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Asian American Association

Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 6 AAA Executive Board 2008-2009 President Sarah Wong External VP Alex Lin Internal VP Jeff Lin Treasurer Charles Qiao Secretary Alice Gu PR Yena Kwon PR Marina Cheung Historian Andrew Shaw Fresh. Rep Amy Lam Fresh. Rep Brandon Lee Fresh. Rep Patrick Ng

Upcoming Events: Sat. Feb. 7th AMC Lunar New Year Celebration Mudd Lounge 6 pm Wed. Feb. 11th Assembly Speaker Lela Lee “My Culture Is Pop Culture” Graham Chapel 4 pm Sat. Feb 27th Jennifer 8. Lee Fortune Cookie Chronicles Umrath Lounge Time TBA

February 2009

Greetings From Your AAA Prez Sarah Wong Hello, hello! It's been terrific serving as your AAA president this year. I've enjoyed getting to know many of you through AAA events and even non-AAA events. I've learned a lot about myself during college and AAA has had a lot to do with this growing process. As the daughter of a Chinese-Filipino immigrant and a firstgeneration Chinese American, I've had a unique experience growing up. I can appreciate the pride of being born American yet connected to my father's immigrant hopes and desires. When it comes down to merging my American and Asian selves, I've concluded that there IS an Asian American identity, and I’m creating it. Thanks to everyone who was able to attend the AAA/

HKSA Lunar New Year Banquet. It was great fun and food! As President Obama begins his term, it will be exciting to see the changes that will occur in this country. In the

newsletter, we spotlight some of the Asian American leaders who will have a key role in this change. There is also an interesting article from the New York Times about the diversity of the President’s family and what it might mean for us as Americans.

February is my favorite month (wish me happy birthday on the 6th) and it is nonstop activity for AAA. We will be collaborating with Asian Multicultural Council on the Lunar New Year Celebration on Feb. 7th. Then we will sponsor Assembly Speaker Lela Lee (creator of Angry Little Girls) on Feb 11th. At the end of the month, we bring author Jennifer 8. Lee, author of the "Fortune Cookie Chronicles", to Wash U with CSA and Culinary Arts Society. See you there! AAA elections will take place in early March. I encourage all of you to consider running for our open positions. Best of luck to the new AAA President and Exec. Board. You’ll be great!

Reflections Upon Chinese New Year Charles Qiao The Lunar New Year is always something that I look forward to. In a country where Asian customs are severely underappreciated, this holiday gives me an opportunity to get in touch with my roots. As an Asian-American, I am simultaneously immersed in both cultures. My daily rou-

tine involves the likes of football Sundays, hip-hop playlists, and an uncanny affection for urban American culture. From dawn until dusk every day, I and the roughly 300 million other citizens that reside in this nation are exposed to this supposedly forward-looking way of life. While I am not against this (I am a huge pro-

ponent actually), I realize that this poses a huge barrier to entry for other forms of civilization. In fact, there are times where I am so numb to alternative life styles that I completely neglect the fact that I am Chinese by birth. However, as I view life as full of surprises, the shock of

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REFLECTIONS from pg. 1 returning to my heritage makes things all the more pleasant. This past Sunday, I went to a Chinese restaurant for dim sum with a couple of friends to celebrate the New Year. After having attended an American university (especially one in the Midwest) for such an extended period of time, this visit all but made me nostalgic to a point of regret. The food and the restaurant itself

YouTube Pick of the Month Amazing Art must See 60th

plus all the people in it reminded of the significance of being Asian. What really put me over the top and drove me to become a more devout zhongguo ren (Chinese person) were the rituals. Upon leaving the establishment, my friends and I were instantly met with the familiar sound of drums and cymbals. Sure enough it was accompanied by the customary combination of fireworks and lion dancing.

Lunar New Year: Reaching Back to Asian Roots Patrick Ng

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I don’t really understand why this episode stood apart from all others but I am nothing but grateful for the experience. It really allowed me to gauge myself as to where I stand as Chinese individual. I am by no means a perfect practitioner but I see myself as well on my way to leading a balanced lifestyle where I can embrace both cultures. When this day finally comes, I will able to relieve myself of the sense of negligence.

In preparing and participating in celebrating the passage, Lunar New Year also provides an opportunity for Asian Americans to reconnect back with the cultures of their ancestors through traditional cuisines and customs. For children of Asian descent adopted by American families, the celebration of Lunar New Year is even more vital to reconnecting with one's culture. To many of these children, like Sadie and Sophie Larson, adoptive sisters born in China and Vietnam, the prospect of Lunar New Year provides an extra spark to delve into the culture of their countries of origin. The Larsons, who hail from Lake Arrowhead, Califor-


nia, treat Lunar New Year like a second Christmas, mixing in lanterns and mooncake from the Mid Autumn festival as well as gifts in the form of red envelopes with pocket money. The family attended local celebrations with lion dancing and beauty pageants, and Sophie even wore a traditional Vietnamese ao dai dress. In a sense, Linda and


Steve Larson have also helped facilitate the gathering of extended family during Lunar New Year, taking Sophie to meet her birth mother in Vietnam. As more American families adopt children of Asian descent, perhaps they can also follow the Larson's example as a way to pass on Asian culture to their children.

Volume 2, Issue 6


Oh, To Look Like Lucy Liu Sarah Wong Cosmetic surgery has soared to new heights in the last decade... especially for racial and ethnic minorities. But while white women are receiving liposuction, breast augmentation, and wrinkle removal procedures, Asian American women are getting eyelid surgery, nasal implants, and nasal tip refinement procedures. Unlike the demands of white women, the procedures that Asian American women demand are targeting distinct racial markers, their "small, narrow" eyes and "flat" nose. Their hope is that the "double-eyelid" surgery will make their eyes appear larger and nasal surgeries will make their noses more prominent. Asian American stereotypes of "passivity, dullness, and lack of sociability" are linked to genetic features that Asian women hope will be broken with a change in

their external appearance to look "less Asian". The attempts to not appear "sleepy", "dull", or "passive" stem from racial ideology that creates negative associations; Asians are not thought to be creative or sociable. Consumer society, dominantly Westernized in culture, has perpetuated an image of beauty, "white beauty". Not only are these ideologies believed in the United States, but also in Asia. It does not help that the medical community and consumer-oriented society continue to reinforce these stereotypes. Ideologies are hard to beak. The lack of Asian Americans in the media, gives the average Asian American only one or two images of what a beautiful Asian should look like (i.e. Lucy Liu). On the other hand, we are bombarded with multiple images of Caucasian

women who are beautiful, sociable, creative, dynamic, strong, and all of the above. This is what we want to be. But wait, aren't we already? The only way to break these trends is to realize the fallacy of the stereotype. I am not "sleepy", "dull", or "passive". I make music videos, sing aloud in my car, collect gnomes...AND I look Asian. This is the first step. And there are plenty of Asian American role models leading the way. The Asian Americans Who Are Making Waves featured in this newsletter are breaking the stereotypes in grand fashion. Sources: Kaw, Eugenia. “Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian-American Women and Cosmetic Surgery”. The Politics of Women’s Bodies. Ed. Rose Weitz. 2003.

Consumer society, dominantly Westernized in culture, has perpetuated an image of beauty, "white beauty"

Music Review: Albums the Grammys Forgot Sarah Wong On February 8th, the recording industry will award top honors by presenting the Grammy Awards. However, I have a hard time finding my favorites on the nomination list. Here are some of my top notable albums of 2008 that should have made the list. Greg Laswell has been a gift to me and TV shows alike. His newest album Three Flights From Alto Nido has many strong songs such as “Comes and Goes”, “The One I Love”, and “I’d Be Lying”. But basically, the whole album rocks. I haven’t heard music as fresh and creative

as Santogold’s self titled album in a long time. Her study of African drumming has helped her create a sound that blends rock, reggae and R&B. “L.E.S. Artistes” and “You’ll Find A Way” are my favorite tracks. Most known for her song “Breathe Me”, Sia released her strongest album entitled Some People Have Real

Problems. Her songs are diverse with beautiful tracks like “Soon We’ll Be Found” and upbeat tracks like “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine” comprising a noteworthy album. She’s also quite an entertaining performer. MGMT hit it big this past year with their debut album Oracular Spectacular. The duo’s indie electronic sound is unlike anything else out there right now. “Kids” is my favorite but “Electric Feel” is also a great track (Katy Perry does a respectable cover of it on YouTube).



Lela Lee

Lela Lee is a Korean American actress and cartoonist, and the creator of the comic strip and animated cartoons Kim, the Angry Little Asian Girl and Angry Little Girls. Born in Las Angeles, California, Lee grew up in suburban San Dimas, and cites her traditional Korean upbringing while growing up in an area with few other Asian Americans as a central influence in her work. Angry Little Girls was developed from Kim, the Angry Little Asian Girl, a character she developed in 1994 when she was a sophomore at UC Berkeley. She is also a film and television actress, with roles in the 1998 film Yellow and the 2002 film Better Luck Tomorrow. She was a series regular in the short-lived Sci Fi Channel series Tremors, and had a recurring guest role on NBC's Scrubs.

When Lela is not acting, she draws her weekly comic strip "Angry Little Girls." She has three anthology comic books by the same title available at all major book stores. She also oversees all aspects of the Angry Little Girls licensing which includes tote bags, t-shirts, magnets, and more...

Asian Americans Who Are Making Waves Compiled By Sarah Wong

Jason Wu was born in Taipei, Taiwan and later moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. He decided to become a fashion designer while spending his senior year of high school in Paris, and later interned with Narciso Rodriguez.

Jason Wu

Wu launched his ready to wear line of clothes with earnings from his years of doll designs. His first full collection debuted in 2006 and won the Fashion Group International's Rising Star award in 2008. In 2008 he was nominated for the Vogue Fashion Fund award. Bruce Weber shot the designer for W magazine's "Summer Camp" portfolio last July. Wu's early clients included Ivana Trump, January Jones, and Amber Valletta. Michelle Obama was introduced to Wu by AndrĂŠ Leon Talley, Vogue Magazine's editor-at-large, who had been advising the future First Family on their appearance. Michelle wore one of his dresses for a segment on Barbara Walters Special shortly before the November 2008 election, prompting many in the media to consider her his "career-launcher". She wore another, a custom-designed one-shoulder, floor-length white chiffon gown, at the inaugural balls on the night of President Barack Obama's inauguration. Wu is currently based in Manhattan.








Dave Liang


Chinese American Producer Dave Liang introduces Western pop and electronica lovers to the sound of Asia by fusing traditional Chinese instrumentation with contemporary hip hop and electronic music with his Shanghai Restoration Project. The Shanghai Restoration Project’s first eponymous release was inspired by the Shanghai jazz bands of the 1930s. The release gained recognition globally, rising to the top 10 in several electronic charts, including Amazon, iTunes, and MSN Music. The first track from the debut album, "Introduction (1936)," was selected as the theme song for a worldwide TV advertising campaign for Kenzo Parfums (a division of Louis Vuitton) in early 2007. Other tracks have been featured in promotional campaigns for Microsoft, Rhapsody, TiVo, and SanDisk. In 2007, SRP partnered with China Records (the Chinese government's record label) to release Remixed and Restored, a project remixing select classic Chinese hits from 1930s Shanghai. The group is currently signed to Warner Music's Independent Label Group. SRP just released a new album entitled ZODIAC.

Asian Americans Who Are Making Waves Compiled By Sarah Wong

Jennifer 8. Lee is a Chinese American New York Times reporter for the Metro section. She was born in New York City.

Jennifer 8. Lee

Lee was not given a middle name at birth and chose her own middle name later. She chose "8" as a teenager because of the prevalence of her first name. It was in her teen years that she also began a life-long obsession with food. For many Chinese, the number eight symbolizes prosperity and good luck. Lee graduated from Hunter College High School and Harvard College (class of 1999). She interned at The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Newsday and The New York Times while working on her applied mathematics and economics degree and writing for The Harvard Crimson. She joined the Times in 2001, one and a half years after graduating from Harvard. Lee wrote a book about the history of Chinese food in the USA and around the world, titled The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, documenting the process on her blog. Warner Books editor Jonathan Karp struck a deal with Lee to write a book about "how Chinese food is more all-American than apple pie."


Nation’s Many Faces in Extended First Family By Jodi Kantor Published: January 20, 2009

WASHINGTON — The president’s elderly step grandmother brought him an oxtail fly whisk, a mark of power at home in Kenya. Cousins journeyed from the South Carolina town where the first lady’s great-greatgrandfather was born into slavery, while the rabbi in the family came from the synagogue where he had been commemorating Martin Luther King’s Birthday. The president and first lady’s siblings were there, too, of course: his Indonesian-American half-sister, who brought her Chinese-Canadian husband, and her brother, a black man with a white wife. When President Barack Obama was sworn in on Tuesday, he was surrounded by an extended clan that would have shocked past generations of Americans and instantly redrew the image of a first family for future ones. As they convened to take their family’s final step in its journey from Africa and into the White House, the group seemed as if it had stepped out of the pages of Mr. Obama’s memoir — no longer the disparate kin of a young man wondering how he fit in, but the embodiment of a new president’s promise of change. For well over two centuries, the United States has been vastly more diverse than its ruling families. Now the Obama family has flipped that around, with a Technicolor cast that looks almost nothing like their overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Protestant predecessors in the role. The family that produced Barack and Michelle Obama is

black and white and Asian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish. They speak English; Indonesian; French; Cantonese; German; Hebrew; African languages including Swahili, Luo and Igbo; and even a few phrases of Gullah, the Creole dialect of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Very few are wealthy, and some — like Sarah Obama, the stepgrandmother who only recently got electricity and running water in her metal-roofed shack — are quite poor. “Our family is new in terms of the White House, but I don’t think it’s new in terms of the country,” Maya Soetoro-Ng, the president’s younger half-sister, said last week. “I don’t think the White House has always reflected the textures and flavors of this country.” Though the world is recognizing the inauguration of the first African-American president, the story is a more complex narrative, about immigration, social mobility and the desegregation of one of the last divided institutions in American life: the family. It is a tale of self-determination, full of refusals to follow the tracks laid by history or religion or parentage. Mr. Obama follows the second President Bush, who had a presidential son’s selfassured grip on power. Aside from a topquality education, the new president came to politics with none of his predecessor’s advantages: no famous last name, no deeppocketed parents to finance early forays into politics and, in fact, not much of a father at all. So Mr. Obama built his political career

from scratch, with best-selling books and longshot runs for office, leaving his relatives astonished at where he has brought them. “It is so mind-boggling that there is a black president,” Craig Robinson, Mrs. Obama’s brother, said in an interview. “Then you layer on top of it that I am related to him? And then you layer on top of that that it’s my brother-inlaw? That is so overwhelming, I can’t hardly think about it.” Though Mr. Obama is the son of a black Kenyan, he has some conventionally presidential roots on his white mother’s side: abolitionists who, according to family legend, were chased out of Missouri, a slave state; Midwesterners who weathered the Depression; even a handful of distant ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. (Ever since he became a United States senator, the Sons of the American Revolution has tried to recruit him. ) But far less has been known about Mrs. Obama’s roots — even by the first lady herself. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, “it was sort of passed-down folklore that so-andso was related to so-and-so and their mother and father was a slave,” Mr. Robinson said. Drawing on old census data, family records and interviews, it is clear that Mrs. Obama is indeed the descendant of slaves and a daughter of the Great Migration, the mass movement of African-Americans northward in the first half of the 20th century in search of opportunity. Mrs. Obama’s family found it, but not without outsize measures of adversity and disappointment along the way. Read the rest of this article at




Volume 2, Issue 6


Obama’s People In December and early January, the photographer Nadav Kander shot 52 portraits of Obama’s top advisors, aides and members of his incoming administration. Three Asian Americans are featured here.

Eugene Kang, 24 Special Assistant to the President Worked for the Obama campaign in the political division. In 2005, as a senior at the University of Michigan, Kang ran for City Council in Ann Arbor, promising to be "the student voice," and was narrowly defeated. He will be special assistant to the president.

Eric K. Shinseki, 66 Veterans Affairs Secretary-Designate A four-star general, served two combat tours in Vietnam, losing part of a foot in battle. In 2003 he left his position as the Army chief of staff after clashing with the Bush administration, saying that the Iraq invasion would require "several hundred thousand troops." He is the secretary-designate of the Veterans Affairs Department.

Steven Chu, 60 Energy Secretary-Designate A physics and molecular biology professor at the University of California- Berkeley; won the Noble Prize in Physics in 1997 for research in laser cooling and the trapping of atoms. He has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004 and the Energy Secretary-Designate.

AAA in January! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

AAA/HKSA Lunar New Year Banquet One woman. One great mystery. One consuming obsession. 40,000 restaurants. There are more Chinese restaurants in this country than McDonalds, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken combined. In The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, author Jennifer 8. Lee takes readers on a remarkable journey that is both foreign and familiar: penetrating this subculture by traveling the world (and almost every American state) in her quest to understand Chinese food and the people who make it. The book is a tribute to immigrants and to America. If our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie, ask yourself, how often do you eat apple pie? Now how often do you eat Chinese food?

AAA along with Chinese Students Assoc. and Culinary Arts Society present an evening with author Jennifer 8. Lee. Mark your calendars for Feb. 27th!

Books available in the Wash U Bookstore!

Meet & Greet, Booksigning following talk

Lela Lee 4 p.m. Wednesday, February 11th Graham Chapel

Through her cartoons, short films, and Web comic series, Lee has found creative outlets for expressing her feelings as a minority in America. Lee also is an actress, and has appeared on television hits such as Scrubs. Her talk, called "My Culture Is Pop Culture," is sponsored by the Asian American Association.

AAA Newsletter Edited By Sarah Wong

AAA Newsletter Feb. 2009  
AAA Newsletter Feb. 2009  

Washington University in St. Louis Asian American Association