Essay: Trouble in the Galaxy

I thought I would share this piece, Trouble in the Galaxy: Navigating the Nerd World as a Woman of Color on the blog. It was originally published for Post-, where I’m a staff writer for my university’s arts & culture magazine. I hope you enjoy it! (Also, click on the Post link to see a gorgeous illustration from one of our talented staff illustrators!)

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Standing outside the Anaheim Convention Center, I joked with my dad that one’s devotion is really tested by these sorts of things. It was barely 10 a.m., and the Southern California heat drew sweat from our foreheads. The doors to WonderCon (the precursor to the big kahuna, San Diego ComicCon) would not even open until noon. Of course, the first people in line had been here for over an hour. Many of these early arrivals were cosplaying in finely-detailed, handmade costumes: a man in Hamilton-esque coat and tails, a Poison Ivy whose skin gleamed with the DC villain’s signature green hue. Sweat coagulated under their costumes and heavy makeup.

Still, as the hours passed, I felt buoyed by the gleeful anticipation of seeing every world I’ve ever loved come alive. This is the promise of fandom: an embrace for the outcasts of the world outside the Con—geeks like me and my dad who, somewhere subliminal in my mind, believe in epic quests and chosen ones.

By all appearances, fandom spaces are homes for the marginalized. Except when they are not.

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Book Review: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel

After a demanding semester during which many life decisions were made over many cups of coffee, it’s great to be back on the blog 🙂 If you read my previous post Why I’ve Been Blog-Quiet, you’ll know that this book’s review was set for the presses in February (!). Then, the first of many rattling executive orders from the 45th president was announced. The Muslim Ban, targeting Iranian immigrants among others, was scarily relevant to this book’s protagonist. The event rattled me into a long state of pondering and critical evaluation.

Thanks to encouragement from friends, on and outside the blog world, I’ve decided to finally publish the review. As the work from the semester subsides, I am excited to re-start blogging.

With much love, I share with you a wonderful book:

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Why I’ve Been Blog-Quiet

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In fragments.

  1. Because in a world that loses reason faster than I can keep up with, stillness and listening are healing.
  2. The start of a new semester, naturally. The last semester of college is one in which I obsessively calculate opportunity costs: I weigh every moment spent on the Internet against time that I could be cramming with “college” experiences, spontaneous trips, splitting nachos and boba tea late at night, sneaking onto fire escapes to watch the sunset.
  3. Sometimes, there’s little to say because I could add nothing new. My hurt has already been articulated. I’ve discovered that I nurse pain quietly.
  4. I am also quietly tenacious. Quiet like steady breathing, or an ocean pulsing.
  5. This is exciting news: Some friends and I are starting an after-school tutoring program for recently arrived immigrant high school students. It’s a pretty time-consuming organizational undertaking, but worth everything I pour into it and am learning from it.
  6. Sleep and introspection nourish.
  7. I’ve been experimenting with other forms of writing and publications. I’m challenging the capacities of what my words can do, outside of the forms I’m comfortable with.
  8. I’ve been conscious of the balance between how I am making space and taking space; I find myself developing the latter, preferring to lend light to the voices I find particularly insightful in trying times.
  9. Letting this blog change.
  10. Letting myself change.
  11. Where I stopped updating: I was ready to publish a review of a wonderful YA novel about an Iranian American girl when the Executive Order was released. I was doubled over in hurt for this character I had met and loved. I saw the book differently, in a way that the first review couldn’t have done justice to: It was newly precious, and urgent. I will probably still publish a review. But at the time, reality had violently asserted itself into reading.
  12. And why I am trying to come back: Because we find healing in our communities, the ones that can hold our hands and the ones across digital distances. Stories – and the joy of lifting them up in hopes that they will sow a kinder world – are unending.

6 Organizations Working to Protect Immigrant Rights in 2017

In lieu of my usual Friday link roundup: Some resources to help you consider what you would like to do to move forward and get involved after Inauguration Day.

 

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As an American, heartbroken and infuriated that bigotry was given a platform in my country, I’ve been asking myself: “What do I want my activism to look like in 2017?” I wondered aloud to a friend, who answered, “Me? I’m not an activist. At least, I don’t think activism is anything exceptional. It’s how we should be behaving as human beings every day.”

And her words have echoed with me ever since. So whether you are a diverse book blogger, working in the publishing industry, a volunteer, a teacher, an artist; whether you are working directly or indirectly to do good, there is always something you can be doing to enact positive changes. We can all be active, be intentional, and run like the devil away from apathy. And this counts for after January 20, 2017, and beyond.

And so my message to you is this: Whether you donate money, donate time, organize, create art, practice bystander intervention, or educate yourself, show love how you can. The world can only benefit by it.

And now, as promised, some organizations that could inspire your everyday activism:

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Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Things my teenage cousin likes:

  • reading (her favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye)
  • flitting from crush to crush, with 100% sincerity every time
  • scarily accurate sarcasm

So it would seem natural that I get this intelligent, kind young woman To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han for her Sweet 16. Like my cousin, protagonist Lara Jean is hapa (that is, half-Asian and half-white). Lara Jean is levelheaded and a bit of a hopeless romantic: She’s written a love letter for every boy she’s ever loved since middle school and keeps them hidden in a hatbox under her bed.

Lara Jean narrates:

They’re not love letters in the strictest sense of the word. My letters are for when I don’t want to be in love anymore. They’re for good-bye.

…at least, they’re supposed to be for good-bye. Then one morning, the unthinkable happens: At the beginning of Lara Jean’s junior year of high school, all of the letters are mysteriously sent. And Lara Jean scrambles to deal with the consequences… which actually turn out to be about a lot more than just boys and love.

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Led by an earnest, astute biracial female protagonist, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is sweet without being saccharine. It’s a story that delights beyond the run-of-the-mill rom-com – moreover, it’s a perfect encapsulation of what I think “diverse YA lit” can aspire to.

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Book review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez

Story can do many things, but its greatest capacity, particularly in this time of division, is the power to inspire understanding of lives outside our own. Some books are a deeply-felt, resonant encounter with another’s truth.

My first read of 2017 was one such book. 

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez is told from the alternating perspectives of the working-class residents of an apartment building, all immigrants from Latin America. The principal storyline follows the newest tenants: Alma and her husband Arturo, who seek a better future for their teenage daughter Maribel, who suffered a tragic accident in México. Once they arrive, a bond develops between Maribel and the neighboring family’s teenage son, Mayor – a closeness that skirts a first, blushing romance.

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This is a story about the passions, fears, celebrations, and determination of immigrants to the United States.

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