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.

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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color me this.

here is the lip that started it all.

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there are several stories to be told here, but i suppose let’s start with the simplest. in 2012, flower boy next door aired on TVN. the main character, go dok-mi (park shin-hye), is a recluse who doesn’t leave her apartment unless she has to, working as copywriter and doing everything she can to conserve her resources and keep her bills low. her next-door neighbor (oh jin-rak [kim ji-hoon])  is a webtoon artist, and he has a crush on her, though he never talks to her, leaving an illustration on a post-in on her milk carton every morning. the illustrations, together, make a flipbook, which dok-mi has been accumulating on the wall of her entryway.

their quiet existence is tossed upside down with the arrival of enrique (yoon shi-yoon), a wunderkind game designer who lived in spain and is now moving to seoul. he’s exuberant, outgoing, and friendly, almost too friendly, seemingly with no sense of personal boundaries or personal struggles — he’s young, cute, successful, and life seems to unfold easily for him.

his presence brings noise into dok-mi’s quiet, solitary life, and he draws her out of her shell and out into the world. that, in turn, brings noise into jin-rak’s quiet life, drawing him out and throwing him actively into dok-mi’s life, no longer allowing him to remain as a quiet outsider who cares for her in silence from afar. inevitably, as they get to know each other, they start to learn more about each other and the hurts that have brought them to the quiet lives both dok-mi and jin-rak were trying to live before enrique rolled into their lives.

it’s a fun, poignant drama with a strong cast.

it also features some great lipstick, namely go dok-mi’s “signature” peachy-pinky-orange.


on december 1, i’m moving back to brooklyn and starting a new job. it happened quickly, but it didn’t, my interview with the CEO having happened in may, a freelance project completed, then silence until october. i’m glad for the delay, though, because i don’t know that i’d have been fully ready for the cross-country move then, if i’d have had the confidence for it.

because, yes, despite my desperation to move back, there’s been a lot of fear keeping me in place, which isn’t something i like to admit, that i carry a fair amount of fear with me. i’ve wanted to think of myself as fearless for so many years because i wanted to think of myself as invincible, as capable of being alone and on my own, and somehow that was related. fear would mean i would need people in my life; that, in turn, would mean that i would need to open myself up to people; and that, in its own turn, would mean that i would need to be vulnerable and face the possibility of rejection.

that was the fear that defined me for over a decade, and that’s the fear that fed and reinforced the principle lies i’ve been telling myself for so long — that i’m a misanthrope, an introvert, a solitary soul. as it goes, i am none of those things — i like people, i like engaging with people and being around them, and i dare say — people like being around me, too.


i was never much into makeup as a teenager or as a young adult, and i’m still not, really. i don’t wear makeup every day, and, when i do wear, i stay very minimalist — concealer under my eyes and on my spots, boy brow, mascara, lipstick.

it’s go do-kmi’s lipstick that started it all because i readily admit that i now have a problem when it comes to lipstick. i got into lipstick before i got into any other kind of makeup, and i got into it because i wanted to find this peachy/pinky/orangey shade go dok-mi wears throughout the drama. the closest i got was bobbi brown’s valencia orange, though that was still too dark, too orange, which was still fine because i learned that i can actually wear orange lipstick — it doesn’t make me look sallow.

finding that go dok-mi shade was impossible, though. all the shades i could find that could be a potential match were either too chalky, too pale, too this or too that. if not that, they would wash me out or made me look pallid or something similarly odd and unflattering and weird.

that means that i’ve been looking for this shade for five years now, that this has been on my mind still, even tens of lipsticks later, even as i’ve been amassing a sizable collection of lipsticks mostly along the red or orange spectrum. as i’ve discovered, i like bright lip colors because i like how they brighten my face, especially when i’m exhausted and showing it, and i’ve recently been drawn to dusty pinks. i went bold and got a fabulous gold lipstick. i have a good selection of strong reds. it’s this peach/pinky/orangey shade that’s been eluding me for so many years, even as i’ve kept my eyes open, swatched so many possible shades on my hand, dried out my lips trying different products. five years later, i still haven’t given up, even as the shade has felt more and more nonexistent as one i’ll be able to wear.

enter, then, bite beauty’s lip lab.

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a friend tells me bite’s opened up a lip lab on larchmont, and i ask her the next day if she wants to go. i don’t know that there are two tiers of service — the first lets you personalize a lipstick by choosing from 200+ preexisting shades and selecting a finish and scent. the second lets you customize your own shade, mixing up to three shades, and selecting a finish, scent, and name. i assume that there is only one thing, the second thing, the customizing thing, and i think, wow, it’s so cheap, $55 for a customized shade!

the second tier, though, is $150 for two lipsticks, and it’s not a thing you can split with a friend. it also comes with a lip kit that includes bite’s cherry lip scrub, a mini lip mask, and a lip primer. the artist asks us what we’d like to do, and my friend and i look at each other, hem and haw. i’ve got this very specific color in mind that i’ve been looking for for so long. she’s wanted a coral, has never been able to find one she can wear because her skin tone is more yellow, doesn’t wear orangey hues well. i’m moving back to brooklyn in two weeks for a job that actually utilizes my skills and is in a direction of my long-term career goals, and i’m feeling celebratory.

our artist’s name is samantha, and we’ll spend the next two-and-a-half hours with her. she’ll listen to the shades we have in mind, reach for pots of colors, think up ratios in her head. she’ll notice that my friend’s lips tend to bring a strong pink hue to everything whereas mine are more like blank canvases, wearing colors as they appear. she’ll be patient with us when we ask her if she could make the same shade in a different finish; she’ll be honest and blunt when a particular shade doesn’t work with our skin tones.

i’ll realize for the nth time that i like bright, vivid colors, that i have very strong opinions about colors and little qualms expressing said opinions in nice but blunt ways — and that’s another not insignificant thing i’ve learned about myself this year, that i can trust my taste and my ability to critique and to do it well. i’m a smart reader, and i have an eye for color and design and photography, and i’m better at providing feedback and insight than i used to think i was. more than that, it’s okay to be confident; confidence is not ego — it is not arrogance.

and that, in turn, leads to the biggest thing i’ve been learning these last few years, especially these last two years in LA — it is okay to like myself. it is okay to like what i see in the mirror. it is okay for people to disagree and think otherwise. it is okay if it’s people close to me who disagree.

the unexpected effect of being body shamed is that it has taught me that people’s opinions mean shit because everyone has a bloody opinion. it doesn’t matter if it’s a family member or a stranger on the street or a date — they’ve all got opinions about you, and all those opinions are secondary to the one you have about yourself. and i say that because i’m going to quote stephen chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower here: “we accept the love we think we deserve.”

i’ve learned that i deserve a lot better, and, more importantly, i’ve learned to expect better and remove myself from people who can’t or won’t deliver.

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i know — that’s all easier said than done, and it’s a constant fight to remind myself of all these lessons learned. healing’s a process, as is personal growth, and it takes time, and, more often than not, it feels like taking one baby step forward and one giant step back. the thing to remember is that, even if you move forward one inch at a time, you’re still moving forward.

that’s essential to remember.

change doesn’t often look like what we’d expect, and neither does growth. i tend to think that an essential part of the healing process is accepting that and learning to be okay with it. you are going to falter and stumble and get triggered and fall into the same habits and negative thinking, and you are going to make the same mistakes. you are going to mess up. you are not perfect, and that is okay because the thing that counts is that you’re trying.

it’s okay to have a moment when you’re yelling at yourself again as long as you have that moment and let it pass. it’s okay to cry. it’s okay to feel like shit every once in a while. it’s okay to feel the same self-loathing washing over you again. it’s okay as long as you recognize, this is a moment. i am going to feel this, process it, and keep going. because that’s the thing — feelings are fleeting, and the bad moments pass. at the same time, yeah, that means that good moments pass, too, but the good moments wouldn’t be good if we didn’t have the bad to contrast them.

and another lesson? just like it’s okay to feel the negative shit, it’s also okay — and essential — to feel the positive. when something good happens, sit with that and exult in it. celebrate the happy. congratulate yourself, and do something nice for yourself. sometimes, that means taking a nap, hugging your dog, going out for a nice meal. it can also be taking an afternoon off to go to the beach, the bookstore, the gym. or something nice can also look like paying a stupid amount of money to spend two-and-a-half hours with your best friend creating two custom lipsticks because you’ll be living on different coasts again and you won’t be able to see each other as often anymore.


if you’re going to pay to get custom lipstick made, you should go for something you can’t find easily in stores. my friend goes for a coral and a dark pinkish brown, something she wouldn’t typically wear. i make my go dok-mi shade and a shiny brick red, and i leave with other colors i’d come back to create, like the first pink-brown samantha makes for my friend — it’s too light on her, on her already pink-hued lips, but, on me, it’s the perfect pink-brown, a shade i’ve been looking for recently.

i figure i’ll keep looking for a pink-brown in stores, see if there’s one that’s readily available, but, if i can’t find it, i’ll come back to bite’s lip lab to create it. i might also come back for a glossy true orange. i also want to create a variation of my go dok-mi shade, make it more orange, less pink, but just as soft and pastel. pastel orange-based shades can be hard for me to find because they look too chalky, too white, too uneven in application.

that’s some time later in the future, a few months down the road. for now, there is this cross-country move to make, a new job to transition into, and an apartment to furnish. i’m planning to bring my dog across in three to six months, so i’ve also got to figure out how to manage that, what to do with my dog if i’m working longer hours, how to make sure the transition is goes smoothly for him. i’m thinking that it’s time for me to stop thinking so transiently, to start investing in pieces, whether they’re furniture or clothes or, even, bags, and to stop living such a disposable life that i can get rid of and pack up every few years.

i’m thinking, i’m moving back home, and it’s time to lay down roots and really make it home.

it’s time to stop running.

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everything is political.

today, dr. christina blasey ford testified about her sexual assault by brett kavanaugh in front of a senate committee — and, well, the whole damn world — and, while it was encouraging and inspiring to see, once again, the courage of a woman to stand up for what she believes is right, even though she knows the system she’s up against is too powerful, it’s been an ugly day and a disappointing one. kavanaugh’s confirmation is an inevitability (or it feels overwhelmingly so), and the sham that was the 2016 election continues to reverberate even now, almost two years later, in this sham of a hearing.

but that’s not what i want to talk about, not right now.

this morning, i went to work and opened twitter and glanced at the news, then i opened instagram and started scrolling through my feed and stories and explore page. now, tonight, with my dog at my feet and crisp night air sifting in through the windows, i feel the need to put down in a post what i said in my instagram stories this morning. (they’ve also been pinned to my profile.)

to put it shortly: food is political. books are political. fashion is political. and, if you’re a public account, whatever your niche, the greater your following, the greater your responsibility to speak up and be clear about what you stand for.

i’ve been open about how my patience for instagram, specifically for influencers on instagram, has been dwindling, and it kind of blew up today as i was going through my feed and my stories and seeing the same old — book hauls, exorbitant product unboxings, fashion parties — and largely silence about the goings-on in DC. maybe there’d be a token post, a screencap with a quote, nothing personal given. maybe there’d be a tiny gesture, just enough to squeak by safely, so the poster could have something to point at to say, look, i’m paying attention! here’s something that’s been circulating on the internet that fits with my brand! i’m not saying that people need to be posting about political and social shit non-stop all the time, but today was particularly jarring, this blatant disconnect between food/books/etc accounts and dr. ford’s testimony and the GOP’s disgusting responses.

it’s also been jarring given that it’s banned books week, and we’ve been seeing plenty of photos of banned books, which makes the silence from prominent bookstagrammers ring even more because those books they’re so keen to show off have often been banned for telling stories of people whose rights are under threat today, whose lives kavanaugh’s confirmation makes even more perilous.

and, yes, i do mean lives, actual, physical, mortal lives, because don’t delude yourself for one goddamn minute that people’s lives aren’t at stake here..

because lest you forget, women die without access to safe abortion. they die because of sexual and domestic violence. they die because their pain is dismissed and ignored because they’re women and women’s pain is diminished, not heard and taken seriously.

queer people die because of violence committed against them, because they have the audacity to exist and love. they die because they’re so bullied, so dehumanized, so isolated that they take their own lives. they die because they’re chased out of their homes, cut out of their families, forced onto the streets with no support system.

people of color die because of racism, because the color of their skin carries prejudice and stereotypes that erase their humanity. they die because they’re denied refuge, even though they came to this country to flee violence and deportation means they will be killed — there is no doubt about that. people of color die doing the work in this country that white people, no matter how desperate, will never deign to do.

these are all things those banned books are about because writers write in response to the shit that goes on in the world. those banned books people are stacking so proudly, so prettily, were written to illuminate something about the world because writers know — books exist in dialogue with the world, because nothing — NOTHING — exists in a vacuum. you cannot separate art from the political because art is political, just like you cannot separate food from the political, not when it is the political that mandates what kind of food is made available and accessible to which groups of people. don’t forget that this country produces enough food to feed all its people and more. it is the political that means so many people, so many children, in this country go hungry.

so don’t give me your excuses, and don’t you dare sit there trying to claim that food isn’t political, that books aren’t political, that you can somehow detach yourself from the political. have the decency and courage to make it clear where you stand because silence is damning and privilege is an ugly thing that reinforces this toxic, patriarchal, classist white society that is meting out incredible amounts of harm to women, POC, queer people, immigrants, people of faiths other than christianity.

when you have a platform, whether it’s to a following of a few thousand or hundreds of thousands or millions, and you refuse to make it clear where you stand, your silence makes you complicit.

color me purple.

PURPLE APRON ALERT!!!

i’ve been following hedley and bennett pretty intensely for a few years now, pretty much since ellen bennett launched the company, and, on february 20, they released this gorgeous purple apron (named “fig”) as part of their new pantry collection. of course, i had to have it, never mind that i have four other aprons (omg, seriously), but it’s! purple! such! a! gorgeous! purple!

i love purple.

this is not a sponsored post.

i really like the material this apron is made of. it’s an 8-oz taiwanese stretch denim that’s been custom-dyed (in 5 different colors), and it’s reversible, which is something i don’t feel much about either way, but you get a darker shade on one side, a brighter one on the other, and, hey, i like options. i don’t typically like stretch fabrics or light (in weight) aprons (my favorite apron is the dusty pink one in my previous post, and it’s double-layered, which makes it heavier), but this taiwanese stretch denim is soft, durable, and comfortable.

i do wish the ampersands had been stitched along the edges, though, and placed closer to the neck strap, but that’s a tiny complaint, and i hope this isn’t the only purple apron h&b designs! i keep dreaming about a brighter, grape-hued apron with cantaloupe straps — and, while we’re talking about colors, one of the funnest things about having followed a company like h&b for so long is that they’ve played a part in helping me embrace my love of color.

because honestly? i didn’t always love color so much. i used to hide from it, rather, because, as they say, black is slimming and bright colors would make my larger body stand out too much — and why would i want to draw so much attention to myself?

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a few weeks ago, i went down a twitter blackhole and spent hours obsessively reading blair braverman’s feed. she’s a musher, which means she races sled dogs, which means her feed is filled with stories of dog-racing adventures and photos of dogs, athletes really, wiry and muscular but no less affectionate and filled with characters of their own.

(her feed is one good thing to come of that annoying thing twitter does of showing you the tweets people you follow have liked.)

i knew that blair had written a memoir, and, after spending days on her twitter feed, i decided to pick up her book, thinking, naturally, that it’d be similar to her twitter feed, happy and lively and full of dogs. a friend warned me in advance, though, that the book is more intense, not quite like her twitter, but i wasn’t sure what to make of that because she didn’t tell me anything beyond that.

she was right, though, and i’m glad to have had the warning — welcome to the goddamn ice cube (ecco, 2016) is not the book you might expect because it’s not about dog-sledding or mushing or surviving in the arctic. rather, it’s a book about being a woman in the world and learning to carry all the burdens of what that entails and to be as you are, who you are, even when fear keeps you awake through the nights.

blair takes us to her youth, to her formative years that led her to dog-sledding, and she grew up a happy child in suburban california, though that isn’t where her family was supposed to be. her mother grew up in oregon, and her father was a new yorker, and their move to the suburbs of northern california was supposed to be a temporary, two-years-max thing that stretched into four that stretched into a decade. there was a year’s stint in norway, blair’s first taste of living in the cold, and, hungry for more, she went back alone to study abroad for a year in high school, though that didn’t necessarily turn out as expected, stuck as she was with a host family with a threatening host father.

there is a danger and unease all women have known since girlhood.

she avoids anything serious from happening, though, but what does that even mean? it’s enough for a girl to be placed in a situation where she feels constant fear, where she’s always on edge, on guard, because she doesn’t know if or when the scales will tip and that thing she can’t name but knows to fear will happen. it’s enough to have to carry that; that, in and of itself, is a serious enough thing to endure.

and maybe that’s where i feel like maybe we get stuck when it comes to conversations about sexual violence, racism, bigotry, that it’s easy to point at people’s obviously terrible actions and say, that’s bad. we need to condemn that. rape is clear (or it should be); physical assault is clear (or it should be); and open discrimination is clear (or it should be) — but we can’t forget about the everyday acts of micro-aggression. we can’t ignore those. we can’t dismiss them and say they’re not serious because, oh, she wasn’t assaulted, oh, he wasn’t hospitalized, oh, they can still get married, don’t be so petty and obsessed with such minuscule details.

because here’s the thing: shitty behavior doesn’t have to, shouldn’t have to, escalate into disgusting acts of human violence to be called out. it’s enough that a grown man thinks it’s acceptable to loom over a girl and cast a shadow into her life. it’s enough that white people think it’s okay to follow black customers around a store. it’s enough that straight people think it’s morally fine for them to turn queer people away, to refuse them marriage licenses and business services, all on the flimsy grounds of “freedom of religion.”

it’s enough because, yeah, maybe you might be inclined to say, oh, they’re not really doing anything, though, but no one starts off with murder. behavior escalates, and a man who is physically abusive is more likely to pick up a gun and commit mass murder — he doesn’t start with mass murder — so, yes, it matters, and micro-aggression is serious enough for us to pay attention and call it out and demand that it stop.


wonder if i’ll ever pair words to photographs in a way that matches? i do, too.


two sundays ago, i made scallion pancakes, and this recipe is from molly yeh’s fabulous molly on the range (rodale, 2016). molly is the only food blogger i read, and i love her — she’s so bright, so sunny, and she loves snow and sprinkles as much as i do.

molly on the range is filled with personal stories, from her experience at camp, at julliard, at home on a farm in north dakota where she lives with her husband (who grows sugar beets and plays the trombone). molly’s recipes are this mish-mash of cultures, taking inspiration from foods passed down from her jewish mother and chinese father and somehow mashing flavors together in ways that work in really cool ways. like scallion challah bread or hawaij in everything — and those are really shitty examples, i know, but you can go read her blog and/or get her book and get a better idea of what i’m trying to say.

these scallion pancakes, though — in recent weeks, all i’ve been craving are grungy italian-american food, indian food, and scallion pancakes. these were pretty good, especially once i’d gotten the hang of rolling them into more circular shapes and rolling them flatter and thinner, but i may play around with mixing APF with rice flour to get more of that glutinous chew i so crave when it comes to scallion pancakes. that said, that’s me being super particular. these were fun and easy to make, and the flavor was excellent, and i’ll definitely make them again.


i find it weird to refer to people here by their first name when i don’t know them, but i’ve called both blair and molly by their first names. i don’t know either of them, though i wish i did, but there’s something about them that makes them feel personable and approachable, like using their last names to refer to them would feel oddly impersonable and, almost, rude.

maybe it’s the way blair tells her story, drawing you in and making herself vulnerable, and she’s a fantastic writer — and an astute one as well. one of my peeves when it comes to memoirs is when authors lack any kind of self-awareness, filling pages with anecdotes that read more like acts of self-indulgence than anything else (it’s one reason i didn’t finish erica garza’s getting off), but welcome to the goddamn ice cube doesn’t fall prey to that, being a memoir, instead, that flows narratively and positions itself within the world at-large. there’s no moralizing, either, no preaching, no ego-driven self-flagellation, and it’s a book filled with warmth, appreciation, and strength, a book about bravery, really, not bravery in the romanticized, inflated way of dramatized heroism, but bravery in the rather banal, everyday ways of simply showing up, being uncomfortable, and learning to say no and to say it again and again when the first ten “no”s go ignored.

it’s about a woman’s life as she’s lived it, as she’s learned to move about the world and find her place and her people within it, and i highly, highly recommend it. i also highly recommend following blair (and her husband!) on twitter. go bask in all the adorable photos of dogs they post and share in their dog-racing adventures.


when chopping scallions, make sure to use a sharp knife. if you use a knife-that-is-not-sharp, you’ll end up with slimy green strings with notches cut into them, not chopped scallions.

when chopping things, also use a proper cutting board. those cheap plastic things are awful and will dull your knives and absorb smells and accumulate bacteria — and i doubt they’re environmentally friendly. invest in wood.

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there’s a passage from rebecca solnit’s the faraway nearby (penguin, 2013) that i go back to every so often. incidentally, it’s the opening passage of the book, and it sets the tone, setting the stage for a book that will feel at once concrete and not, grounded in solnit’s memories while also floating away on the whimsy of stories and story-telling and the fancy story entails.

solnit is a deft, intelligent writer, but she doesn’t lose herself to her smarts. i’m not much a fan of such writers, writers who feel the need to blare their intelligence on the page, writers who try too hard to be clever, to be witty, to be smarter than their readers and let that be known — and, like i said before, intellectualism doesn’t impress me.

(it’s one reason i had issues with maggie nelson’s the argonauts [graywolf, 2016], which i loved in the beginning and loved less and less as the book went on. nelson gets lost in the tangles of whatever it is she’s trying to say, and it all simply made me think, well. i’m sorry for being too dull for you — but, then again, maybe i am dull, or maybe it’s just my impatience for theory flaring up again. maybe it’s my allergy to hype. maybe it’s all of the above.

whatever it is, ultimately, the argonauts has completely faded from my brain.)

solnit is gracious, though, warm and generous, even when she’s being critical. in another writer’s hands, her essay collection, men explain things to me (haymarket, 2014), would have been scathing and bristling, but, in solnit’s, the essays are thoughtful, well-considered, fleshed-out. that isn’t to say she isn’t scathing or that she’s soft in her criticism; solnit doesn’t try to cushion any blows or shy away from the brutal realities of the consequences and realities of patriarchy and toxic masculinity; but she does it all in such measured ways that the truth falls even harder and heavier.

that’s not meant to sound like tone-policing, by the way. sometimes, it’s necessary to shout and scream and snarl.

going back to that aforementioned passage, though:

what’s your story? it’s all in the telling. stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. to love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.

which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there. what is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the person you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed?

we tell ourselves stories to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment. sometimes the story collapses, and it demands that we recognize we’ve been lost, or terrible, or ridiculous, or just stuck; sometimes change arrives like an ambulance or a supply drop. not a few stories are sinking ships, and many of us go down with these ships even when the lifeboats are bobbing all around us. (solnit, 3-4)

i don’t judge people who don’t read; i know reading isn’t something everyone likes to do; and there are plenty of things people like to do that i don’t. i do, however, tend to roll my eyes when people like to act like they’re above stories, like storytelling is something in which only children participate. i can’t help but roll my eyes at people who try to downplay novels, implying that maturing means leaving the novel (and, in connection, fiction) behind and moving onto more “serious” writing like essays and philosophy and biographies (aka non-fiction).

because the problem beneath all that snobbery and faux-intellectualism is this: stories are the foundation of who we are. they provide the foundation of our beliefs, define how we see the world, and directly influence the way we consider other people. they tell us who we are and how we position ourselves in the world. stories are the means through which we conduct our lives.

stories are in everything, and story-telling is the framework on which we build everything. it doesn’t matter whether you’re an artist or an engineer or an attorney; you tell stories for a living, whether it’s through a creative medium, a structure, a legal case. if you’re an accountant, you might work in numbers, but you still look for the stories embedded in financial and income statements because they tell you all about the life and health of a company. if you’re a doctor, bodies tell you stories, and you carry the stories of your patients. if you’re a chef, a coffee roaster, a baker, you take the stories from your life, your farmers and butchers and fishermen, and you turn them into sustenance.

when you go home at the end of the day, kiss your partner, say hello to your children, your flatmate, your parents, you tell them the story of your day.

when you introduce yourself to someone new, you share the story of who you are.

when you see someone, you tell yourself a story of who you think that person is, and you act accordingly.


one thing i’ve been doing less of since 2017 is reading from korean authors. i miss that. i hope to get back to that this year.

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my way of cooking is usually to go into a recipe and kind of just take from it what i want. (my apologies, recipe developers and writers.)

here’s the chicken poulet from kristen kish cooking (clarkson potter, 2017), except it’s just the chicken, no sauce, no gnocchi, and no thyme or rosemary either because i didn’t have either on hand and all my herb plants died. (i have black thumbs.) i also didn’t use the kind of chicken her recipe calls for either because she says to use skin-on, boneless chicken breasts, but i have yet to find skin-on, boneless chicken breasts because i don’t actually have a butcher, just the butcher counter at whole foods (omg i can’t quit whole foods; DAMN YOU, AMAZON), and it’s still just a thing on my list, to learn how to break down a whole chicken.

that’s a lot of words about how i deviated from the recipe …

anyway, so, i used the technique from her recipe, but i used skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, and i added garlic to the pan, and i made adjustments to the cooking time as necessary, and i ended up with really juicy, flavorful chicken breasts and super, super crispy skin.

i never grew up eating chicken skin.

it’s too fattening.


i have a complicated relationship with my body, and i have a complicated relationship with food.

when i see photos of myself, i cringe, seeing the lumpiness in my face, the chub in my arms and fingers, the bulges around my stomach. i see my double chin, the little shelf of fat that squeezes over my bra under my armpits, the paunch around my midriff. i see the pounds i should lose. i see the lunch maybe i shouldn’t have eaten.

i see shame.


the movie that stands out to me most from my adolescence is cool runnings, and i haven’t seen it in almost two decades, so i don’t remember much of it, just the memories associated with watching it. i watched it for the first time at a sleepover with my discipleship group, and that in and of itself was pretty cool, the act of sleeping over at my discipleship leader’s apartment, of lining up in a row in our sleeping bags in her living room at night.

at the time, it felt very grown up.

anyway, the point is — so we watched cool runnings, and the scene that has always stayed with me was when one of the characters is taken into the bathroom by some other dude who asks him, look in the mirror; what do you see?

the guy isn’t sure and rattles off something or another, and the dude says, no. when i look in the mirror, i see power. i see strength. i see … etcetera etcetera etcetera, and this is a terrible summary of this scene, but i think you get the point.

and i think you get where i’m going with this.


i like to believe that we can’t control much in our lives and in our narratives, but we do get to choose how we approach the shit we’re given. we don’t get to choose how people see us or judge us, but we do get to choose how we feel about and judge ourselves.

one of the positive things to come out of a decade-plus of intense body shaming by people i love is that i’ve learned to slough off shame. i’ve learned to embrace myself as who i am and to be okay with people not being okay with who i am. that doesn’t mean i don’t have bad days when i catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and immediately look away, days when i’m wearing something that’s a little too tight and sink into unhappiness and angriness at my inability to lose weight.

and that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy or simple process to get here to this point where i can say, it’s okay; i’m okay, where i can post photos of myself that aren’t just perfectly angled photos of my face, nothing shown from the shoulders down, the selca shot at the perfect angle that makes my face appear narrower, sharper, less lumpy.

that doesn’t mean i have a good, healthy relationship with my body now, either, or with food. i still hate my body most days because it’s not a healthy body, and i still have a complicated relationship with food — but maybe that’s the other positive thing that came out of a decade-plus of intense body shaming. i know that healing takes a shit-ton of time and whole lot of pain and that it, too, is massively complicated. nothing is black-and-white, either-or. nothing is that cleanly, clearly defined.

and that’s okay. that’s okay as long as we’re still trying.


“poulet” means “chicken” in french, so this recipe is really called “chicken chicken.”

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over the the last few weeks, several women have come forward with allegations against sherman alexie, arguably the prominent native-american writer, though that also feels not-so-correct to say because, hello, louise erdrich. 

a week or two ago, alexie released a statement in which he wrote, “there are women telling the truth about my behavior and i have no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers. that would be completely out of character.”

overall, the statement is a pretty shoddy non-apology, one that takes no responsibility for his actions and tries to brush everything under the rug with a standard, i’m sorry if i hurt you, but the thing is — i do believe him when he writes that he has “no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers” — and that’s the problem.

some people like to argue that we’ve become too “PC,” that we’re too sensitive or that we’re overreacting, that, if [insert supposedly innocuous statement or behavior here] is sexual harassment, then where does it end? then men won’t be able to talk to any women, and it’ll be impossible for them to be friendly or to show concern or care because, oh no, women are such snowflakes and they must be so dumb that they can’t parse innocent friendly behavior from dangerous creeper behavior.

which then leads to this asinine idea that the solution is to go back to completely male-dominated spaces.

the problem isn’t that women are dumb and can’t tell the difference between a man being friendly and a man wielding his power (because, believe or not, women can). the problem is that men have no idea about the structural power imbalances in place that inherently benefit them. the problem is that men move about the world totally oblivious to their privilege and the toxicity it unfurls. the problem is that men can’t seem to wrap their brains around consent or accept that, no, they are not entitled to women, whether to women’s attention or time or bodies.

and, so, i do, to a degree, believe alexie when he claims that he doesn’t remember ever explicitly threatening women and their careers because the thing is … he doesn’t have to threaten anyone explicitly. he doesn’t have to grab a woman’s arm or trap her in a corner or say the words, have sex with me, or you’ll never write again. he doesn’t have to menace her or stalk her or spread rumors about her.

all he has to do is make an advance and refuse to walk away when the woman signals no.


men can complain all they want about how they didn’t set up the system and it isn’t fair that they’re lumped together in this mass of shitty human behavior, but, hey, here’s the thing: if you actively benefit from a toxic system (which all men do) (and which all white people, men and women, do) and you do nothing to try to change that system, then, hi, you’re complicit.

no one says it’s easy, and no one says it’s fun. it’s not pleasant confronting your own shittiness, and i’ve got plenty of experience in that area myself. it’s taken me years to dismantle my internalized misogyny; i readily admit that, seven years ago, i was that person who went around disavowing feminism because i was about “humanism” or some bullshit like that. i had to come face-to-face with the racism and prejudice i’d long carried against other POC, and i know — it sucks. it sucks to realize that you’re a shitty human being. it sucks to admit that and reckon with it, but the only other option is to deny it, and denial allows toxicity to fester.

and here’s the thing about power, and here’s where this all comes together: all of this has to do with the stories we tell ourselves about what the world should look like and how power is structured and where we figure ourselves within it all. a man’s entitlement comes from the story he tells himself about a world in which his supposed masculinity is everything and he deserves to get what he wants and, if he doesn’t get it, if he is denied, he has the right to lash out in whatever way he so wants. an abuse victim believes the lies in the stories her abuser tells her, stories that say she deserved what she got, that she provoked him, that no one will believe her. women internalize these stories, too, invest in the narratives of the patriarchy and prop up toxic masculinity, repeat these stories to their daughters and continue the cycle.

colonizers buy into the stories of their greatness, of the supposed inferiority of the Others they colonize, and, sometimes, it’s funny how people inherently recognize how important stories are because the victors go about white-washing history, trying to erase their wrongs and pretend they didn’t exist, plastering pretty wallpaper over the bloodshed and violence and exploitation.

you don’t censor a story unless you’re afraid of it, and you're not afraid of something unless you believe in the power it contains.


chimamanda ngozi adichie gave an entire brilliant tedxtalk about the danger of the one story, so i’ll leave that for her, and i’ll end this ridiculously long post with this: the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies, our identities, are connected to the stories we tell ourselves about power because body shaming is about power — it’s just within the sphere of the private, not the hugely public.

there is systemic power that we’re trapped by, that requires mass movement to change, and then there is personal, individual power, the power we have over ourselves. i worry often that that’s a power girls are taught to give away too easily.

blair talks about this in her book, maybe not in the same terms, but in sharing her experience with her first boyfriend, a man older than she is who thinks he’s entitled to her body, shames her for not finding pleasure in sex with him, isolates her when she finally breaks up with him — and i love the way she writes it here:

for years afterward, dan would maintain that i had changed, gained some new or darker side that was, as he once explained in a letter, ‘without a doubt, not beneficial to who you are.’ i was young, starting college; of course i changed. i changed my clothes, my eating habits; i made new friends, tried yoga, worked as a telemarketer. but the change dan meant was less obvious: the fact that i no longer went limp and let him touch me; the fact that, when forced to choose between the bitter protection he offered and the exhaustive work of shielding myself alone, i knew that i could not be with him. and yet the decision burned. turning down dan — choosing jurisdiction over my own body — felt like choosing exile from the very things in which his approval had granted me legitimacy. what role did i have, really, on the icefield, or even in dogsledding? who had i been there? i didn’t remember. though i couldn’t explain it at the time, leaving dan felt like leaving everything i’d been working toward, all the ways i’d been trying to prove myself. and for a while, that’s exactly what it meant. i left him and i didn’t come back.

the change dan lamented was that i had started to trust myself. but the way i saw it, i had flunked out of the north. (175-6)

luckily, blair learns to trust herself and continues to do so, working through years of doubt and fear and faltering confidence, and the passage above goes to show what i mean about story, how the stories we tell ourselves matter. all it often takes is a small repositioning of ourselves to see a story from a different angle and shift our worldview entirely, and maybe that’s where the real power of story lies, in its ability to change and to change us along with it.

and maybe that’s the one thing that gives me a measure of hope in such a bleak, often terrifying world — that there is a shift in the wind, that women are reclaiming their narratives, that, even in the midst of the destruction the current administration is trying to wreak on marginalized, immigrant, queer communities, even in all that, we are still telling our stories — and, by doing so, slowly, we will shape and grow and change the world.

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get this gorgeous apron for yourself at hedley & bennett. i can personally vouch for their aprons because, erm, i’m a home cook, and i own five of their aprons. i, uh, kind of have a problem …