Thursday, May 19, 2016

Remembering Don Nakanishi



Don Nakanishi deeply influenced my work because of his earliest research that cleverly brought together political science with Ethnic Studies and the local with the global, to give us precursors to transnationalism. However, I would not know Don personally until I was going through a very public and grueling tenure battle. Introduced through one of his many mentees that teach at universities now, Don helped me immediately. He generously shared all he knew about the continued struggles of Asian Americans in higher education and I ultimately won tenure through appeal – a rare occurrence that I attribute to Don’s assistance. 


After tenure was won, I wanted to offer a token of my gratitude. I had no idea what to give a The Don taking into account his possible interests without offending. I overthought. In the end I opted for a maneki-neko charm that had the Japanese script, "Happiness, come over here!," Open fate (in a good way), Invite fortune (and/or happiness)." When he received it he asked how I knew. Turned out Don had a maneki-neko collection, procured from around that world, that rivals any museum’s. He even mentioned that he had his son video the room there he kept his collection. Indeed, I found that video on the web later. This showed me another dimension of Don that brings a smile to my face every time I recall it. 


I will remember Don in different ways, but it is his fierce determination and sense of right from wrong that I still admire most. His chronicling of his own legendary fight for tenure anthologized in Amerasia Journal in the 1990s was my blueprint for my successful tenure fight. It also inspired my current anthology manuscript, Fight the Tower, about how the attacks against Asian American women in higher education signals serious troubles in universities as a whole. Don was to have written the Prologue for this anthology, which represented his deep involvement for justice up to his last days. I cannot thank Don enough for all he has done for me and the hundreds he has helped in similar fashion. I know he fights on for great causes where he is now and guides us in spirit in this world.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The First and Only Slave Museum in the US

On Whitney Plantation, in the town of Wallace, 35 miles west of New Orleans, there houses the first and only Slave Museum in the US. Understanding the roots and legacies of slavery may help Amerika to understand the on-going race issue and the rampant ignorance around it. John J. Cummings, founder of the Slave Museum, remarks on his journey to learning about the history of slavery, “I had no idea they [slaves] were a commodity and how they were treated like a commodity. I had no idea of how how [sic] deprived they were – not by force of circumstance, but by deliberate planning.“ Ibrahima Seck, the museum’s Director of Research, expands on the learning of slavery, “You don’t just teach slavery. These people have backgrounds. They came from Africa. But, also you have to know, these people came naked or half naked, but, they did not need a suitcase to put their culture inside…”. I will definitely make a trip south for this. It is also just outside of New Orleans!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Asian Ingenuity Story of the Day

I went to purchase an action figure online for my Emmi and Tous. I searched the web for a coupon. Found one for 10% off (Asian score #1). Used it but may have forgotten to press "apply." Anyway, emailed the company's customer service and asked them to apply the 10% discount anyway. They complied (Asian score #2). Then went on the site to check on my purchase and noticed the action figure had just gone on sale. So, emailed customer service again and asked them to give me the new sale price. They agreed to it (Asian score #3)! Bragged to hubby and he shook his head in disbelief. Proud of his Asian wife (Asian score #4). Helps that GoldieBlox also has excellent customer service. Moral of the Asian story? Never hurts to ask – again and again. Oh, did I mention for all my efforts I saved $5.92, a fortune I say. :D

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Another John Snow Theory

I miss blogging about my latest obsessions. Maybe I have neglected to post since my thoughts grow increasingly radical, leading me to wonder if my old audience would appreciate or even care the leaps I make. When my interests are not of the edgy nature, I consider that it may be too basic and inconsequential compared to the madness I experienced during my death. My death remains the marker for all things.

True or not, these internal dialogues take away from what I love about blogging, the art of writing. I must thank Monkey Lounge for allowing me the venue all these years to express myself through words. I never really fancied myself a good writer but blogging gave me the necessary confidence and expressive outlet. So, to honor the craft of blogging and by extension, writing, I would like to discuss the much debated issue of the death and possible resurrection of John Snow. This should be fun since life after death is an experience I am quite intimate with.

Let us begin. I agree with most in the blogosphere that Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen are John Snow's true parents. He is the Song of Ice and Fire, the Ajorah Ahai, and rightful King to the Iron Throne. Therefore, though stabbed to death by the Night's Watchmen at the end of Season 5, John will rise again in Season 6. 

The true identity of John Snow will first be revealed during the funeral burning of his body. Like with Daenerys, John's body will be unscathed by fire, showing to all present that he possesses Targaryen dragon blood. John would have already warged into his direwolf, Ghost, at this point, also reaffirming his Stark lineage. Seeing this, Melisandre uses her red magic to resurrect John. 

This will solidify for all John's true identity and fate. People will flock to follow John. Especially since his resurrection signals a new and more powerful coming of Ajorah Ahai.

*Special thanks to the students from my Asian Diaspora Class for reminding me how much I actually like writing, no matter how challenging.

Friday, March 27, 2015

In Support of Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) Awareness Day OR My Death Story Revisited

Sobering picture of me taken 
by my sister when I was in a coma. 
It took my family months before 
they felt I could handle seeing the image. 
I still am shocked to think this was actually me.
In support of Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE) awareness day, this is my AFE story...

I was going through the most stressful time of my life when I had my AFE experience. Entrenched in a very public battle for tenure at my university, I did not even know I was pregnant until I was four months along. I ultimately won my tenure, but I found that the cost was too high because I lost two lives in the process, my own and that of my unborn child. Under the stresses of a two-year tenure battle, days after turning in my successful tenure appeal, my body crashed and I miscarried. I had been nearly six months pregnant when I lost my child at home. I was rushed to the hospital where I hemorrhaged nearly all my blood supply, requiring 14 units of transfusion and went into cardiac arrest. The team of doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to resuscitate me. Although protocol only called for 30 minutes of resuscitation, the lead doctor, an innovative, passionate, and brilliant South Asian woman, announced she would break protocol by continuing to perform CPR and asked who would join her. The whole team yelled in unison, “Yes.” 

They aggressively tried to revive me, telling each other that I was a mother of very young children, then one and three. The team worked on resuscitating me for 30 minutes, then another hour before finally finding a faint pulse. I was clinically dead for a total of 90 minutes before that point – I had nearly no oxygen to my brain during that period. Still, I was not out of the woods. With most of my organs not working, I fell into a coma. I was kept alive only by machines. My prognosis was grim, with a chance of survival marginal at best. Family and friends traveled from everywhere to be by what they thought was my deathbed. Doctors predicted that even if I did survive, I would not be whole, and it would take at least a year of inpatient care for me to learn to partially talk and walk again. Despite the dire predictions, my husband Brian, who never left my side, remained vigilant and hopeful that I would recover.

In the days following my near death, I would come close to dying again and again. On day one my kidneys failed and I was put on dialysis. The doctor predicted I would be on dialysis for the rest of my life, but in the second miracle of my recovery, I regained the use of my kidneys on day two. I was still in grave condition however, as the embolism that had almost killed me also threatened my body with numerous blood clots. The doctors had little hope for my survival and recovery. They repeatedly made dire predictions and tried to prepare my partner for the possibility of me living the remainder of my life in a convalescent home. On day three, I underwent emergency surgery to decrease the likelihood of dying from blood clots. On day four, I remained unresponsive, but my chances of survival improved greatly, with doctors predicting I would return to 60 percent capacity at best.

Miraculously I survived. On day five, I woke up from the coma and my true road to recovery began. Although rehabilitation should have taken months or years, I was able to talk and walk after one week. Hospital physicians and staff dubbed me the “hospital miracle,” a “modern medical wonder.” They regularly visited me with teary eyes while I was in recovery. They said they had never seen a case like mine and that I was “one in a million.” They confessed they and their families prayed for me. My own family and friends also looked at me like I was a ghost. Having seen me completely unconscious with tubes everywhere, they could not stop crying and hugging me, shocked that I was even remotely responsive. All this attention was overwhelming because I was not aware of their experiences in the “living world” as I was busy dying.

In fact, when I was in a coma, I knew I was dead. I knew every day that if I did not return to the living soon, it would be more difficult to even try. Although I knew I was already in the other world, I willed myself to keep fighting. My thoughts had nothing to do with tenure or anything related to work. My only thought was for my children. I imagined them as adults sitting together, viewing old photo images of themselves as toddlers beside their adoring mother. I could not allow myself to die and leave my children without a mother to protect and guide them through their lives. I had one wish and that was to hold my children again, to simply enjoy being in their presence. So, I fought against all odds to be back with the living, to be with them. Now, every moment I spend with my children is like a dream come true.

I have posted an earlier version of my story on Monkey Lounge. Needless to say, AFE was a defining moment in my life. Since then I have started a movement to help other women of color academics who have to endure stresses that can lead to all sorts of ailments and even death. You can find out more about the movement here at Fight the Tower. I have also written in great detail about it in The Journal for Social Justice. Moreover, I continue research in the area of women of color and academia with focus on Asian American women and am currently working on an anthology on the same topic.

Work, albeit tremendously reduced, has helped me to cope. But, I have yet to fully understand what happened to me. Mostly, I have not properly grieved for my son. Others who have gone through similar lost say it is a lifetime of letting go and never letting go. I view it as a continued journey. I am fortunate for my family, friends, and colleagues that have reached out and sustained their support through it all.

Dr. Death

For more information about Amniotic Fluid Embolism (AFE), go here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Being Raw on Social Media


Let's face it, we use social media to present our fantasy persona. We are always happy, looking fabulous, doing something adventurous, and surrounded by intriguing people. We put out only our best selves and provide statements and images to support this characterization. Positive postings invite "likes" and affirming comments. It feeds the ego and gets us through the day.

So, what the hell is happening when some rebels in social media choose to do otherwise. They post about deaths, break-ups, job loses, depression, failing relationships, illnesses, troubled children...I can go on. These posts make us uncomfortable, annoyed, and even pissed. How dare they cloud utopia! How dare they indeed.

Well, I say, kudos to those bastards. Thank you for being real and reminding us we are assholes for being otherwise. Life is not perfect, people are flawed as hell. Shit happens all the time and, frankly, that's okay. I do not mind coarse postings that chill me a bit and leave me cringing at times. I welcome them and envy those that really put themselves out there.

Of course by exposing themselves on social media also makes them vulnerable – vulnerable to family, friends, colleagues,...But, then again, maybe that is the part of the rebellious nature of these posts that I most admire – they are risky. It is a bold affront to the risk-adverse and chicken shit in us all. I stand and applaud those that give it to us raw. Thank you.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

#CancelColbert and the Ultimate Fear Factor -- Suey Park!

The issue of the now trending ‪#‎CancelColbert‬ is a tough one. On the one hand I think Colbert is brilliant. I mean, I actually know people that do not get he's playing a right-wing zealot, blatant racist, unapologetic bigoted buffoon. So, he's also an effective modern day satirist -- able to appeal to his core audience while also keeping his real foes puzzled! However, the issue is, if you have not watched his show, not seen the monologue referencing Asian American stereotypes to talk about the Redskin mascot controversy, the "I want to show the ‪#‎Asian‬ community I care by introducing the Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever" tweet in isolation, is a trigger.

Some Asian Americans, like writer, activist, Suey Park, have no tolerance (or some have said, no funny bone) for tired stereotypes about Asian Americans –- even for satirical effect. She and others feel that it's not okay to perpetuate these negative images, especially since so many do not know Colbert is in character. It's unclear if there's any benefit with the skit for the groups that Colbert uses as a punchline. Some trending the #CancelColbert are saying that he is not exempt from a-historicizing the issues that matter to Asian American just to get laughs and ratings. They would argue there's simply not enough multidimensional images of Asian (Americans) in media to warrant a free for all use of Asian Americans as gags. Essentially, Colbert's brand of satire has lost its effectiveness and has become offensive to the groups he supports.

The "Ching Chong" joke and controversial tweet post that accompanied it does not bother me. I admittedly thought it was hilarious. However, I do not find Colbert's "Ching Chong Ding Dong mascot" funny (see Colbert's best rendition of Mickey Rooney's Yunioshi from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in the video clip), and I think I'm open to just about any unPC joke out there. Possibly this one hits just a little too close to home and I feel offended, not amused. Colbert didn't grow up Asian American but could have at least guessed it was not pleasant being bullied for just looking "Asian." This is where the "white, male entitlement" argument enters. But, I digress.

On the issue of the backlash to criticisms of the "racist" tweet," I can totally understand how non-Asians would respond with condescending, "uh, you're too stupid to get satire, Asians." But, what I'm disappointed about is how Asian Americans have also jumped on the bandwagon. They've taken to blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, and mainstream media about this topic with some harsh words for Suey Park and others trending #CancelColbert. The tones have been almost apologetic, in the vein of, "Sorry we have an outspoken Asian American woman that doesn't kowtow to the stereotypes of a submissive person without voice, opinion and anger. She and other Asian Americans against Colbert also obviously can't get a joke." Some of the pieces have been venomous, borderline misogynistic. But, the worst ones have labeled Suey Park a hashtag hustler and killer of legitimate twitter activism or dismissed her altogether as a frivolous debutant. 

Maybe Suey Park's most heinous crime is she gets the twittersphere. She knows no one pays attention to rational conversation so she screams her outrage. Then when she gets an audience, meaningful conversation can come from these people. Me blogging about this topic is testament to her effectively working media. I don't think it's wise to dismiss her, she's smart. She and her supporters can get a joke, but, maybe are too fed up with being the butt of one and want to be able to speak their minds about it. Just as Colbert is allowed to continue with his satirical show and should do so. 

Things have gotten a bit out of control in the virtual stratosphere and reactions to ‪#‎CancelColbert‬ is starting to remind me of the fear of the "Yellow Peril." How are there so many of them hating on a white man, a funny one at that? Scary, huh? (sarcasm) But joking aside, it is good to have this dialogue.

For background of the controversy, see HERE.