CREATIVE

See creative writing and art by and for the Asian American community.

You,

the woman who brought me into this world,

       and carried me in your love and fear,

the one who did it all alone

       with no one by your hospital side,

the daughter of parents who left you in poverty.

 

You

bring out the Privilege in me,

the master of two tongues making you de jai lai lai in me,

the growing up with the school’s free lunch program and summer camp classes in me,

the graduated top ten with almost a full-ride to UCLA in me,

 

You

bring out the Privilege in me,

the always fed first and never left going to bed starving

      because you are no stranger to starvation but didn’t want that in me,

the tucked into bed, hair all brushed, forehead kisses and lullabies

that you never got from your mom in me,

the ingraining of “trust no strangers and let no boy into your heart until after college”

      not wishing to see child abduction or teenage pregnancy suffering in me,

 

You

bring out the Privilege in me,

the long black hair, dark brown eyes, smile wide replica

      of you clearly seen in me,

the constant chastising for wanting to grow up fast and wear makeup young in me,  

the appreciation now that you didn’t want older men sexualizing and preying on me,

 

You

bring out the Privilege in me,

the first-generation child expected to achieve the american dream

      drowning from the anxiety (with)in me,  

the high school graduate with big ambitions yet lost directions in me,

the young college adult granted the liberty of making independent decisions

      that should ultimately lead to a successful career path to sustain family in me,

 

You

bring out the privilege in me,

because I know that everything I have is a result of your sacrifices,

because my bare feet never had to worry about stepping on pointy rocks or being bitten by snakes,

because I never had to sleep at a rice farm with a gun by my side,

because I grew up in a first world country with clean water readily available,

because I lived in absence of a violent communist agenda that thrives on the blood of our ancestors,

 

I am the daughter of refugees and broken families,

I am the product of parenting done right,

     the parenting you never got,

I am the one always seen with a bright smile on my face

     because you made sure to shield my youth from being tainted by too much      reality,

I am the one you spend nights losing sleep over

      the one you worry about walking home alone at night,

I am the daughter you taught yourself to trust

     because you understand how precious a mother-daughter relationship is.

 

You

bring out the privilege in me,

maybe because

 

You,

were the one to instill it in me

 

&

 

I,

find it such a Privilege to be your daughter in me.

 

Don’t Trust the Mind of a Laotian girl

especially if she’s a gemini like me,

 

for the na presented

is entirely different

from the na you don’t see.

 

so don’t be surprised

when she responds in cold texts

because she’ll expect you to know

she’s not interested.

 

she wears a red sint to the temple on market st.,

kneeling with a huge smile before the orange robed pah.

she secretly wants to question her devote mother:

“why find faith and kneel to the patriarchy?”

 

all of us have dreams

we won’t give that up—

deeply loving our families

but not those we lust.

 

we won’t shut our big mouths

too busy weighed down

by the need to succeed,

and to be the lucky one to leave

this colorless town

with never changing leaves—

jai lao bau yak yu ne.  

 

so approach only if not a roadblock.

for you will meet her brain first—

and you better pray you grow on her heart,

or she’ll just push you away and curse.

 

and don’t expect her to compete

for your love and affection,

she’s too busy putting in work

to unravel this male breadwinner obsession.

so do her a favor,

just walk away.

 

loneliness is not a stranger.

 

 

This poem was written for the Asian American Studies M191F poetry class, after “Don’t Trust a Samoan Girl” by Courtney Sina Meredith.

ni meiyou bing (you’re not sick)

I came to UCLA with a dream that I’d be somehow new.
That the real me would just appear.

Maybe a day after moving in, my first panic attack.
I run away from the dining hall.
Between striding and rushing deep into campus,
I end up in the courtyard of the law school.
I lay down on a bench and look up into the emptiness.
I was not expecting this.

When I can breathe again I return.
People line the sides of the hallway.
The warmth of their chatter burns me.
I avoid the eyes looking up at me as I head to my dorm room.
Shame.

I don’t turn on the light when I enter.
I cry until I fall asleep.
I hoped to retire this past time when I got to college.
It came with me.

Counseling and Psychological Services.
CAPS.
I need this.
I had a dream that I’d be someone new.
Clearly I was not.

My first session I meet with an intern.
The session is videotaped.
I should have asked for a different person.
I brought myself here but I still don’t know how to speak.
I am referred to a psychiatrist.

This is how it’s gonna be.
My voice cracks. I can’t see.
What’s wrong with me.

Depression and some post-traumatic stress.
We’ll start you on Prozac.

I don’t tell my ma or ba.

It’s near the end of my first quarter and I can’t sleep.
When I’m still my body vibrates.

I lose my appetite. Good.
I think I’m losing weight. Good.
Xianzai mama bu hui jiao wo pang.

I’m out.
I go to refill my prescription.
I can’t.

I’ve been taking the wrong dose.
I’ve been taking double the dose.
I’ve run out.

Finals. shit.

We’ll switch to Zoloft.

Dear My Immigrant Parents,

I want to start by asking you both a question. What was it like moving to a country where you would start off with a clean slate, from your social circles to your education, and even the way that you would assimilate into society as individuals? I ask because I cannot imagine the work that must have been put into moving from a culture that stressed the importance of collective identity such as India, to one in which the focus is on the individual before the family.
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Mom, this must have been so hard for you. I know this to be true because you pride yourself on family values and have built your maternal empire in the U.S. on the importance of family. I can only imagine the loneliness from sitting at home waiting for Dad to return from work so you could have a sense of familiarity in an unknown country.

Dad, I know those nights were not easy for you either: having Mom wait for you at home while you work during the day and take classes at night to attain your graduate degree to make ends meet. You had a lonely bride and tons of responsibility both here in the U.S. and in India. That responsibility came from taking care of your family back in India and your family out here in the states.

How did you two do it? How could you share such a small apartment in Culver City with multiple people? I am sitting in my apartment in Westwood attending the same university that you did Dad, but the main difference here is my support system is 30 minutes away, while your support system was oceans away. I am not on my own.  I am not putting in the same amount of work for my opportunities. I have no burden of responsibilities on my shoulder. Why? Because my parents made the choice to move to this country and give me the freedoms that they did not have. I visualize the struggles that you both went through to make it in this country. There were  cultural and racial barriers to overcome, and you went the extra mile when it seemed impossible, with all the sleepless nights, blood, sweat, and tears to achieve your dreams.

Mom, when you tell me “It’s not that I did not have a career Sabreen, I did work when we first moved to the country,” tears roll down my eyes because you never have to justify that you were a career woman, my respect and appreciation for you is trifold. The work that you’ve done to support Dad when he was rising in his business, and the buses you took through the Rodney King Riots to get to work were enough to generate multiple opportunities for many generations to come. The sacrifice you made to stay at home and raise Shefa and me, gave us plenty of opportunities for the future. You made it Mom, your career will pay back in the best dividends, we promise. Thank you Mom.

Dad, you came to this country with less than a thousand dollars in your pocket. Yet, my tuition at UCLA is much more than that. You allow me to study without the fear of not having fees for the next quarter, compared to the time you wondered whether you would be able to pay fees and the apartment rent while you were a student.

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Without your sacrifice, I would not have the type of time freedom that I do right now, the ability to pursue my dreams without having to worry about my constraint on time during the day, whether it be from a part time job or work study. I am grateful, that I can allocate all my time to pursuing my goals without any responsibilities weighing me down.

To my immigrant parents, I thank you with every cell in my body; your efforts will be paid back in the smallest amounts of happinesses throughout your life, but never will we be able to pay you for all that have you done for us. The sacrifices you made for us were so monumental that they will impact many generations of our family to come.

Yours Truly,

Ever Grateful Child

    1. You learned to refuse gifts until the the 3rd time before you finally allowed yourself to accept them.
      screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-1-27-03-pm
      Photo courtesy of @butterchickenlover (Instagram)

       

    2. Your household had a collection of complimentary hotel soaps, shower caps, conditioners and shampoos.

3. When you were growing up the kids at school thought you had a disease because of your mehndi but now it’s “aesthetic.”

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-1-31-56-pm

4. When you had at least one year of school where you dressed up as an “Indian Princess” or “Jasmine from Aladdin.”

Me with my 4th grade teacher, circa 2004
Me and my 4th grade teacher, circa 2004

5.When you asked your parents if you could hang out with friends you got this response:

Photo courtesy of @butterchickenlover (Instagram)
Photo courtesy of @butterchickenlover (Instagram)

 

6. You give your grandmother/mother a heart attack when putting marriage on the backburner.

Photo courtesy of @insta.single (Instagram)
Photo courtesy of @insta.single (Instagram)

 

7. When “maths” were more important than anything else.

8. You had to clean your room whenever anyone was coming over.

9. Your mom always lies about the time.

10. Which makes you never, never trust anyone who says “We’ll be there in 5” (IST FTW)

 

 

By Jenny Huang and Andrew Lopez

This poem represents a dialogue between the Philippines and the United States that attempts to portray the relationship of the two countries during the Philippine–American War (1899-1902), throughout the US colonization of the Philippines (1998-1946), and arguably after.

“Dualities of a History”

Salvaging the savage

To rescue, recover, reclaim

Like a ship lost at sea

Savage you are to blame

Uncivilized and free

Monkey is your name

Uncontrolled, uneducated, violent

Here you ought to remain silent

Cross-eyed, knees bent

Let the U.S. represent

You call us savages

Have you looked in the mirror lately

Perpetual madness

Centuries sacrificed but still not free

Our backs are your stepping stones

As the gateway to China

You chew and spit out our bones

Like the milkfish we dine on

We were promised our independence

Yet it feels like a life sentence

The great empire’s destiny

To expand our territory

We come to your broken islands

Not invaders, but friends

Little brown brothers, why defend?

Amigos by day, guerillas by night

Such a dirty fight

Savages that need to be cleansed

Drop the guns and hold a pen

Accept your fate and assimilate

You hide behind good intentions

A nation full of politicians

You portray yourself with a business face

As imperialists, only to expand your space

Like so many more before you

Who’s footsteps do you need to follow?

Even if desired, we could never be brethren

This is the colored man’s burden

To always look up to a higher power

Not a god or a deity, but a man with desire

We are your salvagers,

Looking down like guardian angels

Assisting with food and medicine

It is the White Man’s Burden

To make human you half-devil, half-child

To take you from the wild

And give you degrees, not diseases

We had a little splendid misunderstanding

An unnecessary insurrection

Since 1898, you were freed

Salvaging the savage

Placed under the same roof

Native Americans, African Americans

Our skin dictated the truth

The truth that textbooks hide

I guess that’s just national culture

Because as long as we close our eyes

The past will remain our future

I remember God telling me

I am a savage

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