Page 1

an APAC publication Winter 2011 Vol. 7, Issue 1

PLAYING THE RACE Asian Americans CARD breaking into theater FUSION FOOD


editor’s note

Editor’s Note Dear readers, At a university with more than 8,000 undergraduates, it can be hard to find your “niche.” There’s no one, clear-cut formula to how communities develop. Some people come together to honor a common background, others because they share similar interests and some to learn from one another’s experiences. In this issue, you’ll read about Asian Americans who find strength in their respective — and diverse — communities. Our cover story (p. 14) looks at the small, but thriving number of Asian Americans who are entering the acting profession and the opportunities they’ve created in an industry with many racial barriers. In this magazine, you’ll also read about students who find sisterhood in multicultural Greek organizations (p. 8), volunteer efforts to rebuild an educational landmark in Chicago’s Chinese community (p. 17) and campus groups that promote interests like Zen Buddhism (p. 4) and Japanese anime (p.5). We also write about the challenges and “intentional risks” of breaking into a new community (p. 10). Our wonderful editorial board and staff have worked hard this quarter to produce a magazine we’re very proud of. We hope you enjoy the magazine and would love to hear what you think. As always, thank you for reading! Sincerely, Nathalie Tadena Editor in Chief

Have something to say? Let NU Asian know! We want to hear from you. We are also looking for new writers, photographers and designers for our Spring 2011 edition. Reach us at


winter 2011

an APAC publication Volume 7 - Issue 1 - Winter 2011 Funded by the Student Activities Finance Board Magazine Staff 2010 - 2011 Editor in Chief Nathalie Tadena Managing Editor Alanna Autler Creative Director Katie Park Photo and Art Director Emily Chow Outreach and Recruitment Editor Katherine Zhu Marketing Director Shirley Li Online Editor Pavan Krishnamurthy Writers Jerrica Bell, Annie Chang, Jamie Choi, Emily Jan, Martin Kim, Nicky Klingerman, Hyerin Lee, Alice Liu, Brenda Luo, Julie Ma, Miriam Troostwijk, Jia You Design Emily Chow, Erin Kim, Hyerin Lee, Katie Park, Brittney Wong, Katherine Zhu Photo and Art Corinne Chin, Cathy Gao, Emily Jan, Nicky Klingerman, Katherine Zhu Special Thanks to Louie Lainez and Asian/Asian American Student Affairs. the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department and Phoenix Inn Restaurant.




Chicken teriyaki burger >> Alice Liu

On campus

Za zazen

NU Zen Society offers a stress reliever from campus life / p. 4 >> Emily Jan



Chicago & beyond

Anime rejuvenated

NU Stands

A closer look at NU's Anime Club / p. 5 >> Nicky Klingerman

>> Pavan Krishnamurthy

COVER STORY The Asian [insert type here]


Asians in theater continue to face minority generalizations / p. 13

Kelly Zen-Ye Tsai discusses her love of poetry slams / p. 6 >> Julie Ma

>> Shirley Li

Great Wall to the Great Lakes

Slam dunk

Pacific Rims author Rafe Bartholomew talks books and ballers / p. 7 >> Nathalie Tadena

A is for alpha

Asian representation in the Greek community / p. 8 >> Emily Jan

Intentional risk

Bridging black and Asian ethnic identity at NU / p. 10 >> Jerrica Bell


Are you a “Xiao Yun” or a “Jane?”

One writer's take on Americanizing Asian names / p. 21 >> Hyerin Lee

>> Annie Chang




Letter to a student / p. 22 >> Brenda Luo

Between two cultures

The science behind "bicultural competence" / p. 23 >> Jamie Choi

Made in China? Restaurant review: Phoenix Inn is back on the block / p. 24 >> Alice Liu

Tasty tofu Where to find the best tofu treats in Evanston / p. 25 >> Miriam Troostwijk



Chicago & beyond

UN Integrated Mission

East Timor: A forgotten crisis / p. 18 >> Jia You

>> Katherine Zhu



On campus / p. 4 Chicago & beyond / p. 16 etc. / p. 22

on campus

Anime rejuvenated



The story behind The Society for the Study of Modern Japanese Visual Culture by Nicky Klingerman

any Northwestern students use their Friday evenings America is not much different than the fascination with Star to relax in their dorms or hang out with their friends. Wars. “I think it’s somewhat of a fetish but I guess it’s a cultural However, sophomore Alex Tilley spends her Friday thing, like we [have] our Star Wars,” Spates said. “They have evenings watching Japanese anime. anime conventions here and I’m pretty sure they have Star Wars The president of Northwestern's Society for the Study of in Japan and other countries too.” Modern Japanese Visual Culture, more commonly known as the Medill sophomore Sam Daub said he agreed that Americans Anime Club, Tilley has loved anime and manga — the comic like anime for its foreign elements. He said that during middle book version of anime ­ — since middle school. school, he was very interested in Japanese culture. “I was “A lot of my friends were interested in it,” Tilley said. “We very into Japanese videogames; I was very into learning the started off watching more of the girly type anime...and then as language; I was very into reading the comics. So, watching I changed interests, I also changed interest in anime because anime was, I think, a product of that,” Daub said. there’s just so much out there.” He also said people should not expect to learn a lot about The Anime Club comprises about 15 students, including Japanese culture just from watching anime because it is only a graduate and undergraduate. Most of them are engineering shallow representation. majors and were interested in anime before “I think it gives people an unrealistically joining the club. romantic view of Japanese society," Daub McCormick freshman Matt Skwarczek said. “The kind of anime that American participated in an anime club at his high viewers are probably watching is not school. “It’s more relaxed than the one in my actually going to be addressing these deep "It’s just a lot more high school,” Skwarczek said. It’s just sort of social problems affecting Japan." drama, a lot more for people who enjoy anime ... We participate McCormick sophomore Natalia Alvarez in discussions and comparison between said anime is more of an art form than a fighting and I love different anime and different manga.” lot of American cartoons. “In Japan, anime the characters.” So what draws people to Japanese anime? is supposed to be more artsy and [artists] Many children, teenagers and adults in the show off their styles because they take it United States have become enamored with it, really seriously so the story’s always going some to the point of obsession. All over the to be pretty compelling,” she said. country there are anime conventions, fan clubs, costumes and There are some people however, are not as enthralled with even anime majors. anime as others. Valencia Spates is one such student majoring in traditional “I feel like a lot of times I see an anime show and it’s animation at Columbia College. She began watching anime at constantly the same plot and the same concept over and over," 10 years old and started drawing at 11. When she was 13 she said Weinberg sophomore Monique Gaynor, who has a younger decided to become an anime artist. “I love my major,” Spates brother who watches anime. "Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen said. “Since it was new to me I loved it because it was something them all." different.” Skwarczek said because the general consensus is that Spates said she loves anime because it is more realistic cartoons are for children, so many people criticize teenagers than most American cartoons and comic books. “It’s just a lot and adults for liking anime. “As you grow older you can’t really more drama, a lot more fighting and I love the characters…the watch cartoons without people commenting on it,” he said. characters are just more realistic,” she said. Anime is sort of a similar style but with components in them Others seem to agree that anime and manga have qualities that are socially relevant. A lot of people don’t understand the that American cartoons lack. Tilley says that one of the intricacies of it.” reasons so many Americans love anime and manga is because However, whatever other people may think, anime fans they possess an exotic appeal. “There aren’t really any good are not afraid to express their love for anime. Spates, who American comics...there’s nothing new to get people excited has attended several anime conventions, said that while she about it,” Tilley said. supports anime, she refuses to dress up. “I love going to anime Spates, however, said that the fascination with anime in conventions...but I don’t dress up. I have limits.”

4 winter 2011


on campus

NU Zen Society offers a stress reliever from campus life by Emily Jan

Leave your socks and shoes at the door, ladies and mental, rather than the physical. gentlemen, and get in your “zazen” — Northwestern University’s “Let the pain of sitting come and go,” Brooks said. “Good Zen Society is here to stay. and bad things will come and go. It will pass. It forces you to Founded in 2003, NU Zen Society has kept a fairly low profile. assess yourself.” The club meets every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Parkes Hall’s Communication sophomore Rohan Thompson joined NU Zen Oratory Room. Low lights faintly outline the small room, which is Society during his freshman year after hearing about it from a tucked in an obscure corner of Alice Millar Chapel at the top of friend. He uses zen practice as a temporary tool for relaxation. a small, spiraling staircase. It’s tough to find, but worth it for an “It’s a great stress reliever from all the craziness of hour of escape from the madness of college life. Northwestern life,” Thompson said. “You can take the time to Last year, NU Zen Society practiced Soto just think about yourself and where you are Zen, a sect of zen in Japanese Buddhism which in your life at that moment before you hop emphasizes sitting as a path to enlightenment. back to the craziness again.” This year, NU Zen Society is headed by Zen sitting can also produce long-lasting “Good and bad Weinberg sophomore Michelle Brooks. The benefits. For many who regularly attend the things will come and meetings, Zen practice can result in inner group practices a type of Japanese Zen Buddhism called Sambo Kyodan, which peace and a happier, more-fulfilling lifestyle. go. It will pass. It consists of one 20- to 25-minute sitting Bryce Meredig, a fourth-year Ph.D. forces you to assess session, followed by a 20-minute discussion student in material science, had never led by this year’s Roshi, or zen master, Yausan yourself.” meditated before joining NU Zen Society, Graham from the Chicago Zen Center. After but now he does so regularly. the discussion, there is another optional sit. “I feel that the practice has absolutely Members seat themselves in “zazen,” which transferred into my daily life where I am is a certain type of sitting arrangement. According to the Zen now more aware of my surroundings and more empathetic with Mountain Monastery website, zazen is essentially the study of others,” Meredig said. the self when body, breath and mind come together as one. Amidst crazy college lives of constant midterms and Forms of zazen range from the beginner-level Burmese position meetings, NU Zen Society provides a flexible spiritual outlet for in which legs are crossed with both feet resting flat on the floor even the most time-starved student. It’s also welcoming of all to the symmetrical full-lotus position where each foot is placed ages and religious backgrounds. up on the opposite thigh. So perhaps next Thursday, instead of stressing over your The physical demand of the practice may, especially for French oral exam, find your way up the staircase and into the beginners, result in aching appendages and tingling limbs. But dimly lit room of the Oratory. You may just find happiness, or at Brooks stresses that the focus of Sambo Kyodan lies on the least a silent place to go over verb conjugations. winter 2011


on campus ama z

we i ng s dau nt i n g i ng t h

Word master


fly t






s ta ge ar t ist s


h a r i ng th r e

by Julie Ma


Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai discusses her love of poetry slams

Thank goodness for rule-bending, poetryadoring high school teachers who sneak students into bars — or the world might have never met spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai. The 32-year-old Chinese-Taiwanese-American poet who currently lives in New York has become one of the most recognizable faces and voices in her craft. The Chicago native recently performed on three seasons of the award-winning “Russell Simmons Presents HBO Def Poetry.” She’s performed her works in more than 450 venues, and has since morphed into an all-around artist, with dance, film, books and theater also under her belt.

r fo er e m i ue s p n



g po e

tr y

How did you enter the world of poetry slams? I had a high school English teacher who used to sneak me into the Green Mill Jazz Club in Uptown. The history of poetry slam was just the actual competitions that take place in bars: you get six poets, they come to the mic, everyone’s got three minutes, it’s usually three rounds, and there’ll be five judges in the audience who are all kind of maybe drunk…or not, and then they rank the poets from zero to 10. My high school English teacher just loved going to these things, and to this day, I’ve never even seen him perform, but he’s still very active in the community. I must have been around 14, 15, 16, early high school [age], and then we’d do poetry slams at our school. When did you start writing poetry — and how has it continued to stick with you? I always grew up writing poetry. It’s like anything you come into when you’re younger. I loved it, hated it, tried to quit doing it, thought it was stupid, but then I would find it again. When I was in college, I started my own open mic poetry slam venue because there wasn’t one. I went to University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, and then I started a group with four of my friends.

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What are your strongest first spoken word memories? When I was about 14, I had this poetry journal — people would always give me journals because they knew I liked to write, but I would never use them because I would be scared to mess up the paper. I remember it was one of those puffy ones with floral and fabric, and I remember like one of the first poems was about a crush I had on this boy at summer school. One of the lines in there is, “We can fly to the moon on your bike while you’re in your soccer shoes.” It was so nerdy because it was gifted summer school from eighth to ninth grade. But that was one of my first journals and to this day, I still keep journals very regularly. Most interesting stage you performed? The one that pops to mind is in 2007 when I got to perform at the World Social Forum in Nairobi. There were 100,000 activists from around the world, talking about what’s going on in their different communities. Different artists were just performing, and it was just powerful to be in the room with all these people from all over the world: Sweden, the Philippines, Colombia. I made the choice to perform on Hurricane Katrina. The live performance, the moment of sharing something energetically that will never be recreated again; I can look into your eyes, each taking away from this moment. It was really profound.

What’s your favorite poem to perform? I have to be a little mercurial about some because my inner muse has a very short attention span. “Self-Centered” is very fun to perform. It basically talks about the idea of putting people like us in racism, race diplomacy — because really, what is racism? It’s just being narcissistic, saying “I’m the best. I’m the most important.” So in a playful way, I was just trying to do that, which is real, even in its playfulness. Is spoken word growing in the Asian American community? What’s exciting is that people in spoken word are now moving into different fields: music, theater, literature, journalism, academia, and that’s exciting, but I think what’s unfortunate is that there’s not much of an intergenerational dialogue — a lot of people don’t know that these people doing these great amazing things started off in spoken word. At this point in time, it’s not so well documented that high school students everywhere have a history in this country. It feels like we’re the first people to be doing things. And that can be very daunting, but also kind of unnecessary, that we’re always feeling that we’re the first. For more information on Tsai, visit her website

on campus

Slam dunk

Medill alumnus Rafe Bartholomew talks books and ballers


by Nathalie Tadena For someone who has played basketball his whole life, writer Rafe Bartholomew knows a thing or two about shooting hoops. But when the Northwestern alumnus moved to the Philippines after graduation, he had no idea how difficult it would be to play the game in flip flops — a norm on the court for many Filipino basketball fans. “If you have not grown up doing that, it’s difficult,” Bartholomew said. “When I play in my chinellas [a type of slipper], I’m afraid to run, I’m afraid to jump. I have to go super slow every step otherwise I feel like it’s going to lead to a disaster.” Last year, Bartholomew published his first book, Pacific Rims, which examines the unexpected passion for basketball in the Philippines. The New York native spent three years in the Philippines on a Fulbright scholarship he received after graduating from Medill in 2005. “The biggest thing I noticed is just how widespread basketball is in the Philippines,” said Bartholomew, now an assistant editor at Harper’s Magazine in New York City. “If you talk to someone for ten minutes, you’ll find out that he may have grown up watching the game three nights a week with his dad or that basketball was their ‘dessert,’ something they watched after eating dinner every night.” Bartholomew first came up with the research proposal while conducting an independent study in long-form sports writing during his senior year at Medill. He came across the book, Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure, by Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff, which featured a “mind-blowing” chapter on basketball in the Philippines that ultimately inspired Bartholomew’s grant proposal. With a help of a mentor at Ateneo de Manila University, Bartholomew attended Philippine Basketball Association games, sat in on professional teams’ practices and interviewed more than 150 coaches, players and fans. Whether playing on courts in rural provinces or watching games in the cities, Bartholomew saw that basketball had a larger patriotic significance for many Filipinos. The game in many ways served as an informal playing chip in different aspects of Filipino society, noting that for example, politicians in the country have bought defunct basketball leagues to boost their image on the campaign trail. And of course, Bartholomew, who played club basketball at NU, made time to shoot hoops with new friends and interview subjects, organizing pick-up games with pros and fans alike. “Growing up in New York, I was really taken by the fact that I’ve lived on the same block for most of my life but didn’t know anyone there,” he said. “After a few months in Quezon City, Katapuno, I would walk around and what would be a 10-minute walk would turn into a half-hour walk, because I would stop just to talk to different people and neighbors on my street. The novelty of having a foreigner in the neighborhood wore off as time went on, and I became more like a real member of an everyday community.” DETAILS | Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball, $24.95 winter 2011


on campus

is for Alpha Asians are participating in the Greek community like never before by Emily Jan


einberg freshman Amanda Ni calls Barrington, Ill., home. She attended the local high school, where the white student population was a staggering 92 percent. And just last quarter, she rushed one of Northwestern’s multicultural Asianinterest sororities, Kappa Phi Lambda.

8 winter 2011

on campus

“With us, we’re very tight-knit,” said Chen, a Weinberg junior. “I know that at times people can stereotype this as being cliquey. But wouldn’t you want to hang out more with your sisters if you already know and understand so much about them?” KPL’s perks include sisterhood as well as a chance to be involved in Asian issues on campus. The sorority Ni, who is already involved in various other campus groups such as the dance group ReFresH, and the international pre-med fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, said she chose to rush Kappa Phi Lambda because of the “networking.” “I met a lot of upperclassmen from Kappa Phi Lambda,” Ni said. “And there are also a lot of people in ReFresH who are in Kappa Phi Lambda.” Kappa Phi Lambda is one of six chapters on the Multicultural Greek Council at Northwestern. Their recruitment process, separate from Panhellenic sororities, took place the week of October 4 and consisted of activities like Make Your Own Vietnamese Spring Rolls Night and a mocktail social. The process culminated in an interview at the end of the rush period. KPL averages 10 to 12 members a year, said President Ruth Chen, which is considerably fewer than the 90-plus members in most Panhellenic sororities.

“It’s just a tendency of people to congregate according to their culture because it’s who they’re naturally most comfortable with.”

hosts several Asian American networking events, such as the Taiwan Film Festival in November, co-sponsored by the Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago and the Northwestern group, the Taiwanese American Students Club. Ni will learn whether she’ll receive a bid (a formal invitation to join the

sorority) from KPL in Winter Quarter, around the same time when Emmeline Kim, also a Weinberg freshman, will find out about Panhellenic bids. Kim is Korean American and said she decided to rush a Panhellenic sorority because of its reputation on campus. “I didn’t even know about the multicultural sororities,” Kim said. Even if she had, Kim said she probably would not have rushed. “I just feel like the multicultural ones seem less diverse. I’d like to join something a bit more inclusive.” According to Alice Lin, public relations chair for Northwestern University Panhellenic Association (PHA), the body works hard to keep itself open to all who are interested. “We try to reach out to everybody,” Lin said. “We don’t directly target a certain ethnicity.” Because there are no restrictions for recruitment and rushing in PHA, the decision is up to each individual girl. Though PHA is predominantly white, this is probably because Northwestern is predominantly white, as well. According to university statistics, 35 percent of Northwestern’s Class of 2013 come from a minority background and 22 percent are Asian American. But some students, such as Yehsong Kim (who belongs to the PHA sorority Kappa Delta), believe people make decisions out of habit. “On campus, in general, yes, I do think there is a huge cultural divide,” said Yehsong Kim, a Weinberg sophomore. “It’s just a tendency of people to congregate according to their culture because it’s who they’re naturally most comfortable with.” winter 2011


on campus



resident of the Asian American InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Hyesung Oh knew that he and his outreach coordinator Christopher Nho would most likely be the only Korean Americans in the Norris Game Room that night. In fact, he was positive. The two were headed to Spades and Sweets, an annual event hosted by House on the Rock (HOTR), the African American sister chapter of AAIV. Despite a pile of homework and much anticipated awkwardness, they decided to take an

10 winter 2011

intentional risk. “I knew in the back of my mind that going in, I’d be an outsider because I look different,” Oh said. “It’s worth it to go check it out because even though we are culturally different and come from different backgrounds, we have one common ground: a passion for God.” But the risks didn’t stop there. Weeks later, AAIV was partnered in service with For Members Only, Northwestern’s black student alliance, on Make a Difference Day, a homecoming service initiative where students volunteer at several sites

across Evanston and Chicago. The AAIV member turnout was minimal, but the message was clear. As one of the largest Asian organizations at Northwestern, AAIV was doing something that very few Asian student groups have attempted. They were beginning to deepen relationships with two African-American organizations on a campus where black and Asian American relations are virtually non-existent. “It shows that we have the support of AAIV, which is something that we haven’t seen before,” said Tiffany Rivers, co-

president of HOTR. “There hasn’t been that much collaboration in the past, but that’s something we’re working on.” As student groups scramble to produce quality programming and meet the needs of their individual constituencies, developing relationships with other student groups often falls to the bottom of the executive board agenda. Though the Northwestern buzzwords “diversity” and “collaboration” seem to be overused, Nho claims diversity for diversity’s sake is a waste of time. Student groups that do consider

on campus

collaboration are seeking partnership with a purpose. “The student groups that are more likely to collaborate with one another are those that share a similar constituency and a similar mission,” said Emma Kerr, financial vice president of the Associated Student Government. In regards to AAIV and HOTR, Rivers admits religion does serve to their advantage. “We both serve minority students on campus and have a common purpose of Christian ministry on campus, and we should be united in that goal,”

Rivers said. “It makes it a little easier for us that our events are similar and have the same mission.” Nonreligious Asian American and AfricanAmerican student groups, although both under the Multicultural Student Affairs umbrella, cater to different racial demographics. The lack of shared constituency is another reason why these groups generally find it difficult to not only interact, but to build alliances. “Similar people have more encounters on a dayto-day basis,” Kerr said. “It’s easier to collaborate if

you are on a more friendly ground and see each other more often.” Oh attributes the lack of interaction between blacks and Asians to the historical prejudices and misconceptions both groups have held against each other. “The parents of our generation were raised not really being exposed to different cultures, especially blacks,” Oh said. According to Oh, whose immigrant parents settled mostly in white neighborhoods, living in separate communities alongside negative representations of blacks

in the media as criminals and delinquents has led to continued division. Both Asian American and African-American students, as well as their groups, have often been labeled exclusive or unwelcoming. A strong sense of cultural identity is often considered the reason why these groups don’t interact much. Makda Fessahaye, president of the African Students Association, claims that the perception of FMO and the black community as unwelcoming is a myth. “When people do come into the black community they are welcome, but a lot

winter 2011


on campus of people are afraid to come in,” Fessahaye said. “It’s not that the black community isn’t welcoming. Outsiders don’t think we are. They perceive FMO to only be for black students, and that’s really not the case.” The goal of cultural preservation is openly stated in groups such as FMO, which serves as the social, political and cultural student group for black students on campus. “College students come to campus in order to find some sort of understanding of who they are,” said Kellyn Lewis, FMO’s Vice Coordinator of External Affairs. “And as black students or as a black student alliance, our mission should be to allow black students to come to campus to better engage all of what they represent.” Though FMO seeks to build relationships with other university student groups to diversify the experiences of black students, Lewis said those partnerships must align with FMO’s agenda. “You have to walk a fine line,” Lewis said of maintaining cultural identity and partnership. “The way in which we engage other student groups is not for the sake of appealing to another student group, but to engage a particular issue.” Discovery and preservation of cultural identity is something Oh learned to appreciate upon joining AAIV. Growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods, Oh’s experience of KoreanAmerican community was often limited to church. It was within his ethnic-specific community at Northwestern that he found God and his

“Connections are fostered through a mutual respect for our cultures and our missions.” TIFFANY CHANG, TASC President

identity. “I was able to really challenge myself to love my Asian American peers, understand how they communicate, and pretty soon, that’s where I found my identity as an Asian American and appreciated the roots of being an Asian American,” said Oh, who now along with his leadership team, challenges his chapter to take an intentional risk, within and outside of the AAIV community. “We proudly say we’re Asian American, but we are rooted in our identity, and we can branch out from there,” Nho said. “There’s no need for us to be Asian American and only be Asian American.” Some groups, however, fear that partnering with groups of other ethnic identities may jeopardize their own agendas, according to Luis Frausto, Student Activities Fund committee member. He currently represents the Korean American Students Association, as well as CaribNation and Northwestern Community Ensemble — two FMO affiliates. “Some groups may feel like if they co-sponsor with other groups that have a different relationship with their constituents, there is a possibility they may have to compromise what

they represent on campus,” Frausto said. Sahil Mehta, co-president of the South Asian Student Alliance, said the similarities could spur a rapport, but competing political agendas sometimes deter coalition building. “We resonate about a lot of things because we are communities that face discrimination, but we have different agendas,” Mehta said. “And a lot of us in the Asian community are hurt by the fact that we are seen as the model minority. Since the communities feel like their issues are competing for attention, at times there can be disunity.” Disunity within the Asian American and Asian community is also a deterrent to outside collaboration. Some Asian and AsianAmerican student groups say there is a need to improve relations amongst the various Asian groups before reaching out to non-Asian groups. Coalition of Colors co-chair Abigail Chu said this is one of the hardest challenges. She suggested that bridging the cultural gap between various Asian groups on campus to build relationships takes precedence over reaching out to the black community. Despite these barriers, collaboration across the bigger cultural groups, such as Taiwanese American

“You have to walk a fine line. The way in which we engage other student groups is not for the sake of appealing to another student group, but to engage a particular issue.” KELLYN LEWIS, FMO Vice Coordinator of External Affairs

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Students Club and Chinese Students Association, are more likely due to personal relationships between their executive boards and general members. “Connections are fostered through a mutual respect for our cultures and our missions,” said TASC president Tiffany Chang. Chang said Asian A-status groups have the resources necessary to throw huge entertainment programming to draw huge audiences and big-name guests. Such collaborations are not uncommon. But Chu said it’s more unlikely for members to step outside of already established group relationships to establish new ones. The prospect of hosting events with black organizations, or even attending their events, is seen as more work to do. “Groups already have these established events that they have been producing year in and year out,” Frausto said. “Who is to say there is anyone ambitious enough to find something new to put on the table?” Most student leaders agreed that collaboration doesn't start with the planning of an event. Some say it begins with one-on-one relationships, which eventually lead to community-wide partnership and programming. “How do you get the whole community?” Nho said. “You have to expose people who you know are leaders in communities, people who you know will take that first step. And the only way you get those people to make that first step is to challenge them to take that risk.”

The Asian



insert type here

Asians in theater continue to face minority generalizations by Shirley Li

When Mason Hsieh was 12 years old, he auditioned for a role in a commercial. But before he said anything, the casting director glanced at him and turned to his assistant. “He’s too tall to play an oriental,” the casting director said. Hsieh, now a high school senior in Oakland, Calif.’s College Preparatory School, calls this failed audition his most vivid memory. “I think that was one of the ‘wakeup’ moments of my life,” he said. At a young age, Hsieh faced what many Asian actors encounter for much of their career: instant rejection. It begins with a “type.” Maybe it’s a “best friend” character, a book-smart, fast-talking bespectacled nerd who willingly stays in the protagonist’s shadow. Maybe it’s a martial arts expert, one who can throw punches, scare away bullies, and, after fights, spew words of wisdom for the hero

to consume. Or maybe it’s a quiet, intriguing, exotic prostitute with an accent who opens the lead character’s eyes. Whatever the character, casting directors insert one more word into each of the descriptions: “Asian,” blank. The Asian best friend, the Asian martial arts expert, the Asian prostitute. For decades, “type” has been synonymous with “race” for Asian American actors and because of this, they have never achieved the mainstream success other minorities such as African Americans or Hispanics have in acting. To Raymond Lee, a 2004 Northwestern graduate who has found success on Broadway’s Mamma Mia!, type is the root of the problem for minority actors. “I think that type should be the character and that race should have nothing to do with it,” he said. “I wish that filter would be removed because

people are missing out on amazing actors because of it.” Of course, even without type, acting is still a risky business indeed. There is plenty of competition to make it big and few opportunities to do so. It’s even harder for minorities because they face the problem of being judged by their looks instantly. Daphne Kim, a freshman theater major, said she hates auditioning and recalls a callback during Fall Quarter in which she stiffened up before her audition. “I looked around and freaked out because I realized no one looked like me,” she said. “I forget that I’m Asian. I forget that I look different from everyone. That’s why I hate auditioning; I’m afraid of falling into a type, I’m afraid of people looking at me and saying, ‘Oh, that’s the Asian girl.’ I just have to have faith that they won’t even though they might.”

on campus

14 winter 2011

white actors for most of the lead roles. To Lee, such casting is unacceptable as few roles are available in the first place. “The whole situation really annoyed me,” he said. “I’m a fan of honest storytelling…. It would be nice if they would broaden their minds. We’re Americans.” But that’s Tinseltown, where looks, names and a costly budget hold the most importance. Theater is a different story. In particular, Asian American representation in theater is slowly growing. Young said that in the past few decades, theater has undergone a movement towards color-blind casting, in which race has no bearing, and color-conscious casting, in which roles are tailored specifically for certain races. The '80s brought change to theater, as playwrights such as David Henry Hwang, who penned Madame Butterfly, entered the fold. “All of a sudden you have in the '80s for the first sustained period of time, playwrights who were telling stories that anyone can connect with,” Young said. “It may be all Asian Americans on stage, but at the same time, it’s the stories that are universal.” Eventually, theaters began to include minority actors. In Chicago, renowned companies like Steppenwolf adopted a multicultural arts exchange program and now includes one nonwhite actor after thirty years of all-white ensembles. But because the path is still a rough one for Asian Americans aspiring to act, many have begun to create their own opportunities. Kim directed her own play specifically for an Asian cast when she was in high school and says she did so because she knew there were Asians who would be eager to get involved, despite


According to Harvey Young, associate professor of theater at Northwestern University who specializes in AfricanAmerican studies, acting is difficult for minorities because of generalizations that have developed over time. “There is that concern, anxiety or fear that casting directors have about what sells to an audience,” he said. “The problem is we always assume this audience is a white audience. There’s this idea of an audience that imagines that the lead role will be played by a white person and whenever you cast a person who is not white at the center of a piece, then it’s, well, ‘Will an audience buy this?’” Though the overuse of white actors instead of minorities does not reflect the actual demographics of the nation, the assumption that most characters are white is still there, which leads to a majority of white moviegoers and theatergoers. According to the US Census of 2000, the nation is about 75 percent white, 12 percent black and 4 percent Asian. However, the 2009 Arbitron

Cinema Advertising Study revealed a 77 percent white representation in moviegoers, while the 2002 National Endowment for the Arts study found that 85 percent of theatergoers are white. This lack of opportunity and of audience is exactly why Asians are discouraged from entering the field. Most Asian parents are worried — even frightened — when they hear that their child wants to pursue acting. “It becomes really complicated because race always registers,” Young said. “Our art should reflect the look of our society.” Lee confessed that he had to lie to his parents when he became involved in theater. “I would secretly do shows and I would lie to my parents that I had a Modern World History project that I would have to stay after school for three to five hours a day,” he said. In fact, Lee said it was only recently that his parents finally accepted his acting career. “They’re trying to get more comfortable with it and support me,” he says. But for Malia Hu, a freshman theater major at Northwestern, dealing with her parents was a lot harder. Hu knew she wanted to pursue theater, but as soon as she told her parents, they grew worried and tense. She says that her father was the most outspoken about her decision, forcing her to sit down and reassure them before the start of school that she would balance her theater classes with other academics. “It was bad,” Hu says, recalling the experience. “He said, ‘Not only do you have the race card against you but how do you know you’re good enough to make it? There’s so many people trying to get into Hollywood and they’re not going to make it.” Still, as Hu admits, her father does have a point. Where are all the Asian leads in Hollywood? With the exception of the CW’s Nikita, no other television series has an Asian actor portraying the main character. Sure, they can be part of an ensemble, like Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy, Daniel Dae Kim in Lost and Hawaii Five-0, Masi Oka in Heroes or Jenna Ushkowitz in Glee, but clearly, none who takes center stage. It gets even trickier with films. Excluding Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movies, only few films starring Asians, such as Harold and Kumar, have managed to find a mainstream audience. Moreover, films like 21 and The Last Airbender, both of which are based off of stories that feature Asian characters, cast

on campus be a lot of fun… it’s like a challenge every time you go in there. I don’t worry about what they think about what I look. I can’t take that personally.” On campus, Justin Barbin, a senior of Filipino descent, won the title role of in the play, JB, and says he never expected to be cast. “I feel very very fortunate,” he says. “Every time I go into an audition, I realize I’m a tiny Asian guy, so that kind of limits my roles.” However, he says that Asian Americans who pursue acting must be willing to overcome racial barriers. As theater continues to slowly open its doors for Asian Americans, actors must still create their own ways to break into the business and lead a younger generations into the industry, breaking the cycle that discourages so many. “If you sit back and just say, ‘Oh man, my race is preventing me from doing what I love,’ then that’s just a burden you place on yourself,” Barbin said. “I’ve just been auditioning and auditioning and seeing what I can get and I’ve been getting such great roles. It’s all about perseverance.”

Opposite: Justin Barbin, top; Daphne Kim, bottom. Below, left to right: the cast of “Tea,” directed by Kim; Raymond Lee; Malia Hu.


the opposition to her decision. “I got crap for it, for making it a closed audition,” she said. “It was affirmative action to put on a play reserved for Asian Americans because we don’t have as many opportunities to do so. People need to understand that minorities don’t have the same starting point.” Without this movement for making own opportunities catered specifically for Asian Americans, a cycle would continue in which lack of opportunity leads to lack of experience and lack of success, which goes back to the lack of Asian Americans willing to pursue such a risky career. Jamil Khoury, co-founder of the Silk Road Theater Project, an Asian and Middle Eastern-oriented theater in Chicago, said the conversation on diversity of theater has expanded. “That’s where the artist becomes key,” he said. “If they’re bold enough, tenacious enough to say, ‘I’m going to follow my own path and yes, that’s going to entail disapproval,’ that’s where you’re blazing the trail and others follow suit.” As hard as the career is, Asian American actors have found success. Whitney Kam Lee, a Northwestern graduate, has been working steadily as an actor in New York City and says that he does what he loves and minimizes the part race plays in his career. “When I go into an audition, I actually view it as a gift,” he said. “To audition can

Q&A: Jamil Khoury

Jamil Khoury co-founded the Silk Road Theatre Project with Malik Gillani in response to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiments following the 9/11 attacks. Based in downtown Chicago and started in 2002, SRTP showcases plays by playwrights of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean backgrounds. NU Asian chatted with Khoury about the motivations behind SRTP and its effects on diversity in theater. Why did you begin the Silk Road Theatre Project? We wanted to do something quite unique and take these groupings of peoples and we would showcase playwrights of Silk Road backgrounds. We really believe in the power of storytelling to bring people together and to create some degree of empathy and understanding. How has SRTP affected Asian American representation in theater? I think it’s helped a lot in the plays that wouldn’t have otherwise been produced. They have had great success in other cities but were never produced in Chicago. Now other theater companies are producing Silk Road works. The conversation

on diversity of theater went from a black and white conversation to a black, white, Latino, LGBT, women and Silk Road people conversation. Why has it been hard for Asian Americans to succeed? Storytelling is a very powerful way to create your presence and to take a seat at the table, so to speak, but I think that because there has been this sort of resistance to encouraging young people in Asian communities to pursue artistic expression that ultimately, it’s hard to be an artist. I think it’s important that Asians represent themselves. Silk Road communities need to get over a lot of this baggage around visibility and representation.

winter 2011


Standing with Pakistan


chicago & beyond

by Pavan Krishnamurthy


he July floods in Pakistan have left more than 2,000 people dead, one million homes in rumble, and 21 million people injured, starving or homeless. These numbers exceed the combined total number of individuals affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), the Kashmir earthquake (2005) and the Haiti earthquake (2010). The systemic impacts of this disaster, however, are incalculable. Considering the deterioration of governmental infrastructure in the state, President Barack Obama has made it clear that the United States has a vested national interest in helping the lives of these people. What exactly is wrong with this response? On one hand, it is obvious that foreign aid is necessary; on the other, the discourse surrounding this policy response is deeply rooted in self-interest. There seems to be a striking divide between the global and the local actors in disaster response. Here at Northwestern, local response was spearheaded by the group NU Stands with Pakistan. Within days of this tragedy, the core members of this organization began to develop a successful fundraising strategy. This club does not locate Pakistanis through a political lens, but rather, they have approached this situation with a humanistic understanding. Sahil Mehta, one of the founders of NU Stands with Pakistan, said he saw something "people we resonate with" and

16 winter 2011

it will resonate with others to "go out there and react in a constructive manner.” Not only did this group establish a dynamic fundraising and a grassroots strategy on campus, but it also affected institutional actors. With support from the Kellogg School of Management, A&O Productions — which donated $1 from every ticket sold at their Fall 2010 Blowout — and even a personal video message from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, this organization was able to raise more than $17,000. Mehta said they were able to do this by "leveraging personal relationships" and that the largest contributor was, in fact, the student body. NU Stands with Pakistan chose Oxfam, the international aid agency, as its beneficiary. Oxfam officials said it takes only $1 to feed a family of four in Pakistan. While this disaster enters the media’s periphery, the aftermath continues to breed grander implications. In October, Oxfam asked the International Monetary Fund to cancel the debt Pakistan owes from developmental politics costs. Pakistan spends twice as much paying off debt as it receives in flood aid. The Pakistan floods have helped expose the disproportionate power this country holds in international politics. Oxfam has publicly stated: “Any rational person will see this as madness and maddening. It is a moral and economic absurdity that

while poverty-struck people in Pakistan are struggling to put their lives back together, much richer countries ... are receiving vast sums of money in debt payments." It is becoming increasingly obvious that these institutionalized social injustices are a product of absolutist self-interest at the international level. When the President of the United States justifies humanitarian relief primarily in the name of counterterrorism, we have a problem. Political actors (individuals, organizations, and even states) can easily pass responsibility to one another, but only when a country is directly affected do they begin to talk about morality and ethics. Thankfully, we have a few amazing, committed, and genuine grassroots organizations that still have their priorities in order, but how do we reconcile these seemingly opposing motives at the global and local level? There will always be barriers to progress, but this should not hinder action. It is true and debt is crippling Pakistan, there are others who will choose not to act, but this in no way justifies nihilism. We have a major collective action problem in terms of disaster relief, but the existential threat posed by natural disasters to everyone on the planet calls for the humanitarian ethic that has come to define NU Stands with Pakistan. Though they are not actively fundraising, visit nustandswithpakistan. for more information.

chicago & beyond

Chinese-American Museum of Chicago reopens Museum damaged by fire opens after a two-year restoration effort by Annie Chang


“It’s kind of crazy if you think about it – ‘Let’s just build a museum!’” she said. “But we knew that the community needed a place like this, and we wanted to make it happen.” Today, the museum is a symbol of triumph for Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans all over Chicago ­ — made even stronger after the museum suffered a devastating fire and had to be completely rebuilt, said Kim K. Tee, president of the Chinatown Museum Foundation. On Sept. 19, 2008, a fire began on the museum’s third floor and spread quickly throughout the building, destroying most of the museum’s permanent collection and infrastructure. When the fire was extinguished hours later, all that remained was the building’s brick exterior and little yes. After two years of fundraising efforts and $1.75 million had been spent on restoring the landmark, the museum held a grand reopening celebration on Sept. 25. “So many people we didn’t know were sympathetic to the museum and stepped forward to help out,” Tee said. “Many different individuals and organizations made donations of both money and objects.” The museum’s displayed items and artifacts, which outline the history of not only China, but also Chinese-American immigrants, are all donated privately or loaned from other museums. Since the fire, the museum has received donations including a brick from the Great Wall in Beijing, a map of China carried by a World War II pilot and 19th century

Chinese chairs and cabinetry. The objects represent the journey of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who immigrated to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries as well as those who have made a home in America only recently. As of right now, about 10 percent of the exhibits’ displayed artifacts are donations that were given to the museum after the fire. The entire building was restored and upgraded with new features, including a sprinkler system installed on all floors to ensure the fire’s devastation is never repeated. Tee said he remembers dozens of volunteers stood outside of the burning building until the fire chief informed them it was safe to go in. They wanted to go inside as soon as possible to rescue whatever items they could, he said. “I wish the fire never happened and that the dioramas could be saved,” Tee said, referring to the collection of 23 dioramas made of porcelain and silk featured in the 1930s World’s Fair in Chicago. Only one diorama, which were the museum’s most valuable items, was rescued from the rubble of the fire. It is now a symbol of the museum’s triumph over tragedy, Tee said. “Each diorama had a story to tell,” he said. “You can’t find those anywhere, you cannot replace them.” Working alongside Tee and Stamm are about 20 other Chinatown Museum Foundation board members. Almost


ne never would have guessed a small, four-story brick building tucked away in the old streets of Chinatown could mean so much to so many people. Founded in 2005 by the Chinatown Museum Foundation, the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago is the only museum of Chinese immigrant history in the Midwest. The foundation board decided the Chicago community needed a place to learn about the Chinese and Chinese-American cultures and set out to establish a museum, said Andrea Stamm, member of the Chinatown Museum Foundation and Northwestern University library department head.

all volunteers, the members have been working tirelessly to put the museum and its exhibits back together, Stamm said. The first floor of the gallery houses the “Chinese @ Play: Toys, Games, and Leisure Activities” exhibit, which is dedicated to “the playful side of Chinese culture and civilization,” featuring Chinese musical instruments, board games and a 60-footlong dragon parade costume. A mini-exhibit featuring information about the September fire and the museum’s restorations is also available on the first floor, with displays of damaged items and pictures of what they looked like originally. The “Great Wall to the Great Lakes: Chinese Immigration to the Midwest” exhibit on the second floor of the museum showcases artifacts and items from the lives of 19th-century Chinese immigrants as well as replicas of early Chinatown buildings. “We’ve done a good job representing some points in the history of Chinese people coming to the Midwest,” said Stamm, adding that the museum is the only one of its kind in the entire Midwest region. The museum is open to the public Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. While there is no entry charge, there is a suggested donation of $2 and $1 for students and seniors. “There’s a lot to see in this small museum,” Stamm said. “We’re just trying to give a little history for students who are willing to learn more about it.” winter 2011


chicago & beyond


any things could come to mind when one imagines Indonesian troops used to massacre thousands of Timorese a hospital; but could livestock be one of them? Visit every year. To Ford and Carter, what mattered was not human East Timor’s national hospital in 2008, and you’d see rights records, but Indonesia’s strategic value as an antigoats, pigs and chickens wandering around the premises. These communist ally in Southeast Asia. walking health hazards had persisted for two years because Until the Cold War ended, American ambassadors at the their owners, some 1,500 refugees encamped on paths of the United Nations would block the UN from any effective action in hospital, had lost everything else to the arson and looting that East Timor, while the administration would consistently supply had rampaged the capital city, Dili, in 2006. One tenth of East military aid to Indonesia. These refills continued even when they Timor’s population had been displaced during the crisis, which violated U.S. laws prohibiting the shipment of American weapons erupted with fighting between police and the army; this quickly to countries that used them for aggression. As a result, escalated into widespread communal violence. one third of East Timor’s pre-occupation The crisis has torn the country apart and population disappeared. revealed the deep scars left on Timorese society The story could have been different. The after 24 years of Indonesian occupation. same year the UN finally held a referendum The scars of The year 1975 was a turning point in the in East Timor to determine its future status, history of East Timor. The nation had declared occupation didn’t NATO began to bomb Serbia in retaliation for independence from Portugal that same year, killing ethnic Albanians in its Kosovo province. heal with the after rejecting neighboring Indonesia’s offer of Serbian forces withdrew that very year, and annexation. President Gerald Ford and Secretary Kosovo achieved independence nine years independence. of State Henry Kissinger visited Indonesia the later. It took 27 years for East Timor to reach following month, amidst rumors of an impending this kind of freedom. Indonesian invasion; the day they left the And the scars of occupation didn’t heal country, Indonesian paratroops landed on Timor Island. with the independence. Years of occupation and resistance “The Indonesians told us that they were going to occupy had drained East Timor’s economic resources and divided the the Portuguese colony of Timor,” Kissinger recalled 20 years country between the veteran resistance fighters in the East and later, when questioned by activists during a speech on his new pro-integration militia in the West. In Dili, where new arrivals book, Diplomacy. “To us that did not seem like a very significant from both regions competed for limited economic opportunities, event… so when the Indonesians informed us, we neither said such division bred a fertile ground for conflict. For this reason, yes or no.” discrimination against Westerners in the army created a Instead, the administration doubled American weapon national crisis in 2006 and turned the Dili National Hospital into supply to Indonesia over the next three years ­ — weapons the a refugee camp.

East Timor: A Forgotten Crisis

18 winter 2011

by Jia You

chicago & beyond soldiers convicted of kidnapping student activists in 1997 and 1998. Yet the crimes of Kopassus are not only in the past. As Obama touched down in Indonesia, secret files leaked from the Kopassus showed the Kopassus engaged in systematically murdering and abducting civilian targets in the West Papua, another region annexed by Indonesia. Apparently, not all are oblivious to what’s at stake. House representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) submitted Resolution 1355 in May that calls for the Indonesian government to stop human rights abuses in West Papua. The resolution is currently endorsed by twenty representatives. None of them are from the Illinois General Assembly. It is time we remember the story of East Timor. We have reached a critical juncture, where our decisions could determine whether history repeats itself. As President Obama nostalgically praised the Indonesian meatball soup during a visit to his former country this November, he has perhaps forgotten another childhood memory. “We had arrived in Djakarta less than a year after one of the more brutal and swift campaigns of suppression in modern times,” wrote President Obama in his book, Dreams from My Father. He was referring to the mass killing of communist sympathizers during General Suharto’s 1965 coup. Few remember that America actively supported Suharto’s authoritarian regime and its invasion of East Timor, a country on the south of the Indonesian archipelago. Now, as East Timor continues to suffer the repercussions of the occupation eight years after regaining its independence, President Obama could be shaping policies that perpetuate a similar tragedy as he seeks to strengthen ties with Indonesia.



But East Timor has some good news this year: The refugees have finally returned home. All refugee camps closed at the end of last year, and only 52 families remained in transitory shelters as of January 2010. What put an end to the tents was the UN peace-building mission, or the United Nations Integrated Missions in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Deployed immediately after the 2006 crisis, UNMIT played an instrumental role in restoring stability in East Timor through its efforts in bridging political dialogues, reforming the security sector, and coordinating humanitarian relief for the refugees. The extent of UNMIT success was put to test when a radical faction of the army attacked the Timorese president and the prime minister in 2008. Contrary to the 2006 crisis, society remained stable, and the newly-elected democratic government resolved the crisis peacefully and constitutionally. East Timor’s recent recovery once again attests to the importance of UN peacekeeping and peace-building efforts in vulnerable states. Yet the U.S. has a poor track record in supporting the UN financially. In 2009 alone, U.S. debt accounted for 90 percent of all member state debts to the UN regular budget, and Fiscal Year 2010 was the first time the U.S. paid off its debt to the United Nations since the early 1980s. While East Timor is on the road to recovery, a similar tragedy is ongoing in Indonesia, and the Obama administration could be perpetuating that tragedy. The administration recently lifted a decade-long ban on U.S. training and military assistance to Indonesia’s special force Kopassus in an effort to strengthen bilateral cooperation in anti-terrorism. Kopassus has a notorious human rights record: it was involved in the killing of five Australian journalists in East Timor prior to the fullscale Indonesian invasion, and it has retained and promoted

winter 2011


chicago & beyond


porting us,” Roh says. “But who cares what you look like? People just care if they can identify with you or not.” Roh says he doesn’t have a particular Asian-American role model. Instead, his inspiration comes from a more universal element. “It’s not like I’m picking Asians and asking, ‘Do I want to be like him?’” Roh says. “It’s more, ‘Do I like the music he's making?’” Roh describes FM’s music style as “cross-genre,” evidenced by the group’s combination of electro and hip-hop. “It’s about mixing all kinds of talent,” Roh says. “We’re very inby Katherine Zhu spired by the sound of L.A. There are tacos, Korean barbeque and James Roh certainly feels fly like a G6. Ethiopian food. Just all that mixed together is what we’re about.” Fresh from Far East Movement’s East Coast tour, Roh spared a Roh attributes his nickname, Prohgress, to the British band couple minutes between poppin’ bottles and gettin’ slizzard to chat Lostprophets. And while the group comprises four different Asian on the phone before jetting off to Amsterdam. ethnicities, Roh says their name was actually based on one of their Roh, otherwise known as “Prohgress,” is one of the four first songs. members of Far East Movement, a hip-hop/electro music group “‘Far East Movement’ was the name of a terrible song,” based in Los Angeles. The group’s hit “Like a G6" was one he says. “It was just about mixing all different types of of iTunes' top-selling songs in 2010. music together, about downtown L.A. lifestyle. When we “Before “We’re music geeks,” Roh says. “It does feel surreal, but were rehearsing it one day, it just felt really good rapwe play, we know what it feels like to struggle. That keeps us inping it.” spired to keep working.” Roh's favorite part of performing? Interacting with we always FM performed at Celebrasia, co-hosted by the Chinese the crowd and their fans. ask, ‘Who’s Students Association and Taiwanese American Students “Before we play a show, we always ask, ‘Who’s feelClub, in 2009. Roh fondly remembers Northwestern as a feeling fly ing fly like a G6?’” he says. "good show" with a "reactive" crowd. Almost on cue, Roh politely excuses himself from like a G6?’” the phone call to take a picture with one of his fans. For Far East Movement, high school never really did end. The original members — Roh (Prohgress), Kevin Nishimura Through the background of the call, a camera click is (Kev Nish) and Jae Choung (J-Splif) — were all “high school barely audible, followed by an enthusiastic “thank you” buddies,” Roh says. The trio was later joined by DJ Virman. from the girl. Roh traces FM’s origin to a “Big Tower computer with a big monitor,” “We do get recognized more, and that’s cool,” he says nonchawhich Nishimura, Choung and Roh used to record their first song. lantly. “But we’re just grateful that people enjoy our music.” “It just felt good,” Roh says. “It was one of those things where I Although Far East Movement has come a long way from playing couldn’t tell you the reasons, but it was just something I really enCelebrasia — “Like a G6” is now played generously on the radio and in joyed doing.” clubs — Roh and his group members don’t let fame get to their heads. Together, Prohgress, Kev Nish, J-Splif and DJ Virman represent “I don’t know if I have advice,” Roh says. “Just be creative and if Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Filipino ancestry, respectively, in it doesn't work out, life goes on. Keep good people and a support the Asian-American community. system around you. I honestly think we just figure that out as we go “We’re very grateful that the Asian-American community is supalong.”

Left to right: DJ Virman, Kev Nish, J-Splif and Prohgress

20 winter 2011


Far East Movement’s James Roh talks origins and success


Teriyaki Chicken Rice Burger (Inspired by a recipe) 1 chicken breast Corn flour Olive oil 1 bowl of cooked rice Sesame seeds Lettuce leaves Slice(s) of onion Slice(s) of tomato 1 strip of nori For the marinade: 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon Mirin (sweet rice wine) 1 tablespoon wine 2 tablespoon soy sauce

by Alice Liu


merica is a patchwork of cultures, a unique hybrid that reflects our food. Italian pizza has morphed into Chicago deep-dish, while sushi has gained popularity in the form of California rolls. Chinese food has immersed itself into the fast food scene with top competitors Panda Express and PF Chang’s. Asia has now also reformed the classic American burger into what the Japanese dub a MOS burger. Just replace the bun, patty and greens with a grilled rice bun, daikon, and ground chicken flavored with soy sauce, and you’ll have an original Tsukune rice burger. This fusion of East and West is a perfect embodiment of our global culture in the savory harmonies of a rice burger.



1. Mix the marinade and marinate the chicken for 30 minutes to an hour. 2. Next, pat the chicken with corn flour and sauté in a lightly oiled pan until golden brown. 3. Get rid of the excess oil and pour the marinade into the pan; cook until thickens. 4. Meanwhile prepare the cooked rice into two patties. Use your hands to compound two rice balls then flatten into patties so that the rice sticks together. 5. On another lightly oiled pan, grill the two rice patties and season with a tiny bit of soy sauce and sesame. 6. After the chicken and patties are done, the onions can also be lightly sautéed in the marinade before the burger is put together. 7. Compile the lettuce, onions, tomatoes and chicken with the rice patties, and wrap one strip of nori around the burger and voilà!

winter 2011



Letter to a student by Brenda Luo This is called walking: Meandering your way through the strings, Plucking out octaves with your right hand: Thumb and third finger. Drawing the sounds Towards yourself. The pitches rise, this way. And don't forget — your left hand must follow, On the other side of the bridge — a quiet shadow That can bend and twist the sounds to become Rippling leaves in autumn. Do you remember When you and I walked along The hiking trails at Stone Mountain, Crunching ochre leaves into the dirt? You were my shadow then And I explained to you how the zither Was the instrument of poets Because it was melancholy, and Sounded like streams.


But now you've crossed bridges I cannot reach, And there was a time I put the instrument away "Forever," because once upon a time, You too wanted to learn its beauty. I'm sorry. Yesterday, at midnight, I took it out again for the first time in years, And ran my thumb across the untuned strings. Did you know, that when you run your hands Down the strings—fast—it is a waterfall? Things I've never told you. I walked along until the sun came out, And as the nighttime clouds dissolved, I opened my eyes and sat in silence.

22 winter 2011


Between two cultures by Jamie Choi

This fall, Northwestern welcomed the Class of 2014, with Asian Americans constituting 19 percent of the freshman class. Many Asian American college students at universities such as Northwestern come from communities with majority Asian populations. What happens when they enter a predominantly white university? Iowa State university professor Meifen Wei and her colleagues explored the scientific dimension of such an emotional transition in their 2010 paper, “Minority Stress, Perceived Bicultural Competence and Depressive Symptoms Among Ethnic Minority College Students.”

Previous studies have shown that Asian American college students experience a unique condition known as “minority stress” when they find themselves as part of not the majority, but a distinct ethnic minority group on campus. In a study of 167 minority students at a predominantly white Midwestern university, Wei and her colleagues found minority stress to be uniquely different from general stress and positively associated with depressive symptoms. However, the study, which was published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, also shows that “perceived bicultural competence” (PBC) has a direct effect in reducing the association between depressive symptoms and minority stress, and has a positive association with psychological well-being. Bicultural competence measures the

ability to live effectively in two groups, without compromising one’s cultural identity. Researchers Teresa LaFromboise, Hardin Coleman and Jennifer Gerton concluded in a previous study that PBC consists of knowledge of cultural values, positive attitudes toward both majority and minority groups, bicultural beliefs (e.g., conviction that a person is able to live effectively within two cultural groups), communication ability, role repertoire (e.g., knowing culturally appropriate behaviors) and a sense of being grounded (having social networks within both culture groups). Individuals with high PBC were shown to be less likely to view majority and ethnic minority cultures as mutually exclusive and conflicting. Social grounding and knowledge of cultural values are critical components


The science behind 'bicultural competence'

of PBC, according to Wei. If you have strong links to both of your cultures, Wei’s research suggests you are less likely to experience minority stress and its depressive symptoms. So, how do you avoid the phenomenon of minority stress? Wei points to participating in cultural customs to bolster psychological well-being. The Korean-American Students Association, the South Asian Student Association and Chinese Students Association are among the many clubs that students can join in the Northwestern Asian community. It is undoubtedly difficult to adjust to a new environment, especially when you are trying to balance two cultures. However, as Wei’s study suggests, being active and fostering relationships within both cultural groups can strengthen one’s well-being. winter 2011



Phoenix Inn Restaurant Review

by Alice Liu

Reminiscent of Asia with magnified pictures of special dishes displayed on its window, Phoenix Inn stands on the corner of Davis Street and Chicago Avenue. It is a quiet, little restaurant where Evanston’s Asian community finds a taste of home. In a world of heavily Asian-inspired fast food such as Panda Express, Phoenix Inn remains true to its roots in taste and texture. Contrary to popular belief, Asian food is not a salty, greasy mixture over rice; it can be light, as this restaurant proves. The menu is divided into types of meat and vegetables, which is a popular practice in many Asian restaurants. Phoenix Inn also serves a variety of spicy dishes for the daring tongue, which warms the heart on chilly days. The food arrives within only a few minutes, and the restaurant is indeed prepared to cater to all. The cutlery involves a selection of the classic fork or chopsticks with instructions for those interested in perfecting the art of chopstick usage. Phoenix Inn has the option of takeout, whether by phone or Internet. Free egg rolls or fried rice are included if the order exceeds $15 or $30, respectively. The prices themselves are also quite agreeable: Lunch costs under $6 per entree, while dinner costs between $5 and $12. Show your WildCARD, and get 10 percent off! You’ll conclude your food-scursion with some cash left over and a satisfied stomach.

24 winter 2011


Details: 608 Davis St, Evanston, Ill. 60201; 847-4757782; Mon.-Thurs.: 11:00 a.m.- 9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun.: Noon - 9:30 p.m.

Fish with sour cabbage and chicken with yellow curry from Phoenix Inn.


Where to find the best tofu treats in Evanston by Miriam Troostwijk Growing up with an Asian parent is great for several reasons. First, you will probably avoid academic failure, as you are constantly reminded to do your homework. Second — more importantly — you grow up with amazing food. One day in October, I had mooshoo rolls together with egg rolls and a vegetable dish with tofu for dinner. While this was a delicious meal, it was not an authentic one. (Note: mooshoo rolls are an American invention, as are fortune cookies.) Tofu, on the other hand, is truly Asian, and I was shocked when one of my friends told me she had never tasted it in her life. After force-feeding her a cube of the stir-fried soybean treat, she looked at me with question marks in her eyes. “It tastes like plastic?” This is a common problem with tofu: it’s not very flavorsome on its own. Ingredients make a huge difference. I used to not like tofu either: At family dinners, my aunts and cousins would fight over the tofu dishes while I would sit quietly, very content with my meat and carbs. It was not until my mom took me to Malaysia and ordered “chicken” for me at a vegetarian restaurant that I began to appreciate the taste and texture of tofu. I could not even

Miso soup with tofu Sashimi Sashimi |640 Church St.

Home style bean curd Koi |624 Davis St. Mapo tofu (pictured) and mushroom tofu Joy Yee’s |519 Davis St. Agedashi tofu and deepfried tofu steak Kansaku |1514 Sherman Ave.


Tofu fun

tell this “chicken” was 100 percent tofu, spiced in a way that made me want to keep eating — I had never even enjoyed real chicken like that. (Granted, I was just as frustrated and confused when my dad tricked me into eating snails by calling them “escargot.”) Nevertheless, my anti-tofu phase was over. Tofu is a great source of energy: it is low in calories and high in protein, while not containing any cholesterol. In addition, tofu is said to be anti-cancerous and has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. This is the beauty of Asian food: you can eat meals that are both flavorsome and good for you. Goodbye Whopper, hello tofu burger! Just kidding. Stick with Asian style food when making tofu — better to play it safe. Of course, the best tofu is served in Asia, but the following dishes (see the map below) come pretty close.

winter 2011



Are you a “Xiao Yu” or a “Jane?” One writer’s take on Americanizing Asian names by Hyerin Lee

26 winter 2011

“Before I legally changed my name late in elementary school, I’d have an issue while waiting in the doctor’s office.”


Many Asian Americans tend to go by anglicized names. When in doubt, try to think up of Asian American celebrities with Asian names working in the U.S. It’s possible but pretty difficult. Now try coming up with Asian American celebrities with anglicized names: Lucy Liu, Disney’s Brenda Song, YouTube sensations Kevin Wu (also known as “KevJumba”) and Ryan Higa (also known as “nigahiga”). According to a study published in Steven Levitt’s bestselling book, Freakonomics, “White and Asian American parents...give their children remarkably similar names.” The sentence could imply that most Asian American parents do not give their children Asian names. But maybe a better question to ask is “Why do some Asian Americans who have Asian names at birth choose to adopt anglicized names?” NU Asian polled 35 Asian American students about their names. Of this small sample, 69 percent of these students had official anglicized first names. Another 14 percent went by American names, though their official names were Asian. So why go by American names? Is it because their parents did not want them to be discriminated against when applying for jobs as suggested in Freakonomics? Is it because of the exoticism of having an American name? The answer may be much simpler: many people often mispronounce Asian names making it more convenient to have anglicized ones. The agony of having to correct others every time they call out your name wrong or having to override the spelling correction that insists on changing your name to “honeybee,” only the victims would know. Mary Lin, a Weinberg sophomore, said she faced name pronunciation issues early in her childhood. “People pronounced [my middle name] ‘Yue’ as ‘You,’” Lin said. “So, before I legally changed my name late in elementary school, I’d have an issue while waiting at the doctor’s



office. When it was my turn, a nurse would come out and call out, ‘You...?’ No one would respond initially and yet they all thought it was them. I’d get up awkwardly, and be like, ‘Yep...That’s me...’” Of course the people who mispronounce traditional Asian names are not to blame. The pronunciation errors usually stem from a linguistic limitation. For instance, Chinese is a tonal language with four possible vocalizations even for single syllables, and the alphabet doesn’t have a means of indicating all the required intonations. In the case of Korean names, there are often double vowels, such as “yu” or “ye,” that have to be pronounced quickly as “iu” or “ie.” “I started going by my American name around fifth grade or so,” said Weinberg sophomore Cindy Hong. “A teacher of mine refused to call me by my Korean name because she couldn’t pronounce it. That was the breaking point, and after that it kind of just happened more and more often. Now only my family uses my Korean name.” Of the students polled, 42 percent of those with anglicized names are called by their Asian names at home. This “double identity” might stem from immigrant or firstgeneration Asian parents calling their children by names that are familiar to them. In that case, it is likely that Asian American parents sought to give their children “mainstream” American names out of consideration that their children were to grow up in an American society. Yet there are Asian Americans who stuck to their Asian names and their reasons vary. “I went through a phase or two throughout my life when I introduced myself to others as Daniel,” said Hahnbi Sun, a McCormick junior. “It was pretty embarrassing whenever teachers paused before attempting to pronounce my name. But in high school, I guess I grew into it, and other people got it as well. I guess for me, there’s a sense of pride in having a Korean name, partially because it’s of my heritage and partially because

“I went through a phase or two throughout my life when I introduced myself to others as Daniel.” it’s something out of the ordinary.” Weinberg sophomore Myung Jun Kim experienced a change of heart as well. “I actually went by the name ‘Tony’ until the end of high school,” Kim said. “But after spending a summer in Korea, I realized I was too proud of my Korean-ness to keep going by a fake American name. So I changed back to ‘Myung.’” However, a middle road does exist for Asian Americans who want to keep their Asian identity without having a name that sounds “too Asian.” Jay Chang, a Weinberg senior, said Jay is the direct English phonetic spelling of his Chinese name. “In a sense, it serves as both an American name and an Asian name,” he said. “An Asian name under an American disguise! My parents were crafty immigrants because I know they did it intentionally, perhaps to help me fit in easier because they thought I would be an awkward kid and needed all the help I could get?” So, is Romeo just a name? Asian American parents may have chosen anglicized names to help their children fit more smoothly into American society. Or perhaps names were chosen to remember a certain cultural identity. Would you be different if you were called something else all of a sudden? Remember the love and care that went into choosing your name and you’ll find that you are just the same, beloved person even without that title.

winter 2011


Quality food at affordable prices The best Chinese food in Evanston

visit for complete menu LUNCH SPECIALS: Entrées served with fried rice and a choice of egg rolls, crab rangoon or pop from Mon - Sat 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

FAMILY DINNERS: Entrées served with egg drop soup

or hot and sour soup, egg rolls, fried chicken wings, fried crab rangoon and shrimp fried rice. ($21.50 for two; $29.90 for three; $38.30 for four; $47.50 for five)

PARTY TRAYS available for all occasions starting at $18.

SPECIAL DISHES: Velvet Chicken Corn Soup West Lake Beef Soup Beef Brisket Pan Fried Noodle Beef Pan Fried Chow Fun Crispy Chicken General Tso’s Chicken Peking Duck Kung Pao Shrimp Fish & Corn in White Sauce Lamb Stir Fried w/ Cumin Spice Twice Cooked Pork

Shredded Pork w/ Smoke Tofu Szechuan String Bean Garlic Water Spinach Tofu w/ Chinese Squash Sliced Beef Szechuan Style Spicy Diced Chicken Crispy Duck Fish Fillet in Fermented Rice Sauce Roast Duck Noodle Soup Szechuan Spicy Beef Tendon Boiled Beef Szechuan Style

Bring in this coupon and receive

15% off

your meal

Not valid for specials or party trays and cannot be used with any other coupon

608 Davis Street, Evanston, IL 60201 [p] 847-475-7782 | [f] 847-475-7158

NU Asian Winter 2011  

Winter 2011 edition of NU Asian magazine