New essay, “Foreign Domestic”, live on Seventh Wave Magazine, Issue 11

What seems like a lifetime ago, back in February, I traveled to Bainbridge Island, WA as a 2020 Resident at the Bloedel Bunkhouse with Seventh Wave Magazine. There, nestled among cedar trees and ferns, an essay I’d been mulling over for a couple years got lovingly nurtured. No one among the fellow residents and editors thought the idea of braiding together themes on language, identity, and eucalyptus trees was too crazy. No one thought it wouldn’t fly.

At Bainbridge, co-founders of Seventh Wave, Joyce Chen and Brett Rawson along with Featured Artist Malaka Gharib (yes! I got to chat and collaborate with this talented genius and author of I Was Their American Dream. *Swoon*), co-created a community of deep intention and loving purpose. The Bainbridge Residency, and the experience of working with Seventh Wave has been nourishing and eye-opening in so many ways. During this time of lockdown, of uncertainty, of rage, the fellow residents and brilliant writers, Anne Liu Kellor, Frances Lee, Kofi Opam provided not just shining light but imaginative and meaningful ways of creating, ways of knowing, and ways of being. They’ve all taught me how to take risks creatively and politically.

You can experience the risks they’ve taken, the challenges they pose for us, as readers and active agents in our communities, by peeping out their work:

Anne Liu Kellor, “Miseducated: Encounters with Blackness and Whiteness”

Kofi Opam, “Holding Patterns”

Frances Lee, “Becoming a Bridge Person in Precarious Times”

I’m honored and inspired to be a part of this fellowship. So very grateful for the experience of writing and dialoguing with Seventh Wave, which helped bring to light my latest essay, “Foreign Domestic”. The piece started as a hazy attempt to reflect on language and my mixed race experiences. Written when shelter-in-place was enacted statewide in California, when the college classes I was teaching were suddenly shifted online, and when our four year-old’s preschool closed, Seventh Wave and my fellow Bainbridge residents pulled me through the chaos, the vertigo, the mad hustle, and kept me writing.

So very grateful for this opportunity to mediate on the first lessons my paternal grandma taught me about nature, on eucalyptus trees in California, and how the loss of language doesn’t necessarily equate to loss of identity or culture. Have a taste of “Foreign Domestic”:

We are all nomads here. 

Either forced from our ancestral homes or fixing for better breaks, each leaving behind pieces of heart and soul to feed the body and tend to kin. Displaced. Dispossessed. Estranged. Reinvented. Assimilated. Sacrificing the familiar to be marked exotic not just by others, but also turning stranger to family, and foreign to self. 

Read entire essay here.

Please join us Sunday 3 May, 5:30 PST at The Digital Sala for “The Spark: history and the filipinx imagination”

Despite all the struggles and stressors of life in lockdown, from teaching and parenting, cooking and cleaning while home-schooling and working from home, a few surprises have made this shelter-in-place brighter.

The latest, an invite from Veronica Montes and Marianne Villanueva to co-facilitate a workshop with The Digital Sala. “The Spark: history and the filipinx imagination” set for this Sunday 3 May 2020, 5:30 PM (PST) via Zoom includes short reading from Montes, Villanueva, and yours truly, along with activities and discussion to generate new work with some engaging prompts. We ask if you can spread the word and hope to see you this Sunday evening!

The Digital Sala is a virtual Filipinx literary festival happening on various platforms throughout April 2020 and most likely beyond. The Digital Sala is a collaborative, decentralized, and grassroots effort initiated by writers, artists, and organizers committed to supporting each other and our broader communities. The Digital Sala is a radically flexible, build-as-we-go-along, open-ended effort. Thus far, we’ve hosted organizing strategy sessions, readings, an artist conversation, and a pop culture hour; we’ve supported and publicized open mics, workshops, and other aligned events happening in our communities; and we’re looking forward to an expanding calendar of casual, impromptu, formal or informal sessions, readings, workshops, writing groups, panels, and other types of gatherings. The Digital Sala keeps a wide-open and ongoing invitation to you, your ideas, your needs, and your dreams, and we encourage you to show up, gather, co-build, co-create, and hold space for our communities. We’re all here to support each other, and we plan to archive these events and experiences and build resources toward future initiatives and collaborations. The Digital Sala is a peoples’ project, a collective labor of love. We still need as much help as we can get to grow and sustain this already dynamic and crucial space. We recognize and respect everyone’s varying capacities. We welcome your support in all aspects of building and sustaining The Digital Sala: logistics; programming; online security; design; publicity; social media; etc. The Digital Sala is here for all of us!

Sheltering: 46 Poets & Writers from Around the World share isolation on MiGoZine

“A day after the seven Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place mandate, I called for poems on “sheltering,” and in less than two weeks, received over 90 poems from 46 poets, on their personal and shared experiences of self-isolation, paying attention to and tracing the mundane and the fantastic that have become our new normal.”

Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, Aileen Casinetto forwarded a call-to-write, gathering words from 46 writers from around the world to share their sheltering on MiGoZine. Yours truly is honored and inspired to be among literary lights such as Ivy Alvarez, Lee Herrick, Luisa A. Igloria, Melinda Luisa de Jesús, Tony Robles, Abigail Licad, and so many more. Please treat yourself and consider sharing to your lovers of lit.

Read more here.

Round II Teaching “The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture for January Term 2019

A new year, a new chance to teach a class that is my life’s work. Once again, for January Term 2019 at Saint Mary’s College, yours truly is teaching “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture”. For four weeks, four days a week, two hours and thirty-five minutes a day, our class will read, screen, listen, and view art, literature, music, TV shows, and other creative works that reconstruct, reclaim, interrogate, re-imagine, re-invent, subvert, and explode notions of race, of gender, of ethnicity, and of sexuality.

New titles have been added to last year’s reading list, such as Tommy Orange’s, There, There and Allan de Souza’s How Art Can Be Thought. Our class will have a special class visit from poet and author liz gonzalez, where we’ll read and discuss her latest book Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds. And, to top it all off, we have a class field trip to the Museum of African Diaspora, which yours truly is both excited and nervous to coordinate.

In teaching this class for the second time around, I’ve found, once again, how hungry students are to learn and share experiences, thoughts and questions about race, racism, our U.S. history, and legacy. I’ve also found that students are primed and prepped to discuss these incredibly difficult and complex issues.

More to come as we venture into the second week, so stay tuned…

 

The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture

COURSE DESCRIPTION

How do writers and artists such as David Mura, Tommy Orange, Harryette Mullen, Beyoncé, Kara Walker, and other historically marginalized creative practictioners, subvert, de-center, and make new notions of race, identity, gender, and sexual orientation? How do they challenge cultural otherness to incite as writer Pankaj Mishra calls “a bolder cartography of the imagination”? In this class we will explore how writers, musicians, artists, and comedians make stylistic choices of form and content to challenge dominant narratives and put center stage traditionally marginalized voices, neglected histories, and sub-histories. The aim of this course is to discover how art can complicate and challenge some of our greatest public narratives: race and gender; and how these narratives serve as writer Kaitlyn Greenridge says as a “collective and imagined space that exists only as a metaphor, rhetorical argument, figurative language, in short, as a fiction, though that does not mean that [they are] not real.”

Reading from diverse authors and viewing other artistic forms, we will consider the many different ways art and pop culture help us understand and challenge identity and politics, and conversely how we can interrogate notions of identity and politics to create art that incites a world awareness.

 

REQUIRED TEXTS

  • Tommy Orange, There, There
  • liz gonzalez, Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds
  • Allen deSouza, How Art Can Be Thought

 

READING LIST

Media Selections from Beyonce’s Lemonade, Key & Peele, El mar la Mar

Art Selections from Kara Walker, Ramiro Gomez and Jennifer Wofford

Poetry and Essay Selections:

  • Harryette Mullen, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be, “Imagining the Unimagined Reader: Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded”, “Kinky Quatrains: The Making of Muse & Drudge”, “Optic White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness”
  • Kevin Young, The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, “The Shadow Book”, “How Not to Be a Slave: On the Black Art of Escape”
  • Dorothy Wang, Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry 
  • John Yau, “Please Wait By the Coatroom”
  • Diane Glancy,In-between Places, “July: She has some potholders”
  • David Mura, A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing

In Honor of Filipino American History Month an essay for #allpinayeverything

 

Honored and grateful to share this essay resurrected from three years ago when I was a inhabiting a different body and anticipating two new lives for myself and my soon-to-be-son. Wishing I had more time and energy to write, revise, and polish pieces like this one. A writer-mother-teacher can dream. Thankful to Barbara Jane Reyes and #allpinayeverything for giving this little meditation a home and allowing these words to see the light of day.  Here’s to more writing & reading for #FAHM and for every day of the year.

Excerpt from “Waters I’ve Known”

We sip from the stars. This blue marble fed by interstellar ice. Before the sun had ever formed, from a cold, molecular cloud come our seas, lakes, and rivers that once were ions and ices fused in frigid chemistry. Our water sprang from the void, was launched from one stellar system to another, and then packed as frozen, cometary time capsules composed of gas, dust, and ice. Born of an interstellar heritage, our oceans travelled first as comets, asteroids, and hybrid space voyagers known as centaurs.

Read the entire essay here.

SMC MFA Reading Series Video with Shanthi Sekaran Now Online

This past April 4, 2018, yours truly had the honor to introduce and chat with the poetic storyteller Shanthi Sekaran about her new novel Lucky Boy. Sekaran is currently the 2018 Distinguished Visiting Writer in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College, and her work includesThe Prayer Room. Lucky Boy is the tale of two women who’s lives are forever linked by love and loss.

The video of her reading and our Q&A is now up as part of SMC MFA Creative Reading Series, so you can see for yourself the brilliance of Sekaran. Please treat yourself and share with other lovers of word and story.

Magkwento: The Philippine Anglophone Literature List

Thanks to the amazing vision and dedicated work of Alden Sajor Wood, a PhD candidate in English and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine where he is completing a dissertation on Filipino and Filipino diasporic literatures, I’m honored and thrilled to be included in Magkwento: The Philippine Anglophone Literature List.

This invaluable resource is a comprehensive and inspiring directory to a growing list of literary luminaries. Please treat yourself and share the love with students, colleagues, and your favorite readers & writers.

“Recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work”: Creative Prompt #3 for JanTerm043 “The Art of Race”

Image result for junot diaz drownStudents in yours truly Jan Term course “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture” are working hard on their final project, which is a creative writing assignment to write poetry, short fiction, or a personal essay inspired by the artists, writers, musicians, and theorists we’ve studied on how race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality inspire and shape creative work and how the different forms of art can redefine and interrogate notions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We’re ending the term by looking at Junot Diaz’s Drown and his MFA vs. POC written originally for Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing for VONA workshops and later published by The New Yorker.

The students have really responded to and ran with the prompts we’ve been working with and requested a third and final prompt, which I’ve included below for you to have a go if you so choose.

Poetry:

Create a list of fifteen items, including objects, images, songs, movies, TV shows, magazines, albums, clothing, jewelry, toys, household items, etc. that remind you of your childhood. Don’t edit or over-think but try to list as many items that represent your childhood and adolescence then chose two or three and write about them in as full description as you can. What do they look like? What colors? What do they smell like? What do they sound like? What are the textures? Where are they soft? Scratchy? Smooth? Bumpy? What did it feel like to hold them? What kind of feelings surfaced when you engaged with them?  Where did they come from? Who gave them to you? Do you remember when you first received them or noticed them? What kind of memories are they attached to? What kind of wonder do they spark? Examine each carefully as if it were a precious stone or a sacred relic. How would you describe them to someone who couldn’t see and who didn’t know what your childhood meant to you?

Non-fiction:

Taking a cue from both Junot Diaz and Barbara Jane Reyes, recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work. What did s/he wear for work (tie, heels, uniform, cuff-links)? How did s/he prepare in the morning? What kind of ritual did s/he practice? Hurried? Slow paced? Make breakfast? Rush out the door before you were awake? What kind of expression did s/he usually have? Worried? Tired? Excited? What did s/he take with him to work (briefcase, purse, coffee mug, water bottle, packed lunch)? Did you have time to talk with your parent or guardian before you both left for school or work? What did you usually talk about? Was there a specific memorable morning you shared together, and if so, what made it memorable? Conversely, recall the evenings or afternoons when your parent/guardian returned from work? What hour? Was s/he tired? Did s/he need time alone to decompress? Did s/he start cooking dinner immediately? What was the ritual returning from work?

Fiction:

Inspired by Junot Diaz, pick a memorable moment with a significant other or close friend and recreate the details of that moment. What time of day? Where were you? What where you both wearing? What was the weather like? What time of year? Who else was there? What were they saying? What were they doing? What was the dialogue between you and your significant other? What kind of tension were you facing together? What kind of tension were you both facing individually? What were your fears at the time? What were your hopes? What were your significant other’s fears and hopes? How did his/her fears and hopes conflict with yours? How did they coincide? Now twist the moment. How would it have gone differently if you said something opposite to what you actually said or did something opposite to what you actually did? Would you still be together as friends or partners? How would you have fractured or mended the relationship? How would you have complicated or simplified the moment?

More to come on “The Art of Race”…

What historical event, book, movie, TV show, physical landmark, specific place anchors your sense of self?: Creative Prompt #2 for JanTerm043 “The Art of Race”

Second creative writing prompt generated for the class yours truly is teaching, SMC Jan Term 043: “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture.” We’ve been exploring how race, ethnicity, identity, gender, and sexuality inspire and shape creative work, such as music, film & TV, literature, and art, and how the forms and elements of creative work can help redefine, reconstruct, interrogate, and re-imagine notions on race, gender, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. So far we’ve read poets Carlos Soto Román, Barbara Jane Reyes, Harryette Mullen, and listened to musicians such as Beyoncé and Gingee. Viewed art by Kara Walker, and watched shows such as black-ish, Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, and Atlanta. We’re currently reading Diane Glancy’s, In-between Places  (University of Arizona Press, 2005), where she writes in her introduction:

Written language seems to me a landscape. Land bound in words. I pick up stones or rocks in travel as texts I can read.

There is a map you open like a book. There are books you open like a map.

There is a map you decide to call a book? A book of the territories you’ve traveled. A book of the in-between places you’ve lived. A map is a meaning you hold against the unknowing. The places you speak in many directions.

Image result for diane glancy in-between places

 

The below prompts are inspired by Glancy, Reyes, and Soto Roman. Have a try for yourself!

“The Art of Race” Creative Prompt #2

 for Different Literary Genres

 

Poetry:

What song/lyric/commercial/dialogue from TV or movie is stuck in your head? Look it up, so you can accurately quote, if you need to. How is this found text related to what you are feeling right now? How does it give insight or confuse or challenge your emotions or your thoughts? How is it related to something your mother/grandfather/brother/partner/friend/roommate once said or always says? Take one of the words and create a new line, phrase, or dialogue to spin it your own way.

 

Non-fiction:

What historical event, book, movie, TV show, physical landmark, specific place anchors your sense of self? Do some research on this anchor. What is its history? How did it come about? How does its story of evolution give insight into your (d)evolution? How did you first learn about this anchor? Who introduced it to you? When? Why? How do you feel about this anchor now? Does it root you or shackle you? How do you claim it as your own or how does it claim you?

 

Short Fiction:

Make a list of your fears and superstitions. Then add fears and superstitions that you know of from close friends or family. Close your eyes. Circle one of them. Whichever one you circled, have your main character confront that fear or superstition. Where are they? What are they feeling? What are they thinking? What physical sensations are they experiencing? Are they alone? Is anyone else there? If so, what are they doing? How are they helping or hindering? What do they say that worsens the situation? How does your main character fight back? How does fighting back make matters worse?

More to come on “The Art of Race”…

“What Keeps You Up at Night? What Gets You Out of Bed?”: Creative Prompts for SMC Jan Term “The Art of Race”

Week #3 of SMC Jan Term “The Art of Race” and yours truly believes the best way to describe the experience of teaching this course is through this image:

By the end of the term, I like to believe I will be ground down to an essence in which I could be sprinkled into a tasty mole.

We are moving into the final project for the course where students will choose a creative writing genre (poetry, short fiction, or the creative personal essay) to write their own story of race, identity, ethnicity, multiculturalism, difference, prejudice, and/or discrimination.

In addition to the basic principles of their chosen literary form, they are expected to incorporate ideas and creative analyses based on the authors we’ve read in class to creatively interrogate notions on how issues of race, identity, multiculturalism, difference, and prejudice intersect with imagination, literary style, and aesthetics.

Some prompts to get their creative engines revved:

Poetry:

Image result for invocation to daughtersTaking a cue from Barbara Jane Reyes poem “The Day” in Invocation to Daughters (City Lights, 2017) write about this specific moment. Note the time, the date, the location, and describe details of this particular moment for each of the seven senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, balance). Note your surroundings. Where and how are you physically? How does that contrast or coincide with where and how you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, artistically.

 

Non-fiction:

Taking a cue from Kevin Young The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, What keeps you up at night? What gets Image result for on the blackness of blacknessyou out of bed? Who is your imaginary “American”? Where does s/he come from? Describe the land? Use your senses, touch, smell, taste, see, hear, balance? What does s/he wear? Eat? How does s/he walk? Talk? How does s/he roll? What does s/he rock to or listen to? How does that music make him/her feel? What is his/her American dream?

 

Short Fiction:

Create a scene where a character first discovers s/he is different from others. Where does this scene take place? Who else is there? What are they doing? Wearing? How are they acting? How do the other characters create or take away space from your main character? How do the other characters create a mirror for the main character to see him or herself reflected? How does s/he react to his/her own self image reflected back? What kind of conflict and tension is created? Is there an exchange through words or action? How does the exchange or non-exchange heighten the interiority of tension your main character is feeling? What differences does s/he notice between her/him and the other characters? How does that affect the six senses s/he is feeling at the moment (sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, balance, and time)? What questions are raised for your main character?

More prompts to come…