Cable Scarf

I relearned how to knit cables over winter break and brought a pair of size 8 needles back to California with me. When one of my fellow grad students hosted an art party last weekend (think stamp making, drawing, and calligraphy, both Western and Chinese), I decided my craft project would be a cable scarf. I picked out some blue wool yarn at Michael’s and started knitting.


The scarf so far. It has a seed stitch border and a four-strand plait on a purl background.

That same weekend, I saw this piece on the health benefits of knitting! Hopefully I’m de-stressing or something. There are actually several knitters (that I know of) in my department, and my advisor told me the MIT department used to have a knitting evening. Maybe they still do.

Liebster Award

Brigid at Brigid Writes Things kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is a sort of chain e-mail of the blogosphere, with the added benefit of letting bloggers discover and promote each other. It looks like fun, so I’m going to do it! (Thank you, Brigid!) The Liebster Award comes with the following rules, which I intend to flout a bit:

The Rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions the nominator has given you.
3. Tag 11 bloggers who have less than 1,000 readers.
4. Think of 11 questions to ask the bloggers you have nominated.
5. Let them know you’ve nominated them through social media or their blog.

Here are Brigid’s questions, with my answers:

1. Put your music on shuffle. What are the first five songs that come up?

Keeping in mind that my iTunes library was partially decimated in the Great Hard Drive Failure of Early 2015:

  1. …well, this is embarrassing. Me playing the first movement of the Shostakovich cello concerto (no. 1) with my high school orchestra
  2. La mode en est devenue nouvelle by Transhumances
  3. Amiranis Perkhuli by Zedashe
  4. Rachuli Supruli by Zedashe
  5. Ach’aruli Khasanbegura by the Basiani Choir of the Georgian Patriarchate

Well, that skewed Georgian, but otherwise it’s kind of an accurate picture of the sort of music I listen to.

2. What’s the last thing that made you laugh really hard?

Um, I can’t really remember. That’s probably a bad sign.

3. What’s something you did in 2015 that you’re proud of?

I’m proud of the speech I gave at the Friends of American Writers awards luncheon in May.

4. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish in 2016?

Find a dissertation topic. Better yet, defend my prospectus.

5. Do you enjoy going to concerts? If so, what was the last one you went to?

Yes! The last concert I went to was An Eclectic Christmas Concert (that’s literally what it was called) at a United Methodist church in St. Paul. I mostly went to hear the Twin Cities Georgian chorus (which has no name) perform. They sang three Alilos (Christmas songs), two Mravalzhamiers (Many Years), and the chant Shen Khar Venakhi. I got to sing Christmas shape note tunes with a whole crowd of Twin Cities shape note singers. The other groups were the Metropolitan Male Chorus, the church choir, and a rock band.

6. What is one of your favorite quotes?

I’m not much of a quotes person, but I like this one from Oscar Wilde’s play An Ideal Husband: “Musical people are so absurdly unreasonable.”

7. What is the weirdest food you like?

I can’t think of anything! I feel like none of the foods I like are that weird. Here’s one, I guess: I like something I call “rice pudding” even though it’s not actually rice pudding (which I also love, as long as it doesn’t have nuts or raisins in it). You take cooked rice, heat it up, then pour milk on it as if it were cereal. Then you sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on it. It’s a good breakfast to make out of leftover rice!

8. What book has made you cry the hardest?

Hmm, this is hard. I’m not a big crier. Also, my memory for this sort of thing is not great (see: laughing). I’m pretty sure The Book Thief made me cry. Also maybe I’ll Give You the Sun? Tell the Wolves I’m Home?

9. What was the best day of your life?

I don’t know if I can point to a single best day of my life. I’ve had some really excellent birthdays, which included some combination of things like surprise gifts/gestures, singing Georgian songs at an outdoor table at an okonomiyaki restaurant in Sawtelle, impromptu shape note singing under an arch, really cool concerts, cover art in my inbox, and more. (To be clear, there was no single birthday that involved all of these things.) There was the time I went to the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, had dinner with author Rachel Hartman, and did karaoke with a bunch of linguists, all in one day. I’ve had some good days!

10. What fictional world would you love to live in (or at least spend some time in)?

I’d like to spend some time in the world of His Dark Materials, cutting into different worlds, like Lyra’s, with the Subtle Knife (preferably without losing two fingers). I think it’d also be really fascinating to visit the world in S. E. Grove’s The Glass Sentence because different parts of Earth exist in different time periods. I’m not sure I’d actually want to live in either world, though. Maybe only if I lived in a nice quiet corner.

11. If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would it be?

I would like to meet the real Lemony Snicket. But since he’s essentially a fictional character, how about Madeleine L’Engle?


Okay, I’m not going to nominate 11 people. I’ll do 3. They’re all very cool people you should check out!

Artist, tiny house builder, and now grad student Miyuki, whose amazing illustrated posts are at Hey Miyuki!

Linguistics grad student (sound familiar?) Andrew, who blogs about words, activism, and more at [ə bla.ɡə.baʊt̚ ɡɹæd.skʊɫ]

Teacher and traveler Madeline, who writes both heartfelt and hilarious posts about her life in China at Madz Goes to China (I highly recommend “Richard’s Last Thanksgivukkah”!)

Obviously, none of my nominees have to participate. But if you want to (or if you’re reading this and I didn’t nominate you but you still want to participate), here are 11 questions:

  1. What is one of the most interesting places you have traveled to?
  2. What is a book you read for school (any level) that you really liked/appreciated?
  3. What’s something tasty you cooked recently?
  4. How much do you like snow?
  5. What books are on your nightstand (or equivalent) right now?
  6. What is one of your favorite U.S. cities and why?
  7. Which language other than English do you speak the best today?
  8. What is one place you haven’t been to that you’d really like to visit?
  9. What is a musical instrument you don’t play that you wish you did?
  10. Do you have a favorite/most long-lived stuffed animal? What kind?
  11. What is a skill/craft you’d like to learn someday?

Thanks again, Brigid! And again, anybody can answer my questions if you feel like it.

My Hapa Story

Family Portrait

My family (Photo credit: Dorothy Kunzig)

This post is a submission to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s #myhapastory project.

I was born in Washington, D.C. to two economists. My mother was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Minnesota. Her parents were from Guangdong Province. My father was born and raised in Minnesota. His ancestors were mostly from Germany and Sweden. For the first nine years of my life, I lived in Maryland, where my best friend was also hapa. We did French immersion and soccer and Suzuki camp together.

Then I moved to Minnesota, where all my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived. I had roots there. My maternal grandfather had owned a Chinese restaurant in downtown St. Paul. My paternal great-grandparents had had a farm in West St. Paul. I can still visit the spots where these places used to be.

I spent my teenage years (not so) secretly writing fantasy stories and playing cello in a lot of orchestras. I didn’t have any close Asian-American friends, but that didn’t matter to me. I did experience the occasional unwanted question (“Are you half?”) or incident that vaguely bothered me (like not getting invited to the Asian table at All-State Orchestra camp).

In high school, I started studying Mandarin in addition to French, despite the class being at the same time as orchestra. (I needed a Time-Turner, but instead I…had no lunch period.) My mother’s side of the family speaks Taishanese, not Mandarin, and I never learned it. But over the years, Mandarin has helped me understand more words in Taishanese.

I went to Swarthmore College, where I studied linguistics, French, and Chinese. I joined the Swarthmore Asian Organization and a group called Multi, and my senior year a new group called Swarthmore Hapa started to form. I wrote papers about the representation of Asian characters in U.S. children’s books and mixed race identity in Francophone literature. I also discovered and fell in love with contra dancing and shape note singing.

Now I live in Los Angeles, where I’m a Ph.D. student in linguistics by day (and sometimes night) and an author of children’s fantasy novels by night (and sometimes day). I used to call myself half-Chinese, but now I call myself multiracial, Chinese-American, hapa. One day, I hope to publish a book about a girl like me.