Jing Jing Wang is the Co-Networking Director of It’s Real Magazine, an online magazine which focuses on Asian American mental health issues. It’s more than a magazine, the organization is also involved with making documentaries and other community activities.
We had a frank conversation about why it’s so hard for Asian Americans to obtain mental health care and the differences in mental health outlook within our own Asian families although we were both born in North America. Mental health still has a big stigma attached to it within Asian communities although attitudes are slowly changing. There’s even a wiki page on Hong Kong student suicides which explains some factors which include the Hong Kong education system and pressure from families. April first is also coming up in which the famous singer Leslie Cheung jumped from the roof of the the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, which led to more awareness in the community of the harmful effects of depression.
I assure you the podcast is quite positive as Jing Jing is one person out of many in the Asian community making a difference by making it more acceptable to discuss mental health within society!
an intersectional feminist and artist. On this episode of the Artsy Raven, JF Garrard discusses with them the purpose of It’s Real Magazine, why it’s so hard for Asian Americans to obtain mental health care and the differences in mental health outlook within our own Asian families although we were both born in North America. It’s Real Magazine website: https://www.itsrealmagazine.org/ Jing Jing’s instagram is @jingshiwang01. For more about The Artsy Raven Podcast or to join our exclusive Artsy Raven club to receive free books and other cool stuff, visit: https://jfgarrard.com/arpodcast Remember, Patreon subscribers have bonus content for every episode on the secrets of success! https://www.patreon.com/jfgarrard
In the historical imperial palace game I play there are dual competitions once in a while. As a concubine you build up a team of confidants who are princes, eunuchs, maids, friends and foreign diplomats. Over time you gather potions and collect items to increase their tactics, glamour, wisdom and vigour.
When the duals open, for a week you slaughter other people’s teams by beating the butterflies out of them. Yes, you read right, butterflies instead of blood because this is a civilized girly palace game after all! There are random battles and you can choose to challenge players. To win, some players challenge the same person over and over again until they are negative in scoring.
On the server I am playing on, the top player or winner believes that using any strategy to win is fair, so during duals week, they pretty much kill everyone since they have such a strong team. The winner runs a “palace” (to be a member you must convert your name to include a swastika Buddhist symbol and listen to the winner who is the “Master”) and they send orders to other girls to go after certain players to ensure only their palace members will make the top ten. There is one particular player the winner will send orders to be destroyed every time. The person they bullied went onto the chat board and said quite a few horrible things such as the winner’s mom being a street prostitute and hoping that the winner gets COVID.
While a lot of us were sympathetic originally to the person being bullied, we then felt lines were being crossed on both sides. The winner shouldn’t be bullying others so much but the game rules allow this and the person being bullied shouldn’t be saying such horrible things. After a few days of endless chat messages, a lot of us just gave up being peacekeepers and ignored the drama.
Being an online game, we don’t know each other’s true identities and it’s just ok to walk away sometimes because not all fights are worth fighting! And so, once a month, drama fills the game…
Next Thursday I’ll be hosting an Asian Speculative Fiction Reading event as part of Small Press Fair for Dark Helix Press. All of the authors are wonderful readers and I look forward to listening to them do their magic! Details about this event below!
Also putting together another digital raffle to test how successful it is as a marketing tool. Someone told me that all raffles need to be coupled with Amazon gift cards so we will try that. I do worry about coupling book giveaways with gift cards – do they want the gift card or to read the books? Sigh.
March 4, Thursday, 2021: 8pm EST – 9pm EST Asian Speculative Fiction Readings panel features Asian speculative authors who will read their stories featured in Immersion or Dark Helix Ezine. There will be a Q & A after the panel. Authors featured include Vincent Ternida, Carlo Javier, Melissa Yuan-Innes and Lily Chang. Host: JF Garrard
During a meeting in Jan 2021 with a few Asian authors, they lamented over the fact that they haven’t been getting much support from others since they were isolated due to COVID-19 and they lived in places with relatively few Asian people. This inspired Ricepaper Magazine to put together a Write-Rice Asian writers support group. Of course, it’s also open to anyone supportive of diversity, we want to be inclusive as well!
The list of topics we will touch upon includes the different methods of publishing to tips on how to write better. The hosts for 2021 are JF Garrard, Vincent Ternida, Derwin Mak and Cynda Yeasting. For more details and to register for these free sessions, click on this link: ricepapermagazine.ca/writerice
Feb 19 – JF Garrard (What are the different options for publishing? Traditional/Self-Publishing/Vanity/Podcasting/Youtubing, etc)
March 19 – Vincent Ternida (What is the difference between short stories, novels and poetry?)
April 16 – Derwin Mak (What do editors look for? Surviving the slush pile and looking for submission calls for fantasy and science fiction genres)
May 14 – Cynda Yeasting (What is an author platform? Discussion about networking and promotion ideas)
June 18 – JF Garrard (What is the difference between genres? Scifi/fantasy/horror/specfic/magical realism, etc)
July 16 – Vincent Ternida (Writing a good villain and interesting characters)
August 20 – Derwin Mak (What happens at genre conventions for science fiction, fantasy or romance? Are they worth the money to learn about writing?)
Sept 17 – Cynda Yeasting (Social Media 101. What is the difference between Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tiktok, etc)
Oct 15 – Vincent Ternida (Writing realistic fiction and plotting)
Nov 19 – JF Garrard (Nainowrimo Write in session, e-book prizes during “Word Wars” in which people compete to see who can write more words in 10 mins)
Dec – no session, survey link will be made available for feedback
To get everyone into the holiday spirits for some merriment and laughter despite COVID-19 still lingering about, here is a podcast of me reading a story about mom cancelling Christmas after finding a severed Barbie doll head. I had originally written it for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017. Text of the story is re-posted below, enjoy!
The Year Christmas Got Cancelled
One year, a fake auntie (not blood related) gave my sister and I a real Barbie doll to share. We never had a real Barbie before because they cost too much. We only got the Bargain Harold’s or Woolco generic dolls. I remember not wanting to play with Barbie anyways because I would rather play with Transformers, which was more interesting.
A few days before Christmas, a blood curdling scream went through the house. My seven year old sister and I were doing extra Kumon math exercises without any joy. We shrugged and continued our grueling work. Mom screamed a lot; she could be either yelling on the phone at someone or mad about something on tv. Our tiny bodies tensed when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, holding a severed Barbie head by its long blonde hair.
“Who did this?” Mom demanded in her loud voice in Cantonese. Her giant afro perm bobbed up and down, as she stormed into the room and flickered a severed Barbie head by it’s long blonde hair in our faces. She was a tiny woman, but had enough power to topple over any mountain or rip apart any savage animal in our eyes.
Being the wiser ten year old, I shook my head and spoke calmly. “I don’t know mommy.”
My sister was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds of silence, parroted me in a squeaky voice, “I don’t know!”
Both of us looked around for our younger brother who was five. He was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, he was the golden child and could do no wrong.
“Christmas is cancelled! No more presents! You are naughty children and presents should go to good children!” My mother was livid that no one was owning up to destroying an expensive doll. We rarely got any toys from our parents because there was no extra money in an immigrant family home in which chocolate milk was considered a luxury.
I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. A few years ago my mother had suddenly told me that Santa didn’t exist, but my cynical seven year old self was already aware of this. I was more upset then that my shrine to Jesus had been ignored by everyone and became an atheist soon after. As the first child, I was continuously being experimented on by my parents.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
“But we don’t get presents from you anyways,” my sister smirked.
“I’m talking about all presents! Even from other people! You are all bad children!”
“No, mommy! I want presents from the uncles and aunties and Santa!” My sister started wailing and crying.
Mother looked happy that one child had reacted to her stern lecturing. “There is no Santa! Hahaha! Now who took apart this Barbie?”
“I don’t know,” I said in an exasperated tone.
My mother shot daggers in my direction as she glared at me.
“It wasn’t me!” My sister sobbed, her chubby cheeks becoming red and streaked with tears.
“No one is confessing? No more Christmas!” My mother stormed off to dispose of the doll head.
“What do we do now? What did she mean that there’s no Santa?” My sister asked me.
I shrugged. “It’s ok, she’ll calm down and change her mind. I’m sorry, the whole Santa thing was really mom and dad all along.”
“Oh,” my sister said as she wiped her tears. “No wonder Santa always gave us such crappy presents.”
As with many things, I was wrong about mom changing her mind about un-cancelling Christmas. I also never found out who tore off the doll head. In the following years, any presents given to us were never seen by us. It’s presumed that they were re-gifted to another child who deserved presents.
Although we didn’t get presents at Christmas, we still got red pockets (cash) at Chinese New Year, birthdays and whenever we passed any big tests. Admittedly all the red pockets went into our bank account which we later learned was paying for household expenses.
There is a Chinese idiom about daughters: “Daughters are water poured out of the family after they get married.”
After I started dating a Caucasian Canadian guy in university, my Christmases were spent with his family. We eventually married as well and he was relieved that there were no fights about splitting up the Christmas holidays since my family didn’t celebrate it.
My sister and I have children now and they have great Christmases compared to our childhoods. Maybe we are trying too hard to compensate for the fact that we didn’t celebrate it or have any toys and want our kids to have everything. I hope that the kids don’t end up being spoiled brats! They will sigh as I tell them this story about Christmas being cancelled and probably won’t believe me since grandma always brings them presents!
Growing up we listened to a lot of Cantonese music from the 70s-90s due to my parents refusing to listen to contemporary English music (except for oldies from the 60s, that was acceptable). A few years ago I confessed that I loved Sam Hui music to a friend. He told me I was an old fashion person because a lot Cantopop music has moved on with the rest of the world into dance and hip hop.
Every since China took back Hong Kong in 1997, there has been more demand for Mandarin products than Cantonese. However, in my opinion, Cantonese entertainment still reigns supreme as the writing styles in TV/movies are mature and always keep the audiences watching for the next plot twist. In China, the industry is still “new” compared to Hong Kong and maybe I’ll get addicted to something in Mandarin, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sadly there used to be over 300 films a year coming out of Hong Kong, and now there is only 30 as all the money is in China.
Regardless, an article in the South China Morning Post explains why Cantonese is still such a great language. (quote from article: “seng gau char siu ho gor seng nay”, which literally means “better to have given birth to a piece of barbecued pork than you”. )
Lately I’ve been listening to this music again and it makes me cry because I remember sitting bored in the living room with the family while watching the horrible music videos of these songs on tv. A lot of Cantonese tv was family oriented and after dinner we would all sit down to watch tv and eat fruit. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to leave the house for life to start. Now I finally understand the longing and nostalgia of times gone past because people can’t be brought back from the dead.
Anyhow, I wanted to share a few Cantopop songs via YouTube to those interested in trying out a new type of music. Other than the melodies being catchy, the lyrics are well written and usually the performers had great voices. There was less focus on “packaging” versus talent. Many of these legendary singers have died or retired. A few of them are still around and are still doing well. I don’t listen to much new Cantopop anymore unless they are title songs to tv series but these oldies are always welcomed in my home!
Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels (1976) – English lyrics here, about the common man always getting the short end of the stick!
We are a bunch of working guys Working as slaves for money for life
Leon Lai – 愿你今夜提房距 Hope You Will Not Leave Tonight (1993) – English lyrics here. This was the theme song to the TVB series The Legendary Ranger, science fiction series with aliens and a kick ass bodyguard (Faye Wong)! Leon was my fav of the Four Heavenly Kings!
Hoping you will not leave tonight. But you have disappeared in such a hurry to live a life in another world to be with someone else.
the path of life so twisted and winding, I have walked it when did you start to accompany me on this path, giving me encouragement? like the red sun, this fire lights up the real me walking together, we can climb a thousand mountains
Jenny Tseng & Roman Tam – 問誰領風騷 (1987) – couldn’t find English translation, this is the theme song to a Wushu superhero series in ancient China. They both have AMAZING voices!
Anita Mui – Stand By Me (1988) – couldn’t find English translation, this was a thank you song to her fans for standing by her for many years.
Leslie Cheung- 有心人 A Man of Purpose (1996) – English Lyrics here. This was the theme song from the gender bending romance movie, Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?
Wish I could have yet grown up Look for the one simply by instinct
Danny Chan – 等 Wait (1984) – English lyrics here. A really sad and beautiful song about being depressed because a love left.
Wait Lonesome till deep into the night The night gradually becomes desolate The night gradually becomes dusky Don’t say that you’re the one choosing people People can also choose you
Sam Hui – Heart of a Loafer (1976) – English translation here, a song that reminds you to be humble and don’t be overly anxious.
If life destines something for you, you will have it in the end If life destines you never to have it, there is no point forcing it
The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival is heading into town and I’ve been dispatched by Ricepaper Magazine to cover it. A few pieces were also done for Looseleaf Magazine, a Project40 Collective publication based in Toronto. Since festivals want press coverage before the festival is open to the public, I’ve been busy writing and watching the films as of late. When my husband asked what it meant that I was dispatched to cover this, I told him that it meant he had to babysit more!
I’ll continuously be updating this page as more work gets published, the Reel Asian Film Festival runs November 9-18, 2017 and a lot of the films get only one showing, so grab tickets while you can! For inspiring film makers there are lots of seminars on how to hone your craft or handle taxes, but you have to reserve your spot ahead of time.
For parents with krakens, there are Wee Asian events on weekends with free animation films and crafts for children. It’s at the TIFF building which means lots of space and large bathrooms for diaper changes.
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.
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.
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!