4 Habits for Early Career Confidence

Friday, July 24, 2020


I'm hesitant to write some smug listicle insinuating that I've got my professional life all figured out and feel qualified to give advice -- because that's really, really not the intention here. But I've been mildly successful by most standards and extraordinarily lucky, and thought it worth at least documenting some habits that have helped me feel really confident in my career.

01 | Default to independence. 
There are no truly stupid questions. But consider that you might be wasting someone's time.
I personally have a lot of patience in answering questions but inordinate social anxiousness in asking them, which means I don't usually turn to colleagues and managers until I've exhausted all other options (i.e., Googling, searching through Confluence, etc.). The good news is that most questions - especially technical/logistical ones - can be answered this way; the better news is that by trying to solve problems yourself, people think you're scrappy and self-sufficient. Save your face time for thoughtful, critical questions (or even small talk to develop better relationships) and try to figure simple things out on your own. It's not impressive or interesting when it's obvious that you haven't done basic research!

02 | Manage upwards through positive reinforcements.
Be communicative about managerial behavior that resonates with you; for example, if you appreciate when someone consistently credits your efforts in team meetings, Slack them to let them know! Start adopting no-nonsense language like, "I liked hearing you say [...] because..." or "it's helpful for me to know [...] because..." I've been lucky to have great managers, but I've also (hopefully) taken a proactive approach in developing a rapport that works for both of us. I figure the clearer I can be with what I need/want, the easier I am to deal with and accommodate. I've gotten so many opportunities that wouldn't exist if I hadn't explicitly expressed an interest in them. Assume that most managers have a "help me help you" mentality, so do that! If you want to be fast-tracked for a promotion, tell them what specific qualities/milestones you want to achieve (client meetings with executive visibility, project management, etc.) on a certain timeline so they can plug you into the right projects.

03 | Become known for an exceptional skill.
Even if that exceptional skill is being generous, thoughtful, and compassionate (arguably more valuable than knowing how to debug code!). Something that seems minor and inconsequential - like having good handwriting - still helps associate you with immediate, practical value - like being a top-of-mind participant in whiteboarding sessions. Volunteer often and eagerly for tasks you know you're good at (and hopefully enjoy). Become reliable, trustworthy, and - most importantly - requested for the skills and perspectives you uniquely offer. Always aspire to be known for work that elevates your standing and character. If you haven't figured out your personal value proposition yet, try to identify a missing skill set on the team and work hard to take its place.

04 | Aspire for and define work-life balance beyond time investment.
I've come to realize that work-life balance is only partially about the number of hours in/out of office. I'm pretty sure I set the record for most PTO taken last fiscal year (we have a flex policy that I am VERY generous with), but this feels most meaningful when I don't consider my life in an at-work/not-at-work binary. I've written about productive days off before, saying that I'm deeply unhappy when I feel defined by a 9-to-5 career; [but] I also can't live without the stability of one. Personal days feel like a happy compromise that have completely revitalized and enhanced every aspect of my career and life beyond it. But in addition, it's also taken me a while (and it's still an ongoing consideration to wrestle with) to not equate the prestige of my workplace with my personal worth. There are honestly times I believe that the unexpected way my career played out (I had a lot of ambitions as a college student and this extremely corporate gig was not remotely one of them) was a God-given lesson in humility, trust, and ego. I'm still snooty and elitist and pretentious in many awful, flawed ways; I've also given myself the grace to just succeed in and steward whatever opportunity I'm given. Work-life balance for me at this moment means that I feel valuable, loved, appreciated, and competent regardless of how the workday went, or what my resume looks like, or how my salary ranks (cries in Bay Area cost of living). I couldn't imagine being in this mindset as a college student. It has done wonders for my sense of self (in additional to that $0 co-pay for therapy because amazing corporate health insurance!!). 
That being said, I'm often very behind on emails - especially because I freelance - but that's just how things go sometimes. Shrugs. 

I hope the title conveys my sincerity - that I don't always feel traditionally successful, but I've developed so much career confidence. And I'm finding this, after job security/stability, to matter much more than I ever realized. I wish this for everyone.

xo,
LC

What LC Read: Summery Contemporary Fiction

Monday, July 20, 2020

San Francisco, CA, USA

Are we bored of my "I'm actually a very serious reader but occasionally give into long, frothy benders in chick lit" apologetics yet? If only y'all understood how horrified I imagine my academic, cerebral, intellectual, handsome grandfather would be if he knew that his descendents had their noses in decadent contemporary literature. It's on my list of things to dissect in therapy, but I'm afraid we're backlogged at the moment because I'm in my mid-twenties and therefore in a permanent state of crisis. I will get back into a reading habit that will make my Chiang lineage proud soon, I promise! But for now, the yummy summer reads I've (very, very, verrrrrrry guiltily) read this month:

One to Watch: A Novel by [Kate Stayman-London]

One to Watch: A Novel | Kate Stayman-London
Synopsis: Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

LC Notes: UghHHH I hate that I really enjoyed this book, but that's against me + my oft-mentioned childhood trauma about reading chick lit. I don't watch any Bachelor-type shows, so no immediate points there, but I surprisingly liked the ultra-modern format of this. The plot is interspersed with secondary context - podcast transcripts, emails, horrible Instagram comments, etc - which typically reads a bit cheesy but worked really well here. Perfect pacing. Recommend! 4/5

Happy and You Know It by [Laura Hankin]

Happy and You Know It | Laura Hankin
Synopsis: After her former band shot to superstardom without her, Claire reluctantly agrees to a gig as a playgroup musician for wealthy infants on New York's Park Avenue. Claire is surprised to discover that she is smitten with her new employers, a welcoming clique of wellness addicts with impossibly shiny hair, who whirl from juice cleanse to overpriced miracle vitamins to spin class with limitless energy.

There is perfect hostess Whitney who is on the brink of social-media stardom and just needs to find a way to keep her flawless life from falling apart. Caustically funny, recent stay-at-home mom Amara who is struggling to embrace her new identity. And old money, veteran mom Gwen who never misses an opportunity to dole out parenting advice. But as Claire grows closer to the stylish women who pay her bills, she uncovers secrets and betrayals that no amount of activated charcoal can fix.

Filled with humor and shocking twists, Happy and You Know It is a brilliant take on motherhood – exposing it as yet another way for society to pass judgment on women – while also exploring the baffling magnetism of curated social-media lives that are designed to make us feel unworthy. But, ultimately, this dazzling novel celebrates the unlikely bonds that form, and the power that can be unlocked, when a group of very different women is thrown together when each is at her most vulnerable.

LC Notes: I don't know why I'm fascinated with the unrelatable concerns of the elite, but I am - especially if they're wealthy, wildly insecure mothers. Bonus points if they're mommy bloggers. A juicy little read to plow through in a single sitting if you liked Big Little Lies, The Nanny Diaries -- that sort of thing. Recommend (but with managed expectations that this won't change your life or anything)! 3/5

Sex and Vanity: A Novel by [Kevin Kwan]

Sex & Vanity | Kevin Kwan
Synopsis: On her very first morning on the jewel-like island of Capri, Lucie Churchill sets eyes on George Zao and she instantly can't stand him. She can't stand it when he gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with her so that she can have a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea, she can't stand that he knows more about Casa Malaparte than she does, and she really can't stand it when he kisses her in the darkness of the ancient ruins of a Roman villa and they are caught by her snobbish, disapproving cousin Charlotte. "Your mother is Chinese so it's no surprise you'd be attracted to someone like him," Charlotte teases. The daughter of an American-born Chinese mother and a blue-blooded New York father, Lucie has always sublimated the Asian side of herself in favor of the white side, and she adamantly denies having feelings for George. But several years later, when George unexpectedly appears in East Hampton, where Lucie is weekending with her new fiancé, Lucie finds herself drawn to George again. Soon, Lucie is spinning a web of deceit that involves her family, her fiancé, the co-op board of her Fifth Avenue apartment building, and ultimately herself as she tries mightily to deny George entry into her world--and her heart. Moving between summer playgrounds of privilege, peppered with decadent food and extravagant fashion, Sex and Vanity is a truly modern love story, a daring homage to A Room with a View, and a brilliantly funny comedy of manners set between two cultures.

LC Notes: All of the outrageous decadence and otherworldly philosophies of Crazy Rich Asians without Rachel Chu's tempering reality check. We are decidedly not in the right climate to sympathize with gazillionaires (though, have we ever been?) and somehow... I still did? Like, I genuinely felt some human connection with the protagonist, whose hardships are both unfathomable (I can't even get *one* billionaire to propose to me!) and endearingly unoriginal (caught in between two cultures! A revelation indeed!). Of course I breezed through Sex & Vanity as soon as my local library had it. Of course I'll do the same with the next two in the trilogy. Recommend! Of course, of course. 3/5

If I Had Your Face: A Novel by [Frances Cha]

If I Had Your Face: A Novel | Frances Cha
Synopsis: Kyuri is an achingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a Seoul “room salon,” an exclusive underground bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake threatens her livelihood.
Kyuri’s roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the heir to one of the country’s biggest conglomerates.
Down the hall in their building lives Ara, a hairstylist whose two preoccupations sustain her: an obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that she hopes will change her life.
And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to have a baby that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise in Korea’s brutal economy.
Together, their stories tell a gripping tale at once unfamiliar and unmistakably universal, in which their tentative friendships may turn out to be the thing that ultimately saves them.

LC Notes: I was really looking forward to this because it was so highly lauded by Korean American bloggers I follow, but somehow I just didn't connect with any of the characters - probably because it flits between different perspectives and we all know I'm not intelligent enough for that! I also think there's still a stubborn little part of me that believes vanity is a personal, rather than social or cultural, flaw despite the author's attempts at explaining otherwise. I think it's a solid book with an interesting premise, I just struggled to stay engaged throughout. 3/5

Pretty Things: A Novel by [Janelle Brown]

Pretty Things: A Novel | Janelle Brown
Synopsis: Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.
Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.
This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.

LC Notes: Okay, so look: if you liked The Italian Job, but also that juicy expose on Anna Delvey, and are also secretly interested in influencer gossip, you'll love Pretty Things. Another quick read that's entertaining but not life-changing. 4/5

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho

Last Tang Standing | Lauren Ho
Synopsis: At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: she has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore’s hottest clubs and restaurants. All she has to do is make partner at her law firm and she will have achieved everything she (and her mother) has ever worked for. So what if she’s poised to be the last unmarried member of her generation of the Tang clan? She doesn’t need a man to feel fulfilled, no matter what her meddling relatives have to say about it.

But for a dutiful Chinese-Malaysian daughter, the weight of familial expectations is hard to ignore. And so are the men life keeps throwing in Andrea’s path. Men like Suresh Aditparan, her annoyingly attractive rival for partner and the last man she should be spending time with, and Eric Deng, a wealthy entrepreneur whose vision for their future is more lavish than she could have imagined. With her workplace competition growing ever more intense, her friends bringing dramas of their own to her door, and her family scrutinizing her every romantic prospect, Andrea finds herself stretched to the breaking point. And she can’t help but wonder: In the endless tug-of-war between pleasing others and pleasing herself, is there room for everyone to win?

LC Notes: Described as the Asian version of Bridget Jones's Diary. I've never seen Bridget Jones's Diary, but I'm guessing its Asian adaptation would have an even more intense matriarchy and every character would have graduated from a top-tier university. Sorry, not top-tier. The literal, singular top. I've also read comments calling this book out for being classist/colorist/generally problematic, and I definitely get those critiques, but I think they're just openly acknowledged elements of the flawed humanity suggested in Last Tang Standing. Book cover reminds me a lot of Crazy Rich Asians, but weirdly they were done by different designers.

ps,
I'm trying not to be a consumerist shill - especially not an Amazon one - but there's a new Kindle Paperwhite in a gorgeous plum color (looks pink to me, idk)! I've really, really loved my Kindle Paperwhite (an older model, college graduation gift) so won't be purchasing, but definitely recommend looking into buying one to load library books onto.

2020 YTD: Books of the Year

Saturday, June 20, 2020


LC has a newsletter now! Subscribe/read here.




NONFICTION | > 4 STARS


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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup | John Carreyrou
The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of a multibillion-dollar startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and her lawyers.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.
For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company's value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley.
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Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change | John Lewis 
Although it has been decades since the historic social upheavals of the 1960s, Americans continue to look to the Civil Rights Movement as the apotheosis of political expression. With an engaged electorate once again confronting questions of social inequality, there's no better time to revisit the lessons of the '60s and no better leader to learn from than Congressman John Lewis. In Across That Bridge, Lewis draws from his experience as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement to offer timeless guidance to anyone seeking to live virtuously and transform the world. His wisdom, poignant recollections, and powerful ideas will inspire a new generation to usher in a freer, more peaceful society. The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.
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Uncanny Valley: A Memoir | Anna Wiener 
The prescient, page-turning account of a journey in Silicon Valley: a defining memoir of our digital age
In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial--left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.
Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.
Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener’s memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment.
Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand.
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Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity | Peggy Orenstein

Drawing on comprehensive interviews with young men, psychologists, academics, and experts in the field, Boys & Sex dissects so-called locker room talk; how the word “hilarious” robs boys of empathy; pornography as the new sex education; boys’ understanding of hookup culture and consent; and their experience as both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. By surfacing young men’s experience in all its complexity, Orenstein is able to unravel the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important realities of young male sexuality in today’s world.
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Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World | Anand Giridharadas
Former New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas takes us into the inner sanctums of a new gilded age, where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can--except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it. We see how they rebrand themselves as saviors of the poor; how they lavishly reward "thought leaders" who redefine "change" in winner-friendly ways; and how they constantly seek to do more good, but never less harm. We hear the limousine confessions of a celebrated foundation boss; witness an American president hem and haw about his plutocratic benefactors; and attend a cruise-ship conference where entrepreneurs celebrate their own self-interested magnanimity.
Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. A call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.
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Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation Into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints | Sam Brower
From the private investigator who cracked open the case that led to the arrest of Warren Jeffs, the maniacal prophet of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), comes the page-turning, horrifying story of how a rogue sect used sex, money, and power disguised under a facade of religion to further criminal activities and a madman's vision.
Despite considerable press coverage and a lengthy trial, the full story has remained largely untold. Only one man can reveal the whole, astounding truth: Sam Brower, the private investigator who devoted years of his life to breaking open the secret practices of the FLDS and bringing Warren Jeffs and his inner circle to justice. In Prophet's Prey, Brower implicates Jeffs in his own words, bringing to light the contents of Jeffs's personal priesthood journal, discovered in a hidden underground vault, and revealing to readers the shocking inside world of FLDS members, whose trust he earned and who showed him the staggering truth of their lives.
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church | Rachel Held Evans
Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn't want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals--church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.
Centered around seven sacraments, Evans' quest takes readers through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.
A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, Searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.
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Code Blue: Inside America's Medical Industrial Complex | Dr. Mike Magee 
"Code Blue" is the phrase customarily announced over hospital public address systems to alert staff to an urgent medical emergency requiring immediate attention. How has the United States, with more resources than any nation, developed a healthcare system that delivers much poorer results, at near double the cost of any other developed country--such that legendary seer Warren Buffett calls the Medical Industrial Complex "the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness"? Mike Magee, M.D., who worked for years inside the Medical Industrial Complex administering a hospital and then as a senior executive at the giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has spent the last decade deconstructing the complex, often shocking rise of, and connectivity between, the pillars of our health system--Big Pharma, insurance companies, hospitals, the American Medical Association, and anyone affiliated with them. With an eye first and foremost on the bottom line rather than on the nation's health, each sector has for decades embraced cure over care, aiming to conquer disease rather than concentrate on the cultural and social factors that determine health. This decision Magee calls the "original sin" of our health system.
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 Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis | J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

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Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning | Cathy Park Hong
A ruthlessly honest, emotionally charged exploration of the psychological condition of being Asian American, by an award-winning poet and essayist
Asian Americans inhabit a purgatorial status: neither white enough nor black enough, unmentioned in most conversations about racial identity. In the popular imagination, Asian Americans are all high-achieving professionals. But in reality, this is the most economically divided group in the country, a tenuous alliance of people with roots from South Asia to East Asia to the Pacific Islands, from tech millionaires to service industry laborers. How do we speak honestly about the Asian American condition—if such a thing exists?
Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively confronts this thorny subject, blending memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity.
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The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism | Katherine Stewart
For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. But in her deeply reported investigation, Katherine Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: America's Religious Right has evolved into a Christian nationalist movement. It seeks to gain political power and impose its vision on society. It isn't fighting a culture war; it is waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy.
Stewart shows that the real power of the movement lies in a dense network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and pastoral organizations, embedded in a rapidly expanding community of international alliances with like-minded, anti-democratic religious nationalists around the world, including Russia. She follows the money behind the movement and traces much of it to a group of super-wealthy, ultra-conservative donors and family foundations. The Christian nationalist movement is far more organized and better funded than most people realize. It seeks to control all aspects of government and society. Its successes have been stunning, and its influence now extends to every aspect of American life, from the White House to state capitols, from our schools to our hospitals.
FICTION | > 4 STARS

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Last Tang Standing | Lauren Ho
Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones's Diary in this funny and irresistible debut novel about the pursuit of happiness, surviving one's thirties intact, and opening oneself up to love.
At thirty-three, Andrea Tang is living the dream: she has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore's hottest clubs and restaurants. All she has to do is make partner at her law firm and she will have achieved everything she (and her mother) has ever worked for. So what if she's poised to be the last unmarried member of her generation of the Tang clan? She doesn't need a man to feel fulfilled, no matter what her meddling relatives have to say about it.
But for a dutiful Chinese-Malaysian daughter, the weight of familial expectations is hard to ignore. And so are the men life keeps throwing in Andrea's path. Men like Suresh Aditparan, her annoyingly attractive rival for partner and the last man she should be spending time with, and Eric Deng, a wealthy entrepreneur whose vision for their future is more lavish than she could have imagined. With her workplace competition growing ever more intense, her friends bringing dramas of their own to her door, and her family scrutinizing her every romantic prospect, Andrea finds herself stretched to the breaking point. And she can't help but wonder: In the endless tug-of-war between pleasing others and pleasing herself, is there room for everyone to win?
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The Antidote For Everything | Kimmery Martin
In this whip-smart and timely novel from acclaimed author Kimmery Martin, two doctors travel a surprising path when they must choose between treating their patients and keeping their jobs.
Georgia Brown’s profession as a urologist requires her to interact with plenty of naked men, but her romantic prospects have fizzled. The most important person in her life is her friend Jonah Tsukada, a funny, empathetic family medicine doctor who works at the same hospital in Charleston, South Carolina and who has become as close as family to her.
Just after Georgia leaves the country for a medical conference, Jonah shares startling news. The hospital is instructing doctors to stop providing medical care for transgender patients. Jonah, a gay man, is the first to be fired when he refuses to abandon his patients. Stunned by the predicament of her closest friend, Georgia’s natural instinct is to fight alongside him. But when her attempts to address the situation result in incalculable harm, both Georgia and Jonah find themselves facing the loss of much more than their careers.


"We Are Not The Same" & Pan-Ethnic Allyship: Writing from the "I"

Friday, May 29, 2020

San Francisco, CA, USA

Update: here's a piece I co-wrote with Christina Hu for TaiwaneseAmerican.org on the specific role of Taiwanese Americans in allyship with Black Americans (obviously borrows a lot from various other things I wrote because I'm tired.)

*A huge body of consideration in think pieces like this is the use of "we" and what that implies - am I being broadly inclusive (at the risk of erasing critical nuance)? Am I diminishing personal accountability? Am I trying to speak on behalf of others? While I figure out those questions, I've edited the following to replace "we" with "I" - even when I'm addressing my community (the parameters of which I'm still wrestling with).

I thought about the idea of pan-ethnic allyship a lot when Taiwanese Americans were trying to distance themselves from Chinese and Chinese Americans in order to deflect COVID-related racism. You can read my full "statement" here from TaiwaneseAmerican.org, but the point is this: comprehensive respect for the ways we are different - in immigration histories, in average socioeconomic status, in access to resources - creates accountability for us to do more for each other, to have more compassion and understanding. Evoking our differences does not give us permission to walk away.

I suggest, gently, that "Asian American solidarity" risks being performative when I am not actually leaning into hard, heartbreaking conversations about myself and those around me. I can re-post the graphics and retweet "for visibility" - I'm not accusing myself of virtue-signaling under the guise of progressive activism. For me, these small acts combat helplessness, and I wholeheartedly think that I'm doing what I believe is right given the circumstances. 

But I wish my activism - or simply, my life, my humanity - dug deeper into questions like whether my parents - or myself, even - fully grasp the Jim Crow legacy; whether my infatuation with my place in the American dream prevents me from recognizing that meritocracy is a myth. I wish I didn't lean into "immigrant narratives" as a proxy for self-awareness; I wish I didn't perform my foreignness for admissions officers, or rely on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for editors to pay attention to stories like mine. 

(But wait, there's more.)

I wish pan-Asian community building didn't sacrifice careful inspection of the many ways we are not the same. Newer waves of moneyed Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese immigrants critically benefit from - but in most cases, didn't actually contribute to - the labor of earlier working-class Chinese communities: the creation of Chinese tongs, participation in the 1968 San Francisco State strike for ethnic studies, movements for housing rights, bi-lingual education, etc. And that's just among the East Asians. It's not my place to speak on behalf of South and Southeast Asians, but it doesn't really take being the sharpest tool to understand that the refugee and the H1B-holder have vastly different trajectories. And as there are "good" and "bad" Asians from the white perspective, we've also internalized and expanded upon similar dichotomies through our own criteria: are they upwardly mobile? Are they "legal" residents? Are they involved in communities of faith? Do they receive government assistance? Do they have a history of gang violence? We might even carry on state grudges into personal convictions (ahem at diasporic Taiwanese!) 

I can believe, with all my heart, that "yellow peril supports black power" - but to be real - how much do I understand the gravity of "yellow peril?" Am I truly willing to participate in a resistance equally invested in refugee rights as media representation? Do I know what that even looks like? Can I sustain that level of critique? Have I ever given Hmong Americans, Laotian Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Pacific Islanders, and everyone outside my little East Asian bubble their due consideration? Have I ever bothered to learn their histories, their circumstances, their community issues?

I am so frustrated by my all-in desperation to be included in things without the maturity to do the work. I am so easily resentful of generalizations when they try to tell me what I am (Asian Americans are industrious, Asian American women routinely date white men), yet so eager to accept them when they offer me credit (Asian Americans for Black Lives Matter).

I'm still marinating in something Bobblehaus co-founder said: "the conversation comes first." There are of course instances where the window for dialogue has long gone, and lives are at stake and everything is literally a matter of life and death. But I believe we can show up - in our physical presence, in our financial support, in our decision to pass the mic to our black peers - while talking among ourselves about the issues we've long ignored.

With that being said, I defer to this: 

You don’t need to be a Hmong scholar to understand the differences between the lives in a refugee community who have spent much of the past fifty years in poverty and the life of an upwardly mobile East Asian whose family came over on a skilled worker or student visa and quickly found a foothold in a town with a good school system. Hmongs and wealthy East Asians do not share a history, except at some point, one of them was oppressing the other. They also do not “benefit from White Supremacy” in the same way. Any category that includes both of them fails, mostly because wealthy East Asians define “Asian American” through their own personalized politics. So, why would the Hmong community have to carry the guilt burdens of wealthy Chinese, Korean and Japanese immigrants? And why, for God’s sake, do upwardly mobile Chinese, Korean and Japanese immigrants feel the need to launder their own class guilt through the Hmongs? It’s all nonsense.
None of this excuses Tou Thao. The point, rather, is this: Professional Asian Americans almost never reach out to populations like the Hmongs, except in the most cursory, box-checking ways. There is no “examination of our communities” because we — the wealthy East Asians — never really considered them part of our communities anyway.
xo,
LC 

LC: January & February Adventures in Review

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

San Francisco, CA, USA
First post of the year! And it's not literature-related!
It feels a bit indulgent to be recapping two uncharacteristically fun months as we brace ourselves for an indefinite period of social isolation. Earlier in the year, I wanted to focus my time on faith, family, and my flex PTO (yes, she still loves a good alliteration). I'm so grateful I was lucky enough to make meaningful use of all three, and I wanted to document a bit of it as a personal reminder to always pursue fullness and adventure in my life. Better yet, I've done it primarily in photos to spare you all my sentimental prattling.

JANUARY
Bay Area adventuring with friends from Taiwan and the UK!
Two particularly photogenic fixtures in the bay area: Palace of Fine Arts and Stanford Memorial Chapel.
Lessons gleaned from a Trader Joe's picnic on the beach: (1) hummus is actually extraordinary and I don't know why I used to dislike it, (2) pressed celery juicy is a scam, (3) if sand gets in your dip, just pretend it's seasoning and carry on.


FEBRUARY
Literally the best time of the year because MY SISTER WAS HOME. Her winter holiday ended up a few weeks longer than expected because of COVID-related postponements, but we adore having our girl around. 
I really, truly don't deserve JC, who brought home an entire suitcase of treats and stationery from her recent trips to South Korea and Japan. Among the treasure trove: official paraphernalia from President Tsai's (successful!) 2020 presidential campaign, another Taiwan-themed water bottle, probably every single flavor of Kit Kat to grace East Asia, a lifetime supply of swordfish floss from my Kaohsiung Amma. 
Stickers were immediately put to good use by someone much cuter and worthier than me. 

We also did a short trip to Texas for more children to squeeze! Our cousins are half a generation older than us, so JC and I were probably the first babies they held as teenagers. It is so surreal to now be cuddling their kids. 
Our attempts to eat cleanly post-Super Bowl Southern hospitality were thwarted pretty much immediately by the prospect of dessert. And then again by tacos. And once more by pre-flight Whattaburger. Maybe we shouldn't move to Texas (though we desperately want to! See babies above for Exhibit A of our reasons why!). 


Back in California, an *unreal* little tour and tasting at a private winery. A friend of a friend produces and stores small-batch California wine in a cave they had literally carved into the hillside of their estate. I don't know how else to describe the absurdity and grandeur of the situation, but I'm now much more inclined to accept the next suspicious invitation that comes my way.
Hamilton with JC! A few days later, we shipped her back to Taiwan, laden with N95 respirator masks. Please don't talk to me about her departure, as it's still a very tender topic for me. (Kidding, but we do miss her terribly and are glad that she seems much safer there than here.)

Birthday dinner for the best mum in the entire world of mums!

Not pictured: the few Lunar New Year banquets that weren't cancelled, a smorgasboard of miscellaneous babies to cuddle (after 20+ years of really not liking children, the tables have turned!), a successful Mission Peak hike.

It's so surreal to be posting this six weeks deep into being sheltered-in-place, but I'm thankful to have entered this period of scarcity and anxiety feeling so abundantly loved and cared for.

LC


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