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You might recognize this person if she were a pink-sweatered cartoon girl

Featuring writer and cartoonist Dami Lee. Photo: Eunice Yooni Kim

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Japanese incarceration was even worse than you thought

The incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII remains one of the major stains on US history. But not only did the US government incarcerate Japanese Americans, they also rounded up and forcibly expatriated Japanese people living in Latin America.

*record scratch*

Yes, you read that correctly

The U.S. government worried that Japanese people living in Latin America presented a security risk to the southern border, and wanted to trade them for any Americans stranded in Japan when war broke out. About 2,200 Japanese Latin Americans, mostly from Peru, were incarcerated overall.

Among them was Isamu "Art" Shibayama, who was 11 when Peruvian police rounded up him and his family and shipped them to a camp in Texas. After the war, Peru refused to accept them back, and the U.S. considered them illegal aliens despite incarcerating them in the first place.

So, the Shibayamas were scheduled to be deported to Japan—a country where Shibayama had never lived, and one that was devastated after the war—until an ACLU lawyer rescued them.

Rest in power

Shibayama was later drafted into the Army, become a US citizen and start a family. But he and his brothers never forgot the crime that had been done, and campaigned for a formal apology and reparations from the US government.

A coalition of Japanese Latin Americans won $5,000 in reparations in 1999, a small portion of what Japanese Americans had won. Shibayama denied the money and continued to campaign for reparations until his death earlier this summer. His brothers continue to wait for a decision.

Jessica Yi, editor, didn’t think internment could get any worse
A short documentary on Shibayama

NOW PLAYING: Let me just preface this by saying I was forced volunteered to write this section because I've seen To All the Boys I've Loved Before four times since it came out on Netflix last Friday. If you do the math I'm watching it once every ~36 hours so I'm about due for another viewing. Anyway.

TATBILB features Lana Condor (aka X-Men: Apocalypse’s Jubilee) in the starring role of Lara Jean, a shy, living-in-her-imagination teen who writes letters to all the boys she's loved before (duh). The letters mysteriously end up in the hands of each of her unfulfilled former crushes, and what ensues is pure, sweet, rom-com bliss as she reconciles with these past flames and figures out how to move forward. The TATBILB fandom is rapidly growing, primarily because of what Constance Grady calls "the unabashed sweetness of this movie, and the way it builds itself around nice people who care about each other and want to do nice things for each other." Cosign that 'til the end of time. 

TATBILB reached my cold, dead, millennial soul with its earnestness, and also inspired me to consider writing my own letters. Luckily I only follow through on 50% of the things I think up. Anyway, this movie is the corgi puppy of movies and has the polar opposite effect of swiping on Tinder for 1.5 hours, so consider it time well spent.

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who is Team #PeterK for life

Why getting counted counts

Every ten years the U.S. government conducts a census, the results of which are used for federal and state funding, philanthropy, and lawmaking for years to come. So it’s only natural you’d want to be counted if you want to be represented.

But what happens when you’re too scared to be counted—or too poor?

Remember when you needed to own land to vote?

It’s kinda like that!

According to a 2017 report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the homelessness rate of Asian Americans increased by at least 44% over the previous year—the highest rate of any racial group. (The homelessness rate of Pacific Islanders and multi-racial groups did not increase, according to the report.)

Meanwhile, other families have turned single-room units into family apartments. Others move from motel to motel, because they don’t ask for security deposits or up-front rent. And Asian Americans account for 1.7 million of undocumented immigrants.

What does this have to do with the census?

When you don’t answer the door because you think the feds will take your kids away for unsafe living conditions, or because you might get deported, or because you just don’t live there anymore, you won’t get counted.

And if you don’t get counted, you might not get as big a piece of the $675 billion in federal funds that’s distributed every year by census results.

For its part, the Census Bureau claims it’s been planning a “robust” campaign to get people to participate. But with efforts like the citizenship question, it’s easy to see that some people just don’t want others to be counted in the first place.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, wants you to know that you count
What stops you from not filling out the census? 600,000 door-knockers

Featuring writer and cartoonist Dami Lee. Photo: Peter Ahn

Dami Lee on How to Be Everything At Once

As a three-time immigrant and part-time ex-pat, cartoonist Dami Lee has had her share of struggles with belonging, navigating new cultures, and understanding her identity. In her new book, Be Everything At Once, Lee tackles the challenges of growing up and adulting through the lens of her cartoon mini-me.

While she didn’t always use comics to share her story, her experiences drawing cartoons for her college paper and her move to Korea shortly after graduation sparked a more artistic lean for her as she adjusted to her new life. “[When] I moved back to Korea, drawing comics and uploading them online was a good way to stay in touch with my friends back at home,” Lee says.

Lee was inspired not only by day-to-day quips and inside jokes, but tweets and gag humor as well. One of her early comics featured misheard lyrics from a tweet on Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson."

“Originally the concept of the book was misheard lyrics translated into comics," says Lee. "But the editor from Chronicle actually said, ‘I think your story is more interesting and we should focus on that.’ So we changed the concept of the book.”

Lee didn’t expect the response — someone even got a tattoo of the “four eels” character (“that was insane,” she says). But it also caught the eye of an agent, whose husband saw it on Reddit. That led to the first conversations about what eventually became Lee’s book.

Now, her book and most of her comics center on a pink-sweatered character, the cartoon version of Lee herself, a la Lizzie McGuire. “It feels weird to say that it’s me, but yeah,” Lee says. Lee’s faux her navigates Lee’s real life — whether it’s documenting her creative process, giving her younger self advice, or wondering why she spends so much time on the timesuck of the Internet.

Be Everything At Once is Lee’s first foray into print. Never-before-seen comics document the trials and tribulations of growing up and navigating multiple identities and challenges, and even get a bit more personal. Lee says this was new, pivoting away from the jokes and puns she’d focused on earlier in her career.

This gave Lee free rein to try a narrative arc, something she hadn’t had much chance to do online. “It’s more arranged to tell a story and my personal experience,” Lee says. “I use those comics as a way to document things that happen, like a visual comic diary.”

Even as she transitions to print media, Lee says there’s even more that she can share, tackling topics more complex and nuanced than what can fit into four panels.

Read the whole comic at the New Yorker.
“It’s hard because so many of the things that happened [during my move to] Korea, like the process of finding a job when you’re a foreigner, the little differences… those can be really hard to capture,” Lee says. “There are heavier topics and more personal things that I want to draw about. But at the same time, I’m not sure if I want that to be public. I also do worry that if I tell this story, is there anything that I can have just for myself?”

For now, Lee is focusing on launching her book. She’s hosting a book launch in Brooklyn on August 29th, in conversation with fellow cartoonist Adam Ellis. But she still talks about her success like someone who never expected this to occur. Reflecting on her recent first visit to Comic-Con, Lee says, “I did a signing there, and I was so nervous that nobody would show up. But people were actually there and that was the first time I really got to talk with people in real life.”

Lee may downplay her virality, but she’s the cartoonist behind a number of memes and comics that span the far reaches of the Internet. She still runs into her cartoons from time to time, much to her amusement. “There’s this flag comic that gets memed a lot. I was on Gypsy Housing and someone posted about their apartment and wrote ‘a little bit about me, I love a good dank meme’ and they posted the comic. I keep seeing my memes and running into them, and it’s really funny.”

With the debut of her book, Lee captures a generation of ambitious, forward-thinking twentysomethings — who might wish they could still fit into kid-sized crop tops. “I like to think the whole book is an encapsulation of who I am,” Lee says.

Dami Lee’s book Be Everything At Once is available now. Lee’s hosting a book launch in Brooklyn, NY on Wednesday, August 29th, where she’ll be in conversation with Adam Ellis and answering audience questions. Follow her on InstagramTumblr and Twitter for more.

Read the whole interview on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • LISTEN TO RINA SAWAYAMA, YOU COWARDS. She's British-Japanese, not Japanese American, but Rina Sawayama is worth putting in this newsletter 10000%. Sawayama's new single, "Cherry," dropped last week and look, you can't talk to me until you listen to it. It's not just because it's a bouncy-ass bop. It's because she's the epitome of strength, a queer pansexual Asian woman who "wants to get [queer Asians] right."

  • APPLY FOR so many things. The Asian American Writers' Workshop is accepting applications for the 2019 Margins Fellowship through September 12, and Project As[I]Am is looking for submissions for its latest issue, Ghost Towns, through, um, Sunday. You can do it! WE BELIEVE IN YOU!

  • READ YOUR FILL of this thorough thinkpiece on Crazy Rich Asians for The Atlantic by friend of The Slant Mark Tseng-Putterman. We've gotta be well-informed, well-rounded Asian Americans, and that means being critical when it counts. Read on to see why Crazy Rich Asians might propel conservative "aspirations toward a white-Asian alliance."

  • PUT YOUR TV-WATCHIN' GLASSES ON for Ohana, ABC's upcoming hourlong drama based on Kiana Davenport's 1994 novel, Shark Dialogues. Written by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, the show promises to follow four protagonists of mixed race, although it's unclear whether they're hapa (i.e. part Native Hawaiian). Let's hope so, because Cullen says she wants to tell a story "from the point of view of Native Hawaiians—Pacific Islanders, people of Asian descent and people of hapa heritage."

  • CONSIDER A DONATION to any one of these hard-working organizations on the #CrazyRichAsians Social Donations List. If you're feeling extra jazzed about Asian American representation or social justice, see if you'd like to start volunteering or donating to places beyond Tinseltown.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who will be taking your flame mail at andrew@slant.email. Also, got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at news@slant.email.

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Kevin Lin, Billy Huang, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Marina Cheung, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Gloria Lin, Matt Young, Cat Xia, Crystal Shei, Sooyun Choi, Yi Cao, Meher Kohli, Ryan Ikeda, Jerome Finuliar, Abby Wang, Curtis Leung, Tracey Mantilla, Mika Kennedy, James Boo, Chris Moe, Eve Asher, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang and Claire Tran, who are five eels.

Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

"Wow. I'm twenty years old. Rene Descartes invented analytic geometry in his early twenties. Talk about pressure."

— Anna Akana, actress, YouTuber and writer, from her book, Surviving Suicide

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