this minion perfectly illustrates my mood as it is now, as it was last week, as it has been the last few weeks.
last week was a [insert-adjective-here] week, what with the republican zombie healthcare bill that just won't die (or has it finally?!? i'm not holding my breath) and what with the cheeto vomiting more crap on twitter, this time about banning trans people from serving in the military, never mind that trans people display more courage in their day-to-day than the cheeto has shown in the entirety of his life — and never mind that trans people are apparently such terrifyingly formidable people that they should be barred from public bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
last week was also a low week personally, and it continues to be a series of low weeks as my insomnia continues to take its toll. my mood has been low, my dreams/nightmares/whatevers gone haywire, and i'm tired, tired, tired.
i wish i could sleep for days and wake up well-rested for once.
i can't seem to get that, though, so here, let's talk nice things.
when i think about nice things, i think automatically about food, so here is this: republique makes my favorite breakfast in all the land.
if you’re ever in los angeles, go to republique and order the regular breakfast with soft scrambled eggs (because they can actually soft scramble eggs), an iced dirty matcha latte (it’s better iced than hot), and a chewy chocolate-chocolate chip cookie (it has nuts, though, so nix this if you’re allergic). add a slice of tres leeches cake if you’re feeling indulgent (it’s not too sweet, don’t worry) and/or a hand pie if you’re starving and need something to tide you over while you wait for your food (they’ll heat the hand pie up for you; ask for sri racha).
come back and thank me for the bombass recommendation.
i spend a lot of time on twitter during the week, and i have no shame admitting that it’s my major news source, like, in that, it’s the source that alerts me to the fresh new hells being launched on the world — that, and the new yorker, which i also read religiously during the week.
there was a nice thread on twitter last week, talking about work and creating art and why that matters today. it talked specifically about why writing books matters, books about made-up worlds and made-up people, books that don’t make overt political statements and/or take moral stances, and i understand that struggle, that conflict, that desire to create something of meaning, except what does that look like? what does it mean to create something that means something?
the twitterer (whom i unfortunately do not remember) made the point that it’s not about being an activist or about taking political stances or about delivering moral messages. it’s about the fact that the work itself is hope; whether we write fiction or memoirs or treatises, doing the work itself, the act of creating itself, is an example of a way to be. the work in its own, the act of doing the work, is to demonstrate a way to fight back.
and, so, we work, and we create, and that looks different to each person. i take photos of light and shadows, of minions from mcdonald’s happy meals, of everything i eat. i read. i write on this site, and i edit my short story collection, and i rewrite that essay on living with depression and suicide and falling in love last year. i take ages to reply to DMs on instagram, and i give up on ever catching up on comments, and i apologize for that, but that’s just the way things are.
i think about buying an actual camera, like a DSLR, instead of just using the camera on my iphone 7. i think of new projects, earmark restaurants to try, envision future collaborations and chart amorphous ways to making those ideas a reality.
i also spend a stupid amount of time during the week tracking my lunch deliveries. it’s kind of creepy, the fact that i can do this at all, stare at my browser and watch the little icon that signifies my drivers moving along the map. it gets funny when they near the office, the rounds they sometimes make around the block, and i’m just like, i put a note on there, saying you can call or text me, and i’ll come down to the street. parking’s an ass in LA. LA’s an ass of a city for deliveries, too sprawled out to allow for efficiency.
LA’s an ugly, weird city, and, yeah, it’s got its charms, but i feel the frustrations when i’m trying to get from point A to point B, for example when i’m trying to get from koreatown to west hollywood for a reading. i think, god, this place is hideous, and, ugh, it’s like someone just vomited flat ugliness onto hot land, and i think, okay, fine, maybe i shouldn’t be so uncharitable — LA’s not that bad, and it gets great light. you can’t deny the fabulous, kind of magical qualities of california light, but see how i can't even give LA that? i have to generalize to all of california to make any praiseworthy statement possible, though i don't mean to impart hostility here — it amuses me, this mess of a relationship i have with this place.
sometimes, i wonder if i've simply become so accustomed to hating on LA that it comes so naturally to me. other times, though, especially when i'm landing at LAX and looking down at the sprawl below me, i think, nah, it kinda deserves it.
and maybe part of me feels entitled to this, kind of like how i also feel entitled to hate on NYC for all its ills. in some way, LA is also my city after all, and it bears the baggage of my history and trauma, and i feel unbridled in expressing my distaste of this place because i’ve lived so much of my life here and it is a part of me.
in some way, this is my way of claiming this place as my own.
all i’ve been craving these days is something cold and sweet, and that’s all kinds of terrible when you’re type 2 like i am. i feel like i spend an incongruous amount of time making bargains with myself — like, okay, i can eat three pieces of watermelon, but only three. or, okay, i can eat some ice cream if i walk there and back. or, okay, yeah, i know this is all bullshit, i should just be abstaining, should be more afraid of the consequences of not eating well, of not getting my glucose levels down lower, of not taking care of myself because self-care, blah blah blah, i want something cold and sweet.
it doesn't help that i've finally tried jeni's and am obsessed. jeni's delivers everything i want in ice cream — it's creamy and not too sweet, and it tastes like the ingredients it uses, instead of like processed, sugary crap. like, the mango buttermilk frozen yogurt tastes like a creamy, frozen, pureed mango (i. love. mango), and the roasted strawberry buttermilk is one of the best ice creams i've eaten, and the brambleberry crisp is like pie in ice cream form, complete with crumble topping — and, omg, i can't get enough of jeni's. i went again on sunday, and i'm going again this weekend.
i know, i know, self-care, blah blah blah, but four and twenty blackbirds is also in town this weekend, and they're going to be at jeni's, and one of my favoritest people is back stateside, so pie and ice cream, there will be. i'll make up for it by eating cleaner meals.
in 45 days, i'll be back home in brooklyn.
here's some big, exciting news: jenny zhang’s sour heart comes out into the world today!!! go hie yourself to a bookstore and dive into this wonderful collection!
i grew up reading exclusively (and i mean, exclusively) from “the classics,” aka the white canon, aka mostly dead white guys. i mean, sure, there were a few dead white women thrown into the mix, too, but they were mostly men, and i didn’t read contemporary fiction until i was well into college. the closest i got before then was in the twelfth grade, when my AP lit teacher (still one of my favorite teachers) spent the year having us read existentialists and absurdists.
one day, several years ago, i was browsing the internet for one reason or another when i came across a blog called fashion for writers. at the time, it was written by jenny zhang, but it had been founded by esmé weijun wang (whose debut novel, the border of paradise, was published last year and is incredible), and there were links to their respective websites, links i followed to obsession, basically. i read esmé’s site religiously, and i mildly stalked jenny in new york, going to all her readings and totally having mini-omg! moments when i passed her twice — once, in powerhouse arena (in its former space) on my way to the bathroom and, once, on my way into mcnally jackson to pick up my preordered copy of the border of paradise.
it was so weird and so cool to read their writing, and you have to remember that i was this asian-american kid who'd always loved literature and loved writing but had never stopped to think that writing was this thing that i could do. i had no freaking idea that you could get paid to write, that people were doing this all the time, and, no, i wasn't stupid — i knew that people wrote for a living — i didn't think people like me did. you know. asian-american kids. asian-american daughters.
because, as far as i knew, in the world in which i grew up, we didn't write — we went to med school or law school or business school. we got married to nice [christian] asian-american boys. we had kids and stayed home and home-schooled.
we didn't write, and, more than that, we didn't write about mental health or bodies or the grimy, sticky areas of life. we didn't write about ourselves, our asian-american backgrounds, our experiences with sexism and racism and bigotry. we didn't write about sex or death or violence. we didn't do these things; we didn't put words on or give voice to anything that ran counter to the accepted status quo.
one of the things i have come to love the most is coming across a writer who makes me imagine different ways of writing, of being. jenny and esmé's writing introduced me to that, to new ways of thinking about myself, my asian-american identity, my own writing, and it's been an incredible experience since, seeing how all you really need is a spark to shed new light on the world and make it open up. i think about the women i've come to read and love in the last few years and have helped shape me as a writer — alice sola kim, patty yumi cottrell, nicole chung, rachel khong, krys lee, susan choi, celeste ng, women who do different things with their writing, who tell stories that illuminate different facets of the human experience and bring a rich vibrance to the world of books.
and i think about women in general, women whom i admire who live their truths and excel at their craft — barbara lynch, kristen kish, gabrielle hamilton, ellen bennett — omg, help me name someone who's not related to food — molly young, molly yeh, julia turshen — i suppose it's unavoidable; i love food; what can i say?
and all this loops back to what that twitterer said in that thread last week and what sherman alexie said to buzzfeed and what i wrote at the end of my hunger post — that what matters is that we are out here, that we are trying and creating and working. sometimes, most times, i dare say, at least on the everyday, day-to-day level, it's not about activism, and it's not about overt politicism. sometimes, it's just about telling our own truths, whatever those truths are, and all fiction — all good fiction, all good art — stems from the writer's truth.
and maybe that's how we effect change, not [solely] by converting those who stand against us but by bolstering and supporting those like us, by living alternate ways to be, to see the world, to write and tell stories and exist. i think we kind of undermine the amount of hope and encouragement that alone provides because it never feels like bravery or courage or like anything significant, just getting through the day and doing the work given to us, but it means something — at least, it means a whole lot to me, to be able to look up and see women who are doing the work simply by doing their work, whether it's writing, cooking, bookkeeping, raising children, teaching, whatever it is, women who are out there, living their truths and trying to bring about a better, more equal world.
and, so, i'll repeat what i said before because this is something i'll keep repeating, over and over and over again: stay.
we're out here, and we're women of color, and we're straight and queer and religious and not religious and able-bodied and disabled and you name it, we are it, and we write and cook and live, so stay. stay curious, stay open-minded, stay alive.
i ate at bestia last week. :3
it was delicious and amazing and everything i hoped it would be.
i want to eat there again.
here’s a summer reading list, given in no particular order, if you’re looking for something good to read in these last few weeks of summer:
- jenny zhang, sour heart (random house, 2017)
- rachel khong, goodbye, vitamin (holt, 2017)
- patty yumi cottrell, sorry to disrupt the peace (mcsweeney’s, 2017)
- celeste ng, everything i never told you (penguin press, 2014)
- yoojin grace wuertz, everything belongs to us (random house, 2017)
- esmé weijun wang, the border of paradise (unnamed press, 2016)
- ruth ozeki, a tale for the time being (penguin books, 2013)
- alexandra kleeman, you too can have a body like mine (harper, 2015)
- julie otsuka, when the emperor was divine (knopf, 2002)
- jung yun, shelter (picador, 2016)
- susan choi, my education (viking, 2013)