Archive | June 2016

Mixed Remixed 2016

As I mentioned last week, I went to my second Mixed Remixed Festival two weekends ago. Last year, I went for the first time and had a wonderful time. This year, I applied to be a presenter and was placed on a panel entitled “Excavating Family Mythology & Publishing Your First Children’s or YA Book.” (I was a little perplexed when I found out because as far as I’m aware I excavated zero family mythology for either of my books, but it turned out not to matter.)

mxdrmxd - web ad - 2016 - EXCAVATING - jpeg

Oh, my goodness! I’m on a panel flyer!

While last year’s festival was only one day, this year’s was two. My panel was on Friday, the first day. I took the bus to the Japanese American National Museum early in the afternoon in order to make it to the panel before mine, “Hapa Writers: Our Stories in Fiction.” On my way in, I met Heidi Durrow, the author who founded the festival, for the first time in person.

To me, the most interesting part of the hapa writers panel was when panelist Maria T. Allocco talked about her relationship to the very term hapa. I’ve alluded to the complexities of using this word before. Maria explained that she no longer liked to call herself hapa because it means “part” or “fragment,” and she is of course whole. She also said she found the word Eurocentric, I think because it’s sometimes understood as meaning someone of mixed Asian and European ancestry. But I don’t think this is the definition used in, say, Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian, 100% Hapa. I also have qualms about using the term hapa, but for entirely different reasons. My understanding is that hapa is a Hawaiian word that means “half” and that can be used in combination with many other modifiers to refer to people of all kinds of different multiracial identities. That is, hapa itself has nothing to do with Asian ancestry. It’s in the mainland U.S. that it came to mean an Asian mixed race person. I’m uncomfortable with the way a Hawaii-specific term has been appropriated, but I’m conflicted because, like several of the panelists, I like having this word to describe exactly what I am.

Next up was my panel! My fellow panelists were Katrina Goldsaito, author of the forthcoming picture book The Sound of Silence; Maria Leonard Olsen, author of, among other books, Mommy, Why’s Your Skin So Brown?; and Veda Stamps, author of the middle grade contemporary novel Flexible Wings. Our moderator was Jamie Moore, the festival’s literary coordinator. The conversation ranged from our writing processes to why we write for children to what we read growing up to We Need Diverse Books to how to balance writing with a day job. I was the only writer on the panel who hadn’t actually written a book with a mixed race protagonist.

Speaking on my first author panel ever wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I’d anticipated. I didn’t get tongue-tied, and I think I managed not to say anything absurd. I had fun, and it was a great way to meet people. I was touched that Claire Ramsaran, the organizer of the mixed and queer writing workshop who interviewed me for the Mixed Remixed blog after last year’s festival, came to my panel even though children’s literature is not her specialty. Also, when the panel was over, N, one of the people scheduled to speak on Saturday’s millennials panel, came up to talk to me, and we had an interesting conversation about Asian-inspired fantasy.

On Saturday, I went back for a full Day 2 of the festival. The first panel I went to was “Is the Mixed Thing Just for Girls?” There were two men on the panel, so…no? One of the audience questions really brought home to me the fact that mixed race people are not a monolith (obviously) because it was about hair. I really can’t speak to this experience, but my impression is that hair is a big deal to white and black multiracial people (or I guess black and anything). There are always tons of reference to hair at the festival, and one of the main sponsors is Mixed Chicks, a company that makes hair products specifically for mixed people (where, as far as I can tell, mixed means part-black). Last year, festival attendees all got sample products in our goodie bags. I think those products are still stashed in my room somewhere. I don’t have curly hair, and my hair is far from being a major facet of my multiracial identity.

I took a break for lunch and got some onigiri in the Japanese Village Plaza. After lunch was the mixed and queer writing workshop I mentioned, which I also went to last year. It was a little smaller this time around, but some of the same people came, so it was fun to reconnect with them. I had a conversation with one of them about using or not using hapa to describe ourselves. She actually avoids it, precisely because of the appropriation issue. Then we started comparing notes about grad school experiences…

From the workshop, I went to the featured writers panel, mostly to hear Jamie Ford read. The other authors were poet F. Douglas Brown, memoirist and spoken word artist Willy Wilkinson (whom I saw perform last year in the live show), and novelists Sunil Yapa and Natashia Deón. Jamie Ford read a scene from his next novel, about a hapa boy who comes from China to the U.S. only to be sold at the Seattle World’s Fair (I think).

Next I went to “Mixed Millennials: Changing What Mixed-Race Means,” the panel N was on, since, well, I’m a millennial! N and one of the other panelists, Andrea, co-run a website called Mixed Race Politics, which publishes articles and essays related to the mixed race experience.

After a bit of a break, there was a reception in the building across from the museum. There I got to talk to the very kind Jamie Ford, who asked me what was next for me writing-wise. Then we piled into the Tateuchi Democracy Forum for the Storyteller’s Prize Presentation & Live Show. I sat with Andrea and Claire and a couple of other people from the writing workshop. Opening once again this year was singer and multi-instrumentalist Kayla Briët (I’m still envious of her guzheng). Then we got to see a sneak peek from the forthcoming film Loving, about Richard and Mildred Loving, of Loving vs. Virginia fame.

The other performers were:

  • Lichelli, who delivered a monologue about hair
  • Andrew J. Figueroa “Fig,” who went to Hampshire College and who performed amazing, amazing…Hip-Hop, I guess? (I’m going by his bio; I’m terrible with music genres). His piece on being harassed by a policeman in high school blew me away.
  • Maya Azucena, who’s singing and stage presence were also very impressive and stirring

The Storyteller’s Prize went to Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans for their picture book Mixed Me! I belatedly realized that Taye Diggs was a way bigger deal than I knew (this seems to happen to me a lot, since I’m so out of it when it comes to pop culture and/or the entertainment industry).

Like last year, the live show was exciting, invigorating, and cathartic. Afterwards, there was another reception with cake. I chatted with Andrea and met a few more people before heading home. I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival!

These Last Few Days

These last few days have been strange. Filled with joy and sorrow. Fun and excitement on the one hand and horror and despair on the other.

Last Friday and Saturday, the Mixed Remixed Festival took place at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. I attended last year, and this year I was a presenter. I reconnected with friends I’d met last year and made new friends. I got to speak on my first author panel ever. I’m going to write more about this year’s festival soon, but I feel like I have to pause first.

Sunday through Tuesday was the 50th anniversary celebration of the UCLA Linguistics Department, my academic home. The schedule was packed, and there was much laughter and festivity. I talked to alumni I admire, heard anecdotes from fifty years of department history, and made music with my friends. I was so busy I didn’t spend much time online. In some ways I was glad of the distraction because every time I landed on a newspaper’s website or scrolled through Facebook, I was reminded of the mass shooting that left fifty people dead at a gay club in Orlando, FL.

On Sunday, I sat down to breakfast in front of my laptop like I do every morning. I was still tired from spending all of Saturday at the Mixed Remixed Festival, but I was excited that my Georgian chorus was singing at my church that morning. My homepage is the New York Times. The first thing I saw when my browser opened was the headline marching across the screen in huge black letters. Shooting, gay club, Orlando, 50 dead, 53 wounded. For a second, the news sort of bounced off me: oh, something terrible has happened again in this world where every day’s headlines are a litany of terrible things. But then the full horror of this massacre, of this carnage, began to sink in. I thought of the Bataclan in Paris, where scores of concert goers were shot to death in November. Most of the dead in Orlando were young, queer, and of color. Most of the people I’d been hanging out with at Mixed Remixed the night before were young, mixed race, and queer. The bus I’d ridden home had crawled through heavy traffic in West Hollywood where people were celebrating LA Pride.

A heaviness settled over my Sunday, and it has lingered, even as I’ve been doing so much celebrating. There was the department 5k and picnic, sneaking off for a clandestine choir rehearsal inside a sculpture, performing Georgian songs at the reception, the anniversary banquet. I’ve been so happy these last few days. And I’ve also been heartbroken, and afraid that we in the U.S. will never overcome our collective paralysis when it comes to guns and mass violence.

The UCLA shooting was two weeks ago today, although in some ways it already feels like a distant memory. I was on campus that morning, during the lockdown. I was safe, and for the most part I felt calm, but the uncertainty during those two very long hours was real. We didn’t know when it would be over. We didn’t know what was happening elsewhere on campus. And the saddest part was how unsurprised I was. I remember thinking that the shooting was bound to be on my campus one day. It was simply our turn now.

On Saturday night at the Mixed Remixed show in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum, perched high in the tiered seating, I watched people at the bottom of the theater walking in and out of the shadowy entryway and thought to myself, Someone could walk out of those shadows with a gun. It’s astounding that I live in a country and a time where I could casually imagine such a scenario. And that was before Sunday, before the attack that’s being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

This has been a post of contrasts, and I want to end on a note of joy. The founder of our beloved Georgian chorus rewrote the words of a pop song in honor of the UCLA Linguistics Department’s 50th anniversary. She taught it to us at the picnic on Sunday, and a few of us performed it at the reception on Monday. The song is silly, cute, and sweet. I don’t mean to minimize the grief and the rage that people are feeling right now or to trivialize what has happened and is still happening. But singing this song and listening to it makes me happy because this light-hearted performance was about the joy of singing with friends and the fondness so many people have for the community that is UCLA Linguistics. In the face of violence, fear, and despair, it’s our communities that will see us through. So here’s a glimpse into one of mine.

San Francisco

I visited San Francisco again this past weekend! Upon arriving late Friday afternoon, I went straight to Casa de Paz, an intentional community in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. There I met my friend Miyuki. The residents of the house were cooking a vegan meal for Friday evening meditation, which I wasn’t going to be able to stay for. Miyuki showed me the amazing gardens, and then we sat on the front steps and caught up. Occasionally someone from the neighborhood would walk by, and I’d try to follow as Miyuki chatted with them in Spanish.

On Saturday, I went to the Bay Area Book Festival with Miyuki, our friend Andrew, Miyuki’s Google linguist friend, and Miyuki’s friend Jonah. All of us but the Google linguist went to Swarthmore.


Andrew with a cockatoo by the Berkeley BART station

Wandering through the booths, we were hailed by another Swarthmore alum, Books! Books was working for the festival, doorkeeping or some such for an Irish writers panel that included Colm Tóibín (!).

On Radical Row, Andrew was beguiled by a deal at the Small Press Distribution booth whereby he could choose a free book if he wrote a poem. After much thought, he penned an eight-line poem with end rhyme about the cockatoo. Hovering at this booth, I noticed A Bestiary by Lily Hoang and, after leafing through it, decided to buy it.


Pictured above is Lacuna, an art installation/giant free library set up in a park at the southern end of the festival. Miyuki discovered a Taiwanese children’s book that weirdly featured both bopomofo and a lot of erhua. Andrew found Chieh Chieng’s A Long Stay in a Distant Land and offered it to me. It looked interesting, so I took it.

On Monday, my friend Leland and I walked through Chinatown, stopping at a bakery for some pork buns, and then spent a long time in City Lights Books. From there, we took a look inside Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and then walked to the Coit Tower. We admired the New Deal-era murals, and I particularly noticed this particular section of one:


There’s this one passage in Sparkers:

He limps to the nearest machine and sits down at it. “This is a linotype machine.”

In front of him is something like a typewriter keyboard. He peruses my scribbles and begins to type. To his left, little blocks of metal engraved with letters begin to form lines of text.

Leland and I took the elevator up to the top of the tower and took in the views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island.

Leaving the Coit Tower, we wandered through the neighborhood and stumbled upon Schein & Schein, a map/antique print shop. It was magical. We lingered there so long we ran out of time to get artisanal ice cream.


A page from an old French music theory textbook (our best guess). The text is often quite amusing. For instance, the text above Fig. 14 says, “Third to avoid because of the equivocal chord, unless the song is well-determined, like here”