May is here, and once more, it is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. While the movie industry in Hollywood continues to embarrass itself by whitewashing Asian roles, the peeps over at the White House expressed just how valued and important the community is as it honored ten Champions for Change in art and storytelling back on Wednesday.
As I’ve done in previous years when in discussion about this particular month, I often try to take it on from various yet relevant lenses, and this year it’s appropriately about the wide spectrum of Asian American authors that are out there, myself included. Already last year, I had come across two amazing pieces that named Asian American authors that are worthy of checking out, such as this fantastic listicle Buzzfeed published for the previous Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and this incredible essay and list written by author Celeste Ng on how there are a wide array of Asian American female authors out there other than Amy Tan.
Both lists contain quite a number of authors, but as the wise ones may know, it’s almost impossible to name every single one out there. Why, there are a couple of Asian American authors that I’m friends with who’ve yet to appear on any of these kinds of lists. I too have yet to find my name on one of these lists, so forgive me if this begins to sound a little self-indulgent, but this is where I speculate on my position as an author of part Asian descent: Where do I fit into all this?
Already I find it to be a little disturbing to hardly ever see authors who are Hapa on these lists. Really the only one who, for the most part, I’ve seen make it on who is Hapa is author Ruth Ozeki. Again, I know it’s nearly impossible to name every single author of Asian descent, but I hope there’s a little more effort made with getting more mixed race authors on these lists.
I’ve read a good number of books that have been written by Hapa authors. Sometimes, they’ll even include Hapa characters in their stories. While the experiences of these authors are relate-able to some extent, I still can’t help feel a little left out when I’m a second-generation mixed race person. Yes, one of my parents is mixed, which is a narrative that’s not often seen, which is why I sometimes speculate where I fit on this very wide spectrum.
Already it’s taken me ages to feel comfortable with saying I’m of Filipino descent without feeling guilt for it, and in a way, I struggle with it still to this day, especially due to having not grown up with any customs/traditions from that part of my heritage and the reality of why that was the case. I’m active in the Asian American community, especially in terms of addressing representation in the media, and while no one has ever given me crap for being second-generation mixed, it’s still hard sometimes.
Just yesterday, I came across a tweet someone left, in response to the miscasting of Emma Stone as Hapa character Allison Ng in the film, “Aloha,” last year. I was completely turned off by this person’s ignorance, as they said, “1/4 Asian. That’s practically nothing.” Already I was speculating what to write in regards to my mixed heritage, in terms of whether or not stories like mine count towards the wide spectrum that is the Asian American narrative, and the answer after reading that is YES!
It counts when Japanese and Japanese Americans, even if it’s their great-great grandparents that are Japanese, were seen as enough of a threat to be incarcerated during World War II. It counts when a photo of Kate Gosselin making slanty eyes was met with anger, not only due to the racism behind it, but also due to who her children are. It counts when you have familial ties to World War II in both Europe and Asia, when a total stranger told your parents that they’re going to have the cutest mixed babies, when someone approached your mom and asked if she’s your babysitter, and when you grew up being constantly asked “What are you?”
I had motive behind making the first two characters introduced in A Moment’s Worth an openly gay man and a Hapa woman, for these are narratives that need to be explored more. I have just as much motive for making my protagonist in my second novel the daughter of two Hapa parents, in order to reach out to a demographic of people with similar backgrounds to my own.
I realize now that as a second-generation Hapa (and no, I don’t use the word quapa, for I’ve given up on thinking of myself as a pie chart), I do count as part of the wide and constantly growing spectrum of Asian American authors, and nothing and no one is ever going to change that.
A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 12 reviews so I’m already just past the halfway point to my goal). Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.