I like to keep a book underneath the pillow that I'm not sleeping on so I can reach over and grab it when I wake up. I don't always do that, but I like to. I try to make sure it's a book and not my laptop. I also try not to get too excited about who might've been trying to contact me while I was asleep.
Of course I want the things I write to reflect well on me or anyone who might feel represented by me, but also, I'm not writing a guidebook on how to be or how my people should be seen. I'm telling very specific stories.
Growing up in America, I experienced two puberties. The first opened me up to the possibilities of adulthood. The second reinforced that for someone like me — an immigrant, a minority, an Asian-American — there were limits.
Mothers have always held such symbolic weight in determining a person's worth. Your mother tongue, your motherland, your mother's values — these things can qualify or disqualify you from attaining myriad American dreams: love, fluency, citizenship, legitimacy, acceptance, success, freedom.
Asian American success is often presented as something of a horror — robotic, unfeeling machines psychotically hellbent on excelling, products of abusive tiger parenting who care only about test scores and perfection, driven to succeed without even knowing why.
Karaoke was my family's happy secret. In those early years in America, like many immigrants, my parents struggled with poverty and loneliness, but they also built provisional families, and inside our bubble there was joy, understanding, an intimate language I could never translate — and above all there was song.
As you get older, you realize you're only the protagonist in your own story and a blip in someone else's life.