Kartika Review 11

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Cover Art: "Keep On" by Joy Gloria Liu. Š December, 2011 by Kartika Review

Kartika Review publishes literary fiction, poetry, and non-fiction that endeavor to expand and enhance the mainstream perception of Asian American creative writing. The journal also publishes book reviews, literary criticism, author interviews, and artwork, turning its focus on works relevant to the Asian Diaspora or authored by individuals of Asian descent.


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Elmaz Abinader Justin Chin Peter Ho Davies Randa Jarrar Gish Jen Elaine H. Kim Maxine Hong Kingston Gus Lee Li-Young Lee Min Jin Lee Ed Lin Nami Mun Fae Myenne Ng Lac Su Bryan Thao Worra




Kartika Review is a proud member of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.


MISSION STATEMENT Kartika Review serves the Asian American community and those involved with Diasporic Asian-inspired literature. We scout for compelling Asian American creative writing and artwork to present to the public at large. Our editors actively solicit contributions from established virtuosos in our community in hopes their works here will inspire the next generation of virtuosos. We also showcase emerging writers and artists we foresee to be the future powerhouses of their craft. Ultimately, Kartika strives to create a literary forum that caters to and celebrates the wordsmiths of the Asian Diaspora.


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Paul Lai


The Quiet After

Karissa Chen


Asians in the Country--Variations on a Theme

Eddie Malone


The Bone Orchard

Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith


Dear Empire [These Are Your Hagiographers]

Oliver de la Paz


Dear Empire [These Are Your Idolators]

Oliver de la Paz


some wear bodies

Hari Malagayo Alluri



Hyung-Ok Lee


Home Is Where the Wart Is

Donna Miscolta


Joy Gloria Liu


By: Jennifer Derilo





ART At a Crossing

WRITER INTERVIEWS Interview with Lysley Tenorio

END NOTES Contributor Bios


Editor Bios




Twenty-eleven has been quite an eventful year. Important political upheavals and popular uprisings in the Middle East and northern Africa made headlines around the world. Major political figures died from both assassinations and natural causes—from terrorist Osama bin Laden and dictators Muammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il to more cherished world leaders like Václav Havel. Natural disasters caused much death and destruction, including the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, leading to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and monsoons in Thailand that flooded many provinces around the Mekong River basin. And closer to home, the nonviolent protests of Occupy Wall Street have sprung up across the United States, revitalizing the American people’s sense of advocating for economic and social equality as well as the possibility of positive change. All of these events are certainly grist for writers’ mills, the raw stuff that writing engages. As the legacies of these figures and events resonate into the future, writers of the world will help us understand our lives and our contemporary world in more complexity and depth. This year has also seen some wonderful news for Asian American writers, including a National Book Award for Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again (young people’s literature) and a National Book Award nomination for Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic (fiction). Asian American poets published wonderful books, including debut collections such as Dilruba Ahmed’s Dhaka Dust and Bao Phi’s Sông I Sing, both of which beautifully expand the worlds created in and by poetry. In nonfiction, we began the year with the highly controversial and widely-discussed memoir of badass parenting, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, but we also saw Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir-in-verse, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, and Sigrid Nunez’s little book about Susan Sontag, Sempre Susan. There were many more amazing books published this year by Asian American writers, of course, and I only wish I could list them all. Issue Eleven of Kartika Review rings in the end of 2011 with a selection of short stories, poems, and nonfiction pieces that demonstrate the wide scope of Asian American writing today. Karissa Chen’s story “The Quiet After” offers a heartbreaking declaration of love along with insights into the subtle negotiations necessary to develop and sustain intimacy in a bilingual relationship. Eddie Malone’s “Asians in the Country” takes an experimental narrative form and dark humor to explore the experiences of Asian Americans in the American south. Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s “Bone Orchard,” an excerpt from a novel in progress, yokes the horrors of war to the power of natural regeneration. In the poetry section, Hari Malagayo Alluri’s “some wear bodies” maps the human body to the natural and man-made world. Oliver de la Paz offers two 6

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poems from his “Dear Empire” series, drawing on religious metaphors that spark like flint to reveal the troublesome details of Empire’s exalters. In the nonfiction section, Donna Miscolta’s “Home Is Where the Wart Is” meditates on the meaning of home via a series of vignettes offered as “facts.” And Hyung-Ok Lee’s “Internment” repeats an incantatory phrase, “She is going into the ground,” in the process of tracing the impact a woman’s death has on her loved ones. This issue wraps up with an interview with Lysley Tenorio whose short story collection Monstress will be published early in 2012 and has already received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. Tenorio’s stories have garnered much acclaim in publications such as The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and Manoa. I also have the pleasure of announcing the editorial board's Pushcart Prize XXXVI nominations: Fiction - Shruti Swamy, “The Black Dog” (Issue 10) - Eddie Malone, “Asians in the Country—Variations on a Theme” (Issue 11) Poetry - Melissa Sipin, “This is my manifest, homecoming rain” (Issue 10) - Oliver de la Paz, “Dear Empire [these are your idolators]” (Issue 11) Non-Fiction - Katie Leo, “My Life in Hair” (Issue 9) - Patricia Ikeda, “Vortex” (Issue 10) We’d like to extend a special congratulations to all of these authors for sharing their work with us and all of you in the pages of Kartika Review. As I write this editorial, I am nearing the one-year mark serving as Fiction Editor for Kartika Review, and I am extremely happy to have been a part of the journal during this eventful year. I look forward to working on future issues as well, so please continue to send in your stories, poems, essays, and other writings. I invite you all to sit down with this latest issue as 2011 ends and 2012 begins. Here’s to delightful, cozy reading in the winter months! Paul Lai Fiction Editor


THE QUIET AFTER Karissa Chen The first time you told me you loved me, you said it in Korean. You thought I couldn’t understand you when you spoke to me while I slept, when you murmured to me in a language that was not mine, but the language in which your mother sang songs to you as a child, the language that rocked you gently and kissed your baby skin, the language that first told you God loved you. You whispered to me as I lay in your arms half-conscious, words and sentences that rushed through my hair, tender like a stream, and I dreamt of far-off places where all roads led me back to you. Later, I woke, and you said to me, beautiful—saranghae. I stopped breathing. You did not notice. You never knew, even after I told you I loved you first in the language we shared, that all along I knew you loved me too.

We’d been together for more than a year before I told you I didn’t believe in God. The day started the same as any other Sunday. We spent the morning seated across from each other at the kitchen table, you with the real estate section of the Times in your hands, me with the crossword section and my favorite black pen. Brillo, the twelve-year-old Shiba Inu your father had given you, napped quietly at our feet. You drank your coffee black. I had juice with my eggs, their yolks burst and runny in a way you thought was disgusting. Occasionally I reached down and felt Brillo nudge me with his wet nose before he settled his paws back by your toes. We sat in silence, but every so often you tapped your finger on a listing for a home we might never be able to afford—a brownstone in Brooklyn or a large estate in White Plains—and I joked that I would schedule the movers tomorrow. When your cell phone rang, you glanced down at the display. Umma, you said, putting the clamshell to your ear before moving out to the living room. I fed Brillo a splinter of bacon while I tried to focus on the black and white blocks in front of me. 29 down: Between dreaming and waking. Eleven letters. In the other room, I could hear you murmuring to your mother. Neh, you repeated. Neh, neh. Your Korean was hushed, soothing. Hypnopompic, I penned. An hour later, you came in and settled back into your chair, picking up your paper without speaking. Brillo jumped up and burrowed his face between your knees. What did she say? I asked. Same thing, you said. She asked me if I went to church today. You put a palm on Brillo’s head, then reached out to pat me on the thigh. I don’t believe in God, I said down to my plate. You straightened and your fingers dropped away. I looked up. Where’s the proof of his existence?


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You placed a hand over your heart, like you were going to say the pledge of allegiance. Tell me this isn’t really that important. Isn’t that what that phone call was about? You said nothing, but I could see your jaw working, searching for words. Then you said something under your breath in Korean. I blinked. I hate it when you do that, I said. You were silent for a moment. My momma once told me she loved God more than me. That’s horrible. Only if it isn’t true. That night, we made love in the dark. When you climaxed you said it over and over again—saranghae saranghae saranghae.

Months later, on a bright Friday morning in April, I found Brillo panting beneath our bed. I called you six times but only reached your voicemail. Your phone was old; your network reception was weak. I tried your work phone three times before remembering you were off-site for a meeting. I left you messages, but you didn’t call me back. I took Brillo to the vet and held my palms over his warm body, sorry that my eyes, not yours, would be the last thing he would see. When you finally came home from work, I was sitting on the couch, my fingers curled beneath its edge. You leaned in to kiss me, then stopped. I broke the news to you. Where are the messages? you asked, jabbing at your phone’s keypad. I’m sorry, I said. Why didn’t you keep calling? you asked. How could you stop calling? I’m so, so sorry. You gripped your cell phone tightly. I wanted to touch you, but didn’t. You dropped your hand to your side. You looked down at the floor. I didn’t move. Then you turned around and went into our bedroom. The door shut behind you with a barely audible click. The next day, we took Brillo to be buried beneath the bougainvillea behind your parents’ house in Jersey. Your mother emerged as we pulled into the driveway, her 9

form small but stately. After we got out of the car, she folded you into her arms but only nodded at me when you introduced me. She did not smile. Arms crossed, she led us around back. She watched me shovel dirt with you in the yard. She watched us carry Brillo from the car and set him under the shade of the flowers. She watched me pluck petals to scatter over his body. She watched me hold your hand while you wept. Finally, when it was done, she said, Come. Dinnertime. We sat down at the dining room table, with her at the center and the two of us flanking her. She said a brief grace in Korean. I bowed my head, my cheeks burning. Then she picked up her chopsticks and gestured for us to start. She said nothing to me as we ate. She placed fish and vegetables on your rice in a growing mound. You picked at the food silently. She ladled you tofu soup into a pretty bowl painted with plum blossoms. You let it get cold. I ate little, too, unsure of my place in this world that was yours. Later, she brought out two beautiful Asian pears, large, round and golden. She handed one to me and then proceeded to peel hers with a paring knife in one swift motion, producing a snaking skin that looked like one of those party ornaments that spiral from ceilings. She cut the white flesh of the pear in slices and placed them on a plate in front of you. I held my pear in my palms and stared down at my knuckles. I offered to do the dishes, and after the third time I insisted, she let me. As I scraped off remains of rice and fish bones from the plates and filled the sink with suds, I saw you in the doorway, bent over her small frame, her hand on the back of your neck. I couldn’t hear what you were saying over the water, although it wouldn’t have mattered; she was not speaking to you in English. Later, in the car, you glanced at me. My momma was glad to have finally met you. My eyes welled up. I looked out the window, watching the jagged shadows of trees stream by. After a moment, you added, At least he’s with my dad now. I nodded. You placed your palm over mine. Saranghae. We sped down the turnpike for several miles. Finally, I spoke. Why—I started to ask, then stopped. You withdrew your hand, placing it back on the steering wheel. What?


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In the distance, I saw a car flashing its hazard lights off to the side. As we passed by, I saw that a deer had been killed on the shoulder of the road. The driver of the car was crouched in front of its belly with a flashlight. Nothing, I said. Never mind.

Without Brillo at our feet that Sunday, the space between us felt wide. You drank your coffee noisily and rustled your paper whenever my fork scraped my dish. The white boxes on my page stayed vacuous. You found no desirable apartment for us that day. The days dragged on like this. Your conversations with your mother grew more frequent, although you still said very little. Without Brillo to walk after dinner, we ate later. We spent time in front of the television instead, trying to replace the warmth of Brillo’s body with programs on faraway lands and ocean secrets. There were evenings I couldn’t sleep, and instead I would watch you in the glow of the streetlight from your window. You slept with your lips widely parted and your arms flung out like you were ready to embrace the world. I wanted to curl up in the abyss of your mouth, make a pillow of your tongue. I wanted you to swallow me so I could see what your dreams looked like projected onto the inside of your skull. Weeks passed. Then one night after we’d made love and I was slipping into the rhythm of your chest, you said into the darkness: I think I’m going to go to church tomorrow. I awoke. What? My momma says there’s a pastor she knows. Come with me? I could feel the blood pulsing lightly in your neck. I opened my eyes and blinked, trying to see—though what, I’m not sure. Never mind, you said after a few seconds. I’d feel like a fraud, I said. It’s okay. You pulled your arm out from beneath me and turned to your side. I’m going to the morning service so I’ll be back for brunch. The next day, I sat at the table alone, doing the crossword. 6 across: The first blushes of love. 9 letters. You came in. I looked at my watch. Two o’clock.


I left you a bagel, I said. I’m going to take a nap, you answered. You walked into the bedroom and shut the door. I looked down at the half-filled grid in front of me. Limerence, I whispered to myself, before balling up the paper and throwing it in the trash. You started going to service every Sunday morning. My crosswords went unfinished.

Your mother doesn’t like me very much, does she? I asked you one night as we changed for bed. Earlier in the evening, I’d answered the phone while you washed the dishes. Your mother paused after I said hello and then said your name twice in firm, accented English. I watched the television on mute for the next two hours while you spoke to her. Your voice had been raised and the foreign words had sounded harsh to my ears. What are you talking about? you said. Of course she does. Don’t lie. You sat on the edge of the bed and watched me pull off my bra and slip on a tank top. She’s embarrassed she can’t communicate. That’s all. I nodded, wanting your words to be true. You wrapped your arm around me as I climbed into bed and we lay in silence. I pushed my cold feet up against your warm calves. Are you going to tell me what you were arguing about then? I listened to your breathing. After a few moments, I rolled away from you and curled up on my side of the bed. You sighed and slid your body against mine, draping a hand over my shoulder. We weren’t arguing. Okay. You traced circles down my arm. She wants me to go on this mission trip her church is organizing. It’s something she and my dad used to do. Oh. I turned over to you, so that we were facing each other. Where to? Your hand paused at the crook of my elbow. Cambodia, you finally said. 12

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What? For how long? Don’t worry. I’m not going. You reached over and kissed me. When I tried to turn off the lights, you stopped my outstretched arm. I lay back down and you worked your way down my body, pushing through everything that lay between us. When you finally came, you squeezed my shoulders tightly, gasping that word I’d grown used to hearing. After we’d turned off the lights and you were settled into the pillows, I spoke. I wish I could say it back, but I can’t. You didn’t respond. Your breathing had evened out into gentle snores. After a few minutes, I disentangled myself from your arms and looked at your sleeping face. Then I tried the three syllables for myself. Sa-rang-hae. The words sounded sticky on my tongue. Even after releasing them into the dark, I felt their residue lining the insides of my teeth, weighing my mouth down. I waited two heartbeats. You didn’t move. So I slipped back beneath the covers, and from there I traced the three words I did know into your palm with my finger.

That summer was hot and humid, like many summers in New York. Our ancient air conditioner whistled out only a small lukewarm stream, so we slept with the windows open and our thin sheets peeled away from our sticky skin. After sex, we shifted so that we had several inches between us, drifting into dream with only our pinkies curled around each other like snails in love. As temperatures rose, our patience with each other diminished, and we began to fight constantly. We bickered over dirty dishes, over dry cleaning that hadn’t been picked up, over unpaid bills, over insensitive remarks. You began to stay at the office later, eating the meals I’d prepared for you in a cranky silence while I simmered. Many nights we went to bed upset at each other, and I lay on my side, trying not to cry. But once you were asleep, I would slide over to you, press my lips against the curve of your shoulder and lick the salt from your skin. One day in the beginning of August, you came home unusually early. I wasn’t expecting you so soon, I said. Dinner’s not ready yet, but it’s Korean barbecue. I found a recipe online. I’m not hungry, you said. Of course it’s not your mother’s but— Seriously, babe, I’m not hungry, you repeated, and walked out to the living room. I heard the television go on, the blaring voice of a SportsCenter commentator. 13

Throwing the spatula into the sink, I stalked out and stood in front of you. You sat on the sofa and glared at me. What? you said. What do you mean, what? What’s your problem? Nothing, you said. Jesus, don’t give me that bullshit. Say it, whatever the hell it is. I’m so sick of this, you said, jumping up. Don’t wait for me for dinner. Before I could say anything, the door was slamming behind you, rattling the emptiness of the apartment. By the time you came back, I was already asleep. I felt you press up against me, your hands in my hair. Hey, you whispered. Are you awake? Mmm? I felt the warmth of your breath, tinged with whiskey, on my neck. As much as I tried to pull myself into consciousness, the darkness of sleep lapped at me. Go back to sleep, you said. And then later, what felt like years: Saranghae.

In the morning, as we got ready for work, you acted like nothing had happened. As we parted at the subway, you butterflied a kiss on my cheek. Halfway through the day, you emailed me: Dinner out tonight? There’s an Indian place I want to try. That night, after we’d filled up on naan and samosas, you leaned over the table and took my hand. Sorry about yesterday. I nodded. I was in a bad mood. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. Let’s just forget about it. No, wait. You paused. The thing is. You cleared your throat. I was talking to my momma, and well… I think I’m going to go. Go? To Cambodia. 14

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I withdrew my hand. It’s only for six months. What about work? I’ve talked to them. They’ll give me a sabbatical after this project. I picked at my food. Come with me. I looked up at you. You didn’t even ask me— You could come. And what would I do for six months with a group of Korean missionaries? You pulled your arm back from the table, your eyes wounded. Be with me? I looked down at my plate. Lumps of chicken floated in curry the color of earth. After a moment, you picked up your fork. Maybe my momma was right. You paused, then stabbed at something swimming in front of you. Maybe some things are irreconcilable. On the cab ride home, you didn’t try to hold my hand. I stared out the window at the lights of the city. That night, we lay next to each other for hours in the thick heat, neither of us sleeping. Eventually, I slipped into uneasy half-dreams, and by the time I woke in the morning, you had already left for work. You left no note.

For three weeks we skirted each other like strangers. You left early, ate your meals at work, and often you came home when I was already in bed. Sometimes I was awake, but would feign otherwise. I could feel you hovering over me, checking to see if I was asleep. Every now and again, you would pick up a lock of my hair and twirl it around your finger, placing it behind my ear. Every now and again, you would whisper words to me in your mother tongue. I never let on I knew. On weekends, you would go to church and meetings in preparation for your mission. When I heard you leave, I would put on my sneakers and go for a run, making my way as far uptown as I could take, before walking slowly back down to our apartment. Outside in the suffocating heat, my lungs heaving and my heart bursting, I looked up to the muggy blue skies and waited to feel something.


On the first day of September, I awoke to find you sitting on the sofa, dressed for work, staring at the darkened TV screen. Hi, I said. Hi. I rubbed my eyes. What’re you doing? You looked down at your hands, threaded in front of you, and said nothing. I shook my head and started to make my way to the bathroom. Wait, you called out. I turned around. Happy anniversary. My throat tightened. I nodded. You know, I’m leaving in a little over a week, you added, not looking up. I nodded again. You won’t come? Babe… You stood quickly and picked up your work bag. Have a good day.

The morning you left, I woke up startled, jarred from sleep by the slamming of the door behind you. I leapt out of bed and opened the door but you were already gone. I could smell your cologne lingering in the hallway. I retreated back into the apartment, and swept my hands through the air, trying to catch particles that had touched you. I waited for you to call before your flight took off. I checked my cell phone every two minutes. I wrote you an email but erased it before I could send it. I’m sorry, the message said. Come home. I tried again. Have a safe flight. I love you. This one I also did not send. Then I typed out: I don’t know why this happened this way or how we ended up here but I wish you weren’t going. I may not understand you all the time and I may not believe in God but what I know is you and me can work and if it really means that much to you then say the word and I will jump on a plane and meet you in Cambodia and I will spread the things I don’t believe because I’ll have the thing I believe in next to me and maybe that’s what it’s really about and maybe that’s what we should be spreading anyway. I read through the words on my screen. Then I hit ―Cancel.‖


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At eight o’clock, when your plane was scheduled to take off, I finally pulled myself off the sofa and slipped into the shower. I started out with the water dialed to lukewarm, then turned it up little by little until the tap went as far as it would go. I wanted it hot, excruciatingly hot, so that I could imagine layers of my skin dissolving away like tissue paper. When I was done, I dried off with your big blue towel. I rubbed my hair until it was a semi-dry tangled mess. I stood in front of the fogged mirror and brushed my teeth. I stared at my face, obscured by steam. Then I traced your initials into the glass, a letter over each almond eye. I dressed, applied make up. I put my cell phone and wallet in my purse and grabbed my keys dangling lonely on the hook. Then I sat back in front of our sleeping desktop, opened a fresh message and wrote you one last email. Last night I dreamt of the first night you told me you loved me, when you didn’t know I knew. What I know now is that we are bigger than this ocean, than this sky, than three words translated from the mouth of God. What I know is that our roads will always meet and you have always been home. So please. Come home. I clicked ―Send‖ and left the apartment. Forty minutes later, I was forced to get off the C at 81 st Street with everybody else. As I made my way outside, I found people standing on the streets, many with briefcases or purses in hand, cell phones pulled out, nobody going anywhere. What is it? I asked one woman, a bun in her hair, a gray power suit on. She stood on the corner, tears falling down her perfectly made-up face. Planes fell out of the sky, she said, through sobs.

I would not know, until late in the evening as the phone networks lightened and messages began to filter in, until my phone bleeped four times loudly, jarring me out of my foggy sleep, that as I’d been standing in front of the Museum of Natural History that morning, looking dazedly up at the heavens, you’d been calling me. As I searched the cloudless sky for evidence of you, as the sun glazed my skin through the baby maples, as the planetarium cast its shadow behind me, you’d left me message after message murmuring my name like a prayer, as if you’d forgotten that my cell phone was not an answering machine and that if you recited my name enough times, you would be able to fly through the air, break through the invisible signal jams and hold me. The last message was left at 9:53 am. I don’t know if you’re at work or you left your phone at home or what, but I can’t reach you. I really wish… well, but I just wanted to call. Because, you know, things 17

don’t look good. But I want you to know that I’m okay. I’m not scared. I’ll be okay. I know you don’t believe in God, and that’s okay, that doesn’t matter. But hopefully it’ll make you feel better to know that I do, and so I’m okay. Because I worry about you worrying about me. So please don’t worry. And Grace, Grace, Gracie. I’m sorry. About everything. It all didn’t matter. I want you to know that I kissed you this morning before I left and you smiled. I think you were dreaming. Did you know you smile in your sleep? Did I ever tell you that? But. I just wanted to tell you— saranghae. I mean, I love you. I mean— God, does it matter which three words I use as long as you know what I mean? If I can just keep repeating whatever it is I have to repeat until— Maybe you never understood that the word “love” just never felt like enough, but if it’s all I have then I do, I love you, I love you, I— Once upon a time, I’d confided that sometimes I feared leaving you for too long, because I worried about the possibilities of death in my moments away from you. What if I were to die alone, anonymous? How would you know? How would you find out I was gone? I’d know, you’d said, touching your heart, the same way you’d done when I’d asked you about God. I’d know. At 10:13 that morning, I looked up into the infinite satin of blue, felt a small shudder of the world, and I knew.

Karissa Chen is a fiction writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pindeldyboz, Two Hawks Quarterly and Le Chat Noir’s annual fiction anthology, Drinking With Papa Legba. She was recently the recipient of the diFilipisRosselli Prose Scholarship at the Napa Valley Writers Conference. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. She coordinates and facilitates creative writing workshops for incarcerated young men in Valhalla, New York and serves as the assistant fiction editor at Hyphen magazine.


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ASIANS IN THE COUNTRY—VARIATIONS ON A THEME Eddie Malone 1 A young Asian man walks into a honky tonk in the Deep South. He is never seen again. 2 A young man, who happens to be Asian American, is driving through the Deep South. His destination: graduate school. His area of concentration: mechanical engineering. The car breaks down outside a honky tonk in Mississippi. In broad daylight, the young man walks up to the establishment looking for assistance. The door is locked. He peers into a window and sees something so disturbing that he hurries away from the premises. He looks as if he’s high-stepping across a bed of hot coals. He looks over his shoulder once. 3 It’s early Saturday evening at the honky tonk. The crowd has yet to appear. A bartender keeps busy by stocking the things that he will use throughout the night: lime wedges, cherries and fresh towels to wipe down the bar. He looks up to find a young Asian man approaching him. It is a surreal moment. The young Asian man is wearing a cowboy hat, leather chaps and a blue chambray shirt in the western style. The bartender blinks and tries to make the image go away. As the Asian cowboy sits down across from him, the bartender realizes that the image is real. Or rather, the person is real. ―Hey pardner,‖ the Asian cowboy says. ―How ’bout a sarsaparilla?‖ So begins a relationship between the honky tonk and the Asian cowboy. On weekends, he sidles up to the bar where he orders a sarsaparilla or sips from a shot of tequila. He sits in isolation as the honky tonk begins to fill with people. All around him, life sprouts and then decays. A battling couple sits on either side him; essentially, he is a buffer. The man and woman shout at each other across a DMZ. Others lean into the Asian cowboy as they try to grab the bartender’s attention. They’re so close they can smell him, and the smell isn’t bad at all. It’s a combination of Old Spice and something exotic that they can’t quite place. 4 ―Margaret Cho is a stupid bitch,‖ Charles says. He is sitting in the courtyard outside the library of an average university in the Deep South. He is speaking to a fellow graduate student in the Department of Engineering. His friend’s name is Todd. The weather is pleasant, unlike his mood. 19

―All she ever does is talk about getting fucked in the ass or she does that whole ching-chong thing when she’s talking about her parents. This is her act in a nutshell.‖ Charles leans forward and with his index fingers he pulls the corners of his eyes back. His eyes become oriental slits. ―Me so horny. Me so hooooooooorny.‖ Todd nods in assent. ―She gives us a bad name.‖ ―She’s like a goddamn minstrel.‖ Charles appears to be deep in thought. Then he changes the subject. He tells Todd that Wikipedia scares the shit out of him. You can type in any subject, person or phenomenon and for the most part you’ll get an in-depth description of the thing in question. Where does it all come from? Who has the time to describe to the world the nuances of quantum physics? Charles says that he tried to edit the entry for Margaret Cho. Beneath a category called ―Commendations,‖ he tried to create a category called ―Criticism from the Asian Community.‖ ―I was gonna rip her a new one,‖ he says. At the end of the day, Wikipedia wouldn’t let him do it. ―Must be a conspiracy,‖ Todd says. 5 A mile from the honky tonk, there is an elementary school. Simon Kang is a new student there in the sixth grade. His father is a professor of engineering at the local university. He is a sullen boy. He likes neither sports nor video games, in part because he was bullied by an overbearing mother. When he was younger, she always suggested that he should be doing something else. The impact on his personality is dire indeed. Day to day, the boy does very little at all. His life seems to be an exercise in stillness. This does not make him very popular at school. A couple of boys notice that he stands by himself at recess. As they walk past him, they raise a hand in greeting but instead of saying hello they say, ―Ching chong.‖ This happens for a couple of weeks and soon the greeting spreads like a wildfire. Other students are lifting a hand and saying the words. Though he does not play the card game itself, Simon has one hell of a poker face. He does not respond to these gestures. Then, curiously, he begins to return the greeting. He raises a hand and says, ―Ching chong.‖ 20

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In class, Simon is not one to speak but one of his teachers is a bitch and wants everyone to participate, no matter what. The teacher gets upset at him. She views his stillness as insolence and so she calls on him. The boy looks to be in a trance. Did he hear the request? ―Speak up Simon!‖ the teacher insists. Essentially cornered, he blurts out a sequence of ching-chongs that has his fellow students rolling in the aisles. 6 ―I don’t hate this place,‖ Charles says. ―In fact, I kind of like it. I like being the token Asian guy. What do you think?‖ ―The food sucks,‖ Todd says. ―There’s a Chinese restaurant on every corner. You should feel at home.‖ ―I didn’t mean the Chinese food. I hate Southern food.‖ ―Because it’s fattening?‖ ―Because it tastes like shit. And it gives me gas.‖ They sit in the courtyard and smoke. It’s a humid day, fall semester, and beads of sweat are rolling down their respective brows. ―What’re you gonna be for Halloween?‖ Charles asks. ―I haven’t thought about it.‖ ―You better start thinking.‖ ―Why?‖ ―I heard at the honky tonk, all the girls dress up in lingerie for Halloween.‖ ―So they’re all supposed to be lingerie models?‖ Todd asks. ―No. I don’t know. That’s beside the point. The point is, we should go.‖ ―If we go together, you won’t be the token Asian.‖ Charles nods at this. Then he considers the situation as if it’s a mathematical problem to be solved. ―In a venue of that size, with that many people, I think we can both be token Asians.‖


A couple minutes later, he raises the issue again. ―What’re you gonna be for Halloween?‖ ―Margaret Cho,‖ Todd says. 7 Mr. Lee owns the Chinese restaurant across the street from the local university. The honky tonk is to the south, a couple miles away. Mr. Lee wouldn’t dream of setting foot there, but that doesn’t mean he avoids the locals. The locals are his lifeblood. He would not have ever phrased it that way, but there’s no denying that without the locals his empire wouldn’t exist. In addition to the Chinese restaurant, he owns a number of properties, which he fixes up and then rents out, mostly to college students. He also owns two barbeque restaurants, which thrive in this small Southern town. His customers would not phrase it this way, but they believe that his restaurants are keeping Southern traditions alive. This is comfort food at its finest. Mr. Lee is known as a hands-on owner. He’s involved with everything at the Chinese restaurant, but he stays away from the others and no one knows that he owns them. He is smart enough to know that the locals have a rather straightforward understanding of the world’s different cuisines. It makes sense that a Chinese immigrant owns and operates a Chinese restaurant. It would be blasphemous if the same man were in charge of Southern barbeque. 8 Simon Kang is placed in an ESL class alongside four Mexicans and two Guatemalans. Their lessons include a game in which they are asked to identify in English various animals on flash cards. The teacher holds up a picture of an elephant. She calls on Simon who bows his head appearing to be deep in thought. When he lifts his head, his eyes are sparkling. ―Ching chong,‖ he says. The teacher reckons he’s a troublemaker. She may be right. 9 It’s Halloween. Charles and Todd have decided to parody the classic 1980s film The Karate Kid. Charles has dressed up as one of the teenage villains from the Cobra Kai dojo. In the film, on Halloween, they wear skin-tight skeleton costumes made of lycra. Their faces are painted like skulls. Charles bought his replica costume on the Internet for $150. A couple of weeks before Halloween, Charles and Todd argued over the latter’s costume. Charles thought that there should be perfect symmetry between reality and the film. In The Karate Kid, Daniel-san dresses up like a shower whose curtain obscures him from view. His purpose is to avoid the venomous attention of his teenage nemeses. Todd hated the idea. ―How am I gonna see the bitches?‖ he said. 22

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Charles conceded the point. Instead, Todd has dressed up as Mr. Miyagi. He is wearing the functional gray outfit of a benign maintenance man. He has purchased a wig of sorts that is bald on the top with wisps of gray hair on the sides. He has pasted onto his face a little gray mustache and Fu Manchu. Ever since he donned the outfit he has been talking in broken English just like Mr. Miyagi. Charles was right about the honky tonk. It’s like a living and breathing Victoria’s Secret catalog, yet there is a difference. In this parallel universe, the catalog is full of tipsy models who are slightly overweight or worse. This does not deter Charles or Todd. They are not body fascists. However, something else does deter them. In fact, it enrages Charles. As they wait in the scrum of locals trying to order a drink, he notices a decoration standing next to a punch-out boxing game. For only a dollar, a man can measure his worth by punching a speed bag as hard as he can. Next to the game is what appears to be an old-fashioned cigar store Indian, but if you take a closer look you’ll notice that it’s really an Asian cowboy, his Mongolian features frozen in time. ―Let’s get the fuck out of here,‖ Charles says. 10 It’s fair to say that Simon Kang becomes like a caveman unfrozen after a millennia in ice. He was once a boy that treated the very basic circumstances of life with suspicion. He mistrusted even the air around him. Now he closely resembles Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. He skips down school halls to the music of lockers opening and closing and the chatter of his motor-mouth peers. You may ask why. Where does this happiness come from? The boys give him high-fives. The janitor grins as he watches Simon switch his backpack from one shoulder to the other, a strut in the boy’s step. The afternoon before, at recess, a pretty sixth grader named Tiffany broke from her clique of giggling girlfriends. She approached Simon who was standing underneath a basketball goal, a few yards away from a vibrant game of four-square. The girl placed a hand on his shoulder. ―I will teach you English,‖ she said. On the other side of the playground, a boy watched this happen with menacing eyes. 11 ―We need to make an explosive statement,‖ Charles says. Then he describes what it would take to build a homemade bomb. He spent close to six hours researching it on the Internet. 23

Todd hears him out. Then he says, ―So let me get this straight. You want to blow up the honky tonk?‖ ―Are you with me?‖ Todd shrugs his shoulders. Charles describes a plan involving ski masks, black clothing and the dead of night. 12 In the dream, the explosion is accompanied by triumphant music—the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Human limbs fly out of the honky tonk as if expelled by a hellish beast. Cowboy hats spin away in the dark sky like UFOs. All alone, twirling in the void, there is the severed head of the Asian cowboy, grinning. 13 Charles wakes up. Today is the day. He showers and then drinks coffee. He prays even though he’s never prayed in his life. Nothing is out of the ordinary. The trees on campus are finally turning colors. There’s a chill in the air, which feels good after so many months of heat and humidity. It’s a time for reminiscing because life will never be the same. Charles imagines a hobby horse and the toy guns of his youth. His mother tried to feed him kimchi when all he wanted was to kill Indians. His legs have taken him to the courtyard just outside the library. The body has a routine that won’t be denied. Charles sits on a wrought-iron bench and watches the strange animals that pass along. Where will you be tonight? He wants to ask them this. But do they even speak his language? And then it happens. History is full of betrayals like this one. Todd walks past him holding the hand of a cowgirl temptress. The couple is laughing. They look happy.


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Eddie Malone is a PhD candidate at The Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work has appeared in such journals as Chiron Review, WordRiver, and The Truth About the Fact.


THE BONE ORCHARD Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith Ba Nguyen is lying on a cot in only his pajama pants. His ribs arch like a bridge of rainbows and he cannot see over his chest and belly. He stares up at the ceiling made of palm fronds and every time he breathes, his whole body balloons and the skin around his ribs become taut like tents imprisoning wind. When he tries to move, the water sloshes against the wall of his skin, the cave of his cavity. There are other patients in the bamboo hospital. The young man sitting cross-legged in a cot beside Ba Nguyen has no arms. ―They won’t grow,‖ he says when he notices Ba Nguyen staring at his shoulders clean of stumps. ―I pray to Buddha; talk to the places where my arms should be, but they will not grow.‖ There are no walls in the hospital, so the patients stare out over the rice fields where people wearing torn black pajamas wade knee-high in water and stoop over to plant baby rice stalks. They plunge stalks into the muddy waters, twist roots into the soil. They roam in a straight line like cranes, standing up to move only to stoop over to plant. Soldiers wearing pith helmets watch over the workers. Their gun belts are slung over their shoulders as they cradle M16s. They smoke cigarettes, which remain the same in length. Crows and Magpies roam the fields, plucking seeds from the mud. ―They will grow. If you water them daily, they will grow,‖ the man says. Ba Nguyen tucks his arm underneath his head as a pillow, and his stomach jiggles; the water rushes from the pit of his stomach up to his chest and back down again. Just as the water in his body settles, soldiers surround him and point the barrel of their M16s at his head. Ba Nguyen turns to the man with no arms. ―If you water them daily, they will grow,‖ he tells Ba Nguyen. The soldiers yell at Ba Nguyen to stand up. They motion with their rifles, up, up. Ba Nguyen puts out his arms to grab a hold of something to help himself up, but there is nothing for him to grasp. He rolls out of his cot with knees bent and arms stretched in front of him so that he falls to the floor on all fours. The water in his body sloshes about, hitting ribs and lungs, and moving the heart. Still, the soldiers surround him with weapons aimed, the barrels indicating up, up. The soldiers lead him outside, past the men and women bent over planting rice, past the mocking blackbirds. Ba Nguyen moves as fast as he can, shuffling his feet as he holds his belly in both hands. They trudge along the dikes separating the mature rice fields from the young shoots. They come over a mound and Ba Nguyen stops.


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Uncle Ngo is moving from one bamboo shoot to the next, connecting the ends. He stands in a field of milk-white bones stacked in rows and rows. They stretch as far as the horizon. Crows clutch bones between their beaks, fly up high enough and let them drop and crack open upon rocks and other bones. They swoop down and peck at the marrow. Uncle Ngo looks up from his work and shields his eyes from the sun with one hand. He continues connecting the ends of the bamboo shoots. One soldier leans in and says to Ba Nguyen, ―They will grow if you water on a daily basis. This you at least owe the communists, if not for Uncle Ho.‖ Ba Nguyen goes forward until he is before Uncle Ngo. Uncle Ngo takes up the last bamboo shoot and plugs it into Ba Nguyen’s navel. ―No good. Not work well,‖ Uncle Ngo says. He takes out his switchblade and whittles the end of the bamboo shoot so that it is pointed. He tries again, shoving the bamboo into Ba Nguyen’s navel. Uncle Ngo has to whittle the end, and he keeps whittling until bamboo shavings coat his boots. He plugs the shoot into Ba Nguyen and there is a rumbling from within. The bamboo shoot trembles in Uncle Ngo’s hands, and soon the others vibrate. Water sprouts from the holes Uncle Ngo bore into them. Thin streams of water arch and wet the rows of piled bones. The soldiers watch in silence. The rumbling continues, and the bamboo shoots vibrate so much that Uncle Ngo tightens his hold. The violent trembling goes on, and Uncle Ngo’s whole body shakes. Water gushes forth from Ba Nguyen’s navel, knocking Uncle Ngo to the ground. The soldiers rush forth and plug their hands over Ba Nguyen’s navel, but the force of the water bats their hands away. Ba Nguyen holds his belly; the swelling does not go down. Uncle Ngo crawls on hands and knees beneath inches of water as the fields flood and the rows of bones begin to stir. They uproot from the soil, and they float in place. The water floods the fields of bones, and soldiers watch the water washing clean the earth. From the horizon, men and women wade through the fields, their faces shielded by the conal sun hats they wear. They weave through the watery graves in a crooked line. Each person throws out his arms, and fishing nets spin away from them and sift the water like dust. The men and women pull in their nets; caught in the mesh are bones, hundreds of bones, thousands of bones. The boys and girls in tiny junks untangle the bones from the nets their parents hand them. The adults cast fresher nets. Ba Nguyen continues to gush. The soldiers lay down their weapons and slump to their knees and chant for things to grow, things that can fill their emptiness, fill what is missing and make them whole again. The fishermen and women drag in nets and bones, nothing but bones.


Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam in 1968. He received a B.A. in English from CSU Northridge and both his M.A. and M.F.A. from McNeese State University. He is currently living in Ruston, Louisiana, where he has taught literature, composition, and creative writing at Louisiana Tech University since 1999. ―The Bone Orchard‖ is an excerpt from The Land South of the Clouds, a novel in progress.


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DEAR EMPIRE [THESE ARE YOUR HAGIOGRAPHERS] Oliver de la Paz Dear Empire, These are your hagiographers. Of the growing squall, they write little. Their pens are bright flights on the skeins of skins. Bade, as they are, to scribe your will—your thirst so tethered to circling hawks and up-coming irises. Tethered to the potentials. Because the history of us is your thirst. Imagine, the locked gates of the tomb or of the mind's spangled phantoms—also you. August, September, October, such a high violence flushed by the lambent edges of quills.

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby,and Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Persona Poetry, and he co-chairs the Kundiman.org advisory board. He teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.


DEAR EMPIRE [THESE ARE YOUR IDOLATORS] Oliver de la Paz Dear Empire, These are your idolaters. They carry you in chains around their necks. Your graven images spark the air. At night, they fling their lamps on the way to their churches and the light that passes between faces becomes a relation. Like a new language passed between, as if by accident. As if, by accumulation we come to god. Among them, there are particulate stars moving about. Sparks from the lamps and the rebound from the gilded chains. How beautiful it is. The sense that your face creates stars. The sense that your face creates a becoming. A pronouncement.

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby,and Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Persona Poetry, and he co-chairs the Kundiman.org advisory board. He teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.


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Hari Malagayo Alluri


Hari Malagayo Alluri is a poet, community facilitator and filmmaker who immigrated to South Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories at the age of 12 and believes in craft and movement. A VONA alum and finalist for the Joy Harjo Prize, his poems have appeared or are upcoming in 580 Split, Cutthroat, Lumina, Kweli Journal and TAYO Literary Magazine. Hari's most recent collaborations are with Asian Arts Freedom School, The Collaborative Manifesto Remix Project, los migrantes, the National Film Board of Canada, neworld theatre, no one is illegal, press release poetry collective and The Purple Thistle.


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INTERMENT Hyung-Ok Lee She is going into the ground. Her eldest son, his beard of mourning sprouting one white hair, looks at her body with wonder, as if she is not dead at all, as if she will awaken at any moment. In fact, he does not believe it (the car accident in Malibu, the helicopter airlift, her death, the plane trip to Israel) at all—this is one huge April Fools’ joke that won’t end, this is one long dream, he will wake up and she will chastise him as usual for sleeping too long, before she, without pause and leaning over his bed, will ask if he would like some freshly squeezed orange juice with his breakfast. He can taste the orange juice. He flicks his tongue over his lips. She is going into the ground. It is a warm day in Tel Aviv—not too hot. The daughter-in-law is glad of that. In fact, it is the one thing she is happy about today, if relief resembles happiness at all. She is dressed in black, having researched all the Jewish mourning customs with the single-minded vigilance of a convert. On her feet are black Crocs. She had read that mourners should not wear new, or leather, shoes. On all of their feet are black plastic shoes. No leather. They are new but have been worn; the daughter-in-law had, with that same convert determination, worn the brand new Crocs before packing them in suitcases for the long flight to Israel, her motherin-law’s body in the cargo hold beneath her, suffering the child crying two rows over, the soundtrack to their silent shock. She is going into the ground. Her husband cannot get the picture of her out of his mind—their wedding day, forty years ago; she was beautiful and radiant, like crystal, like silver, like—he has lost his words. Everyone else has seen the black and white photos, but he remembers the day in color, rich and vibrant, and unlike the white shrouded body in the light gray dirt before him. She is going into the ground. The rabbi says his prayers in baritone Hebrew. ―Baruch atah adonai,‖ he says in a grave and melodic voice that echoes through the cemetery void of even one blade of grass and crowded with grave stones that butt against each other like buildings in Manhattan. How many people are buried here? The graves mark Holocaust survivors, they mark little children, and they now mark her grave. The rabbi’s words escape her grown children’s ears. They do not know Hebrew very well; they did not grow up in Israel. But they have brought her back to this desert, to this cemetery, next to her ancestors for her return to the ground. She is going into the ground, her daughter is sobbing now, as the other mourners shovel soil upon her body. The dirt slides and rests in the crevices and troughs of the body. The ceremony was shorter than the daughter had expected, so she had not braced herself for the burial, to see her mother covered with dirt, disappearing before her eyes. Her mother is going into the ground. Her mother is in the ground. Her mother will become the ground. ―Oh my G*d! Oh my G*d!‖ Her English pierces the cemetery above the Hebrew murmurings until it cuts through all the mourners. The shroud is almost covered with soil. Her daughter-in-law is screaming. She will 33

not remember herself as screaming—later, she will tell a story about the screaming during the burial, and her husband, the youngest son, will look at her over their meal of kimchi and rice and bulgogi and say, ―That was you.‖ She is going into the ground. Her youngest son looks down. He has not wept since he was a little boy. She is going into the ground. The rooster crows. He cannot help himself—it is what roosters do. He crows again.

She died one week ago, off a cliff. Back at the house, she had begun eating a cheese earlier in the day—it was her cheese, the bite marks exactly matching her teeth, one crooked eye-tooth saluting her. No one had the heart to throw it away—the family rushed to Israel and left the cheese. The cheese waited and waited. It beaded sweat, shriveled, shrank, until a family friend came to clean the house and threw it away. The cheese went into the trash, into the truck, and into the ground.

Hyung-Ok Lee lives in NYC. She has a novel-in-progress.


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HOME IS WHERE THE WART IS Donna Miscolta National City, CA. Nickname: Nasty City. Notable place names within the city: El Toilet Park, Las Panties Pool, Stinkin’ Acres. My hometown is a wart on the map, a giant canker sore to the naked eye. Or so the purveyors of these nicknames would have you believe. And who are they, these tellers of tales, spreaders of potty-themed tags and obnoxious aliases? Certainly there are those beyond the city limits, who hold their noses as they speed past on the freeway, south to the bars in Tijuana or north to the marinas of San Diego, who lock their car doors and slump in their seats if they happen to take the wrong exit and find themselves cruising among the homies. Later, safe in their own hood, they swagger with the boast that they have been to Nasty City and lived to tell about it. But it’s us too, those like me who once lived there and those who live there still who utter those nicknames with a reckless, nose-thumbing sticks-and-stones mentality. And yet, who among us has not at one time or another answered the question So where’re you from? with those two words that signal legitimacy: San Diego. Because who after all has heard of National City? And if they’ve heard of National City, what exactly have they heard? But forget hearsay. Let’s consider the facts.

History Our house was on U Avenue, twenty-one alphabetically named blocks from the western edge of the city. A new development in the mid-sixties, the neighborhood was a repetitive alignment of look-alike homes: single-story, L-shaped, bumpy with stucco in dispassionate, middle-of-the-road tones − gray, beige, brown, an occasional watery yellow. Our house was the mirror image of our neighbors’. We could go in each other’s homes and know exactly which drawer in the kitchen contained the knives and which the Saran Wrap, where to find the linen, where to pee. Except for the cement slab of patio, our backyard remained a dusty, rocky rectangle. A drainage ditch ran the length of it. The far side of the ditch sloped upward and defied planting; even the ubiquitous ice plant with its persistent roots, the ecological nuisance of the region, failed to thrive there. On the near side of the ditch, my father sank the legs of a swing set into the sandy soil and we dug troughs with our toes as we swung, spinning dust into the air, into our hair, mouths and lungs. My parents planted and did their best to nurture a lawn in the disobliging earth in the 35

front yard of the first, last and only house they would ever own. My mother decorated the shallow-rooted grass with plastic and ceramic fauna – chipmunks, deer and the wholly non-indigenous flamingo – and a statue of St. Francis of Assisi with a pair of pigeons sculpted to him. I suppose they were more rightly considered doves, one on his shoulder, the other poetically on his wrist. Every so often, my mother took a sudsy rag to the whole thing to wipe off the shit left by real birds. The fake deer in my mother’s yard was a joke to us, hooved species having no context in our experience of National City. We didn’t know that Spanish soldiers once used the land to graze their horses. The area then was called El Rancho del Rey, the king’s ranch, to remind Mexico just who owned the land, never mind that the Spanish had driven off the original inhabitants, the Kumeyaay. After independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico renamed the land Rancho de la Nación, the nation’s ranch. Look who owned the land now. Not for long though. In 1845 Governor Pio Pico, in a nepotistic gesture, granted Rancho de la Nación to his brother-in-law John Forster. The Andrew Johnson administration issued the land patent as The National Ranch. In 1868, the Kimball brothers, businessmen from New Hampshire, purchased the entire rancho. They called it National City. When we moved in, the street past our driveway was unpaved. When it rained, gullies formed, the runoff silted the already muddy street, puddles dotted the terrain and we carved a motocross track with our bikes. Next to us was an empty lot that would one day be covered in asphalt for parking and below that a rocky ravine that was destined to be a ball field with a chronically broken scoreboard. Across the street was a block-wide expanse of naked dirt that became El Toyon Park, or more familiarly, El Toilet Park. After the bulldozers came to level the ground of ruts and berms, it was seeded with grass, and spindly young trees were rooted at sparse intervals. Tennis and basketball courts were installed and a cinderblock office with restrooms was plunked down. Then the action started. Low-riders made their slow and stealthy crawl around the park, music vibrating tinted windows, seeping from beneath bouncing chasses. Deals were made, deals were botched, fists flew, maybe a bullet or two. Somebody’s mother, often mine, called the cops.

Education My father was a postal clerk, my mother a sales clerk. She had a high school diploma. My father’s education stalled at eighth grade back in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. Later, he earned his GED while I was skirmishing with the New Math in elementary school. My difficulty with set theory was excused. My parents wanted their daughters to learn to type, their son to go to college.


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Languages My father’s constant declaration that we were Americans. His reluctance to speak Tagalog with the neighbors. My mother’s limping, fractured Spanish. My unaccented, monolingual speech.

Crime It wasn’t long before my father had metal bars installed across all the windows, a chain-link fence erected around the property, and floodlights mounted at the front and back entrances. Across the street, the park office and bathrooms, having been thoroughly vandalized, were permanently locked. The tree nearby that had grown large, many-branched and invitingly shady was slashed with graffiti, clamorous hues and hostile cries affirming National City’s standing as the county’s perennial leader in violent crime.

Economy ―In the center of it all,‖ reads a city promotional flier. ―National City is ten minutes from everywhere and positioned for prosperity.‖ When I was growing up, I was deplorably unaware that I lived in the center of it all − that my city was so poised for richness, that one day it would boast the largest enclosed mall in the South Bay, that its row of car dealerships would extend a literal mile. That National City’s Mile of Cars could be likened theoretically to New York’s Museum Mile. Theoretically.

Geography There’s a bay somewhere. The names of the businesses suggest it exists: South Bay Plaza, The Bay Theater, Bay Vista College of Beauty. The Navy claimed most of the real estate along the water, keeping the bay at bay, making us believe we were landlocked.


Demographics At a high school reunion, I overheard a woman remark, ―I never knew that I attended a poor school.‖ I was similarly fooled when it came to racial makeup. For a long time I believed that I had attended a mostly white high school. All the teachers were white − even the Spanish teachers. I was placed in the ―smart‖ classes, which happened to consist mostly of white students. As if smart was a color.

Government and Politics The mayor was white, the city council was white, the cops were white. More than half the population was brown. One of my sisters dated a National City cop she met at her secretarial job at City Hall. It was the early 70s. A young, unarmed Chicano youth had been shot to death by a cop. There was going to be a march. I was planning to go. I watched them side by side on the family couch, my sister and her cop boyfriend, who did not believe in irony. I dated a black wide-receiver at San Diego State. We spent our evenings playing chess. My mother had a sit-down talk with me. Think about the children. How they’ll look. What people will say. I doubt she had the same talk with my sister.

Recreation Despite lessons and much recreational splashing in the Las Palmas (aka Las Panties) pool, we never quite learned how to swim. It was a congenital defect, born of my mother’s fear of drowning. She and her sisters used to go to the beach in San Diego mainly to pose in their swimsuits. One day, though, they were actually in the water, where my mother ventured too far and was hauled away by a wave. A sailor saved her life along with her fear of the water. Our fear was embryonic, transferred by our mother to the amniotic fluid that suspended us in utero, the last time we would so comfortably float.


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Entertainment and Performing Arts One summer we put on a play. My older sister, because she was the oldest and because the play was her idea, assumed the role of director. During rehearsals, she yelled ―cut‖ and ―action‖ with great authority. She chose me over Thelma, our next door neighbor and my sometimes best friend for the lead role of King Midas. She chose me not because I was her sister, but because I could enunciate and project and emote better than Thelma could. But Thelma and her sisters thought otherwise, so they didn’t take their supporting roles seriously and tittered their lines. I got to exclaim, ―Gold! Silver! Precious jewels sparkling with light! They are mine! All mine!‖ I made each and every exclamation point count. Even though we were our only audience.

Tradition I was the only one among my sisters who didn’t march on the high school drill team. Never wore white boots and gloves, never had a tiara glitter upon a hair-spraystiffened updo, never learned a high-stepping, arm-waving routine, never snapped my head smartly in unison with 49 other Devil-ettes dressed in identical red, silversequined uniforms topped by a cape. Never wore red lipstick to contain a constant, frozen smile. I wasn’t a marcher, couldn’t stay in step, couldn’t obey commands. So I watched from the sidelines of the Maytime Band Review, slouching with indifference, sometimes disdain, not even caring, hardly noticing, in fact, the appeal in marching down the street, past the city limits and into the world. If only as far as Compton.

Points of Interest - The Bay Theater Before it lost moviegoers to the modern cineplexes in San Diego’s Fashion Valley, before it switched to showing Mexican films, many of them Christian-themed until it just gave up and became a church, before it was vacated and put up for sale, the Bay Theater was our Sunday afternoon escape. It’s where we saw the Ten Commandments, Pollyanna, and The Blob. We would get dressed up to go to the movies in our pleated skirts and patent leather shoes, back when the red carpets were still plush, the velvet curtain untarnished, the sconces still intact. My mother would pick us up after the movie and ask, ―Was it in color?‖ As if such a modern invention had yet to reach our city.


Points of Interest - Kimball Park There were ball fields and picnic tables, of course. Grassy slopes with shrubs that could shield adolescents groping each other. And I have vague memories of a small zoo. Filthy, flea-ridden monkeys huddled inside a cage that stank of piss and rotting peanut shells. Freakish and exotic. But the main attraction for us was the public library. We went every Saturday after catechism across the street at St. Mary’s. We would check out an armful of books and then read until our eyes ached, each page sending us closer to our genetically predisposed myopia. At a certain age − it might have been twelve − one could progress from the children’s section to the adult section, like stepping through the looking glass. It was where I found Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and William Faulkner, who took me to moors thick with heather, to drawing rooms with governesses, to decaying Southern mansions far from Kimball Park. Points of Interest - Plaza bowl Sometimes, walking home from Kimball Park, we stopped at the bowling alley. We played the pinball machines, stuck our fingers inside bowling balls for size, checked the pay phones for forgotten dimes, and if we scrounged enough change we bought French fries at the snack shop. One of these days, we thought, we would learn to bowl. Points of Interest - La Vista Cemetery It’s the largest plot of land in tiny Lincoln Acres, an unincorporated shard of San Diego County situated entirely within the boundaries of National City and known unaffectionately as Stinkin’ Acres. There’s a section of the cemetery known as Rest Haven for which no money is allotted for maintenance. Families themselves pour the slabs that mark the graves, drive into the ground the homemade, tilted headstones, the off-kilter wooden crosses. My uncle is buried in La Vista, but in the endowed section where the gravestones conform in size and are laid in neat rows, where the grass is cut and the flowers discarded on a schedule. I like the low-cost, do-it-yourself option myself, though I’ve already learned I could never rest in National City.

Health Services In high school, I became a candy striper at the local hospital run by the Seventh Day Adventists. I escorted new patients to the admissions desk, delivered flowers to their rooms, and when they were discharged, guided them through the lobby to the loading zone. Sometimes I was sent to the neighboring convalescent home to help feed the aged the high-fiber, meatless Seventh Day Adventist diet, or to wheel them outside to 40

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fart in the sunshine. From the hospital lobby, I brought home anti-smoking pamphlets and planted them in my parents’ bathroom for my father to see when he brushed his teeth, sat on the toilet, or pulled back the shower curtain. My father threw them in the trash can. I brought more home. He told me I had crossed the line, that I was not to judge him, that cigarettes were his only vice. He was a grown-up. I was a candy striper, who didn’t come close to saving lives.

Media The National City Star News was a thin weekly. It was delivered to our house, but mostly ignored. The news was insubstantial, with a few exceptions. My friend Florence was in it when she won the Miss National City Pageant, the first non-white contestant to do so. My nephew was in it when he was a five-year-old practicing Tball at the first hint of spring. My father was in it when his obituary ran.

Employment When I was in college, I worked the snack bar at the swap meet. I’d never learned to type, so an office job was out. I was a cyclone of a snack-bar worker. I flipped burgers, bagged hot dogs and fries, rang up greasy purchases at the cash register and counted out change, fast – because that’s how I did things. As if I could speed up my life in National City.

Transportation I rode out of National City in a Cadillac. My cousin Bob was passing through from Texas on his way back to Oregon where he had settled in a double-wide just outside the Salem city limits. Bob was Mexican and Irish. He didn’t speak Spanish, just pretended he could and I pretended with him. Once when he was in our garage looking for something to tie down some loose objects that had been banging around in the trunk of his car, he asked, ―Tienes ropa?‖ Even I knew that ropa means clothes. And even though I did in fact have clothes, I said, ―no, no tengo ropa.‖ Bobby was a big drinker, a chain smoker, a talker and a brawler. He had a glass eye 41

that pinned you down with its persistent unseeingness. ―I know people,‖ he told me. ―I can get you a job.‖ I didn’t believe him, but I did it anyway – got in the Cadillac.

Tourism I visit National City about once a year from my home in Seattle. A few times my white husband and biracial daughters have accompanied me. ―See,‖ I told them once, ―there’s where I rode my bike, there’s where I waited for the school bus, there’s where a friend’s dog was run over.‖ They surveyed the neighborhood from inside the chain-link fence of my mother’s yard. I know they noticed it – the lack of white people around us. We got in the car and I pointed out the changes – the freeway, the new library, the rebuilt high school, the expanded hospital. I told the jokes about the place names – Nasty City, El Toilet, Las Panties, Stinkin’ Acres. They laughed, but something didn’t ring right, and I regretted the jokes. ―Never mind,‖ I said. ―You had to be there.‖

Donna Miscolta’s first novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced was published in June 2011 by Signal 8 Press. Her unpublished story collection Natalie Wood’s Fake Puerto Rican Accent was a finalist for the 2010 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. She has been awarded residencies from Anderson Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Find her at www.donnamiscolta.com.


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AT A CROSSING ARTIST STATEMENT Isolation, longing and internal tension are reflected in the characters drifting through her artwork. They fly as if groundless and float in water, dreaming perhaps of crossing the Pacific Ocean back to ancestral homes. In illustrating these hybrid realities, Joy folds together gouache, ink, pastel and multiple-perspectives with the expressionistic quality of children’s reveries. Lines weave in and out of her work, as an illustrative element and as a metaphor for tangled lineage and connection. These vignettes serve to honor the inner worlds of her characters -- who travel back and forth in that liminal space, in search of new words to answer old questions.


At a Crossing

25" x 20" Ink, gouache, and conte on paper


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Keep On

8" x 12" Ink and gouache on paper


Cat's Cradle

21" x 16" Gouache and conte on paper


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Cold Blooded

11" x 14" Dry pastel on paper


Trust, Surrender

14" x 15" Ink, gouache, acrylic, paper and gold dust on wood


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Joy Gloria Liu is a Taiwanese American, Oakland-based graphic designer and illustrator, who combined fine art, ethnic studies and women's studies into a BA at Mills College. Part therapy, part dream journal -- Joy's "paint-drawings" aim to explore and embrace the distances, barriers, and bridges in-between. Visit her online at: www.thejoyliu.com.




Interview by: Jennifer Derilo Photo credit: Tara Runyan Lysley Tenorio is not just another Filipino writer on the rise—he is a short story writer on the move, scooping up awards and accolades with a steadiness that is not surprising for a young writer of his caliber. In just a handful of years, Tenorio has earned a Whiting Award, the Nelson Algren Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. He was a former Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University and has been given coveted fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, The University of Wisconsin, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Stories from Monstress have been in such publications as The Atlantic, Ploughshares, Manoa, and Zoetrope: All Story and in the Best American Voices and The Pushcart Prize anthologies. Moreover, Tenorio’s debut Monstress (available in February from Ecco Harper Collins) is not just a collection of short stories populated with Filipino and FilipinoAmerican characters concerning immigrant or culture-specific experiences—it’s a collection about love, family, obsession, human frailty, disappearances, convergences, fascination, heartbreak, loyalty, faith, fantasy, pop culture, history. It’s a collection that reminds its readers that stories are vital and ubiquitous, even in the most absurd of headlines, in myths and recorded histories, in secrets. Tenorio proves, too, that these stories can be told at once with dark humor and tenderness. So it’s not a hyperbole when I say that leading up to this interview I would sleep with a copy of Monstress tucked beside me in bed and that I had dreams saturated with the same tragic, comical, and even magical tones prevalent in his stories, that I was haunted by some of the characters, even though his stories were not about horror or ghosts or hauntings. While these stories do have themes with a universal impact, I couldn’t help feeling a connection to the characters and stories, having been born in the Philippines and transplanted in California myself. It wasn’t difficult either to see the residues of my own experiences as well as the faces and voices of my own relatives line those pages. Even more, I think the geeky fangirl in me has found a new literary crush. Don’t believe me? Check out how other writers and magazines are gushing about Monstress and pre-order your copy here today: http://lysleytenorio.com/


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Can you share with us the process of putting together the stories in Monstress as a collection? How did you conceive of the book as a whole, and how did that conception perhaps influence the writing of individual stories? L.T.: I’m inspired by unexpected or little known historical intersections between American and Filipino culture (the Culion Leper Colony, the International Hotel in San Francisco), so most of my stories were built on these kinds of premises, these odd collisions between both countries. The last story I wrote for the book, ―Felix Starro,‖ which is based on a famous (and crooked) Filipino faith healer who supposedly worked a few American celebrities, seemed to operate within that vein—that story completed the collection. That said, the final story in the book, ―L’amour, CA‖ isn’t like the others—it’s a quiet story about a family’s tough first year in America. That (seemingly) simple premise was incredibly hard for me to work with, and I worked on that story on and off for years. All of your stories have historical and political resonances, especially concerning the shared histories of the U.S. and the Philippines, such as in “The View from Culion” and “Help”. Do you set out to write stories that orbit a specific historical or political event? Or, do these resonances emerge organically? Do you consider yourself political writer? L.T.: I do seek out historical events (which can certainly be seen as political), because their drama is inherent, full of thematically significant (to me anyway) material. I don’t know if that makes me a political writer—I don’t think I’m outwardly advocating for anything in my stories, and I’m not trying to teach any kind of history lesson to the reader. My interest in this kind of material is the emotional experiences of individuals who might’ve lived through those events, and my hope is that the reader can develop some kind of empathy for them. Maybe that’s what I’m advocating for—empathy. Moreover, what is your research process for stories that deal specifically with historical topics and details? For example, how did you go about learning about the I-Hotel for "Save the I-Hotel"? L.T.: If it’s based on a real event or place, then I do as much research as is necessary. Sometimes it’s as simple as searching through Google; sometimes, I might need to go to a special collections room at the library to dig through old newspapers, scan through microfiche. But lucky for me, this is fiction, so I get to make a lot of this stuff up.


It’s hard to write a funny story, let alone a darkly comic story, such as “Superassasin” and “Monstress”. What is your process for injecting humor into a narrative—is it something that just happens naturally or is it more methodically constructed? L.T.: Humor is inherent in almost any situation, and sometimes, it’s easy to find, like in ―Help‖: an old man recruits his three nephews to help him beat up the Beatles. To me, there’s obvious humor in there, but the trick is to remember that ―humor‖ isn’t synonymous with ―joke.‖ Humor is situational, circumstantial, so it has to be developed organically, in the context of a particular reality. In that sense, it does take some thought—and a lot of revision—to get the humor right. To build on the above question, camp plays an important role in "Monstress," most notably in the subject matter of Checkers's and Gaz's movies. Do you see camp operating on any other levels in the story? Is there tension between maintaining the ironic distance of camp and achieving sincere moments of emotional resonance? L.T.: That’s a perfect question for ―Monstress‖, because that was the challenge of that story: how can I make what a reader might see as campy— this inane mash-up of B-movies—into something emotionally meaningful, even beautiful? That tension is embodied by the narrator, Reva Gogo, who at once recognizes the awfulness of these films, but in retrospect, can identify something genuinely lovely about them. My hope, of course, is that the reader can understand, maybe even identify with, that perspective too. When a writer comes from an immigrant family or minority culture, he or she can sometimes inadvertently end up playing the role of tour guide or native informant for mainstream audiences. Who do you imagine your audience to be when you write? L.T.: Ideally, my audience is anyone who’s willing to pick up my stories. But I do feel that I’m writing for an American audience. I read somewhere once that my stories wouldn’t find much of an audience in the Philippines; that bummed me, because I’d hope to find readers anywhere. But that writer said this because my stories were, apparently, too American. In a way, I’m fine with that. I’m an American writer; I write American fiction. And ultimately, the Filipino experience I try to portray in my stories is part of the American experience too.


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Along these lines, your take on the Filipino immigrant experience is at once powerful, unique, and relevant. You’re also now part of a growing contingent of incredible Filipino writers, which of course includes Jessica Hagedorn, M. Evelina Galang, Noel Alumit, R. Zamora Linmark, and Peter Bacho, who have been imagining these stories for a contemporary U.S. audience. What are your thoughts on writing about these narratives and these characters as a Filipino author? L.T.: My first thought is that if anyone considers me to be in that company, I’m honored. My second thought is that these Filipino and Filipino-American narratives (however one wants to define them) feel emotionally and psychologically familiar to me. Cultures colliding, past intruding on present, inheriting history and defying it—those conflicts, I believe, make up the Filipino identity, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. For all that chaos, there’s harmony too, and speaking for myself, I do feel obligated to render that paradoxical truth in the lives of these characters. In an interview with the Examiner, you mentioned that one of the most challenging aspects of writing is developing a character. We were actually impressed and even floored by the range and complexity of the characters that populate your stories. You treat each with such tenderness and present them without judgment. Despite the difficult decisions they have to make and the repercussions that come out of those decisions, you still manage to elicit some empathy and sympathy from your readers. Can you talk about your character development process—not only about how you embody each realistically but how you present them to your reader? L.T.: Because developing character is, for me, one of the most challenging aspects of writing fiction, I’m finding this question just as tough (though nonetheless appreciated). I’m not sure if I have a fixed method of how to create characters—it seems different story to story. But I have become more aware of the relationship between character and situation. For example, if I’m setting a story in a leper colony, the atmospherics of that leper colony—its occupants, its weather, its history—must somehow be integrated into the character’s psychology; those circumstances make up part of who she is; she exists because of and in spite of that world. I think this is true for all my characters, so hopefully that comes through in their presentation. Many of your stories are set in the Bay Area, but you grew up in San Diego just like I did. Thus, my burning, albeit biased, question: Will San Diego ever make it into a short story…or five? L.T.: Funny you point that out; I’m not sure I realized that. If there’s reason for this, it’s probably because I don’t yet see San Diego as a landscape for the stories I write, for the characters who might exist within that space. San Diego is home, too familiar. Maybe that’s why I can’t imagine it in a fictional context. Yet.


We look forward to more of your work, so we’re ecstatic that you’re currently working on your first novel! Do you think it was a natural progression from being a short story writer? In what ways has the process been similar, different, or, perhaps, more difficult? Can you give us a hint about this novel? L.T.: I don’t think it’s a natural progression at all. When you’re comparing the story with the novel, you’re comparing forms, and one form doesn’t prepare you for the other. They’re two completely different beasts that I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to tame. In terms of the experience of working on a novel, I’ve certainly enjoyed the luxury of not having to worry (for now) about length. With a story, admittedly, I’m often thinking about ways to economize and edit to make the piece a more publishable length. It’s a little harder to breathe within those parameters. The novel feels a little more giving. A hint about the novel? It’s smaller than a breadbox.


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CONTRIBUTOR BIOS FICTION Karissa Chen is a fiction writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pindeldyboz, Two Hawks Quarterly and Le Chat Noir’s annual fiction anthology, Drinking With Papa Legba. She was recently the recipient of the diFilipisRosselli Prose Scholarship at the Napa Valley Writers Conference. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. She coordinates and facilitates creative writing workshops for incarcerated young men in Valhalla, New York and serves as the assistant fiction editor at Hyphen magazine. Eddie Malone is a PhD candidate at The Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work has appeared in such journals as Chiron Review, WordRiver, and The Truth About the Fact. Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam in 1968. He received a B.A. in English from CSU Northridge and both his M.A. and M.F.A. from McNeese State University. He is currently living in Ruston, Louisiana, where he has taught literature, composition, and creative writing at Louisiana Tech University since 1999. ―The Bone Orchard‖ is an excerpt from The Land South of the Clouds, a novel in progress.

POETRY Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby,and Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Persona Poetry, and he co-chairs the Kundiman.org advisory board. He teaches creative writing at Western Washington University. Hari Malagayo Alluri is a poet, community facilitator and filmmaker who immigrated to South Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories at the age of 12 and believes in craft and movement. A VONA alum and finalist for the Joy Harjo Prize, his poems have appeared or are upcoming in 580 Split, Cutthroat, Lumina, Kweli Journal and TAYO Literary Magazine. Hari's most recent collaborations are with Asian Arts Freedom School, The Collaborative Manifesto Remix Project, los migrantes, the National Film Board of Canada, neworld theatre, no one is illegal, press release poetry collective and The Purple Thistle.


NON-FICTION Hyung-Ok Lee lives in NYC. She has a novel-in-progress. Donna Miscolta’s first novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced was published in June 2011 by Signal 8 Press. Her unpublished story collection Natalie Wood’s Fake Puerto Rican Accent was a finalist for the 2010 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. She has been awarded residencies from Anderson Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Find her at www.donnamiscolta.com. ART Joy Gloria Liu is a Taiwanese American, Oakland-based graphic designer and illustrator, who combined fine art, ethnic studies and women's studies into a BA at Mills College. Isolation, longing and internal tension are reflected in the characters drifting through her artwork. They fly as if groundless and float in water, dreaming perhaps of crossing the Pacific Ocean back to ancestral homes. In illustrating these hybrid realities, Joy folds together gouache, ink, pastel and multiple-perspectives with the expressionistic quality of children’s reveries. Lines weave in and out of her work, as an illustrative element and as a metaphor for tangled lineage and connection. These vignettes serve to honor the inner worlds of her characters -- who travel back and forth in that liminal space, in search of new words to answer old questions. Part therapy, part dream journal -- Joy's "paint-drawings" aim to explore and embrace the distances, barriers, and bridges in-between. Visit her online at: www.thejoyliu.com


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EDITOR BIOS Managing Editor, Sunny Woan Sunny Woan likes to dote on cats. She has a difficult time maintaining thermal homeostasis. Her creative works have appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Blue Earth Review, Houston Literary Review, and SoMa Literary Review, among others; and legal research in Washington & Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice Law; Temple Journal of Science, Technology and Environmental Law, Cal. Western Law Review, Santa Clara Law Review and have been anthologized in casebooks. By day, Sunny works as general counsel for a global investments firm. By night (and by way of weekends and holidays), she is a designer of briefcases, power handbags and accessories under the label Taryn Zhang. Fiction Editor, Paul Lai Paul Lai hopes one day to live in a library. He is pursuing an MLIS degree at St. Catherine University. Previously, he has studied and taught at Yale University, UC Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, and the University of St. Thomas. He has co-edited scholarly journal issues about Asian American fiction and alternative contact between peoples in the Americas. He frequently presents essays on Asian American literature at academic conferences where he has the opportunity to meet other scholars and writers. His publications include reviews of books about Asian American literature as well as academic essays on notable Asian North American writers. He is on the executive committees of the Circle of Asian American Literary Studies and the Modern Language Association's Asian American Literature Division. Paul lives with his partner and their crazy dog Giles in Minnesota, and he is working on a collection of horror short stories, all featuring dogs. Poetry Editor, Kenji Liu Kenji Liu is a 1.5 generation Japanese-born Taiwanese American expatriate of New Jersey suburbia. His writing arises from his work as an activist, educator and cultural worker. Kenji’s poetry chapbook You Left Without Your Shoes was published by Finishing Line Press (2009), available on Amazon.com. His writing has appeared in Tea Party Magazine and the 2009 Intergenerational Writer’s Workshop online anthology Flick of My Tongue. Kenji was awarded a writing residency at Blue Mountain Center and was a presenting literary artist at APAture 2009, a multidisciplinary Asian Pacific American art festival. He is currently working on a multi-genre full-length collection of poetry, prose and visual art. He is a freelance graphic designer and also holds an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation from California Institute of Integral Studies. When not writing, Kenji paints, boulders, chases sunshine and hangs out with puppies. His biggest writing pet peeve is when people don't know the difference between its and it's.


Non-Fiction Editor, Jennifer Derilo Jennifer Derilo received her MFA (creative nonfiction emphasis) from Mills College, where she was its first Jacob K. Javits scholar. She teaches creative writing and English at Southwestern College. While she blogs for the mAss Kickers Foundation, a cancer advocacy and support group, she enjoys reading (and writing) about people and things unseen. She often has nightmares about zombies. And abandoned predicate parts. Editor-At-Large, Christine Lee Zilka Christine Lee Zilka has appeared or is forthcoming in journals and anthologies such as ZYZZYVA, Verbsap, Yomimono, and Men Undressed: Women Authors Write About Male Sexual Experience. An adjunct instructor at a local college, she received an Ardella Mills Fiction Prize from Mills College in 2005, placed as a finalist in Poets and Writers Magazine’s Writers Exchange Contest in 2007, and received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open in 2009. Christine earned her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. In addition to writing short stories, she has a novel in progress and writes at the Writers Room in New York City.

ADVISORY BOARD Elmaz Abinader Justin Chin Peter Ho Davies Jessica Hagedorn Randa Jarrar Gish Jen Elaine H. Kim

Maxine Hong Kingston Gus Lee Li-Young Lee Min Jin Lee Ed Lin Nami Mun Fae Myenne Ng Lac Su


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SUBMISSION GUIDELINES The editorial board reviews submissions on a rolling basis. Thus, we accept submissions by electronic mail year-round. Please do not send previously published work. We accept simultaneous submissions, but ask that you notify the respective editor immediately when your submission has been accepted elsewhere. Submit online with the submishmash™ submissions manager:

http://kartikareview.submishmash.com/Submit Fiction | Attn: Paul Lai Short stories, experimental or interpretive works of fiction, flash fiction and microfiction pieces fall under our category of fiction. We give due consideration to all submissions, but we strongly prefer works under 7,500 words. Poetry | Attn: Kenji Liu Narrative, prose, or lyrical poetry, free verse, eastern or western poetic forms, or works meant as spoken word are all welcome as poetry. We give due consideration to all submissions, but we strongly prefer works under 2,500 words. Creative Nonfiction | Attn: Jennifer Derilo For creative nonfiction, we are particularly interested in works (memoir, reportage, letters, essay, etc.) that touch on themes including--but not limited to--identity, memory, family, culture, history, trauma, dislocation. Alternative formats and subject matter are nonetheless welcome. We give due consideration to all submissions, but we strongly prefer works under 7,500 words.

For more information, please visit http://www.kartikareview.com/submit.html.


―A harrowing story rendered in balletic prose, The Last Repatriate draws us inside a war of the body and of the heart—a confirmation of Salesses’ inventive, ambitious, big-hearted brilliance.‖ -Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us ―Matthew Salesses is a writer to embrace. In their beauty, strangeness, and heart, his fictions are a gift.‖ -Paul Yoon, author of Once the Shore ―Salesses’ examination of the troubled mind of a Korean War POW returning home is pensive and brooding. A subtly painful psychological journey.‖ -James Franco, author of Palo Alto Available at www.nouvellabooks.com


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THE 500 PROJECT Does Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) literature matter? The 500 Project seeks to profile 10 APIA individuals from each of the 50 States who answer YES. On February 3, 2011, incidentally the Lunar New Year, the editors of Kartika Review, a national Asian Pacific Islander American literary arts journal, got together with award-winning poet Bryan Thao Worra and took on the 500 Project. However, the concept started well before February 3rd, by Thao Worra, the first Lao American to hold an NEA Fellowship in Literature. Over the last 15 years, he has worked with Asian/Pacific Islander American writers from across the country to revitalize our literary and artistic traditions, in particular that of Lao and Southeast Asian American writers. A key part of that journey has been connecting emerging enclaves of writers with more established APIA artists across the United States. One recurring conversation the writer activists have is the question of the modern audience for Asian American literature. We are in a time when there is a vocal demand for diverse voices, and yet APIA writers are hard-pressed to find the same passionate, sustaining demand that mainstream writers or genre fiction enjoy. That presents a contradiction, one we writer activists cannot ignore, and one that we should respond to loudly, proudly, from every storied corner of Earth. In Thao Worra's home state of Minnesota, there are over 60 ethnic communities tracing their heritage to Asia or the Pacific Islands. These communities thrive across the United States, coast to coast. For each of these communities, writers must ask: Can't we find, among all of those thousands, 10 individuals who are passionate about Asian American literature, writer activists who will express without equivocation that Asian American literature matters? For each of the 50 states, there must be at least 10 Asian / Pacific Islander Americans that answer yes. And thus Thao Worra, joined by Kartika Review seek out those 500. Why should it be so hard to identify them and build a vibrant, amazing network of readers and writers? How can a canon of contemporary Asian American literature be built if we cannot even find these 500? And so our quest begins.


THE 500 PROJECT TO SUBMIT YOUR PROFILE TO THE 500 PROJECT, E-MAIL US AT 500project@kartikareview.com In the subject line of your e-mail, include the state you reside in followed by your full name. For example: Minnesota - Bryan Thao Worra Please be sure to attach a full color photograph of yourself to the e-mail. In either the inline body of the e-mail or as a Microsoft Word attachment (.doc or .docx), include the following information about yourself: Full Name Date of Birth Ethnicity Residence (City, State) Occupation Professional Affiliations (optional) Then answer the following questions: Does APIA literature matter to you? Why does APIA literature matter to you? Cite the last 3 works of APIA literature you read. Who are your favorite APIA writers or poets and why? In your own words, you are: In your own words, APIA literature is:


For more information, please visit http://www.kartikareview.com/500project/ PLEASE HELP US GET THE WORD OUT!


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Kartika Review is a national Asian American literary arts journal that publishes fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, author interviews, and art/photography. The journal launched in 2007 and as of 2011, is fiscally sponsored as a 501(c)(3) by the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center in San Francisco.

OUR NAMESAKE In Vajrayana (or Tibetan) Buddhist tradition, the kartika, a crescent-shaped knife, symbolizes the cutting away of ignorance and superficiality, with the hopes that it will lead to enlightenment. The kartika is kept close during deep meditation or prayer. It serves mainly as a metaphorical reminder of our self-determined life missions and never is it actually wielded in the offensive against others. We took on this namesake because the kartika best represents this journal’s vision.

CONTACT Kartika Review API Cultural Center 934 Brannan Street San Francisco, CA 94103



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ISSUE 11 | WINTER 2011




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Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.