“The Farewell” and the Duality of Language: Finding Depth in What Can and Cannot Be Said

Scene from "The Farewell", directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina.

By Guest Contributor: Claudia Vaughan

Editor’s Note: Please note that this post may contain minor spoilers for the film, “The Farewell”.

The Farewell, A24’s latest film from Chinese-American director Lulu Wang, hit theaters earlier this month, packing a soft but powerful punch. At its core, the film examines what it means to be a caring, accountable family member – AND whether that can ever include being untruthful with your loved ones. The opening scene cheekily notes that the story is “based on an actual lie,” borrowing from real events in Wang’s own life centered around her family’s decision to hide news of her grandmother Nai Nai’s terminal cancer from her. (The story originally ran as an episode of This American Life before Wang began developing it as a feature).

The choice not to inform an elderly relative of his/her illness is commonplace in some Asian cultures, as relatives receive the diagnosis from the doctor first and then choose whether that information is actually shared with the patient. Oftentimes it is not, as is the case in The Farewell. Because of the family’s decision to keep Nai Nai’s diagnosis a secret from her, The Farewell quickly becomes a story of what can and cannot be said – both literally, due to language barriers, and figuratively, in terms of what information can be divulged to whom.

One might even say that language becomes a character in its own right, proving to be a source of power – the more of it you have, the more information you accumulate, but, on the other hand, the more responsibility you must then personally bear.

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Orange is the New Black and Recidivism: The Need for Accurate Media Representations of the Many Causes of Incarceration

Actor Danielle Brooks as Taystee in Netflix's Orange Is The New Black (Photo credit: Netflix / Orange is the New Black)

By Guest Contributor:Rachel Ko

About 50,000 people a year exit incarceration only to enter immediately into homeless shelters; legal restrictions and discrimination against individuals with criminal records are often to blame. As has been well-documented, the incarceration rate for African Americans is more than six times the incarceration rate for white Americans. African Americans also make up more than 40 percent of the homeless population, despite representing only 13 percent of the general population.

Even though general statistics don’t simultaneously track the effects of race on incarceration and homelessness, anti-Black racial stigma amplifies the measurable social impacts of both. Individuals released from prisons are more likely to be re-arrested for misdemeanor offense they commit in order to survive on the streets, but many scholars have failed to sufficiently connect recidivism, homelessness and incarceration.

A more successful representation of these connections is the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. Through Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, a compassionate, intelligent, and likeable African American character, Orange is the New Black sheds light on the lack of rehabilitative resources and support systems that cause re-incarceration of individuals suffering from poverty. Taystee’s story shows us that crime is not a single action; rather, it is a series of events and complex social factors.

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Defending Diversity on Campus

Side View of statue of John Harvard by Daniel Chester French. (Photo credit: Farrell Grehan/CORBIS)

By Guest Contributors: Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez and Sally Chen

The value of a “Harvard education” — which draws students around the world with its promise to produce the future “citizen-leaders for our society” — is inextricably linked to the university’s affirmative action policy. 

The two of us – Sally, a Chinese American senior at Harvard, and Itzel, a Xicana who graduated in 2017 – owe our education to Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy. We just testified in the lawsuit SFFA v. Harvard, which claims that Harvard’s policy discriminates against Asian American applicants.

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The Triumph Beyond Sandra Oh’s Trophy

Sandra Oh at the 2019 Golden Globes.

By Guest Contributor: Jacqueline Wong

Sandra Oh recently made history three times at the 76th Golden Globes Awards as the first Asian American host, the first Asian American woman to win multiple Golden Globes, and the first Asian American woman in nearly 40 years to win for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her role in Killing Eve

Yet it was not just her hosting duties or her receipt of a Best Actress award that made the night so special for Asian Americans.  Rather, it was how Oh unabashedly celebrated her Asian-ness on live TV.  Asian Americans have rarely been given the opportunity to have their faces or voices broadcasted live on such a large platform.  By owning her Asian identity on stage, Oh took back control of the Asian American narrative.

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I’m an Asian American Student at Columbia University — and Nimesh Patel’s Mic Needed to be Cut

Two models perform at the 2017 Columbia University cultureSHOCK event. (Photo credit: courtesy of Isabelle Lee / Columbia Asian American Alliance)

By Guest Contributor: Isabelle Lee

Editor’s Note: On November 30, 2018, Saturday Night Live writer Nimesh Patel was performing at Columbia University Asian American Alliance’s cultureSHOCK event. Part-way into a set that contained offensive and harassing material, Patel was asked to leave the stage by event organizers. Patel published his version of events in The New York Times. This is what really happened, according to the former president of Columbia University’s Asian American Alliance.

By now, you may have heard that Saturday Night Live writer Nimesh Patel was asked to leave the stage at cultureSHOCK, an annual charity showcase organized by Columbia University’s Asian American Alliance. By now, you’ve read the public coverage of the story which invoked right-wing outcries over PC culture to blame students for being over-sensitive.

Most likely, what you’ve read thus far about Patel’s performance at cultureSHOCK has been wrong; or, at least, it paints a totally incomplete picture. Here’s what really happened.

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