Multiplying the Meaning of Asian American on ‘Still Processing’

Two Asian Americans chat over some Starbucks. (Photo credit: Roger Kisby / New York Times)

By Guest Contributor: Yaoyao Liu

Editor’s Note: This post is the first in a series by Yaoyao Liu, reflecting on an episode of the “Still Processing” podcast on Asian American identity.

I’ve only been listening to the Still Processing podcast, hosted by New York Times culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, for the past couple of months. In that time, however, I’ve devoured their pertinent and thoughtful episodes so quickly that I’m almost done listening to the entire archive. I was already looking forward to their episode on Asian Americans in the today’s cultural landscape, and was even more excited when I realized it was going to be a two-part episode featuring a number of special guests. This morning on the bus, I just finished up the first segment, “Asian-Americans Talk About Racism, and We Listen – Part 1.

From Amy Chua’s account of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; to Emily Yoshida’s discussion of coming to terms with her mixed identity; to Pablo Torre and Andrew Ti emphasizing the colorism inherent in model minority stereotypes — the episode highlighted that the term “Asian American” can refer to a diversity of experiences. Nonetheless, I appreciated that Jenna and Wesley started off the episode with some definite commonalities: name mispronunciations, feeling protective of immigrant parents, and alienating vertigo that sometimes comes out of vacillating between cultures imagined to be wholly separate.

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Crazy Broke Asians: Asian America’s Forgotten Fight

A still from "Crazy Rich Asians" featuring actors Awkwafina, Nico Santos, and Constance Wu.

By Guest Contributor: Do Nguyen Mai

Media is already saturated with unnecessary and unrealistic displays of wealth. Crazy Rich Asians might be a fun, light-hearted summer watch, but we shouldn’t herald the film as adequate or deeply meaningful representation when so many Asian Americans are darker-skinned, working class people, and refugees. Just as Elle Woods of Legally Blonde is hardly representative of most young women, the lives of the characters in Crazy Rich Asians are far from the everyday experiences of most Asian Americans.

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Looking Back at a Road Not Taken and Forward Towards a Future Inspired by Crazy Rich Asians

Constance Wu and Henry Golding, stars of 'Crazy Rich Asians' (Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

By Guest Contributor: Celeste Pewter (@celeste_pewter)

The first time I told my parents I wanted to be an actor, I was seven.

I was at an age where I was mildly obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. My classics movie-loving dad had given me VHS tapes of My Fair Lady for my birthday, and after consuming all one hundred and seventy minutes of the film in all its Technicolor glory, I could think of nothing better than a career that would let me perform and dress up in fabulous costumes daily, just like Audrey herself.

I had more than a few childish daydreams: I would first wow film crew on set, as Hepburn had likely wowed the Fair Lady crew in her transformative performance as Eliza Doolittle. Once my film(s) were released, I would charm my way through the awards season before finally taking to the stage at the Academy Awards and graciously accepting the holy grail of acting: the Best Actress Oscar. In my young heart, this was obviously a future that was meant to be.

But when I confidently announced my future vocation plans to my parents, they laughed knowingly, before sitting me down to have a conversation on the ways of the world.

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Exploring Asian American Feminism in Conversation with Asian American Feminist Collective’s Julie Kim

Julie Kim for Equal Means Equal campaign (Photo credit: Patrick Randak)

By Reappropriate Intern: V. Huynh

We are not “docile”, “obedient”, “exotic”. We know that the challenges for disabled, LGBTQI+ women of color are undoubtedly difficult to grapple with. For many Asian American feminists, the question of what Asian American feminism even is and why it is needed thus often arises. To Julie Kim, founding member of the Asian American Feminist Collective, Asian American feminism is a framework she often refers to and that she aims to cultivate with the Asian American Feminist Collective initiative. In New York, Julie describes the circumstances for how she personally became politicized as an Asian American feminist.

The following is a transcript of a conversation between myself and Julie, edited for length and clarity.

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The Power of Untidy Movements: 30 Years after the Fight for Japanese American Redress

CWRIC hearings in Seattle, Washington, 1981. (Photo Credit: National Archives and Records Administration / Densho Encyclopedia)

By Guest Contributor: Sean Miura (@seanmiura)

My mom was about my age when she testified in support of Japanese American redress.

Fresh out of law school, she had moved to Seattle a few years prior and quickly found herself pulled into the local Japanese American community as a young leader, eventually becoming president of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. Seattle, beautiful rainy Seattle, is a city of left-leaning intellectuals and artists, organized and ready to mobilize with fiery intent and focused action. The Japanese Americans were (and are) no different.

When communities across the country began the push for recognition of wrongdoing in the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans, Seattle became one of the centers of organizing and strategy-setting.

And there was my mom, alongside so many others who fought to make it happen in a layered, complex, beautifully complicated weaving of people who came together to make it happen.

And happen it did.

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