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“Fresh Off the Boat”: It’s About Damn Time

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that this week I was SUPER EXCITED for the new show Fresh Off the Boat.

I actually do not cover this show for Entertainment Weekly. I am just damn excited for it on my own. (Though I DO cover The Musketeers and Veronica Mars, if you would like to read up on those, shameless plug)

Why? Because it’s the first show in over 20 years to star an Asian American family on network TV since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl came out in 1994.

Seriously? It’s taken TWENTY years for America to be ok with seeing an Asian American family on TV again?

Sure there have been Asian actors that have had major roles in TV shows.

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John Cho

Yunjin Kim, Daniel Dae Kim, Naveen Andrews

Ken Jeong

Mindy Kaling

Those were just some notable examples. But while Asians have starred in TV shows, there’s only been one show on network TV that stars an entire Asian American family. Which is insane considering that Asians make up 5.3% of the U.S. population. I mean are we STILL that foreign to you?

The only other Asian family I have seen in a TV show over the past few years was Sullivan and Son which featured an interracial family (and coincidentally starring the same mom from All American Girl) where cultures are blended. But that as on TBS and sadly it got canceled last year.

Why did I love the first two episodes of FOB so much? First off, it was actually REALLY funny. And it’s funny right from the beginning and not like Selfie funny where all the better writing happens right before the show gets canceled. Second, the acting so far is great. Constance Wu, who plays the mom, is hilarious and is pretty much my mother. She’s a tiger mom yes (it’s not a stereotype, if you grew up with parents who immigrated to the US, they really are like this) but she also loves her boys and she plays it well. The dad is great too (really the Bill Pullman scene is funny because it’s true) and the boys are adorable.

Also if you’re trying to place where you might have seen Randall Park who plays Eddie’s dad:

Finally, because I could relate so much to Eddie’s character. The story is just like my family with three boys instead of the three girls. The feeling of wanting to assimilate to find my own identity. Being teased because I was different. Being called ethnic slurs. I can’t begin to tell you how many times the scene when Eddie gets called a “chink” has happened to me just liked that when I was growing up. And I’m SO glad that was shown because yeah, this stuff actually happens. The show is not racist or stereotyped because for many Asian Americans: THIS ALL HAPPENED TO US. As long as the show does not go into stock Asian characterization, this should be a breakthrough as more diversity needs to happen on TV because….it happens in REAL LIFE.

I know I’ve been going on a diversity kick lately on my blog but that’s because it’s something that is very important to me. I’ve grown up for years trying to be like everyone else and wanting to be like everyone else because that was what surrounded to me and what was presented to me as the ideal. But then this dialogue from the pilot episode made so much sense:

  • Eddie: Why aren’t chicks giving me soda? Emery: You want it too much.

Ah truth.

I’m not the one one who really enjoyed the first two episodes as ratings were pretty darn good and most of the reactions I’ve seen have been mainly positive. This Buzzfeed article explains everything. Everything is truth, especially 4 and 8. Even if you aren’t Asian, if you’ve ever felt like you wanted to fit it but you stand out because of cultural differences, I think you’ll enjoy the show. And even if you didn’t, I still think you will.

Asian American families. WE DO EXIST. And now the whole country will know.

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The Two Questions I am Asked ALL THE TIME

I’ve been around for a little over 30 years. And ever since I started socially interacting with people, I’ve found that on a regular basis I get asked the same two questions ALL THE TIME. They are asked by a myriad of folk, young and old, strangers and casual acquaintances, all sorts of backgrounds. I’ve never really understood how some people consider these questions to be ice breaker topics but whatevs.

1. Where are you from?

2. No, where are you REALLY from?

If you ask me in this way, I’m going to tell you the truth. I am a Virginia girl and have been my entire life.

I was born in Southwest Virginia, I grew up in Southeast Virginia, and I currently live in Northern Virginia.

Technically, I’m a Southern girl.(I say technically because personally I do not feel that Virginia is in the South. Geographically, I’m not sure why Virginia was in the Confederacy because when you look at the map, we’re sticking WAY UP compared to the rest of the states). I say “y’all”. I used to watch NASCAR. I drink way too much sweet tea. I am happiest with Southern comfort food. And it could have been worse. My dad turned down a job in Alabama when we were very young. I could have been the Asian girl with the thick Southern accent who had to make a choice between going to Alabama or Auburn.

People get really disappointed when I say this though. But if you ask me where I’m from, this is where I’m from. I’m proud to be a Virginian. It’s so different in each part of Virginia. Southwest Virginia has mountains and the Hokies. Southeast Virginia has the beach, Pharrell and Rudy from the first season of Survivor. And Northern Virginia is where EVERYTHING’s at. Our state is full of history (part of the reason why I did study history) and there’s so many awesome things about it. Seriously I do love my state.

Oh I see. You want to know my ethnic background. You want to know where my ancestors are from. Because Asian looking people could not have originated in Virginia. (I could argue Pocahontas and the rest of the Native Americans.) Well you see, when you phrase it the way I listed above, you’ve basically telling me I don’t belong here. And that everything I just told you about MY life here in Virginia doesn’t matter to you. When you ask it in this way, you’re not interested in issues that I may have faced as an Asian American in predominately white community or discussing stereotypes that Asian Americans face. That is not why you are asking.

I am open to talking about my ethnicity because believe it or not, I DO realize I’m not white. (Maybe on the inside only) Truthfully though, I just look Asian, I’m really more American because that’s all I know. I am respectful of my background and culture and I do try to learn more, but if you’re trying to get the deep lowdown on Asian culture, I am not the best person to go to unfortunately.

To sum this up, if you want to know, it’s perfectly fine. Just ask politely. Don’t demand it. This goes across the board with asking ANYONE about their background. If you’re curious, it’s ok. We don’t mind talking. Just think before you ask. That is all.

And to answer your next few questions before you ask

    • No, I’m not an expert with chopsticks
    • No, I don’t like anime
    • No, I’m not super good at math
    • No, I don’t know martial arts
    • Yes, I do eat a lot of rice
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Being different has made me more aware

One of my goals for 2015 is to read more diversely. This is something that has been brought to my attention after reading several articles on Book Riot about this very topic.

Most of the authors that I read were white (white women to be specific) and therefore almost all the books I read had white main characters in them. Growing up the majority of my friends were white and therefore I wanted to be white too. I wanted to have brown or blonde hair, lighter skin, and blue eyes. I even wanted freckles. I also wanted a last name that people could easily pronounce. I used to want to just blend in with everyone instead of being the one that always stuck out. I hated that someone could just reference “the Asian girl” and it almost always meant me. It’s refreshing to know though that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

The thing is, as awful as all that sounds, it’s made me become so much more aware today than I think most people are.

Sadly I know a lot more prejudice and racism that my white friends will luckily never experience. I’ve been called names, made fun of, and heard so many jokes about features of myself that I can never change. It’s hard also seeing depictions of my race and culture constantly being made fun of in media and entertainment. While I can take and make a cultural joke, it’s also really hard to hear and see truly derogatory insults on a regular basis.

I do feel like I see the world differently than most of my friends. Unless they go out of their comfort zone and do some traveling, it will be very likely they will ever feel like the minority. I don’t know think they know what it’s like to sit down and see you’re the only one in a sea of similar people. And it’s probably hard to understand why I would not want to be myself and be like them instead. You can learn to understand this more if you marry into the culture but at the same time, it’s still really hard to understand what I go through.

I’m not saying all this to play up any race cards or make anyone feel guilty. I’m just trying to explain why I am in favor of learning more about diversity. In those Book Riot posts, it’s talked a lot how most books we read subconsciously are written by white authors and also about white characters. It is what sells. Just like the writers in the post, I too got very excited any time there was a character in a book that looked like me. Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club was my favorite character because she was the only Asian girl and therefore I could relate to her. Mulan is my favorite Disney princess because she looked like me. I have always been disappointed that there was only one Asian American Girl historical doll, Ivy, and even then she’s the sidekick friend and not the main doll but even then, it’s exciting because hey, she looks like me! But these are exceptions to the rule and not the norm sadly.

I’d love for more people to become more culturally diverse. I can’t force or make anyone else learn or understand this. But I can do it for myself in books I choose to read. And it’s helping me to see the world a lot differently in a good way.

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Your Hair Is Everywhere

Ever since I was little, I could always count on one compliment about my physical appearance no matter how icky the rest of me might look: people seem to love my hair.


This is not me but if you were an Asian girl growing up, I can guarantee you most likely had this haircut: The bowl cut with bangs.

People would always be coming up to our parents telling me how much they loved seeing my sisters’ and my long hair at church. We used to be told we shouldn’t cut because of how pretty it was and how they were all jealous their kids didn’t have it.

It’s really funny though because my hair annoys me. I have a very vivid memory of prepping for Columbus Day in first grade and we all made Christopher Columbus hats out of paper. After cutting them out, the plan was to paper clip them to our heads. Now, I’m pretty sure it was a combination of the texture of my hair and how it can be slippery since it gets sleek and the fact that I’m convinced my head is abnormally shaped but I was the ONLY person in my class unable to get the hat to stay on their head. And of course I got teased for it because kids just are cruel.

I know, the grass is always greener on the other side. I envy people who have curly hair or at least SOME wave to it. My hair is super thick and straight. Yes, I know some of you are super jealous of that, but let me tell you, that can be a pain. I am SUPER jealous of all you people who can put your hair up with just a PENCIL. I mean what kind of sorcery is this???

And I don’t even have the typical Asian hair. The stereotype of Asian girl hair is jet black, super straight, super sleek hair that seems to be perfect all the time. Nope, not me. Thanks to taking after my dad’s hair, mine gets really poufy if I let it air dry without doing any combing to it. Basically I feel like I have Hermione Granger hair before she discovers Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion.

Even though most people really liked my hair, I still got teased for it. I remember in middle school, my hair did this thing where a lot of it would fall to the front but it would leave a little bit in the back. And some girls decided that it made me look like I had a rat-tail and I got teased for it. To this day, I still worry about that so I’m always fiddling with my hair to make sure it doesn’t do that. And honestly, I never seem to see anyone else with this problem ever so I worry sometimes that it’s just me.

Senior year in high school I was tired of having the same hair so I chopped it ALL off.

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I mean my hair was down to my wait and was actually really heavy. It kept getting caught on the back of my chair at school and SO MUCH TANGLES. So I went super short.

short hair

Actually it was shorter than this but I don’t have any of those pics from that time period.This was during those rebellious years of my life, when I also got my eyebrow pierced. Having shorter hair was very freeing but it was also harder to maintain. Plus people kept thinking I was a boy (seriously, really?) so eventually I regrew it out again. But it was nice to have done it once in my life.

These days, I’m all about coloring my hair. No, not because I’m trying to cover up gray hair. Growing up when you have the blackest hair possible, you can’t really do anything with it. While everyone else can just use kool-aid or Jello to make their hair all sorts of colors, I’m stuck with THE DARKNESS OF NIGHT all the time. Even trying boxed hair dyes will MAYBE make your hair the tiniest bit lighter if you stand in the sun. I even tried in college using a home bleaching kit with the help of my roommate and it only made SOME of my hair turn a shade of orange. I’m super jealous of all the Asians who can color their hair very easily.

I finally decided to get my hair professionally highlighted and I really like doing it. Because that’s the ONLY way you can actually get my hair to change to a certain color.

Also fauxhawk.

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Currently I am at the blondest I will ever be in my life.

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I decided, what the hey. YOLO.

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Mulan is my favorite Disney princess…

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This weekend I got to hang out with one of my sisters and two of my cousins from my dad’s side that I haven’t seen in several years. My parents also arrived back home after an extended visit to Malaysia to attend the wedding of another of my cousins on my mom’s side. All this extra family stuff got me thinking about how I sometimes forget I’m actually Asian.

I know that sounds weird to probably most people. You usually don’t forget your ethnicity. And it’s not that I’m ashamed or not proud to be Asian. It’s just my entire life, I have hung out with my friends who tend to not normally be Asian American so I don’t see myself really in that way. Growing up, I stood out a lot physically because there weren’t a lot of Asians in my high school. I got teased a lot for it. Luckily it didn’t scar me horribly but let’s just say kids can be very mean College was very different in that sense as I was surrounded by lots of other Asian Americans and Asians and I no longer felt like a minority. Nowadays, I joke about being the token Asian all the time with my friends, in a good way. It’s funny how back in school, I never could have done that. And now, while I don’t make racist jokes, I’m often the first one to bring it up so everyone feels comfortable.

And no, I don’t know how to speak any other language besides English. And no, I still don’t know how to really use chopsticks. And no, I’m not a doctor or an engineer and I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. And no, I don’t know how to play the piano or the violin. To dissuade you from all those Asian stereotypes.

In case you’re wondering (and because I get this question a lot), the type of Asian I am is Burmese-Chinese. My dad is from Burma and my mom is from Malaysia but is ethnically Chinese. Although technically my dad isn’t actually Burmese. We’re really ethnically Chin so I’m really CHIN-ese (heh) but just like no one knows where Portsmouth is and I just tell people I’m from Virginia Beach, it’s easier to say Burmese. Oh and I’m 100% American born and raised. And I’m from the south, y’all.

Being Asian American has both its ups and downs. It can be a challenge sometimes and I will always physically stand out unless I decide to live in an Asian community. But you know, it’s also cool to be different. And if folks can’t accept that different, it’s their choice and not my fault. Now excuse me while I go eat some rice.