Everything You Need to Read About 228

Thursday, February 28, 2019

CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL | PHOTO BY CHARLES POSTIAUX

"Need to Read" is obviously a bit clickbait-y, since there are infinite causes and cultures to stand by, and CL and I happen to be Taiwanese Americans who champion Taiwanese sovereignty. (Are there #TaiwaneseAmerican influencers? @TECO let's make something cute happen.) There's some sort of troll profile on the TaiwaneseAmerican.org Facebook page that recently mocked 228 as a "DPP holiday," referencing Nationalist insistence that the massacre had been exaggerated for political sympathy by the Democratic Progressive Party. And while I disagree fundamentally, I think there's something to be said for how the anniversaries of tragic events do serve as opportunities for discourse that would otherwise feel out of place. Grief is funny in the way it plants itself squarely on our calendars. I don't ever "celebrate" the anniversary of Anthony's death in the traditional sense; but I look forward to this one day a year that I can openly mourn and reflect on how much his life changed mine. I don't ever expect others -- Taiwanese or not -- to care as vehemently and stubbornly as CL and I do about Taiwanese history and heritage. You have your own homeland saudade, your own cultural traumas, your own shit to deal with. But in case you're curious, here's (not even close to) everything to read about 228.

Film & Videos
R E C O M M E N D E D
Formosa Betrayed (Full Movie) | Directed by Adam Kane
The full-length movie is on YouTube! Formosa Betrayed is an American political thriller based on 228 and the White Terror (period of martial law that ensued), and though it's obviously told from the perspective of a Westerner, I think this is a really thoughtful, "easy" way to access historical context. Also, my aunt is in it (as one of the protesters)! I highly recommend this movie to anybody who doesn't quite have the personal investment to read all of the other articles (and I totally understand), but would like a bit of background knowledge.
Inspired by two actual events, one surrounding the death of Professor Chen Wen-chen of Carnegie Mellon University[2] in 1981,[3] and the other the 1984 assassination of journalist Henry Liu in California by Chen Chi-li and his fellow Bamboo Union members, Formosa Betrayed is the story of FBI Agent Jake Kelly's (James Van Der Beek) investigation of the murder of Henry Wen (Joseph Foronda), a Taiwanese professor in Chicago. With the help of his partner Tom Braxton (John Heard) and a sharp Chicago police detective (Leslie Hope), Agent Kelly discovers that the murderers have fled to Taipei, capital of Republic of China (Taiwan).


R E C O M M E N D E D
The 228 Incident | Taiwan Bar
This one's in Mandarin, but there are English closed captions!





Blacklist | Documentary by Christina Hu
For many Taiwanese, the memory of military crackdown from the first 228 incident in 1947 remains a painful subject.  When a political dissident, Lin Yihsiung's daughters and mother were found murdered on February 28 in 1980, the old wounds of 228 incident became fresh again.  Professor Bruce Jacobs, a political science and Asian studies professor, recalls his experience on that fateful day and his subsequent dealings with security agencies in 1980.

Articles
Three Perspectives pieces I commissioned and edited in my role as editor-in-chief of TaiwaneseAmerican.org -- I really recommend these as they're genuinely personal and diverse takes.

R E C O M M E N D E D
All Quiet: An American's Perspective on 228 in Taiwan | Joyce Chen for TaiwaneseAmerican.org
February 28, 1947 seems so long ago when you’re only eighteen. But the shadow of the martial law remains, and I see it in my grandparents and in my parents. For my peers, whose families never left Taiwan, martial law defined their lives and informed their memories. They weren’t allowed to talk about it. The government distorted the facts. And now that cracks are forming in the propaganda, they no longer know how to talk about it. It’s one thing to learn about a politically fractured country. It’s another to live in it, to have a shattered sense of history and identity.
R E C O M M E N D E D
Green Island Secrets | Dr. Chung-Chih Li for TaiwaneseAmerican.org
 But no history can be simplified in this way. The pretext of the 228 incident and all that followed began long before corrupt Chinese governance. It had been a moment five hundred years in the making. From the first European expedition to the coast of the island, every person who set foot on Taiwanese soil has had their own agenda for her resources, her people.  Those who decided to stay for good became Taiwanese. From European explorers and colonizers to missionaries and traders, from Japanese settlers to Chinese refugees after their defeat in the civil war, the Taiwanese have opened their arms for these ostracized and displaced to make a home. But the Taiwanese themselves have never had a chance to their own country.
R E C O M M E N D E D
The 228 Inheritance: Taiwan's Revolution Is Here | Catherine Chou for TaiwaneseAmerican.org
The Taiwanese Revolution has no single declaration of independence, but rather dozens: President Tsai Ing-wen’s resounding rejection of ‘one country, two systems’; full-throated defense of democratic rights; the 2016 Sunflower Movement and the coming-of-age of a generation ‘born independent’; the ubiquitous refrain of ‘建國’ in Taiwanese commentary; vandalism of Chiang Kai-shek’s statues; solidarity with victims of Chinese imperialism in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang; the establishment of a transitional justice commission; so-far-unfulfilled promises to return land to indigenous communities; passage of legislation to protect non-Mandarin languages; the vigorous lobbying work of diasporic communities, especially in the United States; flags and passport stickers proclaiming the Republic of Taiwan; and the decision of the ROC’s diplomatic offices, at the end of last year, to use the name Taiwan in their social media profiles.
10 Facts About 228 | Outreach for Taiwan
The 228 Incident impacted everyone in Taiwan, including Hakka, Mainland Chinese, and Aborigines; to ignore them and their experiences disregards the still-ongoing process of healing among all people of the melting pot we call Taiwan.
Taiwan's 228: Remembering the 228 Incident | Thomas J. Shattuck for FPRI
Due to a massive cover-up and the destruction of government documents, no one knows exactly how many people died. Some estimates are as high as 28,000 or as low as 18,000. The scars from the White Terror are still felt throughout Taiwan today. Martial Law did not end in Taiwan until 1987; the first free and fair legislative elections took place in 1992; and the first fully democratic presidential election was held in 1996. Now, for the first time in the country’s history, the Democratic Progressive Party, not the KMT, controls both the executive and legislative branches of government—something that protesters never would have imagined possible during the White Terror. People outside of Taiwan often forget how recently the country democratized—accomplishing its peaceful transformation to a political system consistent with international democratic norms without being a member of the United Nations or having official diplomatic relations with a majority of the world’s countries. Such progress and feats are impressive, especially under the shadow of the White Terror.
Taiwan Kuomintang: Revisiting the White Terror Years | Catherine Lee for BBC News
The night before Huang Wen-kung was executed, he wrote five letters to his family, including his five-month-old daughter whom he had never seen.
It was the first and last time he had communicated with her.
"My most beloved Chun-lan, I was arrested when you were still in your mother's womb," said the 1953 letter.
"Father and child cannot meet. Alas, there's nothing more tragic than this in the world."
His daughter only got the letter 56 years later.
"As soon as I read the first sentence, I cried," Huang Chun-lan said. "I finally had a connection with my father. I realised not only do I have a father, but this father loved me very much."
Taiwan Families Receive Goodbye Letters Decades After Executions | Paul Mozur for The New York Times
The letters are not just documentary evidence, though; they are also last expressions of love from beyond the grave. They offer words of comfort to children who grew up not knowing their parents and final apologies to spouses who would raise children alone.
These Are The Tyrants And Robber Barons Of The 228 Massacre | The Taiwan Gazette
At the same time, the Chinese Nationalist (KMT) commanders were moving quickly to profit from their new positions. Chen Yi (陳儀) and his cronies began looting the old Japanese colonial government. Over night, the Republic of China's party-state regime suddenly owned over 20,000 residences in Taiwan, seven banks, 65 airports, nine hundred planes, 2000 tanks and trucks, and hundreds of thousands of guns. The value of their assets was $5.5 billion dollars.
They confiscated modern factories, hydraulic and electrical facilities, highways, railroads and sea ports. They snatched up 175 thousand hectares of farmland and 90 percent of Taiwan’s forested lands. They took the schools, the hospitals and the theatres. They nationalized all the banks, insurance companies, oil and steel firms.
They divided industries into joint ventures, between national and provincial levels, or national and county levels. Some industries were directly controlled by the KMT. They divided the resources again and again, exhausting everything in one fell swoop. 
Black Lives Matter, Taiwan’s ‘228 Incident,’ and the Transnational Struggle For Liberation | Chanda Hsu Prescod-Weinstein for Black Youth Project
But Eric Garner’s story resonates across the continents and the decades. The story above could have been describing not his death but instead an incident that occurred decades earlier in another hemisphere, with the death of an unnamed man in a crowd that gathered when the cigarette seller was attacked by police on February 27, 1947 in Taipei, Taiwan.
In other words, what happened to Eric Garner and what has happened to Black Americans so many times is, in fundamental ways, not that different from how the Taiwanese 228 Incident — as it is known for the mass violence that started on February 28 — began. On February 27, 1947, representatives from the recently self-installed Republic of China government in Taiwan went to a tea shop to confiscate cigarettes from a woman who had been selling them illegally. The authorities hit her in the head with the butt of a gun and injured her, causing a crowd to form. An agent shot into the crowd, killing one bystander. Thus began a night of unrest that would be quelled in the subsequent months and years through extreme violence. The exact number of Taiwanese who were disappeared is not known, but it is believed 30,000 or more people were murdered and many others who were incarcerated for decades before returning unrecognizable to their families.
Books
Green Island | Shawna Yang Ryan
February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, just after midnight as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community — conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family — the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before.
As the novel sweeps across six decades and two continents, the life of the narrator shadows the course of Taiwan’s history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial law and, finally, to Taiwan’s transformation into a democracy. But, above all, Green Island is a lush and lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: how far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?
Book of Cord | Leona Chen
Is it awful of me to include my own book? 228, martial law, the decades of colonization preceding these, and the authoritarian regime that followed were all the impetus for Book of Cord. On a micro level, my grandparents -- the ones on my mom’s side -- passed away when I was very young and I felt I never did anything worthy of them. So I wrote this book and dedicated it to them.
On a macro level, I wanted to create something for Taiwanese America that would transcend boba and night markets and make Taiwanese history feel intensely personal. As a Taiwanese American, my activism and my work has never been about speaking on behalf of my community; it is about doing work that will not leave our mothers behind. For as much as I love a good tiger mom meme, I don’t ever want to create something that suggests my parents did not give me everything they had, that they didn’t try to love me in the right ways. I am Taiwanese because my parents and their parents protected that identity for me. This book honors that.
Fun fact: Shawna Yang Ryan very generously wrote its introduction!
In her debut collection BOOK OF CORD, Leona Chen confronts the loss of Taiwanese identity through colonization and emigration. As she acknowledges her heritage and claims herself as Taiwanese American, "a radical act" with "profound implications," her poems explore histories both recognized and erased. She composes her narrative by way of a series of fragmentary lyric poems in English that is interspersed with Taiwanese Hokkien. BOOK OF CORD is Chen's protest, journey of self- discovery, and rallying cry for the Taiwanese American community. Or, as novelist Shawna Yang Ryan writes in her comprehensive introduction: "The history she depicts is implied and embodied, making it emotionally accessible to readers unfamiliar with Taiwan's history and deeply affecting to those who are familiar. This is a powerful inscription of an effaced history."
Representing Atrocity in Taiwan: The 2/28 Incident and White Terror in Fiction and Film | Sylvia Li-chun Lin
In 1945, Taiwan was placed under the administrative control of the Republic of China, and after two years, accusations of corruption and a failing economy sparked a local protest that was brutally quashed by the Kuomintang government. The February Twenty-Eighth (or 2/28) Incident led to four decades of martial law that became known as the White Terror. During this period, talk of 2/28 was forbidden and all dissent violently suppressed, but since the lifting of martial law in 1987, this long-buried history has been revisited through commemoration and narrative, cinema and remembrance.
Drawing on a wealth of secondary theoretical material as well as her own original research, Sylvia Li-chun Lin conducts a close analysis of the political, narrative, and ideological structures involved in the fictional and cinematic representations of the 2/28 Incident and White Terror. She assesses the role of individual and collective memory and institutionalized forgetting, while underscoring the dangers of re-creating a historical past and the risks of trivialization. She also compares her findings with scholarly works on the Holocaust and the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Japan, questioning the politics of forming public and personal memories and the political teleology of "closure." This is the first book to be published in English on the 2/28 Incident and White Terror and offers a valuable matrix of comparison for studying the portrayal of atrocity in a specific locale.
Formosa Betrayed | George H. Kerr
The very same book that inspired the eponymous movie.
George Kerr, largely through his insightful observation of the tragedy of the Feb. 28 Incident, 1947 and its aftermath, clearly identified the forces at work which led to the subjugation of Formosa. His careful, accurate and balanced reports went to Nanking and thence to Washington, The truth revealed in those reports, the truth about the KMT's policy and activities in Formosa, shocked those in government who saw the reports. It is regrettable that, because of the propaganda counterattack launched by the China Lobby in the United States, his reports did not gain wider public exposure. It was only in 1965 that George Kerr managed to publish Formosa Betrayed which drew much of its content from those first hand reports of his observation and encounter in Formosa during and after the Incident of February 28, 1947. 
Other Resources & Materials
The Thirty-Two Demands, presented to Governer-General Chen Yi

Why is China Attempting to Commemorate the 228 Massacre? | Brian Hioe for New Bloom
Yet we can perhaps view China’s attempt to incorporate Taiwanese history in its own as simply an age old tactic of colonizers the world over, in which it is hoped that symbolic claims about territorial integration will lead the way to something more substantive. We find something similar, for example, in that when the KMT came to Taiwan it attempted to claim Taiwan had been part of its version of China since time immemorial, in order to legitimize its political control over Taiwan as the purportedly rightful “Chinese” government-in-exile. Attempts at incorporating Taiwanese history into a broader Chinese history occurred through the use of figures such as Chinese-Japanese Ming loyalist Koxinga (downplaying Koxinga’s Japanese heritage), or attempts to paint the 1930 indigenous uprising against the Japanese, the Musha incident, as an incidence of Taiwanese indigenous rising up against the Japanese motivated by Han patriotism.
The Public Narratives Behind 228 | Kevin Hsu for Ketagalan Media
Draws comparisons between present-day Hong Kong and 1947 Taiwan
The events in Taiwan snowballed into state-sanctioned slaughter: Chinese Nationalist troops killed thousands of civilians to quell popular protest. In Hong Kong, enforcement remains a police action. While 2-28 represents one of the darkest extremes of a government’s response to citizen outrage, the confrontation in Hong Kong, though uncomfortable, has only begun.
 A Slap In The Face | Jenna Lynn Cody for Ketagalan Media
Those who venerate Chiang [Kai Shek] as a hero and view the authoritarian period with nostalgia do so not because of an intellectually honest assessment of the evidence. They do so out of a deeper instinct to protect their identity, which they have taken for granted as the default for themselves and for Taiwan: as the rightful, ‘superior’ leaders of a Mandarin-speaking, Chinese country where all citizens ought to aspire to be more like them. In this mindset, there is no room to consider that most Taiwanese have never identified this way, and that this ‘default’ identity was in fact forced on them both socially and politically by the KMT. In recent decades, as Taiwanese society has pushed for greater equality and more clearly defined itself in terms of Taiwanese, not Chinese, cultural heritage, people like Ms. Cheng perceive this change as a threat to their status, and therefore their identity.

台灣加油,
LC


The Catalogue: No. 27

Friday, February 22, 2019


Hi! LC here. 
It's probably pretty obvious we're still trying to figure out a sustainable format for The Catalogue (and I guess OCL in general). But I started The Catalogue as a way to literally catalog the digital media I was consuming. Part of that was obviously to share interesting reads (often ones that make me unspeakably angry, as inspired by a friend's newsletter comprised exclusively of the latest dumpster fires), but The Catalogue also represents a larger intention to "consciously curate" a life that is well-read and well-examined. To be real, if I didn't have the structure of these semi-weekly posts, I probably wouldn't be as compelled to seek out a more diverse, evocative set of material. I'd easily/ probably binge-listen to the Hamilton and Anastasia Broadway soundtracks during every single commute. But I am a young person determined to be wise -- which is to say, one with the desperate stamina to be better informed about this terrible, lovely world. So here we are -- this week in conscious consumption: 


PODCASTS:
This week, Amelie Wen Zhao had to self-cancel (or self-delay) her upcoming novel Blood Heir due to backlash on YA Twitter about all sorts of things, ranging from allegations of racist scenes to her own vindictiveness towards anyone who left her bad reviews. This isn’t the first time such things have happened in the YA world. Now, both the social justice and anti-SJW forces are using Zhao to advance their agendas. Jess, Diana, Oxford, and Mark discuss why the moral stakes seem so high in the YA sphere and how an Asian woman is forced to navigate it.
POETRY:
Again a Solstice | Jennifer Chang
What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I’m correcting my mistakes.
It means I don’t want to be lonely.
Unrest in Baton Rouge | Tracy K. Smith
Is it strange to say love is a language
Few practice, but all, or near all speak?
Table | You Li
What goes with the table is what needs
the table. Without the table you are burning your
fingers. Without the table you are burning money
in the park. The opposite of the table is the inverse
of the table. Vases crashing to the floor. Arms falling.
ARTICLES:
Maybe meeting a new flavor is alchemy. Today, you can’t stand it. Tomorrow, it’s all you can stand. At home, using books like Sohui Kim’s “Korean Home Cooking,” I cooked stews. Minced garlic. Read about blending the flavors—combining chilies and anchovies until the spice bloomed the way that I liked, simmering until the heat of the red pepper was present without screaming. It was a privilege, I guess, growing to care so deeply about something that had nothing to do with my life. Only now, it did.
[My stepfather] called my mom “Chopsticks.” And it was just to demean, just to make us feel less than. It also fits into the pattern of white man dominating an Asian woman who needs him in financial and legal ways. So much of that relationship and that marriage was about our citizenship. I didn’t get my citizenship until I was 14. And then they had a child the first year they were married, which is another form of control, using the child. First and foremost, for them it’s about domination and control, and racism came out of that.
Fighting for Asylum Seekers Who Look Like Me |  Kanwalroop Kaur Singh for Asian American Writers' Workshop
Everything I do is precedent. Those who look like me have not done this before. I tie my turban, and it hugs me like armor. Every day, on my way to law school, I walk past brick buildings the color of bloodstains, feeling shaken by the act of studying a legal system based upon British common law: I am the descendant of people colonized by an Empire that weaponized this very system of law against us. They used it to maim and mangle us into lesser versions of ourselves.
Periodic #1 | Franny Choi for Palette Poetry
I’m trying, with all of that in tow, to figure out how to write, now, about my body and its leakages—not just the parts that leak out of me, but the porousness of my body’s demands for coherence. That is, I’m trying to write, not how about menstruating amplifies my womanhood, but to ask: given the strangeness of gender, given that I am a woman and also a queer person of color and a cyborg and a squid and a riverbank, how might thinking about what leaks from my body help me think about other kinds of leakiness, too? Yes, it all started as a big joke, but I’m hopeful that writing with a spirit of play will help to give this series the flexibility it needs to stay unstuck in a number of ruts, including and especially trans-exclusive ones. To discard what needs to be discarded, and to prepare for what I haven’t yet begun to imagine.
 An Excerpt from The Source of Self-Regard | Toni Morrison for Shondaland
While I maintain a cool eye while reading historical texts, it is an eye no cooler than the one historians maintain, and ought to maintain when reading fiction. Yet in spite of my wariness, my skepticism, there is a dependence, solid and continuous, that I have on history, partly for the data available to me there, but mostly for precisely those gaps, those erasures, that censure. It is in the interstices of recorded history that I frequently find the "nothing" or the "not enough" or the "indistinct" or "incomplete" or "discredited" or "buried" information important to me.
Love always,
LC

What LC Read: Vol. 15

Monday, February 18, 2019



*R E C O M M E N D E D*
American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts | Chris McGreal
Note: Such a monumental feat of essential journalism. Short of (God forbid) losing someone to addiction -- which I did -- I think this is our best bet at humanizing an epidemic that was for too long criminalized, racialized, and stigmatized beyond belief. Some numbers to chew on: three-quarters of heroin users were driven to it via prescription opioids. The official count of overdose deaths caused by opioids between 1999 and 2016, which is likely an underestimation, is 350,000. By 2018, deaths from drug overdoses have risen to over 200 people a day. The United States consumes more than 80% of the world's opioid painkillers yet accounts for less than 5% of its population. This book made me so, so, so sad. I would consider it necessary reading going into the new year. 

Synopsis: The opioid epidemic has been described as "one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine." But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the world's opioid painkillers.
Journeying through lives and communities wrecked by the epidemic, Chris McGreal reveals not only how Big Pharma hooked Americans on powerfully addictive drugs, but the corrupting of medicine and public institutions that let the opioid makers get away with it. The starting point for McGreal's deeply reported investigation is the miners promised that opioid painkillers would restore their wrecked bodies, but who became targets of "drug dealers in white coats." A few heroic physicians warned of impending disaster. But American Overdose exposes the powerful forces they were up against, including the pharmaceutical industry's coopting of the Food and Drug Administration and Congress in the drive to push painkillers--resulting in the resurgence of heroin cartels in the American heartland. McGreal tells the story, in terms both broad and intimate, of people hit by a catastrophe they never saw coming. Years in the making, its ruinous consequences will stretch years into the future.

Brooklyn Antediluvian: Poems | Patrick Rosal
Note: Such good rhythm in this one. Favorites from this were "Uptown Ode That Ends On an Ode to the Machete" (if you haven't been broken by the ocean / if your own weeping doesn't split you down), "Lone Star Kundiman (For the Guy Who Seized My Arm After I Accidentally Cut the Line for the Toilet in Austin" (Truth is, I couldn't stop to consider how we both live / in a country mostly afraid of the difference between / strength and power), and the eponymous "Brooklyn Antediluvian" (Let's just say they baptize natural disasters / as if we could call them closer or coax them back... I'm the one / who believes we have ancient names / like dawnlight flashing into the dreams / of murderers and sunken into the hillsides / of countries whose shanties and projects / are named for moguls and saints, though / children down here, just as they do / everywhere: Manila, New Orleans, / Brooklyn. There's not a name that fits.) In case you're wondering, the word antediluvian refers to something antiquated. This book does not feel that way. Really fresh, urgent writing.

Synopsis: Rosal finds trouble he isn’t asking for in his unforgettable new poems, whether in New York City, Austin, Texas, or the colonized Philippines of his ancestors. But trouble is everywhere, and Rosal, acclaimed author of My American Kundiman, responds in kind, pulling no punches in his most visceral, physical collection to date. “My hand’s quick trip from my hip to your chin, across / your face, is not the first free lesson I’ve given,” Rosal writes, and it’s true—this new book is full of lessons, hard-earned, from a poet who nonetheless finds beauty in the face of violence.

*R E C O M M E N D E D*
Calling a Wolf a Wolf: Poems | Kaveh Akbar
Note: Unbelievably good. Favorites were "What Use Is Knowing Anything If No One is Around" (I love my body more / than other bodies. When I sleep next to a man, he becomes / an extension of my own brilliance. Or rather, he becomes / an echo of my own anticlimax"), "Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)" (envy is the only deadly sin that's no fun / for the sinner / this makes sadness seem more like a tradition / loyalty to / a parent's past), and "Heritage" (it's a myth / that love lives in the heart / it lives in the throat we push it out / when we speak / when we gasp we take a little for ourselves). This book makes me want to write another.

Synopsis: “In Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar exquisitely and tenaciously braids astonishment and atonement into a singular lyric voice. The desolation of alcoholism widens into hard-won insight: ‘the body is a mosque borrowed from Heaven.’ Doubt and fear spiral into grace and beauty. Akbar’s mind, like his language, is perpetually in motion. His imagery—wounded and resplendent—is masterful and his syntax ensnares and releases music that’s both delicate and muscular. Kaveh Akbar has crafted one of the best debuts in recent memory. In his hands, awe and redemption hinge into unforgettable and gorgeous poems.” —Eduardo C. Corral

The Nanny Diaries | Emma McLaughlin
Note: One day, I'll stop feeling like I have to justify picking up frothy reads, but today is not that day. I was feeling super burned out and overwhelmed by my past few selections, so I grabbed The Nanny Diaries as a quick palate cleanser. It's so good, in that voyeuristic, decadent way. My guilty pleasure is WASP-y books and ugh, what a great snack.

Synopsis: Wanted: One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless--bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Hermès bag. Those who take it personally need not apply. Who wouldn't want this job? Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn't work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day. When the X's' marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude. Written by two former nannies, The Nanny Diaries deftly punctures the glamour of Manhattan's upper class.

*R E C O M M E N D E D*
America is Not the Heart | Elaine Castillo
Synopsis: How many lives can one person lead in a single lifetime? When Hero de Vera arrives in America, disowned by her parents in the Philippines, she's already on her third. Her uncle, Pol, who has offered her a fresh start and a place to stay in the Bay Area, knows not to ask about her past. And his younger wife, Paz, has learned enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. Only their daughter Roni asks Hero why her hands seem to constantly ache.
Illuminating the violent political history of the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s and the insular immigrant communities that spring up in the suburban United States with an uncanny ear for the unspoken intimacies and pain that get buried by the duties of everyday life and family ritual, Castillo delivers a powerful, increasingly relevant novel about the promise of the American dream and the unshakable power of the past. In a voice as immediate and startling as those of Junot Diaz and NoViolet Bulawayo, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful telenovela of a debut novel. With exuberance, muscularity, and tenderness, here is a family saga; an origin story; a romance; a narrative of two nations and the people who leave home to grasp at another, sometimes turning back.

Prelude to Bruise | Saeed Jones
"Bloated with want, I'm the man who waits
for the moon to drown before I let the lake
grab my ankles & take me into its muddy mouth.
They say a city is at the bottom of all that water.
Oh, marauder. Make me a drink. I'm on my way."

How to Dance as the Roof Caves In: Poems | Nick Lantz
Synopsis: How to Dance as the Roof Caves In examines America as it faces a recession of collective mood and collective wealth. In a central sequence, the "housing bubble" reaches its bursting point when, with hilarious and biting outcomes, real estate developers hire a married couple and other down-and-out "extras" to stage a fake community to lure prospective investors. In these marvelous poems, Nick Lantz describes the changing American landscape with great imagination and sharp wit.


Bestiary: Poems | Donika Kelly
Synopsis: Across this remarkable first book are encounters with animals, legendary beasts, and mythological monsters--half human and half something else. Donika Kelly's Bestiary is a catalogue of creatures--from the whale and ostrich to the pegasus and chimera to the centaur and griffin. Among them too are poems of love, self-discovery, and travel, from "Out West" to "Back East." Lurking in the middle of this powerful and multifaceted collection is a wrenching sequence that wonders just who or what is the real monster inside this life of survival and reflection. Selected and with an introduction by the National Book Award winner Nikky Finney, Bestiary questions what makes us human, what makes us whole.

*R E C O M M E N D E D*
Silencer: Poems | Marcus Wicker
Synopsis: A suburban park, church, a good job, a cocktail party for the literati: to many, these sound like safe places, but for a young black man these insular spaces don’t keep out the news—and the actual threat—of gun violence and police brutality, or the biases that keeps body, property, and hope in the crosshairs. Continuing conversations begun by Citizen and Between the World and Me, Silencer sings out the dangers of unspoken taboos present on quiet Midwestern cul-de-sacs and in stifling professional settings, the dangers in closing the window on “a rainbow coalition of cops doing calisthenics around/a six-foot, three-hundred-fifty-pound man, choked back into the earth for what/looked a lot, to me, like sport.”
Here, the language and cadences of hip-hop and academia meet prayer—these poems are crucibles, from which emerge profound allegories and subtle elegies, sharp humor and incisive critiques.

Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals: Poems | Patricia Lockwood
Synopsis: Colloquial and incantatory, the poems in Patricia Lockwood’s second collection address the most urgent questions of our time, like: what if a deer did porn? Is America going down on Canada? What happens when Niagara Falls gets drunk at a wedding? Is it legal to marry a stuffed owl exhibit? What would Walt Whitman’s tit-pics look like? Why isn’t anyone named Gary anymore? Did the Hatfield and McCoy babies ever fall in love? The steep tilt of Lockwood’s lines sends the reader snowballing downhill, accumulating pieces of the scenery with every turn. The poems’ subject is the natural world, but their images would never occur in nature. This book is serious and funny at the same time, like a big grave with a clown lying in it.

Mad Honey Symposium | Sally Wen Mao
Synopsis: Mad Honey Symposium buzzes with lush sound and sharp imagery, creating a vivid natural world that's constantly in flux. From Venus flytraps to mad honey eaters, badgers to empowered outsiders, Sally Wen Mao's poems inhabit the precarious space between the vulnerable and the ferocious—how thin that line is, how breakable—with wonder and verve.

*R E C O M M E N D E D*
The Man with the Compound Eyes | Wu Ming-yi
Note: OMG, delicious translated Taiwanese eco-dystopia. So good.
Synopsis: On the island of Wayo Wayo, every second son must leave on the day he turns fifteen as a sacrifice to the Sea God. Atile'i is one such boy, but as the strongest swimmer and best sailor, he is determined to defy destiny and become the first to survive.
Alice Shih, who has lost her husband and son in a climbing accident, is quietly preparing to commit suicide in her house by the sea. But her plan is interrupted when a vast trash vortex comes crashing onto the shore of Taiwan, bringing Atile'i with it.
In the aftermath of the catastrophe, Atile'i and Alice retrace her late husband's footsteps into the mountains, hoping to solve the mystery of her son's disappearance. On their journey, memories will be challenged, an unusual bond formed, and a dark secret uncovered that will force Alice to question everything she thought she knew.

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What I'm Reading About China's Uighur Concentration Camps

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


The Chinese government has described the detentions as a job training program aimed at providing employment opportunities for some of the country’s poorest people. But a list of more than 100 detained Uighur scholars compiled by exiles includes many prominent poets and writers, university heads and professors of everything from anthropology to Uighur history.
The removal of high-profile Uighur scholars familiar with the Chinese government, and the country’s education and legal systems, is aimed at erasing not only the group’s unique ethnic identity but also its ability to defend such traditions, said a Uighur professor now living in Istanbul who asked not to be identified because of possible risks to family in Xinjiang.
Turkey Demands China Close 'Concentration Camps' Holding Muslim Uighurs | Cagan Koc
The detention and “re-education” of as many as 1 million minority Muslim Uighurs in China’s far west has been condemned by human rights groups and prompted calls for sanctions from U.S. lawmakers, who reject China’s assertion that the camps are voluntary education centers that help purge “ideological diseases.”
Turkey calls on other countries and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take steps to end the “humanitarian tragedy” in Xinjiang, Aksoy said.
China’s brutal crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority, explained | Jen Kirby for Vox
Uighurs speak their own language — an Asian Turkic language similar to Uzbek — and most practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. Some activists, including those who seek independence from China, refer to the region as East Turkestan.
Once situated along the ancient Silk Road trading route, Xinjiang is oil- and resource-rich. As it developed along with the rest of China, the region attracted more Han Chinese, a migration encouraged by the Chinese government.
But that demographic shift inflamed ethnic tensions, especially within some of the larger cities. In 2009, for example, riots broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, after Uighurs protested their treatment by the government and the Han majority. About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured during the unrest.
The Chinese government, however, blamed the protests on violent separatist groups — a tactic it would continue to use against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities across China.
Related:
The Exhibitionist: A guide to the Laogai Museum | Jessica Goldstein for Washington Post
Mao Zedong, inspired by the Soviet gulag model, instituted the Laogai system of forced labor in China in 1949. The Chinese Communist Party does not officially acknowledge the Laogai camps, which continue to operate.
“Reeducation through labor” The museum describes how prisoners in the Laogai are physically and psychologically coerced into accepting Communist Party ideology. “Laojiao,” which means “reeducation through labor,” is a type of administrative detention. Prisoners can be held for up to four years without formal conviction or judicial due process.
Former inmates of China’s Muslim ‘reeducation’ camps tell of brainwashing, torture | Simon Denyer for Washington Post
Inmates had to learn the national anthem and red songs, he said, as well as slogans condemning the “three evil forces” of separatism, extremism and terrorism. “There were so many things to recite, and if you couldn’t recite them, they wouldn’t allow you to eat, sleep or sit,” he said. “They brainwash you; you must become like a robot. Listen to whatever the party says, listen to the party’s words, follow the party.” Some inmates committed suicide, Bekali said. In one report, RFA quoted a Chinese official as justifying the widespread detentions in blunt terms. “You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one — you need to spray chemicals to kill them all,” the official was quoted as saying. “Reeducating these people is like spraying chemicals on the crops. That is why it is a general reeducation, not limited to a few people.”
China's Hidden Camps | BBC News
There is no mention of the grounds on which the students have been chosen for this “study” or how long the courses last.
But there are clues.
The interviews sound more like confessions.
“I have deeply understood my own mistakes,” one man tells the camera, vowing to be a good citizen “after I get home”.
The main purpose of these facilities, we're told, is to combat extremism, through a mixture of legal theory, work skills and Chinese language training.
That last item shows that whatever you want to call them - schools or camps - the intended target is the same.
The facilities are exclusively for Xinjiang's Muslim minorities, many of whom do not speak Chinese as their mother tongue.
‘Reeducating’ Xinjiang’s Muslims | James Millward for The New York Review of Books
Since 1949, Chinese policies have tended to undermine indigenous Uighur Islam and to enforce, through the party-controlled Islamic Association of China, an idealized version of Islam modeled in part on Sunni practice as promoted by Saudi Arabia. Besides reflecting Beijing’s diplomatic ties with Riyadh, these policies may echo a traditional Chinese notion, derived from experience with Buddhistic millenarianism, that religions have safe “orthodox” and dangerous “heterodox” expressions. Although the CCP has since reversed course and rails against the dangers of “Arabization,” it has not revised its intolerance of Sufi practices in Uighur Islam. By repressing Uighur culture and discriminating against Uighurs, and inadvertently promoting a version of Islam more in line with Saudi practice, the PRC government has increased the attractiveness to Uighurs of Salafi ideas from outside while undermining indigenous defenses against such an ideology. Rahile Dawut, an internationally renowned ethnographer and scholar of Uighur culture and religion at Xinjiang University, could have explained this to Chinese authorities—but she was disappeared in late 2017, another victim of the current mass internment.
China’s Gulag for Muslims | Mustafa Akyol for The New York Times Opinion
There are three answers [to Muslim lenience towards China]. One is that coziness with China, the world’s second-largest economic power, pays. Moreover, China does not shy away from offering its economic assistance as hush money.
A second reason for Muslim silence is that the Chinese government crackdown on Uighurs is based on a premise that law and order can be restored by eradicating enemies of the government and traitors within a society. This is authoritarian language that most Muslim leaders understand well. It is their own language. The third reason is that most Muslims who are likely to feel solidarity with their oppressed coreligionists think of the oppressors as “the West,” defined as the capitalist, hedonist, Zionist civilization led by the Great Satan. These Muslims, particularly the Islamists, believe that all of their coreligionists should unite with other anti-Western forces — a stance that evokes Samuel Huntington’s prediction of a “Confucian-Islamic” alliance against the West in his 1993 article in “Foreign Affairs” titled “The Clash of Civilizations?”

At a loss for words ATM. Heart is heavy.
LC

The Catalogue: No. 25

Monday, February 11, 2019

We mainlanders had a similar reaction to the Hong Kong that we saw in the movies and music videos of the eighties. A life so pampered, while enviable and thrilling, was also morally suspect, reeking of bourgeois individualism and other Western frivolities, such as democracy. In the decades since the handover, mainlanders who once eagerly anticipated the return of Hong Kong have visited this other China and been shunned the moment they open their mouths. The long-lost relatives have been reunited only to find that they have little in common.
Actor Rob Lowe: I was my sick mother's caregiver, don't underestimate the stress caregivers face | USA Today 
Many caregivers aren’t as lucky as I was. A recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving found that a third of caregivers in America do it alone, without any paid or unpaid help — and this uphill battle can lead to a domino effect of health and financial problems for the caregivers themselves.
When you’re caring for a loved one, there’s nothing you won’t do (or sacrifice) to give them as much comfort and peace of mind as you can possibly provide. Often, that means you’ll skip your social obligations, wreck your diet, suffer sleep deprivation, and even risk your career, all to help a loved one through the most difficult time of their life.
Related (mine): Self Care for Caregivers
You can do this. You are so good and brave, and you will never, ever regret this kindness. Do a little bit of what you love when you can. Step back when you need to. You will get through it all. You are the person someone prayed for. You are the reason someone is still alive. You are more than this role. Your life is still your own.

Missing Hope: A Trio of Miscarriages, and What Happened After | Laura Turner for Catapult 
Most of all, they don’t tell you that fear, to reverse a phrase from C. S. Lewis, will feel so like grief, and so you begin to mourn what you have not yet lost, because mourning prematurely is the only way to protect yourself from hope. You steel yourself against strangers who ask when you are due, against diaper commercials and well-meant but too-early baby gifts, against advice from friends about what to do once he’s here. You don’t understand, you think. He will never be here.
The End of the American Chinatown | Alana Semuels for The Atlantic
The developments in Chinatowns may appear to preserve some of this culture, but the new restaurants and apartments are sometimes so expensive that they are no longer accessible to the people who created the community in the first place. In Los Angeles, for instance, the Blossom Plaza apartment complex has red lanterns hanging in the courtyard, which allows Brookfield Properties, which owns the building, to advertise “the look you want in a Chinatown LA apartment.” But even the Blossom Plaza apartments that are set aside as “affordable” may be too expensive for current Chinatown residents; a studio for one person is targeted at people with an income of $20,350, while the median household income in Chinatown is $19,500. Residents of 651 Broadway told me that some of the stores they had depended on are getting pushed out, including two low-cost grocery stores. Instead, there are boba tea shops, art galleries, a wine bar, and a much-heralded new Asian fusion restaurant that features a $144 steak. The neighborhoods may still look like Chinatowns, Leong said, but are really just “Disneyfied” versions of the neighborhoods they once were.
Esmé Weijun Wang on Karaoke, Work Ethic, and Returning to Fiction | R.O. Kwon for Lit Hub
My relationship with ambition is complicated, and you’re right that it’s so different to have ambition for the work itself, versus ambition for what happens with the work once it’s out in the world. I don’t love this about myself, but a lot of my ambition is driven by a form of recognition; it’s also true, though, that I want the work itself to be impeccable, and for it to be up to my own standards. And I’ve also been questioning, lately, whether ambition is even a “good” characteristic to begin with, or if it’s just another outcome of a capitalist society, such as having a strong work ethic. But for now, it’s still a part of me. It still drives me, and I like that it’s a part of me. 

Love always,
LC

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