democracies: one over two hundred years old, one barely twenty.
Doesn’t it make sense, then, that we can be better Taiwanese Americans when we embrace these synergies?
Like many American families post-midterm elections, my Taiwanese family — here and overseas — will have to navigate the tension of our political differences laid bare in the aftermath of a referendum. The LINE group chat is a little awkward. But there are exciting and uncertain times ahead. I hope you’ll want to be a part of them.

Thanksgiving Meditations on Gratitude

Thursday, November 22, 2018


1. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude | Ross Gay
I know I can be long-winded sometimes. / I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude / over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward, / the suds in your ear and armpit, the little sparkling gems / slipping into your eye.

And another of Gay's, Thank You:

F R O M  P O E T R Y  F O U N D A T I O N

2. You Were You are Elegy | Mary Jo Bang
You keep / Putting your hand on my shoulder / When I'm Crying. / Thank you for that. And / For that ineffable sense / Of continuance. You were. You are / The brightest thing in the shop window / And the most beautiful seldom I ever saw.

3. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] | E.E. Cummings
I want / no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true) / and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant / and whatever a sun will always sing is you

4. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge | Rainer Maria Rilke
“And isn't the whole world yours? For how often you set it on fire with your love and saw it blaze and burn up and secretly replaced it with another world while everyone slept. You felt in such complete harmony with God, when every morning you asked him for a new earth, so that all the ones he had made could have their turn. You thought it would be shabby to save them and repair them; you used them up and held out your hands, again and again, for more world. For your love was equal to everything.”

5. Miracles | Walt Whitman
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, / Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, / Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the /         same, / Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

With love and gratitude always,
LC



What LC Read: Vol. 12

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Quick story time - I went on a coffee date with a nice man/boy who told me he was the biggest bookworm I'd ever meet because he is the son of literally one of the most well-read (and accordingly decorated) men alive. Not that it's a competition (but it totally is), I still think I have a heftier archive of conquests. If you only have time for one, make it Family Trust and then DM me on Instagram (or in comments below) so we can discuss -- it's a juicy one!

Family Trust: A Novel | Kathy Wang
If you're (East) Asian American, skip the jacket synopsis and praise/blurbs, because they don't really capture the unique merits of this book. If you're on the subtle asian traits meme page, Family Trust evokes a similar "aw fuck dis me" gut reaction because it lays forth our collective worst traits: greediness, selfishness, a lifelong obsession with prestige, our complex insecurities. This is the sort of contemporary Asian American fiction I wholeheartedly appreciate but struggle to champion. You will transcend your ancestors' suffering. If only to date white girls and their demure, flirty breed of racism. If only to self-flagellate in secret LinkedIn stalking sessions. If only for HBS, Silicon Valley, and second-tier boys' clubs.
As an aside, one of my top pet peeves in Asian American literature is when characters are explicitly described to be from Taiwan, but consistently identify as Chinese. Kathy Wang, WYDDDDD.
Excerpt:
Fred had long grown past his schoolboy convictions that he was looking for a nice girl and recognized that what he was really drawn to were the mean spirits, the ones who thought they were above it all. Why weren't more white women bitches? There were plenty of Asian ones; Fred could recognize a leaden heart and a whirring calculator of a brain under a batted pair of demure eyelashes any day. They went Ivy League or Stanford and called everything else "state school"; they picked a road -- beauty, smarts, or wealth -- and then obsessively competed in their particular pageant down to the bone.  
 Yellow: Stories | Don Lee
I've never, ever liked short stories - not even when they were written by Murakami. But I tried Yellow because I loved Lee's The Collective (from Mini Book Reviews: Week 11) and was fairly happy with most of the pieces. I think addressing Asian American issues in fiction rests on a delicate balance between awkward soap-boxing and effective character development, experienced microaggressions vs. paranoia of racism. Lee's short stories navigate this with varying levels of success, but I think spacing out each reading would help it feel less overwhelming.
Synopsis: 
As the Los Angeles Times noted in its profile of the author, "few writers have mined the [genre of ethnic literature] as shrewdly or transcended its limits quite so stunningly as Don Lee." Harking "back to the timeless concerns of Chekhov: fate, chance, the mystery of the human heart" (Stuart Dybek), these interconnected stories "are utterly contemporary,...but grounded in the depth of beautiful prose and intriguing storylines" (Asian Week). They paint a novelistic portrait of the fictional town of Rosarita Bay, California, and a diverse cast of complex and moving characters. "Nothing short of wonderful...surprising and wild with life" (Robert Boswell), Yellow "proves that wondering about whether you're a real American is as American as a big bowl of kimchi" (New York Times Book Review).



An Innocent Fashion | R.J. Hernandez
A well-meaning millennial read, with third-culture child depth. I chose it for the cover (a bad and familiar habit), but it was such an engaging, "easy" read. Highly recommend as a travel companion/for commutes! 
Synopsis: 
The literary love-child of The Devil Wears Prada and The Bell Jar, this singular debut novel is the story of Ethan, a wide-eyed new Ivy League grad, who discovers that his dream of “making it” at leading New York City fashion magazine Régine may well be his undoing.
When Ethan St. James graduates from Yale, he can’t wait to realize his dream of becoming a fashion editor at Régine. Born Elián San Jamar, he knew from childhood that he was destined for a “more beautiful” life than the one his working-class parents share in Texas—a life inspired by Régine’s pages. A full ride to the Ivy League provided the awakening he yearned for, but reality hits hard when he arrives at Régine and is relegated to the lowest rung of the ladder.
Mordantly funny and emotionally ruthless, An Innocent Fashion is about a quintessential millennial—naïve, idealistic, struggling with his identity and sexuality—trying to survive in an industry, and a city, notorious for attracting new graduates only to chew them up and spit them out. Oscillating between melodrama and whip-smart sarcasm, pretentiousness and heartbreaking vulnerability, increasingly disillusioned with Régine and his two best friends from Yale, both scions of WASP privilege, Ethan begins to unravel.

With love (and fast approaching the completion of my 100th book this year),
LC

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