Sparks Magazine Issue No. 18 | University of South Florida

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Spring 2020

Issue 18

The University of South Florida presents

Asian Beasts and Where to Find Them A Mapping of Traditional Folklore Throughout Asia

Made in Bangladesh Assembled in America A Comparison Study Regarding Asian American Identity

Plight of Asian American Women in Engineering

How APIA Gender Roles Influence STEM



EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Samia Alamgir MANAGING EDITOR Dencie Devora CONSULTANT Cynthia Lai CONTENT EDITORS Amy Nguyen, Samia Alamgir, Dencie Devora FINANCE DIRECTOR Trianna Nguyen PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Amy Nguyen PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTOR Sophia Thai WRITERS Samia Alamgir, Amy Nguyen, Zahra Saba, Tulsi Patel, Isha Harshe DESIGNERS Nicole Monalem, Dencie Devora, Natasha Shah

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Kaylyn Ling MANAGING EDITOR Emma Ross CONTENT EDITORS Mumtaz Abdulhussein, Alexandra Giang PHOTO EDITORS Laura San Juan DESIGN EDITORS Allyson Martinez, Esther Zhan PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Hiya Chowdhury PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Xinni Chen FINANCIAL DIRECTOR Amanda Hoffman WRITERS Michelle Lee, Eileen Calub, Ella Kulak, Georgia Meadow, Jason Pioquinto, Emily Tiên Nhi Bosworth PHOTOGRAPHERS Kylee Gates, Sumin Shim, Michael Bryan Ortega, Hanzhi Chen, Josie Cruz DESIGNERS Anusha Rao, Rachalle Way, Brianne De Los Santos PUBLIC RELATIONS Yuting Wang, Stephanie Chang

UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Catherine Le MANAGING EDITOR Adrian Lee WRITER Zohra Qazi, Julien Wan, Zainab Jamal, Fariha Rafa PHOTOGRAPHERS Isabella Billones, Skyler Shepard, Denise Ferioli, Paolo Agahan, Natalie Nguyenduc DESIGNERS Chi Pham, Asma Ahmed, Alison Nepomuceno PUBLIC RELATIONS Isabella Brillones, Jonathan Michalos

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Letter from the Editor-in-Chief Dear Readers, My name is Samia Alamgir, and I am very excited to present to you Sparks Magazine’s Issue 18. Our team has worked very diligently to produce Sparks, and we are grateful for your support. The beauty of Sparks is that it is a collective effort to raise and inspire Asian American voices. I am so proud of my staff who have dedicated countless hours towards the success of our magazine, despite adverse circumstances. The production of this issue had its fine share of trials and tribulations, but our dedicated staff elegantly pulled through. While we are busy students amidst global pandemic CO-VID 19, our team came together to share our passion and keep our goals afloat. Despite our university closing mid-production, we decided to make the best of the situation and continued our work by transitioning to online platforms. From this experience, we have learned the importance of communication and teamwork in collaboration. The last two months prior to release CO-VID 19, or corona virus has plagued the world with illness and worry. We are currently experiencing strict national lock-down and are confined to our homes. We are living in a devastating time where health should not be taken for granted. Our community is facing many

burdens such as loss of income, shelter, and deep concern for our loved ones. Additionally, the virus having originated in Asia, has provoked racism and xenophobia worldwide towards the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Sparks continues to work hard to advocate for Asian Americans and is in the forefront in dismantling racism through literature. I am so proud of my staff for being the strong and influential people they are, who balance school and extracurriculars on top of so many exhausting worries. Despite the pandemic climate, they radiate positivity and confidence, and I am so thankful and grateful to have had the pleasure to work with them. Happy reading! Sincerely, Samia Alamgir

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Confronting Color To Colorism: We Are More Than Our Skin Color Alexandra Giang

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Got Hot Pot? Exploring The features of Asian Cuisine Michelle Lee


A Love Language For Us: The Language of Food Zhora Qazizi The Plight of Asian American Women in Engineering Amy Nguyen


A New Lineup: Discussing Diversity at Coachella and EDC Ella Kulak


Fading the Colors of My Culture: A Conversation about growing up Asian in white communities Emily TiĂŞn Nhi Bosworth

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Made in Bangladesh Assembled in America: A Comparative Study Between First Generation and Naturalized Bengali Americans Samia Alamgir


Asian Beasts and Where to Find Them Isha Harshe

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Close Call: Iranian Reflections on the Death of Qasem Soleimani Jason Pioquinto


Forming a Bridge Between Worlds: The Intricacies of Interracial Dating Allyson Nepomuceno


Matter Over Mind: An Op-ed on Mental Health Stigma Fariha Rafa

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In Alice Walker’s series of essays “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” colorism is defined as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”

This breed of discrimination has been observed in minorities across the world. In the US, colorism plagues African American, Latinx, Hispanic and APIA populations, among others. For Hiran Gadhavi*, a 27 year-old CEO of a software company in New York, his experience with colorism primarily started after 9/11. “There was a lot of animosity towards ‘brown’ people because those are the people that blew up the towers,” he said. “When I went to the ferry to take the boat, the

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Habibi Ting*, a civil engineer in New York, detailed a similar experience. “I was called every name in the book [because of my skin color],” he said. “Terrorist, bomber, everything.” The origins of colorism dated back even earlier than slavery in America. In certain minority groups, it’s long been ingrained in the culture.

which can be seen as colorism,” Gadhavi said. “The darker your skin tone, the less valuable or poorer you are.” Ancy Jose, a 22-year-old humanities and creative writing major at Florida State University, experienced colorist ideas ever since she was young from her family, the Indian community, and the world.

design/Brianne De Los Santos

Some may confuse it with its cousin term, racism. Colloquially, racism is the discrimination of an individual based on their race. Colorism, on the other hand, uses skin tone as a metric of prejudice instead of racial or ethnic identity. This means that colorism exists even within a race or ethnicity.

police would randomly ask to check my bags like I had a bomb in there.”

photography/ Sumin Shin

heir stares were unapologetically hostile. Blinded by fear, all they saw in the young dark-skinned boy was a “terrorist” and “bomber,” regardless of what his ethnicity or race might have been. It was not the first time he had been singled out for his skin color, yet following the aftermath of 9/11, it would certainly not be the last.

by Alexandra Giang

To colorism: We are more than our skin color

“At home, my parents criticized and punished me if I went outside for too long because I tan very quickly,” Jose said. “To them, their lighter skin tone was a point of prestige, especially in the South Indian community which is historically darker compared to North Indian groups.” In Jose’s community, skin color was greatly attributed to marriageability. “[A woman] could have the best education, career, accomplishments, but if she was dark, she was undesirable and thus openly worthless,” Jose said. Rafael Amezcua, a 20 year old male, described his experiences with colorism. While others were looked down upon for being darker-skinned, he was discriminated against for his lighter-skin. “For myself, I am a guero, a light skinned Mexican. All my life, I have been labeled as a white boy and I get it, I’m American,” he said, “but when I speak fluent Spanish everybody [is surprised and] trips out.” “I traveled to Mexico on a family trip,” Amezcua said. “The neighborhood boys were playing soccer. I was bored so I decided to join them and they stared at me saying no. They said that I couldn’t play because I was a gringo and that I probably didn’t even know how to play.” Amezcua said he ended up intercepting the ball and “showed them up, not letting their comments get to me.” It isn’t always easy to identify colorism. “If it comes from [someone’s] own family, it’s probably something deeply embedded into their mind,” Jose explained. However, that does not make it any less oppressing.

This power dynamic rarely changes because “few people marry outside of their skin color,” Jose said. “Arranged marriages are a popular tool to push for lighter skin colors in families,” Jose said. “It is instilled in children that colorism is a good thing because it gives families more privilege.” With a new generation rising in tune with western culture, more individuals are opposing the colorist ideals, choosing to marry “outside of the community or disregarding these ‘traditions’ altogether,” Jose said. Once again, the barriers of discrimination were beginning to break down. To those struggling with colorism or their skin color, Jose gave her words of wisdom. “Your worth comes from so much more than the color of your skin,” she said. “The ones mistreating you are relying on archaic attributes to take your power and voice away from you.” “Me personally, I feel you can’t really control what people say,” Ting said, offering his own advice. “They have their own thoughts and their way of conducting themselves. I’d say you as an individual do what you have to do. Try to ignore it because it can cause you problems you don’t need. There are so many other problems like your health and finances.” It is clear that the color of one’s skin is more than an identifier of status. As Jose succinctly summarized, “Brown is beautiful, dark is beautiful, black is beautiful, all skin tones are beautiful. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” *names have been changed.

“People are very much aware of colorism within my community, but very few of the older generation think it’s an issue,” Jose explained. Those with the most power in the community are often on the more favorable spectrum of skin color.

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Got Hot Pot? Exploring the features of an Asian cuisine


Histor y Hot pot originally came from China. According to the Vegas Hotpot restaurant, back in the Jin Dynasty, Mongolian horsemen gathered together and used their helmets to boil soup over a fire and then added meat into the soup to cook and eat.

— Michelle Nguyen

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meal with the family.”

“Besides China, it’s popular in Japan, Korea and more. They’re all just a little bit different,” said Hoirong Ou, the manager of Nine Spices Fondue in Gainesville.

Hot pot is also very popular in other Asian countries such as Thailand and South Korea, but there isn’t a specific name for the dish in these languages. For example, Koreans use the Japanese term, shabu shabu.

One of the most famous types of hot pot is the Chongqing hot pot from China. It is known for the hot Sichuan peppers in the broth, which stains the soup bright red and gives it a strong, spicy flavor.

On the other hand, Thai people call it either suki or just hot pot, said first-year UF psychology major Asia Sai Dixon. Dixon is Thai American. She used to have hot pot very often while living in Thailand.

It seems like many people, especially Ou’s customers, can take the heat because Ou says that the spicy soup base is one of their most popular options.

“One of my great hot pot memories is going to a popular hot pot place called MK at the end of every semester with my friends. And whenever I went with the adults, they always filled the whole pot with cabbage before I could put in my meat,” Dixon said. She learned to appreciate ingredients other than meat over time.

Japan has a wide variety of hot pot dishes called nabemono, according to Japanese home cook Namiko Hirasawa Chen. There are two main types: shabu shabu and sukiyaki. One of the big differences between the two lies in the type of pot that is used to cook the broth and the ingredients. Shabu-shabu uses a ceramic pot called donabe, while sukiyaki uses an iron pot. Since sukiyaki is cooked skillet-style with the iron pot, shabu shabu is considered a more authentic version of hot pot. Additionally, shabu shabu uses a type of broth called kombu (dried kelp) dashi, while sukiyaki uses a sweet-salty soy sauce, rather than a broth. In Vietnam, hot pot is called lau, and typically contains more seafood than other hot pot variations. Michelle N g u ye n , a t h i rd - ye a r V i e t n a m e s e American student at the University of Florida, recalled fond experiences of hot pot, saying, “When I was in California I ate hot pot at my aunt’s place. The food was really good, and it was awesome having a

Ingredients The ingredients that can go inside a hot pot are unlimited, but one of the most popular ingredients is thinly sliced meat. Vegetables, seafood, noodles, tofu, fishcakes and more can be included, but common ingredients used also vary between the different types of hot pot. In her article for LA Weekly, Lynn Q. Yu said, “Tripe and goose intestines are standards of Chongqing hot pot.” Tripe absorbs the spicy broth, and goose intestines offer a nice, chewy texture. For the sauce, sesame oil provides a nice balance to the spiciness of the broth. Since lau is more seafood based, the ingredients used reflect that. “We use chicken stock, fish sauce and lots of seafood ingredients, such as fish, squid, shellfish, meats and veggies,” said Nguyen.

design / Rachalle Way

Hot pot brings friends and families together to eat, whether it’s for the holidays or whenever I come and visit from school. It’s a very rich and filling dish to eat.

From China to Japan to Thailand, hot pot traveled all around East Asia and left a lasting impression on national cuisines. While there are basic similarities throughout all these cultures, many Asian countries have developed their own method for preparing hot pot.

photography / Hanzhi Chen

Even though China tried to resist the Mongols, they couldn’t resist their style of eating. In fact, in their G Adventures article, travel bloggers Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott explain that China ended up mimicking the Mongolian style of soup and modifying it to make their own version — the hot pot people are familiar with today. Eventually, hot pot evolved into a dish that, like China, many other Asian countries accepted and made their own.


by Michelle Lee

Imagine sitting in front of a gigantic pot, watching soup broth come to a frantic boil and unleash swirls of aromatic steam. It’s hot, sputtering loudly, and smells like heaven on earth — but that’s not all. Surrounding the pot are countless small dishes holding food ranging from bright red meat to chopped up greens. This is the beauty of a very popular style of Asian cuisine known as hot pot, and there is so much about it to discover.

Like many other versions of hot pot, meat is crucial in Thai suki. Dixon said that there are usually slices of chicken, pork, beef and lots of vegetables on the table as well as a spicy suki sauce that’s made with chili and lime. Now that the ingredients are prepared, it’s time to eat.

How To Enjoy It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make hot pot. Dunk different ingredients into the simmering broth, but take note that each ingredient will cook at different speeds. In a guide for China Highlights, travel writer Annie Wu recommends the ingredients that take the longest to cook should go in first. On the other hand, Nguyen’s approach is the complete opposite. “It depends on the person but for me, I put the vegetables in before the meat because they cook fast,” Nguyen said. Once the ingredients are cooked, sauces come into play. Sauces give each ingredient a little extra flavor. In other words: cook, dip, eat and repeat.

and trading sauce recipes encourage conversation between family and friends. Ou eats hot pot very often now because she works in a hot pot restaurant. Before working at Nine Spices Fondue, though, she ate hot pot primarily during holidays like Chinese New Year because it was easy to prepare and there would be plenty of food for everyone. Similarly, Nguyen said, “Hot pot brings friends and families together to eat, whether it’s for the holidays or whenever I come and visit from school. It’s a very rich and filling dish to eat.” “We often take advantage of precooked food, but cooking with family and friends is a great way to bond,” Dixon said.

gathered around a gigantic pot of boiling b ro t h a n d s m a l l d i s h e s o f va r i o u s ingredients, hot pot will always be meaningful.

Hot pot is impactful for this reason. It connects people. That’s why it spread across so many Asian cultures. As long as you and your loved ones are

The cooking method is one of hot pot’s unique qualities. “I think hot pot is popular because you can cook it at your own pace,” Ou said. Dixon thinks that hot pot i s u n i q u e b e c a u s e i t ’s interactive and fun. “It’s like a form of entertainment to cook your own food. When I add my meat, they disappear into the abyss.” And while watching it swim inside the pot, she can hear the laughter and chatter coming from the people sitting around her.

Impact While hot pot is a great source for eating some delicious food, it is also a great way to spend time with friends and family. The traditional way to enjoy hot pot is with a group of people, like the Mongolian horsemen did. Gathering around a table, sharing ingredients

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A LOVE LANGUAGE FOR US The Language of Food

by Zhora Qazi

photography/ Paolo Agahan design/ Allyson Nepomuceno

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Ronas, a 19-year-old pre-nursing student at the University of Central Florida, believes that food is a love language. Love languages are, in the simplest terms, ways that we express and experience love. Love doesn’t necessarily mean romantic as it goes beyond romantic relationships, extending into friendships, familial relationships and any other kind of relationship you have with another person. The concept of love languages was originally introduced in a 1992 book, The Five Love Languages, written by Gary Chapman but has since become mainstream knowledge. The five recognized love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.


Food isn’t officially recognized as a love language, but within the Asian community, it might as well be. Food is at the heart of every Asian household and is generally the main focal point of any family gathering. The dishes that our friends and families create are not only packed with flavorful ingredients and an array of spices and seasonings, but also with the care and love they feel towards us. However we experience it, food holds a special place in our hearts and means many different things for many different people.

here are many ways to express love—buying meaningful gifts, writing lengthy letters, spending time watching a corny movie and so on. Expressing love could even include the dining table being covered with banana leaves, topped with rice at the center and piled high with dried fish, sliced fruit and a variety of other delicious dishes. It easily brings together family and friends in a fun and festive way. For Erika Ronas, a budol fight is the perfect way to celebrate her birthday and to share the love and appreciation she feels towards her family and friends.

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“[Food] is very important in my family in how we express our traditions and values to each other,” said Ronas. “I kind of translate that with my relationships with my friends and with the people that I’ve met, it’s how I show my appreciation for them. Sometimes I’ll cook randomly for my friends or make a meal with them, it’s just fun to do.” “To me, it means the time being spent with family and friends; it’s not all about the food, even though food is a part of it,” said Nghi La, a 19-year-old UCF student studying biomedical sciences. For La and her family, food definitely takes the center stage at major family gatherings and events: “Every New Year’s, we go to my uncle’s house and we have this huge feast. You spend the entire day with all of your family—it’s a really touching way to start the new year.” Despite the love and care that families and friends feel for each other, a lot of Asian people struggle in finding words to express their emotions. Talking and verbally expressing one’s emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, joy, etc., is often considered to be uncomfortable; even when trying to express “I love you”, the words never really come out the way it’s meant to. This is why many of us, especially our parents and grandparents, turn towards food as an avenue for communication. According to a professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, “food is an indirect way to show love. Asian people don’t like to directly express love, whether it be culture or personal shyness. People generally like food, making it an easy way to express that emotion.”


Most of our Asian parents and grandparents find it easier to hand us a plate of food or a bowl of sliced fruit instead of confronting their emotions and voicing it aloud. For them, preparing a home-cooked meal or giving us a decorative bowl of fresh fruit holds so much more meaning than any spoken word they could say. It’s their way of showing their love to us without using any words at all. Even after arguments, food presents itself to parents and grandparents as a way to express their words. La noticed that her parents often use food as a mode to apologize to her after having an argument. “When they think they’re in the wrong or realize they are wrong,” said La, “they would usually invite you to the dinner table or cut up fruit and bring it to you. They try to break the awkwardness of a post-argument and they show that they still care about you by giving you food. Based on what they cooked, they spent time and their love making it into the food and transcending it and giving it to you.” The “tough love” that our parents and grandparents show towards us is usually negated with them handing us food. “You kind of scrutinize your kid for a mistake but to make up for it you give them food,” said Ronas. Across Asian cultures, food has come to represent love—it symbolizes the quality time and appreciation you hold for someone you love and care about. Through this language of food, we created a space for love in our kitchens, where cooking a meal becomes valuable time and cherishable memories. We’ve grown to speak this language of food, the language of dishes that remind us of home and family, because that’s how we’ve come to understand love. Whether that be going out to eat with some friends or cooking a big meal with the family, they’re all ways that we have come to show our love. In its own way, it has become a language we clearly understand, without the need for any words to be said.

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Discussing diversity at Coachella and EDC

by Ella Kulak photography/ Josie Cruz design/ Esther Zhan

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here in the world can you see Japanese R&B singer Joji, Korean hip hop group Epik High and Japanese Irish American viral singersongwriter Conan Gray perform all in the span of 72 hours? Popular music festivals like Coachella and EDC are more diverse than ever before, opening up spaces for Asian Americans in this fun field of American culture.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival The event that fills Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube feeds in the spring will almost always be Coachella. Coachella is known for presenting insane shows for crowds that breed Netflix documentaries (Beyonce’s 2018 concert film “HΘMΣCΘMING”) and milliondollar creative partnerships. Coachella performances range in musical genre, from pop to electronic dance music. To this day it stands as one of the most successful recurring music festivals in the world. “Most of these festivals are just the weekends that you get to get away from the stress of school and work and just be around a bunch of great people that share a love for the same music,” said Megan Mizusawa, a University of Florida alumna and experienced festival goer. Coachella 2020, rescheduled from April to October due to COVID-19, will mark the year with the most Asian American performers than ever before. Coachella is known as one of the most diverse and international popular music festival lineups in the world and the number of Asian performers selected for this year’s festival is particularly historic. Conan Gray and Filipino British Beabadoobee will bring their indie pop vocals into the mix. Indonesian singer NIKI and South Asian American artist Raveena will contribute contemporary R&B selections. Festival goers will have the chance to release their inner rapper when Rich Brian and Epik High enter the stage. K-POP group BIGBANG will also be attending this year. All of these Asian and Asian American acts showcase a huge range of diversity in backgrounds and musical genres.

Representatives of 88rising, a New Yorkbased media company dedicated to supporting Asian American artists, are also making big appearances this year. “Slow Dancing in the Dark” singer Joji is one of 88rising’s many stars. Rich Brian and NIKI are also signed with 88rising. Many of these artists are no strangers to the festival stage — they were the main attraction at the Head in the Clouds Music & Arts Festival, which has been nicknamed “Asian Coachella.” The Head in the Clouds festival began in 2018 at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. It was a large success, and the festival returned to LA the following year. In 2020, Head in the Clouds plans to appear in Jakarta, Indonesia. As more Asian American and international performers appear at these festivals, people began to realize that you do not need to understand the lyrics to enjoy music. As long as you have good melodies or fun beats, people are able to enjoy themselves. A prime example of this is seen in K-pop’s rise in global popularity. This genre has influenced singers and dancers for generations around the world, despite most of its Korean lyrics being incomprehensible to many listeners. Ever since “Gangnam Style” by PSY broke into the U.S. music charts in 2012, the popularity and influence of K-pop has continued to grow, as seen in rising and established K-pop bands, like BTS.

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Another wildly popular festival is Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). This crazy carnival ride travels all around the world, visiting popular cities like Tokyo, Las Vegas, Orlando, Shanghai and more. EDC is one of the largest electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in the world. What sets this music festival apart is that attendees can ride a Ferris wheel while listening to their favorite DJs.

the open arms people have in welcoming each other into the rave family. Even though the train is meant to be a positive sign of inclusivity, the Asian Train has also garnered attention from racist groups. In 2016, a Facebook group was created titled “Ban All Asians from EDM Festivals.” Based on the name alone it is apparent that there was a heavy anti-Asian sentiment backing the creation of this group. Sean Acosta, one of the group members, posted saying that Asians were “killing the vibe” with their Asian Trains. The group is no longer listed on Facebook. Historically, EDM (electronic dance music) festivals present a promised space where people can feel free, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality or beliefs. Many festivals are working to create a culture of acceptance. “I think one of the best things about festival culture and the environment is that most everyone goes there with the same intention in mind,” Tiffany Hart, a UF student on the pre-pharmacy track, said. Part of the experience can even include trusting people you may not know.” When I went up to Shaky Beats I actually went alone and stayed with strangers that were also going to the festival,” Mizusawa said. “We ended up bonding and going to the next four to five festivals together.” “People will compliment one another on festival outfits, their make-up, and are really open to sharing stuff and exchanging social media,” Hart said. These bonds are remembered forever and you will always have a story to leave with. However, it also allows everyone to be free and escape from cultural responsibility. At the time of writing, the 2020 production list has not been released.

At EDC, the Asian American presence became so great, they set the trend for all EDC-goers. “The Asian Train” is a single file line of Asian American ravers who push through the wild crowd in hopes of reaching the front-row stage rail. People from all ethnicities sometimes hop on and follow for a better spot by the stage. The Asian Train provides a great example of

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How To: Festival Guide During festival season, “Coachella Guides” take over social media. These are some important tips to keep in mind.

Get your tickets early. Most major music festivals start selling “Early Bird” tickets to their dedicated fans. This price saves you a chunk of cash and secures you a ticket before they sell out. Sometimes, festivals sell campsite spots and you can secure those tickets as well. You don’t want to get stuck off site. Know the schedule. Everyone awaits the day that the performers list is published. Once the line up releases its singers, start to plan your must see bands or DJs. Some performers may be new to you, so be sure to preview their recent albums beforehand. Know the rules. Knowing the basics is simply not enough. Different festivals have different rules. Make sure you read them carefully. If music festivals allow you to bring your own food, save yourself the money. Make sure the festival does or doesn’t allow pets before bringing your turtle Rosko to jam. Stay comfortable. If you head out to a day festival, do not forget the sunblock. Also, hydrating is important because you will be expelling plenty of energy. If you never want to lose your front row place due to dehydration, hydration packs, a water container that wraps around your back, can help. Escape plan. Make sure your car does not get blocked in or camped in. If by chance life hits the fan, make sure it is possible to slip out of the festival easily. Next, if all your friends get separated, declare a place to meet up. Cell phones do not always receive the best reception so it could get hard to contact people. Note: This article is updated with the current lineup of 2020 festival performers at the time of writing. COVID-19 may cause further cancellations.

Story Time University of Florida student Tiffany Hart shares her experience of expression at a Gryffin concert. Gryffin is a California-based EDM artist and music producer. Hart said she loves the freedom and ability to express who you truly are without worrying about anyone’s thoughts around you during concerts. “Everyone is there to just have a great time,” Hart said. “I had an outfit for a Gryffin concert in Orlando that was a ravetake on Nezuko from [Japanese manga and anime series] ‘Demon Slayer.’ My friend dressed as Shinobu from the same anime. There were tons of people who came up to us and told us how much they also loved the anime.” Hart also expressed that bonds become stronger. When traveling with another person and experiencing such a crazy festival, you become closer with the ones around you. No bonding experience could ever replace it.

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Fading The Colors of My Culture A conversation about growing up Asian in white communities

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I bleached my own heritage, called my own country stupid, dubbed my own language ugly and spoke to my parents in just English.” These are the words from the poem, “Honey Nut Cheerios,” written by Arpi Park. His words perfectly describe the emotional and psychological struggle of growing up Asian in a predominantly white community.

“I straightened my hair every day for three years because all the white girls had straight hair,” said Haaniya Ahmed, a Pakistani American who grew up in the suburbs of Orlando, FL. “I wouldn’t wear bright colors because I thought it would make my skin tone look darker.”

I straightened my hair every day for three years because all the white girls had straight hair. — Haaniya Ahmed “The more whitewashed I became, the more compliments I would get,” said Ahmed. “And that only made me want to be white even more.”

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illustration + design/Allyson Martinez

The result of living in a white community while being Asian is feeling like one is looked at as “other.” Asians have distinct physical, social and cultural characteristics that do not adhere to Eurocentric norms and they will often be scrutinized for not living up to them.

by Emily Tiên Nhi Bosworth

Park identifies as Korean American, but the feeling of disconnecting oneself from their culture is relatable to multiple ethnicities within the APIA community. Many people, specifically on the East Coast of the United States, who identify as Asian American find themselves living in white suburban neighborhoods. According to the article “Are Asian Americans Becoming White?” by University of California, Los Angeles researcher Min Zhou, this is due to multiple factors such as timing of immigration, affluence and settlement patterns.


A 2011 study published in the official journal of the International Society for Self and Identity found that Asian American children scored lower in self-esteem than white children. This low self-esteem comes from years of bullying that most Asian Americans experience during childhood. The bullying can range anywhere from making an ignorant comment about food an Asian child may bring for lunch to using racial slurs against them. Whether the bullying is mild or severe, there is always a racist undertone and this only encourages Asian kids to disconnect themselves from their culture. “I was really self-conscious about my nose and being hairy,” Ahmed said. “The only reason I started shaving was because the kids were so mean about hair. Growing up, I was hyper aware of my differences compared to all the white kids.” Cindy Nguyen, a Vietnamese American who grew up in Winter Haven, FL, said people would ask her if her eyes were even open when she smiled. She’s also heard people refer to themselves as looking “chinky” because their eyes were squinting in a picture. “People would ask me if I ate dogs or cats,” Nguyen said. “I remember this one time in high school [when] I took my friends to an Asian supermarket to get groceries for my mom. When we



walked into the supermarket, my white friends scrunched up their noses at the smell and would call certain foods weird as I picked up the groceries. I was always aware that I wasn’t white like my friends growing up, but it was jarring to still be reminded of these differences in such a negative way.” Racism and discrimination can present themselves in subtle ways called microaggressions. Derald Wing Sue, psychology professor at Columbia University, defines microaggressions as brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to people of color because they belong to a racial minority group in the Psychology Today article “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life.”

I was always aware that I wasn’t white like my friends growing up. — Cindy Nguyen “Kids would say things like ‘Oh, you worship cows, right?’ because they knew my family was Hindu,” Pranjal Tyagi, an Indian American who grew up in Tampa, FL, said. “Sometimes, they would even go as far as using racist slurs at me. After 9/11, teachers would have this weird demeanor towards me and I was too young to understand why.”

Microaggressions often get overlooked because they are not as overt and direct as using slurs or behaving in a racist way; however, research done by PhD researchers at Cambridge University Chakraborty McKenzie show that microaggressions can have lasting negative consequences on the mental health of those who experience them. Being Asian in a white community puts one at risk of experiencing microaggressions and having issues with self-esteem during childhood. Research shows that these experiences follow the individual from adolescence to adulthood and manifest itself through anxiety, depression, stress, anger and other mental health issues. Talking about one’s experiences in therapy or with close friends can often provide clarity and closure from childhood trauma. Understanding that one’s self-image is influenced by their environment can help individuals to unlearn the negative ideas they’ve placed upon themselves and work towards developing a healthy, more positive self-image.

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Made in Bangladesh Assembled in America A Comparison Study Between First Generation and Naturalized Bengali-Americans * * * * * * * * * * * *

The first wave of Asian immigrants migrated to America in the 1850s. They packed their clothes, deodorant and of course, snacks. Amidst the packing, they left behind two essential products, their toothbrush and more importantly, their history. Our ancestors chose America as their destination to achieve the American dream and earn money to send to their families. They made a critical decision which affected generations after them and shaped a new form of identity: Asian American. Migration is a quintessential piece of history that unites Asian Americans. How did migration affect those naturalized in comparison to first-generation citizens in the United States? In this comparison study, I am interested in learning about Bangladeshi identity and how it manifests in different people who are of legacy and naturalized categories.

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“cutting the thread causes loss of beginnings, and in the process, self-identity is also lost.”

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Navigating and adapting to a foreign culture is difficult for many Bangladeshi people. They experience struggles with culture clash from school systems, understanding English, and paper obstacles. Many naturalized Americans consider themselves Bangladeshi as they navigate and learn more about American culture. Ahnaf Tawzar, 22, is a Junior studying Computer Engineering at New York University. He has lived in the United States for four years and feels very connected to his motherland. He describes being Bangladeshi as a significant part of his identity as his grandfather was a freedom fighter in the Bangladesh Independence Movement. Because of his grandfather’s efforts in liberating his country, he sees being Bangladeshi as a privilege that his family has fought for. To him, being Bangladeshi is a cultural, familial, and national inclination. Tawzar continues to celebrate Bangladeshi culture through his involvement with cricket, a common sport played in South Asia. The Bangladeshi cricket team is highly skilled and has made the nation proud. In his free time, Tawzar enjoys traveling across different boroughs to play for various teams. In contrast, some ethnically Bangladeshi individuals identify themselves as American The disconnect that first-generation Bangladeshi Americans feel from naturalized Bangladeshis is primarily shaped by the need for approval from both Bangladeshi and American society. Many Bangladeshi Americans report feeling a greater sense of unification when taught about their cultural heritage and ancestors. Consequently, not having this education can disempower them and lead to a loss of appreciation of their bloodline and culture. Humaira Chowdhury is a Sophomore studying International Studies & Neuroscience at the University of Florida. She is a first-generation Bangladeshi American. Chowdhury describes connecting with Bangladeshi culture only after joining her school’s Bangladeshi Students’ Association, where she was able to meet other Bangladeshi Americans and learn more about her culture and roots. Chowdhury explains that dancing to Bangladeshi music and incorporating traditional Bangladeshi dance moves is her way of expressing her culture. Learning about her culture helps her feel comfortable with her identity. Chowdhury has performed

design/Dencie Devora

family can be described as a spool of thread; each generation creates a loop that eventually forms a salwar kameez or sari. The spool of thread that connects the entirety of the garment is the same. It holds meaning and weight and is what connects an individual to their family and culture. Imagine cutting the thread and starting new. The history and culture woven by our ancestors is lost. We lose sight of how our ancestors’ decisions and predicaments influence our identity. This causes the bigger picture of our significance and purpose to fade. Cutting the thread causes loss of beginnings, and in the process, self-identity is also lost. Similarly, having offspring is how people leave a legacy, but when we migrate we lose the impact generations before us have created. Through the sacrifice of our rich culture and history and loss of familial connections, we are able to enjoy the fruits of another country.

* * * * * * * * * by Samia Alamgir


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at the Mother Language Day and Diwali shows. Chowdhury stated “Identifying as a Bangladeshi American used to be a familial thing for me, just because I really didn’t have anything connecting me or even drawing me to the culture other than family.” Tasnia Arshee, 22, is a senior studying Biology at Florida International University. Arshee expressed that there is a combined cultural and generational gap that creates a divide between first-generation Americans and their naturalized parents. These cultural differences impose a responsibility on first-generation Americans to understand and respect their parents’ ideals, but also pave a new identity as Bangladeshi Americans. Unlike their naturalized counterparts, first-generation Americans must piece together a new culture that appreciates two very different cultures. Arshee stated that music is a critical piece of modern Bangladeshi American culture, combining hip-hop with traditional Bangla songs.

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of the world. “Children and future generations should definitely be taught on how to value their culture and tradition,” Tawzar stated. “Regardless of what walk of life they might be in, it is imperative that they know about their identity and prioritize their language and traditions.”

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“identifying as a Bangladeshi American used to be a familial thing for me, just because I really didn’t have anything connecting me or even drawing me to the culture other than family.” —Humaira Chowdhury, 20

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“It’s hard for our parents to listen to it [Bangla hip hop music], but for us, it’s like the new vibe.”. On an optimistic note, Asian Americans are the creators of a new legacy here in the United States. Perhaps by cutting the thread history is lost, and a new beautiful future is envisioned. Perhaps the salwar kameez is not discarded, but embroidered with the introduction of new colors on the garment. While the thread is cut through migration, the beauty of America is the multitude of colors each person brings to the table. Diversity can lead to the creation of a new multi-colored garment made up of the colors

21 | spring 2020

Asian Beasts and Where to Find Them

Jinn, also commonly written as djinn, is an unseen creature stemming from Arabic and Islamic literature. The meaning of the word is “hidden,� due to its derivation in a smokeless fire. The jinn does not have a physical form, and can shape shift or possess individuals. Exorcism is typically performed to remove the jinn from one’s body. When a person is possessed by jinn, it is believed that they have backwards feet. The jinn is often believed as the reason for unexplained or unfortunate accidents and diseases and it is believed that certain actions (especially during the nighttime) will invoke a jinn. For example, one should not spray perfume, leave their hair untied, or cut their nails at night or else the jinn will come. The jinn can also possess other animals and objects, making the fear of the jinn greater. Japan - Teke Teke The story of Teke Teke arose when a girl fell into a railway line, where her body was cut in half by a train that ran on top of her. Since then, her ghost haunts railway stations and urban areas, looking for vengeance. The name Teke Teke comes from the sound of her running on her elbows: teketeketeketeke. She is also known to carry a saw or a scythe with her so that she can slice her victims in half to feel her misery. Teke Teke is a common story many children like to share with each other.

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A vetal is a vampire-ghoul from Hindu folklore. It is said to possess dead bodies and roams around cemeteries, torturing humans that it encounters. The bodies that the vetal possess have backwards hands and feet, similar to the jinn, and the bodies no longer decay when they are possessed. The vetal has vast knowledge about all events in time, in the past, present, and future. The most famous story including the vetala is the story of the King Vikramaditya and Vetal. Vikramaditya was tasked with the mission to capture the vetal so that he could enslave it for its knowledge. King Vikramaditya was able to find the vetal and tried to bring him back home. Along the way, the vetala told stories and asked questions to the king after each story. However, the king was not permitted to speak, as the vetal would fly away. Forgetting this fact and unable to resist the urge to answer the question, the king would then again hunt for the vetal and carry it on his shoulders, listening to its stories.

designer/Natasha Shah and Karlee Ling

South Asia - Jinn

India - Vetal (Vikram Vetal stories) by Isha Harshe

While we may not be able to explore the fantastic beasts of the wizarding world with Newt Scamander, many of us have grown up with ancient and mystique folklore in our Asian American households that are no less intriguing. Whether they were serious warnings or stories to pass around the table, the legends of these superstitious creatures have constituted an important part of the cultural heritage.

Malaysia - Penanggalan and Philippines Manananggal The Manananggal of the Philippines and the Penanggalan of Malaysia are both vampires that prey upon pregnant women and their babies. Their names come from the word “tanggal” in Tagalog, which means to detach. Both vampires detach from their lower bodies to go hunting at night: the Manananggal detaches from the waist while the Penanggalan flies around with her head and organs. One key difference in the stories between the Penanggalan and the Manananggal is that the smell of vinegar is strongly associated with the Penanggalan. It is believed that the Penanggalan was so startled by an intruder while taking a vinegar bath that her head popped off. Each morning, both vampires reattach to their lower halves and disguise themselves as women during the daytime. Common ways to defeat these cousin vampires include manipulation of the lower half of the body, such as throwing thorns, salt, garlic on it, or burning it so that they cannot rejoin with their bodies. Persia - Manticore (Martichora, “Man-eater”) Believed to roam around in Indian jungles, the manticore was the mightiest beast of the animal kingdom which fed upon man. This is likely why the Persians referred to this creature as “Martichora,” which means “man-eater.” The manticore was a combination of three animals: the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. The manticore could not be outrun, had vicious claws, and delivered poisonous sting from its scorpion tail. While this creature was undefeatable by man, for an unknown reason, elephants were able to evade the predatorial wrath of the manticore. Best to have an elephant by your side the next time you wander around the jungles of India!

China - Jiangshi (Vampire) The Jianshi is a vampire dating back from the ages of the Qing dynasty. Their bodies became so stiff after death that they could not walk, so they hopped instead. Some of the reasons these vampires or zombies remain undead are because they died a violent death or that they were not buried properly. During the Qing era, corpses of Chinese workers were transported back to their homes. The manner in which they were carried made it seem as if the corpses were bouncing, and the sight led to rumors of the dead bodies hopping at night. The jiangshi, usually dressed in the uniform of a Qing Dynasty official, comes out at night and sucks the life force out of its victims. Effective strategies to defeat a jiangshi include using the blood of a black dog, mirrors, and chicken eggs. Vietnam - Ho Tinh: Fox Monster Ho Tinh is a Vietnamese fox monster who dresses as a beautiful woman to lure the villagers of Long Bien to their death in her cave. The monster was a large, nine-tailed fox and the villagers greatly feared it. Only the revered hero Lac Long Quan was able to defeat Ho Tinh, who exhausted the fox monster by manipulating the elements until it gave out and died. Quan was known to fight and defeat many monsters from different villages and is regarded as a hero in Vietnam. The nine-tailed fox also appears in Chinese folklore as the Huli Jing.

23 | spring 2020

Iranian reflections on the death of Qasem Soleimani


.S.-Iranian relations were thrown into turmoil after Major General Qasem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. To the U.S., General Soleimani was a vicious terrorist responsible for the death of Americans, but to the Iranian people, he was a war hero who defeated ISIS numerous times in Iraq. His death drove people into the streets of Iran to mourn and to express their anger towards U.S. aggression.

Retaliatory efforts by the Iranian government soon followed General Soleimani’s death. On Jan. 8, Iran missiles toward two launched U.S. military bases. These attacks resulted in no casualties at the bases, according to remarks made by President Trump. However, one of the Iranian missiles struck a Ukrainian airliner, leading to a tragic crash. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister reported that all 176 passengers onboard were killed, 82 of whom were Iranian. This latest spurt of violence between the two countries left Iranian Americans fearful of an escalation of aggression.

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“The last thing I want is a war to start,” said Amir Zafaranian, a University of Florida student and the son of Iranian immigrants. His family also worries about the potential outbreak of war. Zafaranian was born and raised in Tampa, where he felt he lived a double life. “When I was at school with friends, when I was out not with family, I switched to my American identity.” However, at home, he was enveloped by Iranian culture as well as its history. “It’s almost like a switch, I’d go back home and be like ‘Oh, I’m home, Persian.’”

When I was at school with friends, when I was out not with family, I switched to my American identity. — Amir Zafaranian

“Because my family is Iranian, I grew up with more knowledge about [the history between the U.S. and Iran].” Zafaranian believes that if more Americans had a broader understanding of Iran, they would believe “the whole country is

not against America.” Zafaranian believes both the U.S. and Iran have done wrong and wishes a more nuanced perspective on these events were covered by media organizations. He finds memes which portray Iranians as terrorists, or antiAmerican, as well as the stories of discriminatory treatment of Iranian Americans, disturbing. His discomfort stems from a fear that Americans view Iranians as singleminded or homogenous. “I don’t want people to think that I want [a war] just because that’s where my family is from.” Tara Sedagheh Pakravan, a student at Nova Southeastern University, was in Iran when General Soleimani was killed and witnessed firsthand the demonstrations and conflicts within Iran that followed. Iranians who supported General Soleimani took to the streets to demonstrate their grief, while those who opposed the general expressed their elation. The presence of these rival perspectives created a palpable tension, and according to Pakravan,

by Jason Pioquinto photography/ Laura San Juan design/Allyson Martinez

“It’s leading to disaster, because there’s nobody in the middle. They’re all hiding away.” At its worst, this polarization between Iranians expressed itself in gruesome ways. Pakravan detailed acts of sabotage that occurred by those

in support of the current regime governing Iran, against those who spoke out against the government during recent demonstrations. She claimed pro-government protesters would poison the food of those who opposed them by poisoning shipments to the grocery stores where

the protestors would shop. Pakravan felt these attacks personally. “My distant cousin ate something — she wasn’t even part of the protest — it was just in the grocery store. She got a snack that had the poison in it and passed away.”

spring 2020| 25

Because of the danger present in Iran, Pakravan fled the country only a week into her trip, but her mother stayed for a month. When she came home from Iran, Pakravan said her mother was in shock. Born and raised in Iran, Pakravan’s mother lived through the Iranian revolution, a period of tumult and mass demonstrations as the Iranian government was removed and replaced with new leadership. Pakravan recalled her mother’s words upon coming back to the U.S. “She was saying ‘I felt like the [Iranian Revolution] was being reenacted.’ She was like, ‘This is the worst thing that could ever happen to our country.’” While the death of General Soleimani led to such a tempestuous environment in Iran, Pakravan sees a silver lining. “It was a little ounce of freedom that [the protestors] could get from all the censorship, they were able to express how they truly felt about a government

26 | spring 2020

leader.” Because the whole country was engaged in protest, the Iranian people felt more comfortable to speak their minds, and that’s rare according to Pakravan. “Everyone is scared of the government. They’re terrified of the government. Like even if we talk on the phone, say me and you are having a conversation and I was in Iran and you were in America, they could come to my house and take me to prison. That’s how intense it is.”

This is the worst thing that could ever happen to our country. — Tara Sedagheh Pakravan

Like Zafaranian, Pakravan has also been disturbed by the reaction to these events online. “It’s really painful to see all that’s being said about Iran

… I remember everyone was posting the memes about World War III. I personally could not stand it.” “Iran has a bad reputation already; this is getting worse,” Pakravan said. As someone who is proud of her Persian heritage and has lived in Iran for two years, it was disheartening for her to see her identity mocked and maligned online. The future of Iran and its relationship to the U.S. is uncertain. But what is clear is that the issues surrounding this relationship are complicated. They deserve to be treated with respect and discussed with tact. There is diversity and nuance in the views and opinions Iranians hold toward the U.S. and the Iranian governments. That fact should be kept on the forefront of our minds as our leaders choose how the future will unfold.

Forming a Bridge Between Worlds: The Intricacies of Interracial Dating

—Abby Hamilton

When viewing the dating scene, there is much casual racism that still exists today. Oftentimes, immigrant parents push their children to date within their own respective culture. If the child does not find a significant other of the same culture, it is frowned upon. This discrimination also occurs when viewing Asian men as possible romantic partners. Asian men are viewed as less desirable while Asian women are festishized.

design/Asma Ahmed

“Asian men in modern current entertainment have been goofy dudes, chubby, the best friend, or the weird guy on the ‘Hangover’. No one ever sees them as anyone you would really want to date”

photography/ Natalie Nguyenduc

Po Ph♡

I’m still attending these Filipino get-togethers- only this time, I finally have a boyfriend. I go through the same routine of sitting by the other children exchanging a few sentences here and there. The elders start going around to ask the age old question. Finally, when it was my turn I responded with a resounding “yes”. Their faces lit up and they proceeded to ask me to present a picture of the boy. I opened my phone very excitedly and scrolled to what I believed was the best picture of my significant other. I handed my phone to the elders and they turned their heads sideways confused. They squinted and zoomed in on the pictures. “ He’s white?!” they asked.

by Allyson Nepomuceno


ll throughout my childhood, I remember attending little Filipino parties and events. These events included family and friends. The adults were often pushing their children to interact and mingle with one another so that they can become “friends” or potential lovers. Filipino parents thought it would be a good idea to set up their children with their friends’ children. I would sit awkwardly with the other children as we stare at a wall or make meaningless small talk about school. I would sit anxiously and wait for the elders to approach the children. “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?” they asked. I would always respond with no and a soft smile. The elders would shake their heads in disappointment. Then, they would move on and ask the same question to the next child.

Eurocentric ideals often steer women away from finding Asian men attractive. Generally speaking, Asian men are biologically built with smaller frames. In society today the majority of women prefer more muscular and macho men.

27 | spring 2020

Popular media is a huge component to this narrative as well. The representation of Asian men in popular media is scarce. I grew up in a society where the lead role was never played by an Asian man. “Asian men in modern current entertainment have been goofy dudes, chubby, the best friend or the weird guy on the “Hangover”. No one ever sees them as anyone you would really want to date” Abby Hamilton says.

“As Asian Americans we face several difficulties when venturing outside of the parameters of our culture to seek love. Those persuing interracial r e l a tionships may face disapproval from their family, society, etc.”

Moving forward, the rates of intermarriage among many minorities now rival those who have parents that immigrated to America in the decades near the turn of the century. Naturally, our horizons are broadened. We are exposed to a greater variety of people and are not tied down to or limited to only those of our respective culture. However, as Asian Americans we face several difficulties when venturing outside of the parameters of our culture to seek love. Those persuing interracial relationships may face disapproval from their family, society, etc. There is a longstanding stereotype held by Asians that say that whites and Non-Asians are not warm or kind just because they are not one of us. “If you’re dating a white guy it’s kinda like you’re dating a diseased person. You’re dating something that is so uncultured and inconsiderate. They don’t care about people” Abby Hamilton says.

It was not until movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” rose to popularity and Korean Pop boy bands made waves overseas. This rise in popularity has changed the way Asian men are viewed in today’s society. It has shown that Asian men are more than the awkward sidekick. They can be the attractive leading man as well. More women are now open to the idea of being attracted to Asian men. Though society has made progress in debunking this narrative, it is not enough. “It’s fetishized to certain men. It’s only Korean men. It’s only really buff Asian men” Hannah Louisse says. “It doesn’t help as far as interracial dating because it’s still Asians with Asians but it does allow girls to see Asian men as an attractive guy” Abby Hamilton argues. Narhee Ahn a film director who wrote and directed “It’s Asian Men!” She says “Crazy Rich Asians” is not just a moment. It’s a movement. Angela Le believes that it is “a moment within the movement. It’s bigger than Asian representation, it’s a decline in hyper masculinity.” Men can now feel more comfortable in their own skin and not force themselves to put up an overly masculine facade. They can display more feminine qualities.

28 | spring 2020

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Another factor that makes interracial dating is difficult is cultural differences. These differences come in the form of how love is expressed, food, and communication. Some couples must adjust their current ways of life to appease the needs and wants of both cultures. In Filipino culture there is something called “debt of the heart” or “puso ng utang”. The debt of the heart is the concept that after one has done something for you, you feel obligated to return the favor. You always return the favor to the ones you love as an expression of affection. Food is a love language in many cultures. If you reject food offered to you it is sometimes seen as disrespectful or rude. Some couples have difficulty sharing this integral part of their culture with their significant others. “My boyfriend is a really picky eater so it’s hard to bring him to events” Gerri Donnes says. Asian cultures for the most part are more conservative and do not really partake in much PDA. “When I grew up I was taught that women were supposed to be silent. Women don’t do anything or talk unless they are asked. When you do speak it’s very soft and in low tones. Whereas my boyfriend’s family is very loud and lively. When you don’t speak there’s something wrong. So I have to be more talkative” Angela Le says.

At the end of the day, who you choose to love should only be determined by you. “You marry someone for who they are and not because of their race” Abby Hamilton says. We must look past the surface and look within. Diversity brings forth uniqueness. It is what makes us different. Our differences must not be hidden. Instead, they must be celebrated. Our differences are what make life rich and colorful. So here is a word of advice for anyone wishing to pursue an interracial relationship but is holding back becasue of familial or societal disapproval: “Go for it, there’s no need to hold back. Society is only progressing, and you could be a part of this progress” Angela Le says.

“ D iv e rs it y b ri n gs fo rt h u n iq u e n e ss. It is w h a t m a ke s us d if fe re n t. O u r d if fe re n c e s mus t no t b e h id d e n . In s te a d , th e y m us t b e c e le b ra te d .”

29 | spring 2020

Matter Over Mind:

An Op-Ed on Mental Health Stigma Chirag Merchant, who is a senior now at UCF, was diagnosed with major depressive disorder during high school. “I knew something was going on. I wasn’t eating regularly and doing so well, but I didn’t know I was depressed until I went to the health center and my medical records showed it until my freshman year of college.” Similarly, he didn’t take any action to deal with it.

30 | spring 2020

design/Asma Ahmed

photography/Denise Ferioli

On rare occasions, if someone from our community comes to the conclusion that they might be depressed, they do a great job at hiding it too- and that’s what I did. I didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling because I assumed no one would understand and I was scared Growing up in a South Asian culture, we almost never about how people would react to it. So, I continued to talked about mental health. Our parents would rather put on a façade and deal with it on my own. I was going talk about what Nazma auntie’s daughter got on her to football games with my friends, singing at the top of SATs than talk about mental health and depression. But my lungs to our football anthem, and crying uncontrolcan we really blame our parents? Coming from an immi- lably on the way home. I titled my frequent mood swings grant family, Khaled Itani says “I think our parents never and not sleeping for three days straight or sleeping until had time for mental health because they were too busy 3 p.m. as just simply “tired”. When I was not busy pretending I was ok, I was mastering the trying to build a future and surviving skills of dealing with it by myself. I in a foreign country.” Moreover, they I think our parents threw myself into my academics and didn’t grow up in a generation where worked 3 jobs at one point in hopes mental health was talked about so never had time for of filling the gap, only being temptpublicly. mental health ed to vent about it to a stranger on While we are of the generation where because they were mental health is so publicly distoo busy trying to And this is the case for a lot of us. cussed, it is different in the Asian build a future and Talking about mental health is difcommunity because the stigmas still exist, and unless you’re physically surviving in a foreign ficult. We would rather sink into the ground alone or listen to our parents sick, you are considered fine. So, I talk about Nazma auntie’s daughter grew up with that ideology as well. country . than tell anyone how we are feeling. When I first made my appointment with a therapist, I cancelled it be—Khaled Itani cause I believed I wasn’t sick enough, that as long as I don’t want to kill myself, I do not have depression.

by Fariha Rafa


t’s been almost a year since I booked my first appointment with a therapist, but only last month did I have the courage to finally show up to one. After making three very tentative and guilty calls to the Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) in order to make an appointment, followed by another tentative and apologetic call to cancel the appointment within the span of a day because I didn’t want to get charged a cancellation fee, and doubting that it was all in my head, that I wasn’t sick enough, and convincing myself that it will get better, I somehow managed to make it to my first therapy session.

In the Asian community, we deal with our mental health just like our physical health: we don’t tend to it unless we are dying or it’s affecting our grades.

“ Depression

Zainab Jamal, who is a sophomore now and has been battling depression as well, stated that she didn’t realize she was depressed until she stopped turning in her assignments and had experienced a significant decline in her motivations towards everything in general. She also followed the ideology that unless you’re suicidal, you’re okay. But after getting medically treated for depression, she realized “you know depression doesn’t mean you’re feeling suicidal. Depression can also mean that you don’t feel anything at all”. As a result, her parents didn’t act on her situation until they saw her grades. But why does it have to get to the point where we compare our mental health to our grades or rate ourselves on a scale of “mildly suicidal” to “jumping off of a cliff”?

Our immune system learns how to fight bacterial ifections, but it cannot fight depression. Even though depression is a disease of the mind, it manifests in the body. Many of our body’s neurotransmitters are actually located in our Jamal guts, not in our brains, and mental illnesses can wreak havoc on our bodies. So, it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. It doesn’t necessarily have to be therapy or antidepressants- talk about it, cry about it but do not think that your emotions and problems are not valid because you don’t want to kill yourself.

doesn’t mean you’re feeling suicidal. Depression can also mean that you don’t feel anything at all. ”


Because while the Asian community has made significant advances in understanding mental health, we still have a long way to go.

31 | spring 2020

University of South Florida

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