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Volume 95: March 15, 2019
Art from illustrator Ethan Young's variant cover of Ronin Island #1, by writer (and Slant subscriber) Greg Pak 
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ICE ALERT: On March 13th, ICE summoned Cambodian Americans with deportation orders to the San Francisco ICE building. Many now face deportation. In response, a petition to California Governor Gavin Newsom asking for an immediate halt to deportation has been created. You can sign here.

I've got 99 problems

...but 99 Ranch don’t got one, because they’re the largest Asian supermarket chain in the US, with 52 stores in 7 states.

Founded in 1984 by Taiwanese immigrant Roger Chen, the supermarket has become the go-to spot for Asian families seeking the familiar flavors of home.

And based on the diversity of customers, Chen meant all Asians.

You want it? They got it

Although it primarily carries products from all over Asia (stoking intense nostalgia—shout out to Mama tom yum instant noodles!), 99 Ranch is now trying to appeal to a more Americanized consumer base with a changing palate.

While first generation customers tend to look for hard-to-find ingredients, younger Asian American shoppers want to mix the Asian food they grew up on with a more Western touch.

So naturally, 99 Ranch stocks items like sauerkraut-flavored instant noodles and wasabi potato chips.

Not your average grocery store

Beyond stocking diverse products from both large conglomerates and small vendors, 99 Ranch has also become a fixed piece of the Asian American community.

A 99 Ranch’s presence often indicates great Asian food nearby, and property agents note that a 99 Ranch opening often indicates Asian American interest in the area.

Truly epitomizing #influencer status, 99 Ranch also emphasizes community by hosting cultural events and sharing recipes online.

Chen named it “99 Ranch” to capture a sense of fortune and freshness (“In Mandarin, ‘99’ is a homophone for ‘longevity and good fortune’,” explains his daughter Alice), and it looks like that’s exactly what he’s delivered.

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who still calls it “Ranch 99” don’t @ me
Here’s those sauerkraut noodles you asked for

NOW PLAYING: When writer and friend of The Slant Greg Pak comes out with a new creator-owned comic book, we sit up straight and pay attention. (In fact, his Mech Cadet Yu was one of our first Now Playing reviews!)

That's why we're so stoked about Ronin Island, the first issue of which is out now. Hana, a Korean farmer girl, and Kenichi, a Japanese descendant of samurai, live on an isolated island with the rest of their tribe: Chinese, Korean and Japanese survivors of a great war spanning East Asia. Hana and Kenichi are rivals in the island's traditional competition, though they're interrupted by a new threat beyond the great war.

What happens next is ... well, you'll have to read it.

Pak's a talented writer, showcasing not only the verve of the survivors, but the deep-seated suspicion that's helped them live all these years. And under the pen of his collaborator Giannis Milonogiannis, Ronin Island comes to life. I'm an especially big fan of Milonogiannis' expressions; Hana has one hell of a side-eye.

Like any new comic series, though, one issue just isn't enough, especially with a hook like Pak's. I'm excited to see what became of East Asia, and even more excited to see what's happened to the rest of the continent. After all, Ronin Island host only East Asian survivors—how are Southeast or South Asians faring? Did the war reach Oceania?

I've got tons of questions, and Pak and Milonogiannis have me hooked. I can't wait for the second issue.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who will just reread Pak's Totally Awesome Hulk for now, I guess

Making the Laotian Secret War not-so-secret

In 2018, then-governor of California Jerry Brown signed a bill that added lessons on Vietnamese refugees, the Cambodian genocide, and Hmong history to Californian history books. 

That was a big step in adding the experiences of often-marginalized Southeast Asian Americans to high school curricula—but "Asian American" is a broad term, and the bill didn't quite cover all of it.

That's why Lao Advocacy Organization San Diego, or LaoSD, is pushing for an addendum to that bill: one that showcases Laotian contributions in the Vietnam War and Laotian experiences in what the CIA calls the Secret War in Laos.

Two million tons of bombs don't just disappear

California is home to one of the largest Laotian American diasporas, with 82,000 Laotian Americans—8,000 alone in San Diego County.

But the scars of fleeing from the Vietnam War, or surviving the CIA's proxy war against pro-Soviet fighters in its Secret War, have prevented many Laotian Americans from sharing their stories.

As a result, the Secret War, which resulted in the most heavily-bombed landscape in the world, remains unknown to many Asian Americans, much less AP US History students.

Treating gambling addiction

In late February, San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced Assembly Bill 1393, which would require the Instructional Quality Commission, which currently develops Vietnamese, Cambodian and Hmong curricula, to also develop a model curriculum focusing on Laotian American history.

The model curriculum would address 14th-century Laos, U.S. bombings during the Secret War, and the history of Laotian American migration.

LaoSD is currently lobbying the California Legislature to support the bill. But ultimately, its goals are to "reflect the full history of all Southeast Asian Americans." And that's a goal anyone with a stake in history can support.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who's slightly nervous about future AP essay questions on Southeast Asian colonialism
Photos of what America left behind in the Secret War

Sometimes, a poem feels most reciprocally accountable to young, Asian American women; other times, to queer people of color, to Koreans, to my friends, to poets writing about cyborgs and machine learning, to people who have seen a particular movie, to that one person in my MFA program. When I write, I think sometimes about who might listen, about who of my loved ones might be in most dynamic relationship with the particular poem. But I don’t usually set out writing a poem for a particular community, and certainly not as an attempt to represent anyone but myself.

This Weekend ... 📅

  • GET EXCITED FOR MONDAY—that’s right. Our editor Chery is going live with our friends at AlmostChill on Monday, March 18th at 4:20PST/7:20 EST to chat about life as an Asian American woman and all the times we’re almost chill. Tune in by following us on Instagram at @slantemail.

  • EAT the most wholesome of donuts at Billy’s Donuts located just outside of Houston, Texas. Cambodian immigrant Satharith By opened his own business one week ago, but sales were slow. His son took to Twitter to help advertise, and his single tweet about “sad dad” racked up hundreds of thousands of retweets and likes. Lines reportedly now wrap around the block, but supporting this sweet mom and pop shop is worth the wait.

  • REFLECT on the rise of Hindu nationalism with Pakistani-Indian journalist Aatish Taseer in his new book, The Twice Born: Life and Death on the Ganges. As a third culture kid returning to India with the intent to rediscover his roots, Taseer instead encounters “embarrassment twice removed” as his admiration for his mother’s country and faith clashes with images of religious zealotry and the caste system, filtered through his Anglicized lens.

  • IMAGINE what the contemporary art and literature scene looks like in Thailand… and then check out the first issue of The Bangkok Literary Review to see how close you were. (Hint: a steak with a face on it.)

  • STOCK UP on honey butter chips, Shin ramyun, ChocoPie, and fresh kimbap! at David Chang’s new Korean-inspired convenience store, Peach Mart, opening today in Hudson Yards, Manhattan. Of course, if the Michelin-starred chef’s chicken-katsu-on-crustless-white-bread sandwiches are a little too bougie for you, Koreatown and its reliable H Mart are just four blocks east.
This week's stories are curated by Andrew Cheng, editor, who is also team “Ranch 99,” I gotchu Chery. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at

The Slant is brought to you by:


Brian Hsieh • Marina Cheung • Billy Huang • Kevin Lin • Paulina Dao


AJ Grey • Delwin Lau • Mandy Diec • Carl Shan


Patrick Trinh • Lloyd Lee • Emily Chi • Naomi Iwata • Kyla Hsia


Gloria Lin • Yi Cao • Cat Xia • Curtis Leung


Crystal Shei • Jerome Finuliar • Ryan Ikeda • Meher Kohli • Matt Young • Sooyun Choi • Abby Wang • Tracey Baumann • Mika Kennedy • James Boo • Chris Moe • Alexander Quion • Jeffrey Wang • Vivi Nguyen


Angela Yang • Diane Lee • Katherine Chin • Paul Kerr • Talisa Chang • Claire Tran • Sara Mitchell • Teresa Nguyen

to whom we're sending only the freshest, bestest positive vibes. Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

See ya next time.
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