Category Archives: asian

Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.

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World Building On A Road To Hell

The following are some thoughts which I will be sharing at Anime North on May 27/17 at the World Building for Authors panel.

Recently I was looking up some ideas on what to talk about at this world building when it suddenly occurred to me that I have been doing it every day for almost a year now. Last June, after my father died, I got into a huge fight with my family.

Elderly relatives (especially one over 100) was not allowed to know that he died. People believed that they would die from shock from hearing the news. I was the outlier and eventually caved because of a group vote.

In Asian culture, one is not supposed to share bad news. I am the one banana (yellow on outside, white on inside) who feels that bringing out the truth is the best so solutions can be discussed. Well, in case of death, there is a stigma against any discussion, usually people just don’t talk about it. When an aunt died of cancer last year, I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral either because I was on maternity leave and weak, therefore, spirits from beyond could harm me. During her time of illness, no one in the extended family knew. She wanted to die in secret and didn’t even want a funeral. When I fought to let people know my father died, I was fighting not just family, but the Asian culture as well.

Anyhow, my father was a devoted family man and visited these elderly relatives every day. After work he would drop by to cut up grapes or prepare other snacks for the ones in nursing homes. For immobile relatives in wheelchairs, he would take the time to drive them out for dim sum and groceries every weekend. Now that he has gone I haven’t been able to fulfill even half of what he did for these people while he was alive.

Since he disappeared, I have been asked questions everyday:

Where is your father? they would ask. Sick, not feeling well, I would say. Why isn’t he visiting? He hurt his leg. What is he eating? I’m cooking and freezing meals (technically true as I was dropping them off at the house to feed mom). Why didn’t he come to my birthday party? He was busy.

Indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

In the beginning I felt a lot of pain whenever I spoke to them because I felt guilty about lying. I had many breakdowns during the first few months and would start crying after I left the nursing home. None of these elderly people have dementia and their memories are better than mine.

Over time I started to construct a world for them and me in which dad was still alive, but just sick and in bed. We do have relatives that get sick and disappear for twenty years, so this was the most plausible explanation. No one talks about it, pretending that it’s normal, but I suspect it must be due to chronic depression. After I explained that dad is probably experiencing the same thing as the “other relatives” there were less questions.

When an author builds a world for their readers, they have to think about many things. There are physical rules, society structures, the characteristics of their environments, food, clothing, relationships, etc. All the things which we adhere by and use on a daily basis. I have written fantasy and science fiction with such worlds I built for readers. I have edited stories and criticized other authors for breaking their own rules or writing nonsensical science.

Nothing however, compares to the world building I have to do now. It is a fragile world I have constructed because I am not the only author. I have siblings, aunts, cousins and other relatives that have the ability to destroy this world if they say the wrong thing. They usually run from questions asked about my dad and I told them that this is unacceptable. If you all agreed to keep the truth from her, at least keep your end of the bargain with me on speaking about dad as if he was alive.

I can speak all I want, but I know I can not control other people and can only do my part as best as I can. Many people have stopped visiting the nursing home for fear they will say the wrong thing, which is very sad. The only thing I can do is keep up with this mirage the best I can until it breaks.

Ghost In The Shell Movie is like a Sub-Par Hamburger

This is an excerpt from a talk I’m preparing for Anime North about the Ghost in the Shell Controversy on May 28/17.

Last week I had a debate about the Ghost In The Shell Movie with a friend who was born in Asia. I’m born in North America, so I knew from the start that our views would be very different. She said that she didn’t see any problems with casting in the movie because once an American company buys the rights to a Japanese product, it becomes American. Since the majority of the population is Caucasian, why wouldn’t they cast a Caucasian person? I told her that it really bothered the fans who expected the studio to make better choices with casting Asian actors and keeping the story close to the source material. The debate went no where so we agreed to disagree.

It got me thinking as well, how do I explain this controversy to people?

The best way I decided, was to talk about food. An American restaurant owner goes to Japan and tries the best teppenyaki dish in a restaurant. He falls in love and decides to buy the recipe to bring back to America. Teppenyaki fans in America are super excited that this dish is coming! Chefs who specialized in teppenyaki in school want to cook this dish, but never have because the restaurant owner never had it on the menu. There is a lot of hype and the marketing people go nuts.

On opening night, critics come to the restaurant to discover that they are being served a hamburger with teppenyaki sauce. The owner didn’t employ the chefs that knew how to cook teppenyaki to help because he didn’t think the dish would be suitable for Americans. Instead, he called in the hamburger chefs who decided to just take the teppenyaki sauce and cover a hamburger with it. After all, hamburgers always sell, right?! Teppenyaki fans refuse to go to this restaurant because they know that they are only going to be served the sauce and not the actual dish. The critics shake their head at this missed opportunity at being served a real teppenyaki dish in America and that regular hamburgers tasted better without the sauce. Teppenyaki chefs are disappointed that their skills are being wasted. The owner defends himself by saying that teppenyaki can be cooked by anyone and they made a good choice by selling the sauce on a hamburger which always sells.

There are many sides to this story and at the end of the day, the owner missed a chance to distinguish his restaurant from other restaurants by serving a dish people were craving for. Of course, the teppenyaki in America was not going to be the same as the one served in Japan. It was going taste different and new. People in Japan would never see the teppenyaki in America as being “real” teppenyaki…ever…so why should they care that it be done properly or not?

Ghost in the Shell is a product just like teppenyaki which Americans tried to import from Japan. As Asian people continue to grow up outside Asia, this debate will happen again and again. The new generations of Asians want to contribute to the society they are living in currently, not the one in Asia which their ancestors left behind. They want to see themselves represented in the media they consume and believe in the fair, just society that they supposedly live in.

Avatar, Dr. Strange and Death Note all had opportunities for studios to touch base with audiences, but they blew their chances. The only thing for certain is that dollars matter. If more money can be made with changing casting choices and hiring writers that understand the original material, I’m sure things will happen. Until then, the internet will just keep exploding with disbelief!

 

What Manga Heaven Looks Like!

Yesterday I was with a friend who told me about a new manga cafe called Akiba Kissa in Markham, near John & Woodbine (7634 Woodbine Ave). I was actually super tired and full from eating too much beef brisket noodle, but we stopped by this cafe anyways.

I was blown away by the wall to wall shelves of English manga! For a few seconds…ok, minutes…I thought about how I would want to visit every night if I didn’t have a son and husband. Alas, the joys of being a single otaku! Anyhow, the cafe had all my old school favorites – Fushigi Yuugi, Kenshin, Inu Yasha, Uzumaki as well as newer stuff such as Blue Exorcist or  Rin-ne.

The front of the cafe had a huge space for cosplayers and tables for special events along with murals of Akira among other titles.

When you enter, you will see large sofas in front of a large screen broadcasting anime (they had The Devil is a Part-Timer when we entered) and tables for people to snack, lounge and read. There is a large dressing room for cosplayers to get ready and the cafe also sells lots of limited edition figurines imported from Japan.

Here you can see walls of manga and the back room had rows of arcade machines and video game setups.

Snacks available for purchase includes ramen, pocky, fancy Japanese pop, hot/cold tea and cute cakes in the shape of Totoros, rabbits or bears. Full hot and cold menu of drinks listed here. Along the walls there are displays by local vendors who display their wares such as 3D printed anime masks or original origami Sailormoon art cards.

If you have an afternoon/evening free and want to relax by reading manga, this is the right place to be!

My YouTube Diary – How Do People Make Money?

YouTube appears to be the new gold mine of our century. Are you going to pan for gold? I am! Seriously, as much as I would love to make millions every year, I know that the people making lots of money also work very hard. We can’t see the amount of hours, money spent on equipment and sheer sweat they put in before they became a success. A little bit of gold dust would be nice, nevertheless!

Business Insider has a great article which calculates and breaks down the amount of money people earn on You Tube. PewDiePie (YouTube’s biggest star who critiques video games and makes jokes about them) supposedly pulled in revenue of $10.5M in 2014. After taxes and YouTube’s share, he may have made $4M. That is fantastic, but keep in mind he started doing this many years ago and the big payoff is only now. Another YouTube star is Michelle Phan (beauty and makeup) was calculated to have made about $150K in comparison. These stories are great, but how does one actually make money?

YouTube has ads that you see before and during video viewing. This is called “YouTube monetization.” The person who made or uploaded the video signs a digital agreement with YouTube so that ads can be placed into their videos and there is a split of roughly 50:50. The amount of money made depends on how many people watched the video and if they clicked on the ad or not. Also, longer videos have more ad placements. More details are available on this “Ad Rates Report” page about how YouTube and ads work.

Setting up a video to be monetized is not difficult at all, maybe 30 minutes, tops. However, to make any money, you need lots of eyeballs and different people to watch your video (and yes, YouTube can tell if the clicks come from the same household). Other than professional media (music videos, clips of tv shows) or cute home videos (babies, dogs, cats) which are sometimes bought by the news media; highly viewed videos are either technical (video game, makeup, space rockets, educational, amateur tv shows) or really low brow (pooping, barfing, falling).

Everything comes down to marketing. In our day and age, social media has opened the doors to people to do their own marketing instead of relying on professional companies. However, people are bombarded with marketing from all over the place, so it’s become harder to get someone’s attention. Having good content is always the most solid base for success, but if no one knows about it, then the content will become lost in cyberspace.

One area getting some attention are toy reviews and toy unboxing (opening a toy). Since I have a child, I thought that a good start would be making videos with toys. That $10 piece of plastic I bought should be good for something after it’s been played with for 5 min, right?! Actually, I spent more than $20 on secret Lego Disney figurines because there was a frenzy at Toys R Us with moms feeling up these packages for the figure they wanted while the men shook their heads in the corner. Still, it was quite exciting to open the secret Lego Disney package on camera because I didn’t know what was in it either (felt like doing toy porn and I’m sure that’s out there too)! This is sounding pretty sad…but I’ve had too much excitement lately over a health crisis in my family, so being excited about something boring is good!

In addition, I want my son to learn Chinese, so I have asked my mom to make videos of us playing with toys in Chinese. I have had a maximum of ….wait for this…30 hits!…so far on our video of Thomas the Train counting in Cantonese. The threshold of any money being released by You Tube is $100 and given I’m at $0.02 today (videos have been up for a week), it’s going to take a while!

Since having a child is like opening a black hole near your bank account, I think doing YouTube videos for fun in hopes of earning some money is a good idea anyways. I’ll be blogging about this occasionally when I’m less depressed because I think it’s a funny thing to do. Until then, I’m calling my mom to ask her to think of more video ideas, since our video of Thomas and Mickey buying fruit was viewed as “too Asian” by a friend!

 

 

 

 

PTO project live and I’m angry

My latest project is the Pessimist to Semi-Optimist (PTO) Project which battles depression by addressing one negative thought a week throughout 2017 with thinking exercises. While launching this I was working with the editor of Ricepaper magazine to publish an article of lessons learned from deaths in my family entitled Save a Life, Stop Being Asian.

I’ve received lots of positive feedback from friends and family, which is great, but then the trolls among my friends and family came to visit. The internet is the wild west and comments from strangers don’t hurt as much as people whom you interact with daily or have known for many years.

So far I’ve been accused of:

  1. Hating the Asian culture – not true. I am merely pointing out that strengths in our culture become weaknesses during a healthcare crisis. For example, being stoic and protecting face (reputation) at all costs when help is needed. I can not tell you how much energy was wasted fighting face instead of getting medical help.
  2. Victim blaming – not true. When people are really sick sometimes they don’t recognize that they need help (due to mental illness) or refuse (being stubborn), which makes it really hard to help someone when you know the consequences.
  3. Pretending to be a medical professional – not true. I work in the healthcare sector, but I am not a doctor and I don’t claim to be one. The PTO project is my journey on depression which I’m sharing in hopes of helping other people struggling through the same thing. When you are down and flat on your back, believe me, any little thing that can prop you up helps.

Other than anger, I feel deep disappointment. The same people criticizing me now and telling me to stop writing are the same people who were not there when crap went down. They are such busy people, they didn’t even attend the funerals as well. They also grill me about religious values, tolerance and acceptance of others – yet they are not being empathetic or helpful at all. Feeling stupid for believing that people should practice what they preach. Good grief, how can I not be a pessimist!

I know everyone is struggling with something, but please don’t beat other people up when they are already down to make yourself feel better. Really read or listen to what I’m saying before you go bat-shit on me.

Apologies for my rant. Will forgive everyone tomorrow, will be angry today only because I know I have to let go of anger or else it will destroy me. I’m trying to harness this energy for good by writing and will chose which friends and family to allow into my life from now on. A grief counselor told me quite frankly that “with friends and family like these, you don’t need enemies!”

If you are going through something similar in your life, know you can only control yourself and your reactions. If avoiding someone isn’t possible, you will have to make the best of it by changing your own behavior and choosing to share only selective things from your life with them. Running away does help, but only works for a little while because the main problem still remains.

Thank you for reading, have a good day and let’s all try to be slightly positive among the rubbles of life!

 

Call for Submissions: Ricepaper’s Speculative Fiction Issue

My friend Derwin Mak and I will be guest editors for Ricepaper (an Asian Canadian literary magazine) for an upcoming issue on Speculative Fiction.  The issue will focus on  science fiction, fantasy, horror or alternative history.

It’ll be published in December 2014 and we are looking for original content.  Deadline is a bit tight – Aug 15, 2014 – however, it is a paying gig and all submissions will be considered.

Please note there are some restrictions on author origins set by the magazine: We are looking for short stories, non-fiction articles, poems, and manga/comics excerpts byauthors with East Asian or Southeast Asian descent. Eighty (80%) percent of the issue’s content should be authored by Canadians.

More information on submission guidelines can be found here.  Good luck!

http://ricepapermagazine.ca/2014/07/call-for-submissions-ricepapers-speculative-fiction-issue/

 

 

 

 

Hitting No. 1 in Asian Fantasy & Asian Fiction on Amazon Kindle

Today is the first day I’m doing a quick promo to give away a few e-books for free in exchange for reviews. Also, I’m at a Japanese Animation convention, Anime North, doing a few panels on publishing and Asian vampires.

After a long day of chatting with friendly people dressed as Sailormoon, Naruto and other fabulous creatures; I came home to do a quick check to see how the downloads were going. Surprisingly I hit number one in Fiction/Asian American and Fantasy/Asian!

Admittedly these are very niche categories,  but hey, No. 1 is better than No. 100 at the moment! Here’s hoping that I’ll find a great audience who likes to read things from a different perspective!

Meanwhile, greetings from me and a plant lady at Anime North (pic below)!

Kindle May 24 14

 

AN plant lady s

Cynthia Vespia's Writing Process

On Goodreads I recently met Cynthia Vespia, the acclaimed author of the fantasy saga Demon Hunter.  Her first novel, a medieval fiction entitled The Crescent was published in August 2005. The novel was unanimously praised as “an engaging, descriptive read” which prompted a sell-out at Borders Bookstore in less than one hour during the first official signing.

Demon_6x9DustJacket_Front_EN copy

As part of the Writing Process blog hop, she was kind enough to share tips to upcoming writers:

What am I working on?

I’m currently working on the sequel to my acclaimed Demon Hunter series, titled DEMON HUNTRESS. It follows the daughter of my lead character as she follows in her father’s footsteps and takes up the role of hunter.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Every author has a different voice. I have been told I’m a multi-genre writer. I’ve included romance in horror novels, and comedy in thrillers. I write what comes naturally to me to make the best story possible.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I like to read. I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I was a kid reading Piers Anthony or C.S Lewis. As I grew my tastes grew into more mainstream thrillers. So I still dabble in both genres. I can’t help where I get my story ideas.

How does my writing process work?
I get a spark of an idea and develop it from their with a rough outline. My character profiles will go in depth but I tend not to flush out too much of the actual story because it ruins the spontaneity.

Cynthia’s Goodreads profile contains links to her books and book trailer videos, check them out!

 

Seoul Part 2 – Food!

I can not eat spicy things, which made eating in Seoul rather difficult for me. We did eat many Korean meals of course and they all came with red spicy sauce,  kim chee as well as pickled vegetables. However, there was no shortage of French bakeries in Gangnam, along with European, American, Japanese, Chinese and Malaysian restaurants. There was a huge coffee culture, so my Viking husband was happy that he could obtain his expensive but available coffee anywhere. Admittedly I have not had so much fatty pork on a daily basis for dinner in my life along with cabbage, but when in Korea, do as the Koreans do…for a while anyways and then pizza started looking really good!

Breakfast

For breakfast we usually had tea or coffee with French pastries. We went out a few times and had a pretty god omelette at a French bakery restaurant. Prices were about $5-9 per coffee, lattes or tea, pastries about $2-5 and big breakfast (omelette, eggs benedict) about $15.

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Lunch

We had many lunches of noodles and sometimes had sandwiches, generally it was whatever we could find as we were travelling all over the place.

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Dinner

Lots and lots of Korean BBQ for dinner along with kim chee, pickled vegetables, tofu and spicy soups. We had pizza and chicken wings delivered one night as well, came in 20 min! Pizza in a fancy New York Pizza place was surprisingly pricey at $40-50 for a medium but it was full of people on dates.

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Snacks

Lots of vending machines in the subway, convenient stores on every street corner and my favorite are the French bakeries!

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Toilets

Yes, I am obsessed with toilets. The Korean toilets were similar to sit-up ones in North America, but they had a few heated ones like in Japan with bum washes. There was also squatting ones as well.

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