Poem in Appalachian Review

  A slim package came yesterday in the mail. The Spring 2020 issue of Appalachian Review , which includes my poem "Almost Heaven, or Mixed-Race Roadtrip Following the Fall of Saigon." Past contributors to Appalachian Review include Pinckney Benedict, Wendell Berry, Wiley Cash, Nikki Giovanni, bell hooks, Silas House, Fenton Johnson, Barbara Kingsolver, Maurice Manning, Ann Pancake, Jayne Anne Phillips, Ron Rash, Lee Smith, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Neela Vaswani, Frank X Walker, Crystal Wilkinson, etc. etc., so I feel I'm in excellent company.  The journal used to be called Appalachian Heritage , a name that too many people, according to its website, associated with "a simplistic view of Appalachia as a place frozen in a quaint, bucolic, homogenous past or, at worst, a particular ultra-conservative brand of politics and identity." Hence, the name change.  It's a shame that the word "heritage" has come to carry so much ugly baggage. But it's w

R Is for Rainbow

A few weeks ago, just days apart, I had the pleasure of learning that one of my scripts, R Is for Rainbow , had been accepted in not one—but two!—festivals. Anyone who writes and submits work knows that acceptances are jolts of pure pleasure. They're like miraculous blips on a heart monitor that is otherwise flatlining. I'm not dead after all! Which can be hard to believe when the rejections come piling up like snowdrifts or, worse, when the response is nothing. Nada. Zip. [ouch] I'll be attending one production this weekend, when the play is performed at the Heralds of Hope Ten-Minute Play Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. It will also be one of six plays produced sometime in 2020 for the Stages Ten-Minute Festival near Portland, Oregon, a city my husband and I have long wished to visit. (Portland is reputedly a vegan paradise). R Is for Rainbow is an unusual play for me, in that it is sweet, playful, and happy. (Though I hope not sappy). As such, it's a far

Bears, Pigs, and Dragonflies: An Easter Sunday Non-Sermon

My brother-in-law phoned me yesterday afternoon. He’d locked himself out of the house, and could I let him back in? Someone else might’ve been annoyed, but I was thrilled to get the call. More than once I’d done the exact same thing. Accidentally closed the locked door behind me and marooned myself outside. In fact, I’d done it earlier this week and had to call my sister over to rescue me. Luckily, we all have each other’s house keys and live close by. On the way to Craig’s place, I switched on the radio. It was already tuned to WHQR, the local public radio station, and was in the middle of an interview. I tried to fit the pieces together. A man was talking about battling a wildfire, trying to save his house. I assumed this was in California. He spoke of stomping on the fire for seven hours straight, his boots melting, his legs aching. At one point, he said, he tried using kayak paddles to beat back the flames, because his legs were just too tired. When a fire truck finally ar

Chrissy and Me and Sexual Assault

Like millions of others yesterday, I watched Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in front of the senate judiciary committee. Like Anita Hill years before, Ford was there to share what she knew about a powerful man poised to take an even more powerful office. Ford was 100% certain she had been assaulted as a teenager, but was unsure about many other seemingly important facts, such as the date and place of the attack. Her inability to provide this information, along with her 36 year delay in making the assault public, has caused many to doubt her claim. A recent New York Post story is typical of the criticisms leveled at Ford and her faulty memory. “Ford still can’t recall basic details of what she says was the most traumatic event in her life,” the article trumpets. How can Ford be believed, it goes on to insinuate, when she "concedes she told no one what happened to her at the time, not even her best friend or mother”? Ford’s recounting of her experiences forced me to e

The Story Silence Tells

Last week I participated in  Southern Griots: Preserving Local History Through Storytelling at the Cape Fear Museum. Organized by Athenian Press , the event featured a lovely array of artists in different genres (poetry, playwriting and screenwriting, dance, filmmaking, music). We shared our work and talents, each of us emphasizing art's ability to lift up, preserve, and pass along human stories that might otherwise be lost. The night before, in anticipation of the event, I kept thinking about stories. Not just those we tell, but those kept secret. As an Asian-heritage person, I know that silence is woven into my cultural legacy. My Asian-American friends and I have talked about the frustrating silence of our Asian parents, about the lack of demonstrativeness, both physical and emotional. Other cultures have this too, of course. Brits are famous for their "stiff upper lip." And Appalachian hillbilly culture, despite its propensity for tall tales, is known for endur

Haunted by an Adverb

It's mid-December, Christmas lights are up, and the World Series—the "fall classic" that marks the climax of the 27-week baseball season—feels like a fast-fading memory. Except it still haunts me. Not so much the games themselves, although the Series went the distance. And to sports fan there's no thrill quite like a "game 7." But you may have heard about an incident that occurred after Astros hitter Yuli Gurriel homered off of Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish. Gurriel celebrated his home run by pulling his eyes into slits. Not your typical gesture of jubilation. In fact, a completely nonsensical one—unless you know that Darvish is Asian. And then it makes all the sense in the world. If you're Asian and you're reading this, you know exactly what I mean. You've been the recipient of "slit-eyes." Probably more than once. You know that, as racial slurs go, it's the equivalent of the N-word. If you're not Asian, maybe you don't

In Fear of Ecophobia

Yesterday I got an acceptance notice (yay!) from the online literary magazine  Wraparound South , which will be publishing a short essay of mine in audio form. As part of the acceptance, they provided a long list of questions and asked me to answer one of them. (Author responses are included in the "Back Porch" section of their site). The question I picked was "What advice do you have for new and emerging writers?" Here's what I said: I would advise all writers to learn something tangible about the world they inhabit, specifically the natural world, which we too easily forget is the source of all our highfalutin technology. A single microchip takes many times its weight in fossil fuels, chemicals, and water to produce. So even if you’re an ecophobe (which I hope for all our sakes you’re not), you’re still deeply connected to and mutually dependent on the non-manufactured world. If you’re not keen on learning which rare earth minerals make up your laptop, at