Los Angeles Review of Books:: The Dehumanizing Politics of Likability

I am not saying that we should all write about serial killers who crucify kittens. But likability hinges on respectability, which is another way of saying a “likable” character is one whose presence and portrayal does not make us uncomfortable, does not rock the status quo. When we privilege likability, whether in literature or in life, we limit our emotional range to that which is agreeable and repress the most compassionate parts of ourselves. 

Catapult:: Borders and Citizens

We are citizens of a nation or two by virtue of blood and family, our most primal roots. We define our power and identity by our origins. To take up citizenship in another country is to naturalize: to be made natural, normal. In this framework, to immigrate is to move away from our origins, break with our lineage, and become unnatural and alien, which is aberrant to many who subscribe to the idea of a patrilineal homeland.

Los Angeles Review of Books:: The Walls Speak: Excavating the Chinese Immigrant Experience at Angel Island

My contribution to the corpus of Angel Island literature outlined below is a volume of original, English-language poems that imagine what these women might have said. I used the stories gathered in these books as well as the labyrinth of exclusion laws to develop my work. In writing fiction that is rooted in historical and cultural facts, I aimed for larger truths about the effects of unjust policies on the lives of real people.

Literary Hub:: On Tenacity

I began reading Louise Glück’s poems around the time I handed in the final draft of my first book. Now I can see that the book was a culmination of a decade of work and obsession, but at the time, without the manuscript to anchor my thoughts, I felt adrift. I had to come down from the high of achieving what I had set out to do and had to face the blank page again.

The Millions:: Airplane Reading

I travel often, whether for work or for pleasure, and on these short flights I see the proverbial light at the end of the aluminum tunnel before we depart, as long as I have earplugs and something to keep me occupied. I cannot seem to work or write, though I wish I could — imagine how much I could get done. What I need, I have found, is a good book. But there is airplane reading and airplane reading.

Guernica:: Split

On March 11, 2011, the day an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s Honshu Island, I saw Allison Smith’s mixed media installation Piece Work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. At the center of the exhibit was a collection of Smith’s handmade renditions of cloth gas masks used during the First World War.

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