02 | LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Dear Reader, The steady surge of Asian American representation and the popular exploration of Asian culture have inspired us to think about this very ascent this past semester. From politics and lifestyle to music and film, the directionality of our collective activity has not only strengthened group identity, but individual conceptions of belonging. This mini-issue, titled “Asian Glow,” reflects some of our thoughts on how this emergence has influenced personal growth. The conflict we experience within our cultural, social, and familial associations, particularly when they splinter in divisive ways, offers a chance for us to feel displaced. We wanted to reconfigure this, to understand how we’ve grown to rise, bloom, and glow in a context that has been designed to lose us. This issue attempts to bridge seemingly disconnected identities and experiences. As always, our work relies on your enthusiastic assistance as readers and contributors. We thank you for the support you have given us, and are excited to see all of the new talent and work we have in store for the next issue. We hope you enjoy reading. Yeena Yoon and Kristen Park
ASIAN GLOW | 03
Editors-in-Chief Art Director Graphics Editor Marketing Director Copy Editor Secretary Production Manager Business Manager Publicity Editor Photo Editor
Yeena Yoon and Kristen Park Beatrice Shim Cara Valencia Ying Zhang Karen Wang Susan You Caroline Kim Joyce Hwang Andre Vu David In
Writers, interviewees, Illustrators, and Photographers: David In, Sid Kavuturu, Irene Lee, Nik Moondra, Kristen Park, Justin Ryu, Shiva Sachdeva, Jocelyn Shen, Beatrice Shim, Cara Valencia, Lauren Yoon, Yeena Yoon
04 | BLOOM
BLOOM WRIT TEN BY JOCELYN SHEN
If you look closely, you would notice the indent on the left corner of our couch. Every Friday night, my mom would assume her position on the faded cushion with her calling card and phone book in hand. The shrill tone from the landline would eventually be cut off by a stale pause, marking the entrance of my lao ye’s crackling voice.
ASIAN GLOW | 05
Wei? 喂? Our Friday evenings were never really over until my lao ye’s voice filled the house in a yelling match because of his faulty hearing aids and until I was forced to sputter out a weak sentence in Chinese to appease my relatives. I never quite understood why my parents were so adamant on calling their family so consistently. My lack of fluency bubbled into embarrassment, and pushed me to categorize these Friday night calls as into the category of ‘Embarrassing Things My Family Does’.
Over time, this category grew and grew until it was bursting at the seams. I despised so many things about my culture. I hated being different from my classmates with their neat traditional families and names and experiences. I hated having to explain why I did something, what it was that I was eating, what this meant in Chinese. The need to explain myself seemed to indicate that I was wrong and needed to change what I was doing. This past summer, my family returned to China, and the recurring painful silences between me and my own lao lao guilted me into signing up for “Heritage Chinese” my fall semester. I saw the class as any other, just something to check off the list and help me earn a sticker to fill an empty space on my moral consciousness chart. I just wanted the head knowledge of knowing Mandarin in order to get rid of the feeling of guilt that the summer had planted in me. One of our first assignments was to ask our parents the meaning of our Chinese names. I went back to my dorm after class and called my mom.
06 | BLOOM
Hello? At first, she laughed at the assignment, amused that college had me coming back to her for help. She told me what each character meant and how she and my dad chose them. I dutifully wrote down what she said told me, jotting down simple and direct translations on a scrap piece of paper. Based on the effort required by the assignment, we could have gone over it in less than five minutes. Yet in class, as each student shared, our professor bloomed with eagerness, lifting our names off the page. Nan lao shi listened to me with attentiveness and excitement, praising my parents for being so accurate in their choosing, noting how beautiful and unique the pairing of the characters was. I left class that day with a funny feeling. She liked my name. I never knew the meaning of my name before this. I had never thought about it. The feeling of pride bubbled, sitting strangely in my stomach—but a good kind of strange, the kind that fills you slowly from the inside, covering you with warmth and making you wonder how you were ever complacent without it. Maybe it’s the diversifying social environment. Maybe it’s the growing bravery and visibility of AAPI members who have given us a platform to see our value. Or, maybe it’s me, finally, finally, looking up and out of the hole of embarrassment that I had dug for myself and learning to embrace my culture. My narrow mind turned lack of understanding into distaste, ignoring the richness and vastness that lay at my feet, and as childish and blind as that was, next Friday night I will call my mom and say, 妈妈, I see it now, too.
08 | CONCEPTION DREAM
C O N C E ㅐ
모 P T I O N * D R E A M WRITTEN BY YEENA YOON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID IN
ASIAN GLOW | 09
My sisters, you were born of a dream in May, shimmering and serpentine. Father wept. His prayer for son bled through the early summer cries of cicadas. Sisters, you were born gender-switched and forgotten. Fatherâ€™s father refused to visit when he heard. Memories leave swiftly, but I recall my child-hands tracing motherâ€™s tears, nails stained light amber with balsamina. In another life, you will be born of a different dream. Screaming and worshipped like the voice of a god, known by your miracle, perfected by a family name, remembered.
10 | THE EXPECTATION OF ASIAN GLOW
ASIAN GLOW | 11
The Expectation of Asian glow WRITTEN BY KAYLEE ZHOU Once, I read an article on the Huffington Post (written by an Asian-American) on how for most Asian-Americans, there exists this “earth-shattering moment in our childhood when we realize we’re not white.” At the time, I went through a heated flash of combing through all my early childhood memories to try to pinpoint that moment for myself. Was it when I went to pre-K without having learned English yet, only to discover no one else was speaking the language I was speaking, which was Mandarin Chinese? Or maybe it was the summer around third grade when I was the only Asian kid at camp and was too scared to make friends. Or maybe it was when I was in middle school and wanted to swing on the swings at the neighborhood park for the first time in years, only to be chased home by boys who kept screaming “ching chong” at me. Maybe it was even more recent than that, my freshman year of college, when a floormate pointed out how small my eyes are.
I think I find the fallacy in the claim to be that we experience ONE earth-shattering moment when we realize we’re not white. And perhaps the shocking revelation isn’t in the fact that we aren’t white—maybe the shock is in realizing how OTHER people so quickly notice we aren’t white and are immediately able to assign stereotypes to us. Microaggressions and direct aggressions against Asians, moments where our Asianness is intrusively made apparent to us, don’t begin and end in early childhood.
◀ FIREFLY (2019) BY LAUREN YOON
12 | THE EXPECTATION OF ASIAN GLOW
So on the topic of Asian glow. Well, I come from a family of big drinkers. This originates from my dad’s side, if you just exclude my dad, who rarely, if ever, has even a sip of beer. My dad’s dad was a lifelong alcoholic, but even so, for my dad’s side of the family (who live in Henan, China), our genetically huge alcohol tolerance has always been a source of pride and my grandfather was lauded for his drinking abilities. I learned this first-hand two summers ago when I spent two months in China, teaching English at a middle school. It was the first time I got to experience the drinking culture in China and it was particularly intriguing because I experienced it with my relatives in China, whom I had previously only met a few times. Every meal was accompanied by several toasts of Chinese white liquor (this is my weak translation of bBaijiu), no matter the time of day. You drank with your family, you drank with your coworkers, and you drank with your boss. It was exhilarating and culturally shocking, and I learned a lot about my heritage, my family, and my own drinking abilities that summer. And through it all, I’ve never had the so-called Asian glow. My face stays the same shade it’s always been when I drink, even if I get super drunk. So, when non-Asians point out that I don’t get Asian glow, I am of mixed emotions. One part of me is weirdly, deeply proud. I feel like a true Zou family member—I’m a tank. But, does anyone even think getting Asian glow impedes on one’s ability to consume large quantities of alcohol? Another part of me is weirdly offended. What— just because I’m Asian, I have to get Asian glow? Why is Asian glow even called Asian glow? Do only Asians get Asian glow? Like is that true? I Googled it, and it’s not. When I was in China, no one was going around commenting on somebody’s reddened drunk face as “Asian” glow and no one was commenting on those who didn’t get Asian glow.
UNDENIABLE (2019) BY IRENE LEE
It’s fascinating to me that this quality that’s supposedly “Asian” that I’ve just never experienced before (thereby if you need living proof that not all Asians have “Asian glow,” I can be that proof ) still gets thrown at me and questioned by non-Asians. Drinking is extremely significant to Asian culture yet at the forefront of the discussion of Asians drinking tends to be the question of whether, do you need a Pepcid or not. So, even on the topic of something as ordinary as Asian glow, it still reveals how people have so many expectations of how someone should be or should not be based solely on their race.
ASIAN GLOW | 13
PEPCID (2019) BY CARA VALENCIA
FLUSH FT. PINK GIN (2019) BY DANIEL NOH “When her inner Korean glows, she becomes half Asian, half Rosé”
14 | KRANTI
WRIT TEN BY K AN INTERVIE PICTURED WRIT TEN BY BY B PICTURED BY
EW WITH NOON
KRISTEN PARK EW WITH NOON BEATRICE SHIM KRISTEN PARK BEATRICE SHIM
ASIAN GLOW | 15
16 | KRANTI
Can you guys give a brief description of Kranti and the organization’s purpose at Hopkins? Sid: Kranti is a close knit team of South Asian members, and we all come with a common interest to sing and to express our creativity through music. I guess its role on campus is to promote Bollywood music and the fusion of western and eastern influences. Shiva: All of us were raised in America but still grew up having Indian values and listening to Bollywood music. The music we perform is a mix of Indian and American pop music. It’s a mixture of two cultures, which is similar to how we grew up — Indian American. We try to involve both of these cultures and make music that emphasizes both.
Would you say that your music is divided 50/50 between Indian and American? Shiva: It’s about 50/50. There are also a lot of different types of Indian cultures (i.e. South Indian culture, North Indian culture), so we try to emphasize that diversity as well. It’s supposed to be 50/50, but I guess sometimes it’s a little bit more Indian. Sid: I think what’s cool is that in India there are many dialects of language, and recently, our group has been shifting to promote different dialects of India. We’ve been composing songs in different languages, which is another cool direction the team has been going in.
ASIAN GLOW | 17
What were your individual experiences with Indian music prior to coming to Hopkins? Sid: When I was a child, my parents made me learn the violin. I originally learned western violin and would play classical pieces. Then, they got me into Indian classical violin and would take me to this teacher who lived an hour and a half away. I hated it so much. I thought it was the worst thing I could be doing, and I didn’t enjoy the music. However, as I transitioned to high school, I began to enjoy Indian classical music more and more without my parents influencing me. Coming here and seeing Kranti doing traditional Indian-style pieces continued my interest in music. Shiva: Music has been a big part of not only my life but also my dad’s life and my grandfather’s life. In India, music was a huge part of their community and their household. I grew up in that kind of setting, so I’ve been singing since I was five years old. At that point, I would just sing any Bollywood song that I saw in a movie or that my parents would play for me. Around the age of ten, I started going to classical Indian singing classes and did that for about ten years. Just like what Sid said, for the first five, it was really annoying to go to class because I thought it was kind of wack — I didn’t know what I was singing, but I was just singing it. Once I got to high school and actually started performing, I started actually enjoying it and noticing how important it was to my parents. Before coming to college, I did want to continue singing but did not know that Kranti was a thing. When I saw Kranti at O-Show freshman year, I resolved to audition for the group, and it was the only acapella group that I did audition for.
18 | KRANTI
Nik: For me, I actually never grew up learning Hindi music — it was all western music. I took vocal lessons, doing that kind of stuff. But everyday, I would get picked up from school, and Hindi music would be blaring in the car. My mom and dad would both be singing along. I grew up with the same thing being played over and over in the household. When I came to Hopkins, I did not know that Kranti existed; I actually didn’t go to O-Show either. I learned about acapella teams and saw that Kranti was a South Asian team. I knew that I kind of wanted to be part of the South Asian community, which was something I never got from high school because I grew up in a very white-dominated area.
Coming off of that, do you guys want to talk about the differences in your experiences of being South Asian in high school vs. college? Nik: There were maybe two ethnic kids in my class, me and my friend Aria. I never really had a brown community in high school aside from my parents’ friends and a couple of the kids we grew up with — there were maybe four or five of us. Coming here to Hopkins was a big change because I realized that was something I wanted. I never had kids [around me] who also grew up in America, who were also brown, and who understood a lot of the things I went through growing up. Shiva: I’m also from a suburban town that was mostly white-dominated. I went to a public school, and there were some Indians at our school. I wasn’t great friends with all of them. Friendships with other Indians mostly came through my parents’ friends and their sons and daughters. There was a tight-knit group outside of school but that was more through my parents than me making those connections myself. Coming to college, it was easier to form connections with more Indian people because we were able to harp on our similarities. Kranti was a perfect way of doing that because all of our interests align in terms of the music that we make, so it was easier to get along with everyone.
ASIAN GLOW | 19
Sid: I’m from a small farm-town in suburban Michigan. Even though we are a very small-town suburb, there are a lot of Indians there, and our education system is also good — which, you know, is probably just a coincidence (laughs). Because there are a lot of Indians there, through our families, everyone kind of knew each other in school. There was kind of an implicit understanding that I knew this person not because I was friends with them personally but through my parents. Coming here, it was a little bit different. There are a lot of Indian people here as well, which kind of made a smooth transition from high school, but here, we don’t have our parents to influence us and to form our friend groups. Me being on my own and trying to forge these relationships away from my parents have been a big part of me forming my cultural identity.
So you guys said all of your high schools were mostly white-dominated right? Did you guys ever feel a sense of wanting to reject your Indian culture to conform? Nik: I feel like a lot of that does occur sometimes because you want to feel like you fit in. For example, the things I would bring to lunch were never the same as the other kids. I would bring roti and stuff, and everything would smell a little different. [The white-dominance] definitely played a factor because... it changed the way I dressed, it changed the way that I spoke, it changed a lot of those aspects of my life. When you’re in elementary school, you’re obviously not going to pick up on the little nuances and tendencies, but when you get to high school, you start to realize that you don’t fit in as much as you thought you did. Shiva: To add more to the bringing stuff to lunch thing — so I’m vegetarian, and growing up, people would always ask why I was vegetarian. Until I was actually able to form my belief on it, I always had to give a weird answer, like ‘oh, it’s because my parents are vegetarian.’ That was a little weird sometimes — growing up and always having to justify my values to other people.
What do you guys specifically enjoy about being in Kranti? Sid: For me, the main thing is that it’s a form of having fun away from school. I get bogged down by a lot of work and lab and all of these other activities, but then you go to Kranti and don’t have to think about that stuff for two hours. It’s time away from school where you can spend time with people you connect and relate to — we’re all singing, so we’re all having fun. Shiva: I’m not gonna lie, I really like listening to a lot of Indian music, but with friends, we’re not bumping Bollywood. I don’t go out of my way at a party to bump Bollywood, you know? I like listening to it because it has been a big part of my childhood and everything, but Kranti is a super easy way to listen to and sing that kind of music because it’s more accepted to do so in this kind of space. Kranti provides a space where I can easily express that side of myself. Nik: For me, it’s a nice distraction in that it allows me to relieve myself from Hopkins for a little bit. You can move yourself away from school, extracurriculars, and clubs, and just sing with people you enjoy being around for six hours a week. It’s a nice outlet.
Let’s say in a hypothetical world you guys didn’t join Kranti, how do you think your experiences would have differed? Shiva: For me, I think it was a very important thing that I did join Kranti because singing is one of the things I like doing the most. I would have been a little regretful if I was not using the talent that I do have or if I wasn’t experiencing the fun I get out of singing. As a byproduct, I was also able to make a lot of friends, like these two. Sid: I feel like something would have been missing from my undergraduate experience. I would have gone through college, but if I wasn’t part of any of these South Asian groups, some essential part of myself would have been missing.
20 | KRANTI
Nik: For me I think, some of my closest friends are from Kranti. Thinking about not meeting those people, not having the experiences that we had, not being able to travel with the team, and not being able to have gotten as close as we have makes me feel like a huge hole would have been missing.
The inability of Asian parents to express love and affection is a common topic discussed in Asian American communities. Do you feel like joining Kranti has changed your relationships with your parents at all and has maybe loosened those boundaries? Sid: Yes, definitely, especially with my dad. My dad is very much into Indian music. Classical, new Bollywood, old Bollywood — he loves it all. Being in Kranti and being exposed to this music have allowed me to bond more with my dad. We’ll take drives around town and just play Bollywood songs. We’ll both try to guess the artist and the meaning of the song. Kranti has really allowed us to bond together. Shiva: Similarly, my dad also loves listening to Indian Bollywood songs. This helps us stay close to each other when there are so many differences in how we grew up. This definitely helps us bond. My dad listens to Kranti all of the time. My parents are genuinely happy to watch us. They ask about Kranti every time I call. It’s another talking point and another connection that has deepened our relationship. Nik: It brings you closer to your parents because you have that realization that we’re not so different. We share a lot of the same experiences that they had, we’re getting involved with our culture more — that’s what makes them so happy.
Without these kinds of South Asian spaces on campus, do you guys think that you would have reached the same point of realization about yourselves? Sid: I don’t think so. One of the South Asian spaces that has definitely helped me a lot with my cultural identity is the Interfaith Center because they have a specific room there for Hindus and all different religions. You can go there at any time and express your faith if you need to. We use that space to promote cultural events that are going on around campus. I think that space is really important for all cultures to know about one another and has definitely played a big role in shaping my cultural identity. Nik: I agree with Sid. The presence of SASH (South Asian Students at Hopkins) and these types of organizations involves all of us. They give us the opportunity to meet each other, grow, and live through the same experiences. Shiva: I think we’d still be able to connect with each other, but without these types of spaces, it would be a lot harder to realize how similar we are. There’s a balance that needs to be met. As an Asian American, as an Indian American, there’s a balance between the values you grew up with and the values that you’re learning through school and society. Without the opportunities provided by these types of organizations, you would not be able to express certain parts of yourself.
ASIAN GLOW | 21
◀ SUMMER SEOULSTICE (2019)
BY JUSTIN RYU “Everyday life in Seoul’s concrete jungle”
Our mini issue looks to explore how AAPI representations in modern society and media– from politics to cultural lifestyles– have shaped our...
Published on Nov 9, 2020
Our mini issue looks to explore how AAPI representations in modern society and media– from politics to cultural lifestyles– have shaped our...