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Volume 98: April 5, 2019
Photo by Yeo Khee, featuring Chinese American architect I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid
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News from the front

Updates on stories we've reported on previously
  • April 2 was 2019’s Equal Pay Day—the day up to which the average American woman had to work to earn what the average man earned in 2018. But Asian American women have a different Equal Pay Day altogether—many different ones, in fact, 'cos "Asian American" is waaaay too broad a term. #disaggregation

Swapping Italian for Japanese in Madama Butterfly

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly is a classic among operas, although it has its criticisms: it demeans its Japanese characters, it’s misinformed about its setting, and, uh, its American and Japanese characters all speak Italian.

That’s why Los Angeles’ Pacific Opera Project and Houston’s Opera in the Heights are co-producing a newly translated version of Madama Butterfly: one where American characters sing in English and Japanese characters sing in Japanese.

Same old story

That language change isn’t just superficial, although POP’s executive director Josh Shaw says they’re sticking close to the, hmmm, dated story of a Japanese woman killing herself because her American husband has married a new woman. (115-year-old spoiler.)

OH’s artistic director, Eiki Isomura, retranslated the script with Japanese honorific speech in mind. And the American protagonist, Pinkerton, has an entirely different dynamic … because he can’t understand anyone else in the room.

Still, without reworking the story, it’s a little different from, say, David Henry Hwang’s complete reworking of Flower Drum Song (or, for that matter, his own M. Butterfly).

And way different from this Hmong opera

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Opera announced plans to produce a new youth opera based on poet Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir of her father, “The Song Poet.” It’s one of several operas planned that will reflect the Twin Cities community, and will premiere in 2021.

What’s more, Yang intends to push for Hmong performers, although she only knows of one Hmong trainer opera singer, and few who study kwv txhiaj, or Hmong storytelling songs.

Still, there’s a couple years to go, and the company is already diving into the Hmong community. Count us excited.

Here’s a trailer of M. Butterfly … the movie

NOW PLAYING: I recently Marie Kondo’d my YouTube subscriptions— a lot builds up over 13 years—and ended up rediscovering Andrew Huang, who I followed nine years ago for his masterpiece, uh, “Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows,” and kind of let languish in my YouTube subscriptions. Turns out, that was a huge mistake, because since then, he’s done everything how-tos on the best free music tools to lo-fi hip-hop with water bottle sounds.

Huang explains his videos thoroughly, which is refreshing on a platform where flashy videos can be opaque, and the ethos continues in his new-ish series, where Huang grabs a bunch of producers and has ‘em all flip the same sample, explaining their choices as they go. It’s three episodes of good, good stuff. Don’t be like me. Watch more Andrew Huang.

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who didn’t pick Andrew Huang ‘cos they share the same name, really

"See? We love Asian Americans" —Harvard, probably

Last week, Harvard announced that 25.4% of its incoming freshman class will be Asian American, up from 22.7% last year—its highest proportion since 1980. That’s not including international students, who made up 12.3% of last year’s freshman class.

Realistically, that aligns with Reappropriate’s 2015 reporting on the proportional growth of Asian Americans attending Harvard. Asian Americans, broadly speaking, are the fastest-growing ethnic minority, and their admittance at Harvard has increased commensurate with their growth in the US.

But if we put our tinfoil hats on, we might say such growth sure is convenient given recent news that Harvard rates Asian Americans lower on personality traits and the affirmative action lawsuit filed against it.

(Don’t worry, we’re taking those hats off now.)

Not to repeat ourselves but

Longtime readers and Hasan Minhaj fans will remember that the Harvard case is, well, contentious.

But when it comes to affirmative action itself, a majority of Asian Americans support it, though a group of mainly first-generation Chinese American immigrants spearhead the opposition with WeChat.

Student groups at Harvard, particularly the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, have continued to support affirmative action, and have expanded their efforts in recent months to push for a more comprehensive ethnic studies program.

So what's the status quo?

The jury’s out on the exact reasons Harvard’s admitted more Asian Americans this year—even if we assume it’s increased proportionally to Asian American growth, we don’t know what subgroups of Asian Americans Harvard has admitted.

And when it comes to the case, both sides have provided competing studies that show either a bias, or lack of bias, in Harvard admissions.

One thing we really wanna know? Harvard may have publicized its Asian American admittance … but how many rich celebs have Photoshopped their way in? 🤔

Better watch out for Sandra Oh and the admissions police

Through dark space, measurable
only in light-years, as if penetrating the surface
of an ocean one saw little silver fish glow in a dance
and turn the liquid space
Into twinkling fluorescence,
suddenly appeared the distant stars: the visible

thus transcends belief,
and the years are reduced to the bleep-bleep
of radio signals.

— Zulfikar Ghose, Pakistani American poet, from “View from the Observatory”

From "subtle asian traits" to a new community in the Asian Creative Network

This is an excerpt of our larger story, which you can read on Medium.

By now, you may have heard of the massively popular subtle asian traits, the Facebook group full of memes and inside jokes started by a group of high school kids in Australia.

From that sprang dozens of other Facebook communities like subtle curry traits, subtle asian dating, and even subtle asian Kevin traits. But there’s one offshoot with even bigger plans — merchandise, showcases, a book, and maybe even a convention — the Asian Creative Network.

The Asian Creative Network (ACN) was started in November 2018 by Han Ju Seo, a third-year undergrad student at Washington University, St. Louis. She’d always loved dance, fashion, and design. And one day, Seo decided to ask for other creatives in subtle asian traits to post their website links, Instagram handles, or other contact information.

Seo says her post came from a whim, but starting a group like ACN had been on her mind for a while. She’d always wanted to create a space that combined her passion for justice and love for creativity, and after breakthroughs like Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I Loved Before, Seo wanted to continue that energy. ACN was the result: a grassroots movement to help Asian creatives just starting out.

“I want the creative Asians to come out and show me what you got,” she says. When it blew up with hundreds of likes within minutes, Seo thought, “Oh wow, there’s really something here.”

Five months later, the Asian Creative Network has over 20,000 members, over twenty city-based groups all over the world, and plans for expansion beyond Facebook.

Read the full story on Medium
Lily Rugo is a writer and blogger focused on identity, pop culture, media representation, and sometimes tech. She’s based in Boston and her other work can be found at

This Weekend ... 📅

  • ZAG ON ‘EM with Rui Hachimura, leading scorer on the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Sure, they may not have made it beyond the Elite Eight, but Hachimura’s more than made a name for himself—especially as perhaps the NBA’s next Japanese player, which would make him the third ever. Plus, Hachimura, like Naomi Osaka, is biracial—breaking down barriers even more. Learn more about Hachimura on SB Nation.

  • REMOVE THAT HYPHEN IF YOU WANNA from “Asian American,” “African American” and more, if you’d like to follow this year’s AP Stylebook. Long used by journalists working for the Associated Press, it’s the latest change in racial language that further acknowledges the separate identities that (formerly) hyphenated Americans navigate every day.

  • GET EVERYBODY AND THE STUFF TOGETHER with Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, Alex Hassell and JOHN CHO in the live-action adaptation of the anime and 2000s Toonami staple Cowboy Bebop. Cho will be playing Spike Spiegel, the lead protagonist, and frankly, the rest of the cast is pretty on point, too. Time to put on our headphones and jam out to Yoko Kanno.

  • SUPPORT A NEW PODCAST with Self Evident’s Indiegogo, still running and still ready to tell stories about what it means to be American through an inclusive Asian American lens. Read our interview with James Boo, and chip in a couple bucks for your future commute accompaniment!
This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, still waiting for his invitation to star as Ein the corgi. 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

who are like lo-fi hip-hop songs made entirely of delicious Haribo gummi bears. Join them in supporting The Slant on Patreon.

See ya next time.
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