Categories
Educators Reading & Writing Teachers

Taos Writers Conference sponsored by SOMOS July 25

I’ll be teaching at the Taos Writers’ Conference a workshop on Identity and Voice: The Narrative of Group and Self on July 25, 2021.

This workshop will cover both the process and craft of writing fiction. How does an individual’s voice determine how stories are shaped, which stories are told. How do we write ourselves into being? What are the limits and possibilities of the stories of the group and the stories of the individual—how do fiction writers wrestle with the paradox of belonging and emotional truth telling? Why does authorship of life affect story?
This workshop stresses voice and participants will be asked to both write and share as we engage with approaches to solving issues that arise when writing fictional narratives. Exploration about how voice shapes story will enable students to approach their work with a new lens and confidently author the stories that only they can write. Writers will leave with a different idea about their writing process as they engage with the craft of fiction.

Register now! I look forward to seeing you in class!

Categories
Blog Reading & Writing

1982. Phillips Academy Andover. Barnard College. Vincent Chin. Asian America.

Aloha…Ye Olde Blog will begin again…

When I saw this #stopasianhate video I am reminded of where we are now, socially and politically as a society, but also, who I was at the time when I first became aware of how racism is systemic (Vincent Chin lived in the auto making industry area, people were anti-Asian and mired in Yellow Peril ideology about the auto industry, and so they killed him for being Japanese—he was Chinese).

1982 was the year I graduated from PA and headed to Barnard College was the year that Vincent Chin was killed. I took a semester off from Barnard and was interning at the Asian arts and lit magazine BRIDGE. It was in some ways, the beginning of an awareness of an AA identity, but it would take many years of struggle to understand the concept and what it meant.

As a cross between a 1st and 4th generation AA my narrative was never a neat one.

Most AA at college then, the two schools were both separate (Columbia/Barnard) back then, were 1st and 2nd generation. The vibe is very different generationally. I was introduced to AA as “this person who does not speak Korean” and was given circus freak show status. I half expected people to yell at me for betraying my ancestors. My mother, however, doesn’t speak, and what most young people then did not understand is the complexities of immigration patterns.

In retrospect, I should have gone West to university (where I ended up living) where there were entire Asian American Studies programs. But Andover was and probably still is East Coast centric and the idea of being in a student body of Asian Americans didn’t occur to college counseling. Even now, the first thing I tell most Asian Americans when I meet them who feel at a loss and are mired in private institution blues is this: go West. Numbers matter. If you’re in an environment where the Asian community has been entrenched for awhile, at the very rock bottom least, you are not a complete freak show. (Obviously, I was really scarred by it. I haven’t been in a non Asian majority environment in 15 years… I lived in HK and now in Hawai’i–hard choices for some, but for me it was a good decision).

Years later, I would meet up with a PA friend in HK, Chinese descent, who was naming all the racist girls in her dorm–as I recall the most popular and elite white pedigreed girls of our class, and I realized she had deep trauma from that time period she had carried with her. She unloaded. While we are not in touch too much, I realized that it was this weird time and space moment… she needed to tell someone. We compared notes and concluded the college counselor we both had was racist. She was a racist for sure! We both could see this as adults! It felt weird to hear that after decades and confirm my teenage self wasn’t wrong to feel so at odds and discouraged by this authority figure.

As I prepare a history lesson for the Council of Korean Americans, I am reminded how the collective idea of Asian America is what makes me who I am. It is the global as manifested within an American identity. And what is it that we share, truly across these groups? Not language, not food, not religion, not history.

What we share as Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Hmong, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Japanese – people who are American but who can claim ancestry from Asia, is an awareness and experience of racism, discrimination, the yearning for a dream of self and the cruel understanding of Empire, Nation and Myth.

That’s what makes us, that common thread, in the end…Asian American.

Categories
Divorce Reading & Writing

Join the Write Your Divorce Story Facebook Group

Aloha,
Please share this group info with women you know. I ask you to reach out to women you know who may be needing this resource. Why? Because women RARELY ask for help.
I am NOT a therapist. But I am someone who has developed a framework for understanding that has worked for me and that has helped other women.
I have decided to post concepts and methods that have been very effective for women facing this challenge — essentially the information from the book in the FB group Write Your Divorce Story.
——-
I began teaching the Write Your Divorce Story workshop as a way to provide women with a practical approach to dealing with the process of divorce. While divorce takes place across all cultures, women continue to experience devastating feelings of grief, inadequacy, or shame as they undergo this traumatic upheaval. There are thousands of resources on the process of getting married, yet few on divorce.
I found only two references in my online search on how to write a divorce story: one from a family attorney’s practice, and another from a religious organization. Women may be unable to ask for help or feel self-conscious about doing so. When I began to offer the workshop, I had many women email or message me across social media in great distress, but often they were too self-conscious to show up, as if to do so would be to admit a further wrongdoing on their part. Some were so overwhelmed that they were unable to carve out the time to attend a single class. I realized then that women needed to be able to privately access information, hence I authored a short book that I will release this year. I wrote it with the hope that women can see that they can author their divorce story, and in so doing, create a new life.
If you are a woman in the process of moving through a divorce or have been divorced and would like to add to this conversation, please feel free to ask and join my FB group WRITE: Your Divorce Story.
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Categories
Belief and Philosophy Blog Reading Self-help Teachers

Problems When Interpreting Asian Philosophy: In Group and Out Group

Like many people, particularly during this COVID situation, I’ve been diving into reading and listening to podcasts that are labeled self-help.
For example, I can tell you how to declutter, although my own closet is a mess, because I have listened to 30 hours of decluttering podcasts while walking or doing chores. I can tell you the reasons you accumulate clutter. I could probably give a brief lecture on it myself! I am now purging and getting rid of stuff. Last PM I threw out the hospital bill receipts from my son’s birth. I had eaten some kind of shrimp salad. He’s 13. That kind of got me worn out and then ADD kicked in and I started reading a poetry book and then you know, the decluttering project got sidelined because I got bored. The goal remains!
This morning I was listening to Spiritual Thought Leader X (seems pretty cool, but sometimes, you know, a little out there, but nice and smart enough) give an interpretation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze and applying this wisdom to ideas of governance and leadership. Spiritual Leader X’s expertise is that he studied this work for a year. I found myself getting really annoyed about his absurd elitist, Western centric interpretation of this book! I am not an expert in Eastern philosophy, he’s studied it longer, but it was easy to see he lacked any basic knowledge of Asian culture because of his out of context interpretation. I also felt that it was highly dangerous for his audience (whom I am guessing, well, there are probably a fair number of Trump types self-actualizing and evolving and getting spiritual en masse).
He was speaking about the ideas of governance. The fewer laws created, the fewer lawbreakers there will be. True. So in his mind fewer laws is the answer to how people should govern. Uhm…well….
All I could think about was some whacked out people using this idea to vote against health care, gun control, Affirmative Action, citing this so-called spiritual leader and his interpretation of the Tao Te Ching and/or I Ching.
What NY Times bestselling Spiritual Leader X author failed to mention while gabbing carelessly about the benefits of fewer laws is the foundational structure of FAMILY and how this functions within Asian society.
Nuclear and extended family structures mean that a strong infrastructure of support is in place in these societies–in negative and positive ways. It breeds a sense of obligation and conformity to the group (STUDY AND GET GOOD GRADES OR WE WILL KICK YOU OUT OF THE FAMILY. DATE ANYONE NOT ASIAN (name specific ethnicity) AND YOU BETRAY FAMILY, YOU LOSER). You have to put up with a lot of (GRANDPA IS A PATRIARCHAL INTOLERANT ______–fill in the blank) etc.. this extended network may include cousins of cousins and close friendships cultivated over many years.
You must be obedient to this network.
This is what psychologists may call the In-Group. The In-Group obligation means that if you have an incompetent cousin twice removed through marriage who is unemployed, but was once nice to your great aunt you are related to through a second or third marriage, and you have a business and you have a job opening and this fellow who you know is a total loser needs a job, guess what. You have to give that guy a job. Because he is related to you.
Your Out-Group behavior (nation, community you are not directly related to) and dynamics are quite different. You are probably less loyal, don’t care as much, bend the law even, because you are overextended, often, with your In-Group.
When I lived in Korea I was once standing on a subway station platform during rush hour, my back to where the train door would open, not paying attention, and the train stopped, and the swarm of bodies when the train door opened nearly carried me into the train when it stopped. After the tide of people slightly ebbed (I could neither go forward nor backward, nor sideways, I was floating) I dropped down to my hips between the train platform and the train. My feet were dangling above the tracks. Luckily I was wearing a huge down coat, but basically, I could have almost dropped down to the tracks, but my body was torqued in a way that saved me, and I was slightly bigger, my hips at a slight angle, so I didn’t fall all the way down. I was in shock. No one tried to help me up. In fact, people started jumping around me and nearly over my head in a rush to get on the train. I hoisted myself up and then got on the train.
The subway doors closed. I was traumatized. I then proceeded to shout and say OMFG I could have died YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU etc… and then I realized…uhm…yeah, I’m screaming in shock in English and looking like a freak show and everyone speaks Korean and they probably think I am insane.
Then I hear a young woman’s voice in a heavy French accent saying: Are you American?
I say: Uh, yeah (now feeling completely stupid, after all I was shouting like an Ugly American expatriate)
She says: You are very lucky. My friend fell onto the tracks a few weeks ago!
I was really upset by this and immediately dashed off an email to my close friend Dr. Andreas Bruech, about what a bunch of terrible people Koreans were. HOW could they do this to me? WHAT WAS WRONG? Why didn’t anyone help me? I could have DIED. I’m Korean. What is wrong with my ethnic group? SUBWAY KILLERS. Andi is a Korean speaking German, an expert in cross cultural studies between Korea, US, Canada, Germany and Japan within the context of corporate relations. And he kindly explained the idea of In Group and Out Groups. That if a society is formed on an In Group level, they are so overextended, that often, someone from the Out Group barely exists. It was nothing personal. It was a question of how society is structured and of course Koreans are perfectly normal but function a lot on the In Group construction.
Ideas of nation are formed in many ways within the context of an Out Group. We care for the larger public good. Our family structures are strong, but we also rely on community support and exist within different constructions of a nuclear family. This is in contrast to many countries in the world. The US is an Out Group type of nation.
So when spiritual expert X posits that the fewer laws are better and is citing the I Ching/Tao Te Ching as evidence of a great text on leadership he is failing to look at the formation of society and family structure. You can have fewer laws if there are a lot of informal family laws or rules in place to makes sure people stay in line.
Many years ago, my uncle told me a story about a young Samoan man accused of a serious crime. There was some discussion about admitting this crime. But what led the man to finally admit it was that he consulted with his elders and the extended network agreed to support him wholly during his time in prison and to be there for him. He then went into the “system” knowing that a large group of people fully were there for him and his own family. He was loyal to his In Group. The Out Group was not as important to him.
This is just to say that groups function differently. And when we interpret ideas, remember that our lens is this if we are in the US and have grown up wholly in this system:
WHITE
PATRIARCHAL
CHRISTIAN
BUILT ON SLAVERY AND STOLEN LAND
And there are many ways we can be and are. While we must surely borrow ideas and texts from different cultures, exchange and share, prioritizing the nature of exchange, but honoring origin, the random and often haphazard, although well intended method of applying ideas across cultures must always be accompanied by a knowledge of the society from which it came.
So when you listen to these Spiritual Leaders–please remember this.
All belief systems are constructed.
WHO writes them?
WHO speaks them?
HOW do you interpret them?
Aloha. Have a great Sunday!