where i've been.

it’s been a while. let’s catch up.

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when i first started planning this post, i thought i’d run through the books i’ve been reading these last few months. it’s not like i’ve been reading a whole lot of books; i have very little time or energy to do a lot of reading these days; but i’ve been reading a few truly stellar thought-provoking books i wanted to talk about. i’ve also been reading pretty much entirely from WOC — like, i’ve only been reading from WOC, except for jessica valenti’s the purity myth, which i read half of then stopped because i grew up in purity culture and don’t feel the urgent need to linger in that experience.

which is not to say that the purity myth isn’t worth reading. if you didn’t grow up within it, it’s an illuminating read. whether you grew up in it or not, it’s an important read. i’m glad it exists in the world, but it doesn’t mean i want to spend time submerged in it when i am intimately, personally familiar with so much of that bullshit mentality that does so much harm to girls.

it’s honestly when i think of purity culture that i’m almost glad for the body shaming that kept me so distanced from my own sexuality as an adolescent. i avoided much of it because none of my youth leaders felt they had to press it upon me with much insistence because i was so focused on school, on my SATs, on getting into a good university, and i wasn’t sneaking out to meet boys or go to parties and start drinking and/or dabbling with drugs — and that lack of attention sometimes alarms me because i think there are underlying issues when any adolescent becomes so fixated on one thing to an extreme, whether it’s boys or partying or, even, yes, academics.

then again, maybe i just played my part well. i played out my requisite crush on a boy. i was active in youth group functions. i guess, in ways, i seemed normal enough, and i went to all my discipleship groups, was close friends with the other girls in my class, attended every friday night youth group and every summer/winter retreat and all the fellowship dinners at people’s houses.

what was there to worry about?


i feel like i’ve gotten very dull and uninteresting in the last few months because all i do is work. i’m often too tired to do much on the weekdays after work, and my weekends have become very quiet, my saturdays often spent lolling around my apartment, doing some reading, some napping, some youtube-watching.

i’ve been watching a lot of youtube, a lot of the try guys, actually.

maybe my crush on eugene is cliché, platonic though it is, but there’s a lot about him i find refreshing — he’s korean american, openly queer, weird and brilliant and driven and exacting and open-hearted. he’s demonstrated maybe the most growth amongst the try guys. he doesn’t like babies. i wonder constantly how different public reception to him would be had he been a woman.

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publishing still has a long ways to go as far as diversity is concerned, but it’s been refreshing and just so bloody nice to see more writing by asian american women not only being published but also being pushed more into the spotlight, their brilliance being more and more celebrated.

as has been the case with susan choi.

susan choi’s trust exercise (henry holt, 2019) reads on the surface like it’s a story about high school students at a performing arts school, but, really, at least the way i read it, it’s a novel about the ways we shape our memories to fit the narratives we want to tell about ourselves, about our roles in other people’s lives. maybe it’s instinctive for us to be revisionists; maybe it’s actually unavoidable because memory is flawed and malleable, anyway; and we’re all prone to nostalgia, to regret, to ego. maybe it doesn’t matter how we try to revise our narratives because our revisions will always run up against how other people remember us, how we fit into their revisions of their narratives.

we could go down some twisty turns talking about trust exercise.

i’m intentionally not giving many details about the novel because i think it’s a novel best approached with as little pre-knowledge as possible, even of its plot and its structure — honestly, the less you know, the more interesting it is, the shifts choi makes.

choi is often described as a writer’s writer, and i wonder sometimes if that isn’t a way to make a writer feel better about not having more mass marketable appeal. when i read trust exercise for the first time, i thought that i liked it very much — i liked how thoughtful it is, how smart, how complex — but i also think that trust exercise might not be a novel for everyone. it’s not a book i think a whole lot of people might typically  enjoy; it’s more cerebral, more in your head, less action, even less character-driven.

to be clear, i don’t mean anything condescending or snooty when i say trust exercise might not be to everyone’s taste. it really is kind of a particular book, not one i’d go running to recommend to everyone, and that’s not meant to be a criticism or a negative point against the book — trust exercise is unique, i think, one of those books i’m still processing and thinking about, and it’s been over a month since i finished it. maybe that’s the best damn thing i can say about a book, that it has stuck with me, that i am still mulling it over, that i am still thinking about it because i found so much of it so interesting and thoughtful. that’s not something i can say about many books.


in no way am i holding eugene’s gender against him — i think he does phenomenal work, and i think he has an unfair burden to shoulder as a highly-visible queer korean american man, as one of very few highly-visible queer korean american men in media. white people love to make one or two POC representatives of their entire ethnicity or minority group or what not, and i often wonder if he feels the pressure of that, especially as the one try guy of color, as the one queer try guy.

gender roles do exist, though, and, even now, there are still strong gendered expectations of women. it is not as endearing or cute or funny not to like babies when you’re a woman, and i say this as a woman, as an asian american woman, who likes babies about as much as eugene does, possibly even less. i have held maybe two babies in my entire life. i do not find them cute, and i don’t like their baby smell, and i generally go out of my way not to have to interact with them. i have never wanted children of my own.

when i was an adolescent, the response to that was a condescending, oh, you’re still young; you’ll change when you get older. when i was in college, i was told i was just going through a phase. now, i’m constantly told that i just need to “meet the right man” — my mind will change then, and i’ll want to have babies with him because i’ll love him so much.

there’s a lot that’s wrong with that, but i don’t often stop to clarify that, no, i. just. don’t. like. babies. because, one, my plans to reproduce or not are none of anyone’s goddamn business and, two, i frankly don’t have the energy to deal with the wide-eyed, judgmental, but how could you not like babies?! what kind of woman doesn’t like babies?! don’t you have any maternal instincts?! besides, you don’t know what you’re talking about; how could you when you’ve never had a baby?, like i don’t know myself or who i am or whether or not i like babies. (also, i don’t think anyone needs to have a baby to know whether or not one’s a baby person. that’s a terrible gamble to make, to hope that, oh, your dislike of babies and lack of desire to get pregnant were a fluke.) it gets exhausting as a woman. it gets exhausting to be asked if i’m dating, when i’m going to get married and start having kids, like spawning is the only way for my life to be worth anything, for me to find fulfillment.

sometimes, i feel bad about it because my parents love kids — they’ve been waiting to be grandparents for as long as i think my brother and i have been of marriageable age, and, sometimes, i feel guilty because it’s been hard for them to watch as their friends have had grandchildren galore. i know they want to share in that, to go around showing off photos of their grandchildren, to have grandchildren to dote on and spoil and love. i fully understand how difficult it can be to have to swallow deep-seated longing and yearning that can sometimes turn into resentment, and, sometimes, i feel guilty because i can’t — or i won’t — give them what they want so much, especially after all they’ve done for me, all they’ve sacrificed for me.

guilt, though, is a terrible reason to reproduce. guilt, also, does not change who i am or what i want from my life.

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this is not coming out in the order it was supposed to.

before i read trust exercise, i spent much of january and february slowly making my way through esmé weijun wang’s the collected schizophrenias (graywolf, 2019). graywolf was kind to send me the ARC way back in october last year, but i’ve a habit, sometimes, of sitting on books i’m really excited to read. i’m scared of disappointment; i’m scared a book won’t live up to my high expectations and standards. i’m scared, sometimes, that i expect too much from the authors i love.

but then there is also this — as a fast reader, i can get through books really quickly, and, at one point in my life, when i was younger, that was the goal, to read as much as i could, as fast as i could. recently, though, i’ve been trying to slow down, to stop inhaling pages, to stay with the writing instead of moving through it.

esmé’s writing is very much worth sitting with. in the collected schizophrenias, she talks about her diagnoses, the illnesses she lives with and how they have shaped and colored her life. she’s frank about her experiences, her hospitalizations, her fears of being perceived in certain ways and her ways of compensating for that, and she balances the personal with research and the scientific and medical.

the thing that constantly strikes me about esmé’s writing is that she writes with so much grace. there’s a lot in the collected schizophrenias that could have been laced (rightfully) with anger and resentment, anger at a judgmental, patriarchal, fearful world that doesn’t take women’s pain seriously and continues to malign and mistrust the mentally ill. she reminds us through these essays that the mentally ill are human, that they deserve to be treated with respect and granted dignity, that they shouldn’t have to dress stylishly or appear neurotypical or have a résumé that includes vaulted academic institutions like yale and stanford (that also routinely fail their mentally ill students and force them into indefinite academic leave instead of providing them support to help them thrive) to be treated as human. at the same time, she also gives credit to the work that nurses, therapists, social workers do. it’s often thankless work, and they’re only human, too, and they can get worn down by patients who slip off their medication, have outbursts, etcetera.

the collected schizophrenias is a reminder that it’s easy to approach certain groups of people with whatever set expectations we have already decided of them, whether it’s maternal instincts in women or certain behaviors in the mentally ill. it’s easier to see how that harms those of us who exist outside the “norm,” those of us who aren’t neurotypical or hetero or white, but i think, in ways, these essays help us see how it harms the people who hold onto these prejudices and these expectations. maybe they don’t see it, though, because they mete out the harm — they don’t experience it, and they certainly don’t carry the trauma — but, sometimes, i think about how narrow their worlds are, how trapped they are in their heteronormative, neurotypical, privileged bubble. i think about how much they will never know and how they will never be better people, and i think that that’s kind of sad because how wonderful we are, those of us who exist outside of the “norm.” how wonderful and beautiful we are. what a privilege it is to know us and to love us.

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another person i watch a lot on youtube is lia kim — specifically, i watch a lot of her dance videos.

the chief choreographer at (and co-founder of) 1million dance studio in gangnam, she’s worked with prominent idols, including those from SME, YGE, JYPE, and here’s where i’d write more about her dance style if i knew anything about dance. as it goes, i do not know a thing about dance; i just know that i like to watch it, that i think it’s super cool what people can do with their bodies, that part of me wishes that i could do it.

i lack hand/feet coordination, though, but that’s been my easy excuse whenever the thought has crossed my mind. i’m not very coordinated. i don’t have a sense of rhythm. my body doesn’t move that way — and i know they’re excuses because, yeah, i’ll never be an incredible dancer or maybe never even a very good one, but the body can be taught and trained to do a lot of things. my body can learn to move sufficiently for dance to be a hobby. if i can learn to do the basics of boxing, i can learn to do the basics of dancing. and yet.


the character who stands out the most to me in catherine chung’s forthcoming the tenth muse (ecco, forthcoming) is a woman named henrietta, henry for short. she’s a friend of the main character, kathy, a friend who shows up far into the book when kathy goes to germany on a fellowship. a mathematician, kathy has left behind her long-time lover, a professor who is angry that she has even decided to go, disrupting the rhythm of their research. kathy, however, makes her decision to go to germany not only to study but also to look for her past.

henry is also in germany for research, and the two women quickly become friends. henry is the opposite of kathy, less buttoned-up, less guarded, and she is kathy’s first real asian friend. her vibrance jumps off the page, and i immediately pictured her as a woman who’s comfortable in her body, who occupies her body with ease, because she knows who she is — a queer asian american woman.

her queerness is really only brushed upon briefly and heavily implied, and the trajectory of henry’s life is a disappointment, not because of who she decides to take as a partner but because none of it makes sense when we think of henry as a character. she is alive, vibrant, confident, but then she kind of gets reduced down to a plot point to move kathy’s narrative along, and the funny — or maybe telling — part of my mini-rant is that henry comes along late in the book, is only a small part of the book.

the tenth muse is honestly about so much more than henry, but, damn, if henry isn’t the thing that’s stuck with me from the book. that maybe just goes to show how starved i am for queer asian women in stories.

it’s a strong novel, though, set in the 1960s when women are still being newly-admitted to higher education, and kathy unsurprisingly faces so much gendered bullshit as she tries to pursue an academic career in mathematics, having to juggle both the challenges of academia and the struggles of striking the  right balance as a woman in a male-dominated world, one in which it is not matter that she is brilliant and competent because she’s a woman, she should be getting married and having children and supporting her husband. a feminist novel that doesn’t try to be a feminist novel, the tenth muse taps into questions of identity and belonging, and it’s a strong second novel from catherine chung.

i absolutely loved her first novel, forgotten country (riverhead, 2012), which was a total punch in the gut, hitting me in some of my softest spots because it tapped into one of my greatest fears, my parents getting sick, and the tenth muse is certainly worth keeping an eye on. i just choose to think of a different story for henry.


and then i spent all of march very slowly reading t kira madden’s long live the tribe of fatherless girls (bloomsbury, 2019).

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in march, i went back to LA and spent four blissful days with my puppies, though i suppose gom isn’t a puppy anymore. he turned one on march 10, so he’s technically no longer a puppy, but he’ll always be my little baby.

i still worry that his personality changed when we brought som home.

som’s feisty and has no problem demanding attention or food or things. he wants whatever goms has, and goms doesn’t often fight to keep what’s his. he doesn’t bully soms or try to steal his things back; instead, goms will sit and whine and cry while soms doesn’t give a shit; and i’m always telling goms to fight back, get his bone or toy back, it’s his!

my mum’s main takeaway from our pups is apparently that i’d be great with children of my own because i’m great with gom, to which, if you’re a human with a child but no dog, you might be thinking, uhm, what? raising a puppy can teach you a lot about yourself, though. when we first got gom, he was a two-month-old puppy, and he needed to be taken out every three hours to pee, which meant i was getting up multiple times at night to take him outside. i’d often sleep on the sofa after taking him out the first time, and he’d sleep on my stomach or on my chest, curled up happily until it was time to go out and pee again.

we bonded intensely because of that, maybe, because i was the first human who spent a lot of time with him after he’d been weaned and taken from his mum and put in a dark garage all by himself. i opine that’s why goms has such strong separation anxiety, why he hates to be alone — he was the only puppy, no siblings in his litter, and he went from being the only puppy with his mum to being the only puppy alone, left to himself in a new, lonely space.

i come up with a lot of stories even when it comes to the lives of my puppies. like, i think goms has gotten quieter and more sensitive after we brought som home. goms was seven months old then, and, when we went to pick som up, gom spent the whole drive staring at the backseat, at this floofy puppy in my mum’s arms, wondering what this thing was, why it was coming to his home with his humans. he seemed to transition decently to having a younger brother, but goms still often looks more sad and quiet now, pushed aside by a younger, feistier puppy who has zero chill.

and then i, his human, left him because i got a job that brought me back home to brooklyn.


i still think constantly about dropping everything in brooklyn and going back to my puppy. i know — i can just bring goms with me to brooklyn, but i have so much anxiety around that, anxiety about my long hours, about goms having to adjust from a big suburban house to a small city studio, about having to “prove” that goms is my emotional support animal. i feel guilty about separating him from som, not because i’m worried about goms — goms and i are still very bonded — but because i’m worried about soms and how soms would take the separation.

i feel guilty and anxious about a lot of things. i already feel stressed thinking about the additional financial cost.

thinking about going back to my puppy, though, is thinking about going back to what feels like a simpler, safer life. life in new york is so much more expensive, and i’m alone in the city, even if i have extended family in cities close by. there seems to be greater risk here because i’m pursuing the thing that i want, and pursuing the thing you want often feels more fraught because it often feels like you have more to lose. going back to my puppy is to return to my safety net, to opt for what is more secure, so, yes, i do still think about it often even though i know i won’t actually do it — new york is home, and, here, i feel more myself, more my best self, and that is what keeps me here.


when it comes to children, i don’t necessarily doubt my ability to care for another human being — having goms has given me some faith in my ability to take care of another life. having goms has taught me, too, that i don’t necessarily need to doubt my ability to love another life, to be fiendishly protective of it, though having goms first then bringing soms home has fully made me doubt my ability to love a second child as much as the first.

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i think a lot about bodies, which is why i’m currently working on three essays that have to do with bodies or things related to bodies, like plastic surgery and body shaming. it’s kind of strange to revisit that period of my life when i was being shamed so intensely and so intentionally for my body because i honestly don’t have much anger when i think about it now. i’m not interested in writing angrily about that experience, in cursing or even faulting the people who did it to me.

because, yes, body shaming is terrible, and it is something i have little patience or tolerance for, and, yes, i do still bear all the scars and trauma from the experience. at the same time, though, i can say i’ve grown enough that i can recognize that it wasn’t done out of malice or hatred, that maybe they had their own share of self-loathing and insecurities that fueled the body shaming, and i can also acknowledge that there have been remorse and regret after they finally understood what they did, how deep the consequences of their actions went.

i have spent the last seven years healing from the experience, and, honestly, i think it’s only because i have moved on fully from a place of anger that i can start to write about it. i’m glad for that, too, because i do think body shaming is something to talk about candidly, especially as, for me, it really goes hand-in-hand with severe body dysmorphia. i am also glad for it because, like i said above, one of the things that constantly strikes me so much about esmé’s writing is that she writes with such grace — and that is the kind of writing i aspire to.


halfway through my freshman year of high school, i started being body shamed because i had an overweight body and, apparently, it was unsightly and unseemly. until i started being body shamed, i wasn’t aware of my body as a thing i had to think about, whether in positive or negative ways. i had never really been into fashion or my appearance or anything related to the physical, and, from as much as i can remember from my patchy memory, i simply moved about the world as i did, unaware of how anyone external to me perceived me.

(there is actually little i remember from my youth; i have had several people close to me comment on how my memory is like a sieve, how there is much i do not remember.)

i suppose i should have known this body intervention was coming. in middle school, i got super into k-pop, in love with h.o.t, my adolescent boy band, which then led to a general love for k-pop, specifically for idols from SME. i wanted to dress like them, talk like them, act like them. i wanted to dance like them.

for a while, i tried. i wore wide, baggy white pants. i tried to watch interviews (pirated from someone at church who would record them for me onto videotapes) to mimic the ways they talked and moved and lip-synced. i tried to learn their choreography.

from what i remember, i wasn’t very good at it because, again, that lack of hand/feet coordination, but i tried. i really, really tried. i didn’t stop to think how people might think of me, this over-enthusiastic, chubby middle schooler who had no sense of how to control her body, because that wasn’t something i even knew i should be aware of. i didn’t stop to wonder if people were secretly making fun of me, laughing at me, mocking me — not until i was pulled aside one sunday during some fellowship event with my youth group, told to stop dancing, to stop making a fool of myself, to stop embarrassing myself and my family. i was told to stop looking like such an idiot when i didn’t even know what i was doing. it was the first time i realized i was someone to be ashamed of, that i was too much.

i never tried dancing again.


maybe that’s why henry stands out to me so much from the tenth muse, because she seems so comfortable in her body, in who she is. it doesn’t matter if she’s too much — she is who she is, until she pulls this totally out of character move that throws me off, that i still can’t reconcile to the henry i’ve already built up in my head.

she’s comfortable in her body.

sometimes, when i think about envy, that’s what i think about. i envy women who are comfortable in their bodies, not thin women, but big women, women who have probably been told over and over again that their bodies are grotesque, they should be covered up, starved until they’re thinned down. i see them all the time on the subway, on the street, and, every time i do, i can’t help but stare. confidence rolls off them, and i want to bathe in it.


in the hulu adaptation of shrill, aidy bryant is annie, a big woman who’s not at ease in her body. she’s been shamed for it, too, and discomfort means that she lacks the confidence to occupy space, to assert herself while having sex, to let herself go in public spaces.

there’s a scene in one of the episodes when she’s crossing the street when a woman crosses ahead of her. this woman is big, curvy, tall, but she strides ahead like she owns the world. she’s dressed in something form-fitting, wearing red lipstick, daring the world, look at me. look at how beautiful i am.

annie follows her with wonder, awestruck, envious. i followed along with her, awestruck, envious.

later in the episode, annie goes to a pool party for big women, and this is a scene that’s made its rounds on twitter — annie, standing at a table, watching this group of big, confident women in bikinis, dancing their hearts out, not caring if anyone is watching. these are their bodies, and they’re curvy and strong and beautiful, deserving of love and respect, and these women know — they are not monsters. they are not grotesque. they’re just women, and they are wonderful to behold.

annie watches enviously until finally she starts to move. she does a little shimmy, then another, then she’s in the center of this dance floor, her shirt still buttoned up, her jeans still on, but she closes her eyes, smiles, and keeps moving. she dances; she lets herself go; and she pulls off her top, her jeans, revealing a cute bikini. she dives into the pool. i’m crying because i understand her hesitation, her fear, her envy, and then i’m crying because i envy her for being able to let go when i still can’t.


the really stupid thing about all this? at my biggest, i was maybe a size 16, maybe 18, at 5’8”.

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i still haven’t talked about t kira madden’s long live the tribe of fatherless girls. or about han kang’s the white book and my problems with deborah smith as a translator. or about eugene and why it’s so refreshing to see more asian americans out there, to see more asian american writers getting published.

i think this is long enough, though, so maybe we’ll leave things here for now. hopefully i’ll come back with another blog post picking up where i’m leaving off, but i think i’ve also learned better not to promise things like that.

thank you, as always, for reading. i am so grateful you’ve taken the time to do so.

2019 international women's day.

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march 8 is international women’s day, though, as far as i’m concerned, every day is women’s day. usually, i’d post a stupidly tall stack of books by writers who are women of color, but, this year, i thought i’d maybe try something different, try to be a little more intentional about this and talk about seven books by asian women i recommend — and why.

maybe the thing really is that i miss talking about books. hell, i miss reading.

(i know; this post is 12 days late.)

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t kira madden, long live the tribe of fatherless girls

i’m currently reading this, and i. love. it. so. much. madden’s writing is so beautiful and thoughtful and haunting, and i’m not very far into this because i’ve been so busy, i haven’t had much time to read, and also because i want to savor this, don’t want to rush through it, but i already know it’ll be a favorite from this year.

these cookies, though … i am not a cookie baker. i do not bake cookies. i swore off baking cookies six years ago after i went through my spate of obsessively researching cookie-baking and trying so many stupid recipes in an attempt to get my perfect crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside chocolate chip cookie. all my cookies invariably turned out like cookie pucks, rising too much and resulting every time in a cookie that had slight taste variation but zero difference in texture, whether i had more butter or a higher brown sugar ratio or longer refrigeration time — whatever the recipe, i still always got the same puck-like cookies, and, so, i swore vehemently never to bake another goddamn chocolate chip cookie again.

until a few weeks ago, apparently, because i became curious again — and because i want to try to bake with alternative flours for some reason. (the reason is my health.) i will not, however, be baking cookies with alternative flours; i’m already annoyed that i can’t get that perfect chewy, crispy texture with regular flour (aka gluten); and i know it’s going to be impossible without gluten.


t kira madden is not only a wonderful writer; she is also a delightful human being; and i want to be friends.

she and her partner are so cute together.

there is no period in her name.

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angie kim, miracle creek

(FSG sent me this ARC months ago, before they changed the title to miracle creek, so my ARC title is not the publication title.)

i read miracle creek a month ago, and maybe this is lazy, but here’s what i wrote on instagram in my review:

the novel follows a trial after a tragic accident, and, ultimately, if i were to sum it up briefly, i’d say that miracle creek is a story of good people who make not-so-wise decisions that end up having some dire consequences. it’s a story about mothers who make difficult decisions for their children every day, about motherhood and the desire for it, about mothers with disabled or non-neurotypical children and the unique hardships and emotions that only they can truly know. it’s a story about the wisdom of withholding judgment; it is impossible to know a human’s story or motivations or fears or trauma or pain. it’s a story about human meanness, the necessity for human kindness, the lengths to which a little empathy (or lack thereof) can impact someone’s life. it’s about love, tough love, forgiving love. it’s about a whole lot of things, and the writing is smart and introspective and cinematic (this would make a fantastic mini-series), and i highly, highly recommend you add this heart-squeezing, thoughtful novel to your reading lists this spring.


i wonder who gave FSG the memo that they really, really, really needed to start diversifying their list, but whoever did, i’m glad. FSG is the publisher i apparently have read the most from — i have enough books by FSG to fill almost two whole shelves, not counting the books that are published in paperback form by picador. that goes to say that i have always loved FSG’s taste in writing, though my interest had waned in recent years given the blinding whiteness of their list … until the last year rolled around, and, suddenly, there was eugene lim’s dear cyborgs and ling ma’s severance and now angie kim’s forthcoming miracle creek and chia-chia lin’s forthcoming the unpassing, and the really fun, cool thing about that is that i’m fairly sure there are a few titles i’m forgetting.

in the grand scheme of lists, it’s still a small percentage of asian american writing.

in the grand scheme of publishing, it’s not an insignificant change, and i absolutely love it.


miracle creek is a smart, deftly written book. it jumps from character to character, while moving the story along in time, but it’s not a tiresomely ambitious book. in the hands of another writer with a more headstrong writerly ego, miracle creek could easily have gone the way of a tiresomely ambitious book, but, in angie kim’s hands, it is a novel that just wants to tell a nuanced story about the complexity of human love.

because human love is deeply complex. it is twisted up in contradictions, and, while it doesn’t have its limits, human love does get tired. it makes mistakes; it often makes those mistakes because it runs so deep, it can get reckless. human love also has the ability to trap us in a narrow place, creating a bubble around us and our love because that is the only way we can protect our love. it closes us off to greater possibilities, greater potential, greater hope.

and, yet, still, human love is a wonderful and powerful thing. it is the reason we are able to make sacrifices for the people we love. it is the thing that allows us to empathize with and understand other people. human love helps us keep each other accountable in the hopes that we will emerge as better people, and, even now, two months after i finished miracle creek, i’m still stunned at how incredibly and deeply angie kim depicts all this.

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eugenia kim, the kinship of secrets

i have not read this yet, but i am sticking it in here because i have actually never seen this around since it was published in november and i am super excited to read it. the kinship of secrets is about two sisters who are raised in two different countries — their parents decide to immigrate to the US, but, at the time, they can only take one daughter with them, choosing to leave the other with her grandparents in seoul. as life goes, though, especially when there’s a major war (aka the korean war) involved, they’re unable to send for her in the timeframe they anticipate, so the two sisters grow up on opposite sides of the world.


i’ve recently been craving some rich, vivid korean historical fiction set during the japanese occupation. i would be very surprised if there weren’t any such novels that have been published in korea, but, as far as i know, none has made it into english translation.

one day, i’ll get back to seoul and spend a week or so leisurely browsing bookstores, checking out the food scene, and trying all kinds of skincare. i’m so curious about what’s getting published and which products are being used in korea because everything we get stateside (or that we even hear about stateside) has gone through numerous gatekeepers who filter what’s actually being talked about on the ground in seoul.

i’d love to get past those gatekeepers and experience things for myself.

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han kang, the white book

i also haven’t read this yet, but it’s my online book club’s pick for march, and i am excited to read it. i do wish i was reading it in its original korean instead, though, so i did go out and ordered 흰, which means i might dump this translation and just do the slow, laborious process that is me reading in korean.

i admit that i have a fair amount of reservations when it comes to deborah smith’s translations, to the point that i haven’t been able to read much of anything she’s translated recently. i’ve been trying to read bae suah’s recitation since it was published, but i keep wondering how accurate the translation is, how much we can even reasonably expect as far as “accuracy” goes in translation, and what that even means. is accuracy in translation simply getting all the words right? is it about taking liberties with words and structure to capture the quirks in a writer’s voice and tone? or does translation also entail taking more liberties in order to make things more “understandable” or “accessible” to a foreign reader who will likely not be familiar with the cultural and social context of the novel being translated?

i admit that i am also wary of a translator who is so new to a language and culture, and i’m also wary of the kind of inflated confidence that leads someone to think that she’s capable of adequately translating complex novels after six years of exposure to a language and culture. unlike others who may be impressed by the short amount of time deborah smith spent learning korean before diving into translating, i’m actually made wary by that fact. maybe it’s the korean in me being protective. maybe it’s the writer and reader and translator in me who knows how difficult it is even for me, a korean-american whose first language was korean, who is intimately familiar with korean culture, to translate something and minimize the amount of things that are inevitably lost in translation. i don’t know. whatever it is, i am wary and cautious.


glossier’s milky jelly cleanser is still my number one go-to cleanser. i was honestly planning on bringing more skincare talk into this post, but, heh, that’s not happening.

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nagata kabi, my lesbian experience with loneliness

i find this title to be louder and more sensational than it needs to be; this manga is a pretty damn universal story of loneliness, depression, insecurities, and fears — but, by this point, all i keep focusing on is how this blog post feels so choppy that it’s irritating me. i’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging (if you haven’t noticed yet), and, last year, it was because of a bad depressive episode then because of my puppy then because i was working on a memoir-of-sorts-in-essays, but, this year, it’s my day job. i’ve been blaming a lot on my day job, but it really has been a black hole of energy — and positivity. despite what the depression and anxiety might have you think, i am, in general, a positive person.

i hate whining and complaining, and i hate that kind of behavior all the more in myself. i’ve found myself doing a lot of it these last few months, and i’ve been trying to stop, to complain less, to focus on the positive side of things — i like my job itself, love that i’m back in new york, am super stupid grateful to be on my own with my own place.

and the thing about complaining about shit is that i’m always reminded that there are people who have worse jobs than i do — and maybe you’re thinking, well, tell me more about this manga, not about your stupid life! — except, i don’t know, that’s kind of it — this manga isn’t just for lesbians or for lesbians with depression — it’s for anyone who has ever felt lonely, scared, anxious, and depressed.

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jang eun-jin, no one writes back

when people ask what they should read in korean literature-in-translation, jang eun-jin’s no one writes back is the one i recommend. someone asked me recently, why?, and i think i said something about how i think no one writes back reads as very korean without being too weird, too foreign, too distant. there’s nothing “exotic” about the novel — it’s about a young man who’s drifting around korea with his dog, befriending strangers and writing them letters. something has sent him away from home, but we’re not quite sure what, not until later.

there’s a quietness and somberness to no one writes back that i find very korean, but that’s honestly all i could tell you. there’s something in the tone, in the melancholy, that just feels very korean to me, and i know i keep saying — it’s “very korean” — but i’m not explaining it. i’m not trying to be mysterious or anything, though; i genuinely do not know how i should explain what i mean by that, just that that is my lasting impression of this novel, which i read a few years ago and still about time and time again.

no one writes back was kind of my gateway into korean literature-in-translation, which is true and isn’t because i’d definitely read other korean books (in translation) before. it is, however, the novel that kicked off a flurry of dedicated reading of korean literature, and it’s also the novel that introduced me to the tremendous work being done by the dalkey archive press that has this library of korean literature that has many, many books across a pretty wide range of authors. it is fantastic, and i am truly grateful for what the press has been doing.

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susan choi, trust exercise

susan choi is one of my favorite writers; she’s so smart and insightful; and i finished trust exercise almost a month ago but have not yet reviewed it because i’m still processing — i’m still mulling it over.

i didn’t come out of trust exercise bouncing off the walls and wanting to shout about it from the rooftops. i came out of it thinking that it wasn’t necessarily a book for everyone, but i couldn’t explain what i meant by that. i don’t know that everyone will love trust exercise, though that kind of feels like a dumb thing to say because not everyone should love every book, anyway — books that are “universally” loved always seem suspect to me, like what i this conspiracy that has led people to band around any particular book and overlook its flaws and quirks and particularities? maybe that’s why i tend to be more open about my “negative” opinions; i want to put some kind of “balance” out there.

anyway, i didn’t come out of trust exercise wanting to run up to everyone and say, read this read this read this! i did, however, come out of the novel with a lot to chew on — susan choi raises a hell of a lot of interesting questions about narrative, memory, the ways we revise our narratives. she follows a group of theatre kids from a precious arts high school in southern america, and she takes us through three parts, though that’s all i honestly want to say about form. the less you know about this book going in, the better, i think. the more interesting it is when you can’t anticipate even the basic shape of what will happen.

so maybe that’s where i’ll leave this? because the book is not published yet, and i don’t want to go on and on about it because maybe i do think this is a book people should read. it makes you ask yourself about how you revise your narrative, how you revise who you are as the character in your life’s narrative, how you choose to remember things.

and maybe those are all things worth asking ourselves every so often.

dog person misses dog, unpacks a stupid number of books.

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as my parents pulled away from the curb, my dog stood in the passenger’s seat, paws propped on the door, looking for me. i like to think he saw me through the window, through the glass, because his ears perked up with recognition, but the car was pulling away into traffic, and he was disappearing from my line of sight as i was disappearing from his.

i cried on my way up the escalator, through the security checkpoint, to my gate. i cried off and on during the five-hour flight. i pulled up photos of my dog from puppyhood to now and cried over those i edited them.

two days later, i started my new job, and it was a lonely first day. the company is tiny (so tiny), and i didn’t really talk to anyone and found that weird and disorienting and discouraging. i tried not to stay too late because i could feel the onslaught coming, because i didn’t want to cry in the office on my first day, and i managed to make it out and onto the subway before i started crying. i cried on the train ride home. i cried in the market where i went to buy some basics. i cried when i got to my apartment.

i cried so much that night, my eyes were painfully swollen the next morning, that i had to sit and ice my eyes before i could put my contacts on, that my eyes were red-rimmed the whole day. i cried some more that second day, too, on the street outside my office, in muji, in the office bathroom.

that first week, i thought a lot about quitting, about just screwing it and going back to LA — hell, i hadn’t shipped any of my stuff yet; i hadn’t signed a lease; and i hadn’t received my relocation bonus yet. it would have been easy enough, resigning and packing my suitcases back up and hopping on another flight across the country, and i thought about doing just that so many times, i don’t honestly know what was stopping me from doing it. i could have easily, and, maybe, a few years ago, i might have.

the thing is, though, that that same week, i went to dinner with friends for my birthday. i had brunch plans for that weekend and dinner plans. i had a reading i was going to the next week. i had more people to schedule catch-up meals with, DMs and text messages going back and forth of, we should meet up! when’s good? i was talking more with my coworkers and realizing that initial weirdness was that my boss had parachuted me in over their heads, had never put us in touch for them to have a chance to vet me and get to know me, and i really liked them.

because, yes, i did like my new job and the work i was doing, and, yes, i was happy to be back home in new york city, but the thing that kept me here was that i have a community here — i have people, and, as it goes, i love people.

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after three weeks at this new job, the holidays roll around, and our office is thankfully all working from home. i fly out to LA, taking a stupidly late flight that gets delayed for hours because i want to see my dog sooner than later, want to cuddle him and his soft fur even if it means arriving at 1 in the morning, which, really, becomes 3 in the morning becomes 4 in the morning.

he seems hesitant to see me, and i wonder if the punk even missed me at all. i spent the last three weeks crying because i missed him so much, but he doesn’t seem that happy to see me, and i wonder if he’s forgotten me — but, damn it, aren’t dogs supposed to remember you even years later? something about your scent? no?

he’s more excited to see my brother later that morning, and i’m offended. goms! i love you! i tell him while he’s happily in the back seat, wagging his tail furiously while trying to climb on my brother’s lap. i’m in the passenger’s seat, alone because my dog abandoned me to greet my brother ecstatically.

maybe, though, it was hesitation because gom soon re-attaches himself to me, sleeping at my feet when i’m working, whining at me to sit on the floor so he can climb up on my lap with his toy, sprawling out against my leg at night. he follows me around everywhere, sitting outside the bathroom, wanting to go on car rides, pawing at me for whatever i’m eating and acting offended when he doesn’t get any.

som follows gom, so som gets in on the cuddles, too, jumping out of his crate in my parents’ room in the middle of the night and running down the hallway, pawing at my door to be let in. he runs over to where i’m sleeping on the floor on a futon, ignoring gom’s possessive, annoyed growls and barks, and curls up on my left shoulder, away from gom who sleeps on my right. there’s little that feels safer, more comforting, than two puppies curled up on either side of you, one (som) flopping around dramatically every time he wants to change positions, the other (gom) happily content to stretch out against your side because you’re his human and you’re right here where you’re supposed to be, and, yes, he missed you.


one of the biggest lies i told myself for over a decade is that i was a misanthrope, an introvert. i told myself that i didn’t like people, that i liked being alone, going things alone, and that was all my way of protecting myself.

for over a decade, i hated myself because i hated my body because i was told over and over and over again that my body was too big — it was grotesque, monstrous, and it needed to be whittled down in order for it (and, in extension, me) to be made acceptable. one of the consequences of that was this lie i told myself, this wall i built around myself so i didn’t have to feel like i had to put myself out there because that would mean opening myself up to rejection. what if people really were repulsed by me? what if no one wanted to be friends with me because i was so big and ugly and disgusting? what if i really were a monster?

instead of facing what felt like inevitable rejection, i retreated. i read a lot, saw movies alone, sometimes went days without talking to anyone other than small talk with baristas and cashiers. i always had roommates, and, sometimes, we’d chat, but i’d soon shrink back to my half of the room, plug in my ears, and pretend to study.

it’s not that i was totally friendless — i had two close friends whose friendship was invaluable, one of whom is still my best friend today. i had a handful of friends from high school i’d see every so often, even though we’d been scattered across the state for college. that was pretty much it, though, and, for years, for over a decade, i convinced myself that that was enough, that i was fine, i’d be fine, i could ignore the fact that i was often crying myself to sleep because i was lonely, that i felt so much sadness when a day, two days, three days had gone by and i hadn’t had a real conversation with a human being.

to be honest, i don’t know what changed. i moved to brooklyn for law school. i made it one year in law school before withdrawing from school because i was so depressed and suicidal, that was the only way to save my life. i’d spent that year retreating, too, because i still felt so monstrous — i’d just spent a month in japan and korea, had fled korea a week before planned because i couldn’t take the open judgment about my body anymore — and i hadn’t even wanted to be in law school, anyway.

i withdrew, moved out of law school housing, and maybe that was the change because withdrawing from law school was the first proactive step i took into pursuing the thing i wanted to do, the thing i knew i did well, and that was writing.


having a dog is a great way to meet people.

when you take your dog on walks, you’ll meet other people taking their dogs on walks, and not everyone is the same, but most dog owners like to stop and chat. if you don’t meet other dog owners, you’ll meet other dog lovers, especially when your dog is like mine and loves people, wants to meet all the people, flops over almost immediately for belly scratches.

i like meeting all the people, and i’ll stop and chat with anyone who wants to stop and chat and give my dog scratchies. so far, though, my dog has not been successful in getting me any dates, but maybe one day soon he’ll learn that that’s why i take him on walks. heh, am i joking or not? >:3

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scenes from a move.

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in december, i moved back to brooklyn after two years in los angeles … which was exciting and happy-making but also OH-MY-GOD-BOOKS-I-HAVE-SO-MANY-BOOKS panic-inducing.

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apparently, there’s been a controversial topic buzzing around bookish social media — and i say “apparently” because i’ve been hearing about it tangentially but haven’t looked it up myself.  marie kondo, declutter-er extraordinaire, has her new show on netflix, and books are among the things she helps clients get rid of — and, apparently, that is a horrifying thought, getting rid of books.

if you’re unfamiliar with marie kondo, she’s a woman from japan who helps clients declutter and live more organized lives, and her method (the konmari method as it’s called) more or less comes down to holding the object in your hands and asking, does this give me joy right now? it sounds kind of hokey, but i kind of like it because i like the principle underneath it — don’t surround yourself with things that don’t bring something positive to your life in the present.

in other words, be intentional about what you keep in your space. to expand on that, live intentionally.


there’s a fair amount of privilege in the konmari method because there’s definitely privilege in being able to pare down, to live in the present, not to worry about future hypothetical concerns that might arise. people hold onto things for various reasons, whether they’re sentimental or financial, and i’m not going to be one to say that the konmari way is the way to go — like so many other things in life, the konmari method is inherently neither good nor bad. doing the konmari method doesn’t make you a better human being than someone who doesn’t do the konmari method.

living minimally doesn’t make you better or worse than someone who lives maximally.

all that said, i didn’t use the konmari method when i was packing — i’d done it before, years ago, with clothes, and had honestly kind of forgotten it had been a thing. i mention it because i thought it was kind of funny that this “controversy” erupted so soon after i’d brutally pared down my collection, getting rid of at least half my books by sending them to people (i did a whole thing on instagram) and donating the rest.


my reason for paring down my books was mostly practical — moving is expensive, and i wanted to reduce costs as much as i could, and books made up the bulk of my crap. i managed to get my books down to 15 books boxes and 3 letter boxes, and i’m so grateful for usps media mail because that also helped me cut costs a lot, coming out to roughly $300 to ship my books alone.

then, there was the other part of it, the part of me that no longer sentimentalizes books and has little regard for the book as Object, the part of me that’s tired of carrying around this bloated collection of books i’ve been accumulating for so long. i hadn’t read most of these books, which is fine because all readers have to-be-read piles and i find nothing bad about that, but the thing is that i knew i wouldn’t read most of them — i’d acquired these books because publishers sent them to me or because i thought i should read them at one point or because i’d bought them on impulse for whatever reason.

that last reason was largely why i’d amassed so many books; i’d pick up a book here just because, then another book there just because, and so on and so forth, even though i didn’t have any urgency to read these books i was collecting — i just thought, eh, i’ll read them one day. i’ll be in the mood for this one day. i’ll be glad i already had this one day.

(maybe there is something critical to be said about massive to-be-read piles …

… but that’s a topic for another day.)

i didn’t sit and hold my books in my hands one-by-one, asking myself if they brought me joy. i moved quickly through my piles, dividing books into three piles: books i definitely wanted to keep, books i maybe wanted to keep, and books i’d give away.

i also had a clear goal when i started — to create a strong, honed-down core collection that i would intentionally build out in the future — and i knew i wanted my library to be a great resource for asian diasporic literature and korean literature-in-translation.

having those goals made it easier to prune and to prune fairly quickly. i donated books i’d read but knew i wouldn’t read again, and i donated books i knew i’d never read. i donated books that didn’t add to this library i was imagining in my head. i donated books that i knew i was holding onto for stupid reasons, like they were written by an author who was thought of highly (i.e. nabokov) or by an author people found daunting (i.e. proust).

i let go of any notions of “classics” or what i thought at some point i “should” be reading, and i went with my gut — and i have to step in here maybe to add that i was only able to cut down my collection as quickly and painlessly as i did because, fundamentally, i trust my taste. i know what i like. i know how i want to expand my reading. and i have the confidence not to care what anyone else thinks because i know my taste and i know i can trust it because, as egoistical as this may sound, i know that i know good writing.

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there’s all the book stuff, and there are all the meals with friendly faces, but this is what moving really looks like.

moving is having to leave my puppy behind and missing him so intensely, it hurts physically. moving is not being able to eat peanut butter or cheese or hard-boiled eggs because my puppy likes to eat peanut butter and cheese and hard-boiled eggs. moving is being that weird emotional woman wandering a grocery store, tears welling up in her eyes because she misses her puppy and there are all these weird, random trigger points because her puppy likes food. moving is getting puppy updates from my parents, facetiming with gom and cry-laughing as he tilts his head from side to side, confused because he hears me — or saying, goms, stay still!!, because he’s following my mum’s iphone around, trying to smell it, to find me, because he’s confused, he knows i’m there, but i’m not.

moving is wondering countless times a day if i’ve made a mistake, if this — this apartment, this job, this life — is worth leaving my puppy behind.

moving is avoiding going home after work because i hate going home to a puppy-less apartment.

or maybe none of this is about moving. maybe this is just want it means to give your heart away.


sometimes, i wonder if people must find it comedic or pathetic that i have so many feelings for my dog. before we’d go to sleep, when he was curled up on his blanket in the corner of my bed, i’d scratch his ears and whisper, goms, i love you; do you know how much i love you?, to him over and over again. he wouldn’t know what i was saying, but he was relaxed, sprawled out, limbs akimbo, and i’d take that as his way of saying, yeah, yeah, psycho human, i know, because dogs only sprawl out when they trust you, when they know they’re safe.

buzzfeed reader is doing a series of posts about debt, and you’d think i’d find a lot of it relatable because i carried a lot of debt (and debt was the main reason i ended up going back to los angeles for two years), but it was the piece written by a woman about going into thousands and thousands of dollars of credit card debt for her dog when she was diagnosed with cancer that resonated most intensely with me.

even before i had a puppy, money was what stopped me getting one, though, back then, i thought i was a cat person and really, really wanted a cat. if i were to get an animal, though, i knew i was committing myself to a life with that animal, which meant that, inevitably, at one point, money for health issues would enter the picture. i never said it in so many words to myself, but i knew — i could be that woman who went thousands and thousands of dollars into debt for her animal. i could be that person. and, just like her, i wouldn’t regret it.

having said that, though, one of the reasons my puppy is in LA with my parents is money. it would cost me roughly $600-700 a month to cover doggie day care, food, and other various daily expenses, and that’s not an amount to sneeze at. another reason (and the more pressing reason, honestly) is that my job has an expectation for ridiculously long hours, so i’m typically out of the house for 12 hours, and i’d feel so guilty leaving him for so many hours of the week, even if he were in doggie day care and having fun playing with other dogs.

i miss him, though, and i miss him intensely. my dog wasn’t just my dog but my emotional support animal, and not having him inflates all kinds of other anxieties and leaves me on high-alert all the time, on the watch for the familiar signs of an onset of another depressive episode, of another spiral, of another low. i’m afraid of how i’ll cope when that happens again. i’m afraid of going through another episode of depression and suicidal thinking without my puppy.

and, yet, maybe you’d never think that looking at me because that’s the thing with brain things — you can’t see them, so you should never assume.


here are things my dog has taught me about myself: that i have a deeper capacity to love than i thought i did, that i am able to care for another living being in a manner that allows him to thrive, that i will make the sacrifices i need to ensure his happiness. that i can thrive and care for myself and live, even when things feel so impossible in my brain.

getting a puppy taught me a tremendous amount about myself, and i hope i love another person half as much as i love my dog. a friend who is a fellow dog human has assured me that i will only ever love another person has as much as i love my dog, and, at that, i laugh and think that whoever that person is, what a lucky person to receive even that much love, indeed.

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and, so, after weeks of packing and cleaning and getting fabulous meals with wonderful people, i made it to brooklyn with two suitcases, my stuff in my parents’ garage in LA ready to be shipped — after two years, i made it back home.

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be more intentional.

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I WAS REUNITED WITH MY PUPPY AGAIN!

though, hi, uhm, long time no see, you might need some context.

at the beginning of december, i moved back to brooklyn to start a new job in digital content at a korean skincare e-tailer, and i had to leave my puppy behind. it was an easy transition into nyc life in many ways — or it was an easy transition in every way but one: i. miss. my. dog.

i hate going home to a gom-less apartment, so i spent three weeks avoiding going home. my friend had a cat, and that helped and didn’t — it was nice to have a cuddly friend, but i couldn’t cuddle said cuddly friend because i have cat allergies (which i’m starting to lean into and embrace instead of fighting) — also, oh my god, cat litter smells, and i’ve been put off cats forever because i am just not clean enough to have a cat, to deal with the constant shedding and the litter everywhere. it’s not worth it when i can’t even cuddle the cat or give it scratchies or clean its damn litter without fear of my eyes getting itchy and watery and bloodshot and my sinuses going haywire.

(cat litter triggers my allergies so much more than the damn cat does.)

anyway, so, i miss my clean hypoallergenic puppy who loves to snuggle and pees and poos outside (for the most part), and i miss having his furiously wagging tail greeting me every day, and i miss his warmth and softness when he sprawls out by my leg at night. i miss his sweet little kisses. i miss the goodness that is a dog that loves you, and i miss the goodness that is caring for a dog and letting him know you love him, too.

i love new york city and being back home, but i miss my dog so much, i can’t even count the number of times i thought of giving NYC up and going back to LA because i was sad and lonely and hurting.

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let’s see — 2018.

when i started planning this post last week, i thought i’d do a series of seven lists, each containing seven things. i wasn’t sure what those lists would be about, except for maybe two, so here is the first one.

7 things i’m grateful for from 2018

  1. gom and som — we got gom when i was on the cusp of a dangerous depressive spiral, and gom kept me alive this summer. he was always so cheery to see me, always wanting snuggles, always settling happily in my arms or my lap, and i only made it through the summer because i had to care for him, had to feed him and take him out to go potty and train him. i only made it through because he needed me, though the truth is that i needed him far more than he ever needed me.

  2. moving back home and getting a new job — this happened through such a series of serendipitous events, i’m still kind of stunned. a friend put me in contact with her sister who worked at the company, and i interviewed with freelanced for this company in may, but then they dropped out of contact, so i figured they’d hired someone else, someone already local in new york. as it turns out, i was right, but that person wasn’t the right fit, so i was suddenly offered a job in october, a salary reached, a start date of december set — and, then, at the same time, another friend decided to move out of her brooklyn studio to move in with her boyfriend, so that was that — a job i’m good at in a field i love and a studio i can afford in an area of brooklyn i like — it all really worked out too well.

  3. that memoir workshop through catapult — i didn’t intend to take this workshop; i applied for another one with nicole chung; but, instead, catapult asked if i’d want to take this memoir generator, said that the instructor (christine h. lee) had read my sample and loved it. if i’m being brutally honest, i agreed to take the memoir workshop because i was so totally flattered that christine liked my writing because i’d been reading her memoir and had been amazed at her ability to blend science and memoir, to touch at the heart while also explaining the clinical. i’m so glad i took this workshop, though; not only did it confirm that i have both personal stories to tell and the voice to tell them, but i also had such an awesome, brilliant cohort that has led to some pretty damn stellar friendships.

  4. essay acceptances — the catapult thing also has led to having two essays accepted, two essays i’m working on with editors. that’s both thrilling and absolutely terrifying, but i am SO EXCITED and grateful to be working with these editors as they are both really badass, smart, brilliant asian-american women.

  5. friendships — this has been something i’ve been realizing more and more over the last two-three years, but i am so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. “in my life” doesn’t always mean a physical presence, either; the thing that keeps me on instagram is the community. there are people i’ve known for years now, people who have been with me and stayed with me though the really painful times that were the last few years, and i hope to meet more of these friends in-person this year and am accordingly planning trips to london, chicago, ann arbor, charleston, and DC.

  6. traveling, having the means and curiosity to travel — i’m lucky to be able to travel, and i never take it for granted. in 2018, i went to mexico city for the first time, and my family took a big trip to alaska, and i went back to san francisco and portland. i went to brooklyn twice. i almost made it to austin twice, but the forces in the universe wouldn’t let that happen. in 2019, i hope to do a fair bit of traveling as well, even while working so much, but i’ll be keeping things more local, planning to go up to boston fairly regularly, going to hawaii potentially for my dad’s 60th, making my one big international trip to london this time. and, god damn it, i’m making it to austin this year.

  7. creativity and ambition — there are times when i get down and discouraged and can’t write, and 2018 was a year of massive discouragement and stagnancy, especially with fiction writing. i almost threw away my book; the only reason i didn’t is that i had a new puppy who demanded all my attention, so i couldn’t sit down at my laptop long enough to find all my files and delete them. near the end of the year, though, i started thinking more about this book of stories i’ve been working on for eleven years now, and i kept coming back to a few big changes i wanted to make. and i read ted chiang’s fabulous stories of your life, and the best thing about that book was that it made me miss writing fiction. and then, over the last weekend, i watched all of the haunting of hill house, and that, too, made me miss writing fiction so much.

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look, i’ve gone five photos without my dogs. let’s go back to looking at dogs!

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it’s funny having two puppies because they have personalities of their own. gom and som look so alike (they’re brothers), but they’re so different, their personalities almost totally opposite from each other.

som does everything with a flare for the dramatic, whether it’s changing positions when sleeping or drinking water or chasing after a toy. he plays well by himself, able to amuse himself, and he has a lot of curiosity and a lot of fear at the same time. he used to dislike cuddling, wanting to be on his own, but, recently, he’s taken to demanding snuggles, wanting to be close and held. the funniest/cutest thing about him, though, is his ability to sleep wherever and whenever — it he’s tired, he’s going to sleep; he’s going to find whatever bed is closest or go into his crate; and he is going to sleep.

when he was a little puppy, he’d sprawl out on the floor wherever he was and sleep. we’d have to be careful not to step on him or kick him, which made it kind of a challenge to cook sometimes because, if he happened to get sleepy in the middle of the kitchen floor, well, that’s where he was going to sleep. nowadays, now that he’s four months old, he’ll go find a bed or his crate, but that’s adorable, too, the way he makes a beeline for bed, for sleep, the way he ends up hanging off the bed, his feet maybe hooked over the edge while he sprawls out on the floor.

gom, on the other hand, is more sensitive. he wants to sleep around me or around my parents. if we get up while he’s sleeping, he’ll get up and follow, even if we’re just getting up to use the toilet — he’ll follow and curl up outside the bathroom because he wants to be around his humans, wants to know they’re there.

gom, in general, is more even-keel with less of a flare for the dramatic, but he also has more anxiety. he has a lot of separation anxiety, which i also share, but he’s more sensitive, more emotional, more moody. sometimes, i wonder if it’s because he was left alone in a garage as he was being weaned, and he was the only puppy, no litter mates, and i can’t imagine how scary that must have been, to be a two-month-old puppy taken from his mother and put in a giant, dark garage by himself. whether it’s that or just personality or a combination of both, gom doesn’t like to be alone, will play by himself only if we’re around, much prefers to crawl in my lap and chew on his toys there.

his kisses are sweeter, too, more gentle, while som goes energetically for kisses, licking our faces with vigor. som’s also the one who’s always stealing gom’s bones and toys, and i keep telling gom to be a meaner hyung, to assert his authority and take his bones and toys back, but gom’s a sweetheart and will cry and bark but let som keep chewing and playing away.

god damn, i miss my dogs.

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i’m on a flight back to brooklyn as i type this, and, while it’s nice to be in LA to visit, it always feels like a literal weight is being lifted off my shoulders when i leave — or maybe it’s more accurate to say that there is no better feeling than my plane landing at JFK, the lightness and comfort that fill me because i know i’ve come home again.

that second list then, 7 things i want to do in 2019:

  1. create more and challenge myself creatively — i want to come back to this space and create more content, more book content and food content. i also want to keep building out my food zine, and i want to start editing video finally and start vlogging.

  2. go back to my stupid book — 2018 was a year of letting the book be, and i’m still conflicted over whether or not i’m glad i didn’t end up trashing my book, like i was dead-set on doing in may and june. i think i am glad in ways that gom saved me from that, and i am excited to go back to writing fiction, to these changes i will be making.

  3. travel — i’ll be staying fairly close to new york this year, doing a lot of “micro” trips, but i’m still planning and hoping to make it to london and barcelona. and maybe oaxaca. i want to go to oaxaca so badly.

  4. be kind to myself and take care of myself — my instinct is to work, work, work, to keep creating and doing and going, and it’s been a process being okay with doing nothing. maybe that’s one reason i hate watching TV — i feel like i’m wasting time i could be writing or creating or reading, which is stupid, i know, but weekends like this last one of 2018 when i did nothing but watch the haunting of hill house — that was good, too. sometimes, doing nothing is a gift — and nothing is ever nothing, anyway. TV stimulates the creative brain as much as anything, and inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere as long as you’re keeping your eyes and brain and heart open.

  5. DATE!!!

  6. keep a clean apartment — i am not a dirty person, but i tend to clutter and can get super lazy with cleaning, putting it off instead of cleaning every week. i’m living alone now, though, and, as it turns out, i like cleanliness, and i like clean spaces. my mum is fastidious about cleanliness, and i used to complain about it, but, now, i miss it so much, how clean my parents’ house is, especially now when my studio is a mess, in that in-between phase where someone’s moved out, people have had to come in to paint and fix things, and i’m still not quite moved in yet, living on bare bones furniture while i wait for an ikea delivery and all my crap to arrive from california. i’m trying to keep a clean apartment, though, to stay organized and tidy up every week and not put my laundry off until it absolutely must be done.

  7. practice more gratitude — it is so easy to take shit for granted. one of the things i have in my bullet journal is a gratitude list every month where i write down at least one thing every day i’m grateful for, and, sometimes, that exercise is so hard, but i find that it’s also often so helpful, especially when i’m having a particularly shitty day. does it always work to turn my mood around? no, but i always appreciate the effort, and it’s something i want to keep being more intentional about this year.

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here’s one last photo of gom who wishes y’all a happy 2019. make it be a good one.

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