Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy New Manyan Cycle!

Mayan calendar experts have been saying all along there is no mention of an apocalypse on 12.21.2012. But, it feels good to think we survived something. Thanks viral media.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fashion Meets Activism - Ruby Veridiano

When spoken word artist and Cultural Program Coordinator Advisor, Fong Tran, asked me to be part of bringing Ruby Veridiano to the UC Davis campus, I was thrilled! Her founding iLL-Literacy as a UCD student is legendary and her work with Glamourbaby Diaries has empowered thousands of young women of color nationally and internationally.

Since I have research on and curated an exhibit on the Vietnamese National dress, and teach a course “Asian Americans and the Political Culture of Fashion in the U.S. and Asia,” it made a lot of sense for us to collaborate.

It was clear from my early conversations with Ruby that possesses a spirit of an activist. One that sees wrongs in society and wants to tackle it head first. She goes about this struggle with such grace, dignity and a refined sense of style. She’s just sheer inspiration. Working on the project that she presented tonight was no work at all. We laughed, we signed, we theorized, we pontificated, and we shopped. Education should always be this fun.

The talk was like going through an amazing of self-discovery with Ruby. A journey wrought with many obstacles but always moving towards positive change. It is those personal moments that truly forms Ruby’s edgy ideas that challenge notions and images of femininity, strength, courage, and beauty. And she does this all with fashion as the center or core of her activism. 

Wonderful talk and I hope she returns to UC Davis to run her empowering workshops.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Congrats Amerika!

Ethnic America voting bloc coming of age!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Best Protection in a Zombie Apocalypse Is...

Viet Aussie Star on Dancing with the Stars

I cannot get over that Vietnamese Aussie comedian, Anh Do, was on Australia's Dancing with the Stars, and he was a FINALIST. Viets have ballroom dancing in our blood. "Thanks" to French colonialism, the cha-cha is Viet Nam's unofficial national dance. This extends to the diaspora where nightclubs will often have cha-cha music and most everyone from the refugee/immigrant generation can cut the rug with this latin staple. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

UC Davis Transnationalizing Viet Nam Book Talk

Event Information
Professor Kieu-Linh Valverde's Book talk and signing of Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture and Politics of the DIaspora
Date: October 17th
Time: 6-8 PM
Place: Student Community Center, Meeting Room D

3 copies of Professor Valverde's book will be raffled at the event and food/refreshments are provided! 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Korean Americans take "The Great Food Truck Race"

Korean American team, Seoul Sausage, wins this year's "The Great Food Truck Race." Cannot help thinking this victory brings back Korean pride after last year's Korilla BBQ team was unceremoniously booted off the show for supposedly cheating. How will the winners explain to their parents that running a food truck is a hip and economically smart move during the economic downturn. Not every Asian kid can be or wants to be a lawyer or doctor, you know. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Breastfeeding Professor and Mothering in the Workplace

The big news this week making its way across Internet avenues is about a professor that breastfed her child during her class lecture. Adrienne Pine (image left), the associate professor of Anthropology at Washington, D.C.'s American University, brought her baby to work and momentarily nursed her when she got hungry. This happened in front of 40 students and a Teaching Assistant. Pine had not intended to have her daughter in class that day but the baby had developed a fever and could not be left at day care. Unable to find alternative care for her child in such short notice and unwilling to cancel the first day of her 'Sex, Gender and Culture' class, she opted to bring her child to lecture instead of staying at home. As a result, there has been a firestorm of responses, both in support and outrage of Pine’s decision.

Having read the initial ‘rants’ about the controversy in Pine’s campus newspaper and her response to the attacks, I have to thank Pine for inadvertently and unwillingly becoming the subject of a much-needed discussion around mothering. Owning to wonderful colleagues and mothers, such as Teresa Williams and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, they have informed and validated for me the importance of accommodations for mothers in the workplace as well as ways in which mothering serves as crucial framework for so many aspects of our lives.

My understanding of the issues as a professor, and my own experiences as a mother of two young children, brings me to the center of this debate. I will not focus on Pine’s specific situation, which, I actually empathize with as both a committed scholar and breastfeeding mother (image right). Bringing a child to class is not ideal under the current social climate, but she made the choice as best she could, given her situation as a professor and single mom. Ultimately for me, this issue is not or should not be a debate on whether it is socially or professionally acceptable to breastfeed a child in class or any other space. It is much more than that.

The issue at hand is that academia, like so many industries in our society, are still seen through, using bell hooks' terms, the lens of a heterosexual, white supremist, capitalist, patriarchy. That is, women are expected to operate biologically or otherwise, in accordance to the standards set above. There is no consideration for or understanding of the challenges that come in pregnancy, birth, and mothering. Because of this lack of education and total disregard and disrespect of mothers and children, we have our current condition. It is one where two weeks off to recuperate and care for a newborn is the norm. Most mothers face the choice of caring for a child long-term or returning to work prematurely. In doing so, the psychological and emotional toll brought on in terms of guilt and/or regret can be monumental. For those that try to balance both, many are confronted with unfriendly or hostile environments that does not support mothering and the work place. Mothers often feel isolated and fear scrutiny and subjects of target for dismissal, denial of tenure... Pine’s case is actually a nightmare for many working moms.

This, like so many concerns in our society, will not change overnight. Asking change rarely makes a difference. Demanding, mobilizing, organizing for change, coming together as a large population to expose the issues…may make a difference. So many critical of Pine’s actions come from a place with little understanding, experience, and no compassion for working mothers and mothering in general. I do not want to lose hope, but I do want to say, our society is far from recognizing the demands of mothering while sustaining a career for women. Without education, representation and advocacy, our lot will not be the last generation to experience gender oppression and discrimination in the U.S.

In solidarity with mothers worldwide -- above is a photo of me nursing my child in public. The blanket was to shield my child from the sun and not for "modesty."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"The Blind Chef" takes Masterchef Season 3 - Congrats Christine Ha

Congrats Christine Ha for winning Master Chef yesterday! Her final menu consisted of Thai papaya salad with crab and mixed vegetables, braised pork belly with rice, crispy kale and maitake mushrooms topped with a quail egg, and coconut lime sorbet with a ginger tuile. She took something my mom would have made on a special occasion and totally elevated it!

Hailing from Houston, Texas, Christine beat out a very talented 24-year-old, Josh Marks, to take the Master Chef third season prize. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a Vietnamese American and African American in the finale, and would have been happy if either won. Though I took offense to the racist and classist remark made by host Gordon Ramsey, “The dish has Vietnamese background…but we’re not in Vietnam, and we’re not home...You’re in the final of MasterChef." In a perfect world, Christine could have retorted with, "Kiss my yellow Vietnamese Masterchef ass and give me my prize asshole!" Aside from the title of Masterchef, Christine earned a quarter of  a million dollars and her own cook book.

Remarkably, Christine suffers from NMO, or Neuromyelitis Optica. Essentially her own immune system has been attacking her spinal cord and optic nerves. Because of this, she suffers from permanent vision loss and has been receiving chemo treatment since 2008 to slow down the progression of the disease. Ironically, her blindness has elevated her sense of taste, convincing the judges she had to most sophisticated and nuanced palate in the competition. 

Christine stood out from the thousands of home cooks nationwide to make the top 100 contestants for the face off to win the grand prize because producers of Masterchef discovered her blog, Oh, a top political think tank may discover monkeylounge yet and put us on television. Dare to dream! In any case, for Christina's blog, she used her culinary skills and expertise as a writer to good use. She is currently in Master's of Fine Arts in writing at the University of Houston, and intends to finish in spite of her overnight fame. Aside from goals such as opening up eateries, she also wants to write a memoir and fiction.

She certainly has a story to tell with her amazingly trying life. She said this during Masterchef, "My mother was a very good home cook, but I took it for granted. She passed away when I was 14 and left me no recipes. I've been trying to recreate her recipes ever since." If that does not tear out your heart, I do not what can. But, like many immigrants that are surrounded monumental events, she doesn't see herself as that unique and simply wants to overcome issues to make her dreams come true. Chef's hat off to you!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I am the President!

A smartass friend of mine wrote, "can't believe he stole the 'just for men' line, 'not only a member, but also the president'." Maybe my friend doesn't fully grasp why Obama's simple statement resonated with so many. 

Made during the his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination, it's a powerful line because Obama's presidency has been considered illegitimate by right wingers. He's Black, he has an international background ("birther" issue), he has a non Christian name (Muslim issue - which should be a non-issue since there's supposedly a separation of church and state), and did I mention he's Black. So, when Obama made his, "I'm the president" remark," it was to confront discrimination that is still allowed to exist in the U.S.

Just because there's a black president in the while house, it does not mean we're in a "post-racial America". It's a fantasy perpetuated by the liberal left as proof that we've arrived as a tolerant nation. It's also a tool used by the right to ignore present racial injustices in order to further discriminate people of color.

So, yes, Obama, you're the president. Now that you've fully been pressed to the ground by the boot of intolerance, maybe you too will finally abandon all ideas of a "post-racial America" and get up to fight the continuing battle for equality and justice for all. 

Democratic National Conference Kicks Bootie!

My family made me watch the Republican National Convention. I could not swallow any speech in its entirety. Did not get what the Republicans were all about when the show was done. Except, maybe, lies are part of the course. Relating to the American people in any meaningful way is an impossibility. And, the republicans exist on hyperboles instead of concrete plans to govern. With their lack of humanity and Democrats lack of conviction and courage, I all about gave up on the U.S.

But, then the Democratic National Convention arrived. My family made me watch this as well. I predicted a more exiting show because the Republicans may have Eastwood, but the Democrats had all the other celebrities. To my surprise, I only saw Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar fame), who temporarily gave up his acting career to serve for Obama as the Associate Director of White House Office of Public Engagement. The rest were folks that represented the American people: vets, moms, activists, just...people. 

There were many "wow" moments but the big WOW started with San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro. Let's put aside that he comes with a hot identical twin, Joquin Castros, Congressional candidate. Julian shared with us his grandmother's story -- came from Mexico as an orphan but then taught herself how to read and write. Then his mother, graduated from college to become a civil rights activist as a single mother of two boys. The twins themselves, attended Stanford then Harvard -- with the help of Affirmative Action! Now, landing on center stage at the DNC. Does the American dream get any more vivid than that? Every sentence promoting education first moved me, but the one talking about his high school mates hit closest to home. "They had the same talent, the same brains, the same dreams as the folks we sat with at Stanford and Harvard. I realized the difference wasn't one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity."

Read more:

Then Michelle Obama came on. She did for Obama what he could never do for himself. She spoke about his history to reveal his soul. As she said when discussing issues of fair pay for women, health care, college Pell Grants..."So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political – they’re personal." The great thing about Obama is, he is so complex, you'd need many more speeches to bring us to any kind of understanding of his diverse background. She gave us more than a good scratch of the surface, though. 

Then my boy, Bill, took the stage. Oh, man, he's bigger than life. He gave us a damn good economics lesson. My favorite line was, "People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets. What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic." I wish my high school math teachers were this easy to comprehend! Again, only Bill can engage the audience as well as he did in his typical longish speeches. Obama knew too the impact of Bill's speech when he prematurely took the stage to thank the former prez with a heartfelt embrace.

We have Obama's speech to look forward to! It's one thing to have competent and spirited supporters defend and speak on Obama's behalf. But there comes a point when Obama has to defend himself and go on an offensive. Dear Obama, the bases are full. There can only be one of two ways your speech ends, as a home run to the bleachers or one out of the ball park! Batter up!

Hillary Clinton 2016!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Birth of Book: Transnationalizing Viet Nam

You may have noticed that my blog entries have been sparse in the last few years. Aside from having two babies, I've also birthed a BOOK! Though I have worked on various projects and written on diverse topics for more than two decades, my first book, Transnationalizing Viet Nam, represents my life's work up to date. 

Transnationalizing Viet Nam offers an in-depth look at the dynamic and long-standing connections between Viet nam and its diaspora in the united States. These links are especially astounding considering the many decidedly antidiasporic elements in not only the home and host countries but also the ethnic community itself. This rich transnational history—which has gone largely undetected, or at least unrecognized—is revealed through nearly two decades of careful longitudinal, multisite research, punctuated by the voices of 250 interviewees.

Professor Emily Noelle Ignacio, author of Building Diaspora had this to say, "Transnationalizing Viet Nam greatly broadens our understanding of diasporic networks, transnationalism, and the Vietnamese diaspora. Valverde uniquely documents, over two decades, the tentative relationship between Vietnamese in the diaspora and those located in the homeland. She paints a vivid picture of the complex political landscape that influences diasporic members’ personal decisions and convincingly demonstrates that scholarship on ‘the immigrant experience’ and racial and/or ethnic identity must always take into account both the immigrants’ memories and present conceptions of both their ‘homeland’ and their homeland’s culture in relation to their perceptions of and actual experiences in the ‘host’ country."

Premier scholar of Ethnic Studies, Professor Yen Le Espiritu observed, Bridging Asian Studies and Asian American Studies, Transnationalizing Viet Nam is a rich and nuanced study of transnational linkages between Viet Nam and its diaspora in the United States. Through fascinating case studies of Vietnamese popular music productions, Internet virtual communities, diasporic art and community politics, Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde provides a rare glimpse into how Vietnamese have connected their worlds and made meanings for themselves.

Senior Asian American Studies scholar, Linda Vo, remarked about the book, [Valverde] delves into the most controversial and complex issues facing the community and her selection of examples for each chapter is deliberate and well chosen. A major strength...[is] that also connects the chapters, is the analysis of the political identity of the community, namely the debates over nationalism, homeland, and communism within the community and how it manifests itself in various venues.

My book comes out October 5, 2012. It's already available for pre-order in places like Temple University Press is also offering the book at a discounted price until October 1, 2012. Type T20P to get the discount before checkout! Please also LIKE at the book's Facebook page. 

Look forward to hearing your impressions of the book!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Virtually Real

While virtually chatting with a friend today, he pronounced that he's eating an incredible Vietnamese lunch. I answered that I can share the meal with him virtually. Then BOOM, it dawned on my puny brain what the hell the meaning of virtual really is. Virtual means, almost but not quite real. The essence of the experience exists but the real time face-to-face does not. Why then would a scholar, like myself, that write extensively about virtual communities, not make the simple connection to the origin of the word virtual (predating the Internet).

The answer is that I don't think virtual is almost as good as real. I think virtual in some ways is better than real. Virtual spaces has allowed for connections where none existed before, and really would have taken a very long time, if ever, to materialize. I'm talking about how a newslist in the mid 1990s, Vietnam Women's Forum, for example, brought together Vietnamese women scattered throughout the globe to connect virtually and discuss their experiences, hopes, dreams, aspirations,...On the other side of the screen were women very similar to them, and that were willing and able to listen, share, and assist.

In another example, Vietnam Forum, also a newslist from the 1990s, brought together like minded people globally. Most members were overseas Vietnamese interested in the development of Viet Nam. This was quite provocative considering this took place in a time when certain Vietnamese Americans with strong anti-communist points of view, not only forbid connections to Viet Nam, they attacked those that did. This included assassinating Vietnamese American dissident journalists and committing arsen in establishments that were selling cultural products from Viet Nam. The virtual community of Vietnam Forum not only avoided the gaze of anti-communist groups and a repressive Vietnamese state, they successfully organized to make positive change in Viet Nam.

So, about my friend's lunch, I had to say, BS, I could not virtually taste anything. I'm not even close to sharing the meal in real life. His photos of the meal didn't help the matter either; in fact it heightened my desire to rush to a Vietnamese restaurant. So, that part of it blows. What doesn't blow is the fact that this friend and I have been able to collaborate on important projects all summer. We do it via video chat, sometimes even video conferencing with others. Organizing in-person meetings with each other and the rest of the folks would have meant much fewer meetings and less opportunity to share our ideas. Virtual is good and will never play second fiddle to the real.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Videochat - A New Form of Digital Alienation?

Lately when I need to speak with friends, students, or colleagues, I’m confronted with, “Can we Skype or video chat on gmail or Facebook instead?” Just the other day I old friend wanted to speak with me about something important. She and I over the years have tried in vain to meet up even though we are only a few cities away from each other. When we connected on vidchat, it was like no time had passed at all. We found this reconnection so convenient that we swore to do it monthly. This ultimately means a friend I have not seen in five years will have to wait years before we physically occupy the same space.

Similarly, since it’s summer, I’ve been video chatting with my research assistants. One lives only 45 minutes away but we opted for the convenience of chatting. It was interesting. We were discussing serious social movement issues and strategizing for a project. I can only imagine the ideas we would have come up with sitting across from each other at a coffee shop or similar venue. I get animated, often spurring others to also show excitement, then great ideas come forth. We lacked this synergy by using the web. But, at one point, his mom in pajamas appeard onscreen. She asked me what kind of job her son can get with a liberal arts degree. This was beyond comedic, it was a rare window into the personal life of my student. Certainly chances of that happening at a coffee shop would be slim

So, even as I am dubious of opting for video chat, I can see its value. Just this morning, for instance, I video chatted via gmail with my mentor and friend. She lives in NYC and travels constantly. Last I saw her was about a year ago when she had a conference in San Francisco. Chances of us meeting up with each other any time soon are pretty slim. So, seeing her face, smile, gestures, on my computer screen was a joy. Our long conversation finally ended when her adult son claimed he was very hungry. It was past lunchtime for them after all.

Even as a technophile that embraced the Internet since its introduction and found many uses for “social networks” before that word even existed, I try at all cost not to get trapped into a world without physical touch. I fear, as many, that information technology and the proliferation of social networks has turned our populations into laptop drones. We increasingly opt for virtual connections instead of real ones, essentially normalizing alienation.

Maybe I should be reciting this blog post on a soapbox at a nearby campus or even the one that I teach at. No, I’m content to post this on my blog, unable to see the reactions of my readers. At least I’m composing these thoughts in a coffee shop. There is a large window next to me where I can see pedestrians enjoying their summer day as they pass by. Behind me are people practicing Spanish. But, across the table sits my niece using an ipad; she has not put her head up in over an hour. You cannot have it all.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Strange Trailer

See if you can catch the offensive portion of "The Five-Year Engagement" trailer.

Wonder if Hollywood would dare use, "this Black, that Black"? Doubtful. Wondering how Asian Americans in entertainment will respond.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day

On this special day, remind the women/girls in your life how much they mean to you! Don't forget to offer a little goodie too. More on International Women's Day can be found here.