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Take care of yourselves.

Featuring Tiffany Chu, actress, Ms. Purple and Artificial

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How the shutdown affects seniors

The longest government shutdown in history has furloughed 800,000 federal employees, and it's leaving many Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) seniors without money for food, bills, and other necessities.

AAPI seniors involved in Senior Environmental Employment—a program at the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging—are feeling the pain of the shutdown. SEE matches over 200 seniors with jobs at the US Environmental Protection Agency, providing them with a source of income and community.

AAPI seniors are already more vulnerable

“A lot of our seniors already live with a sense of insecurity because of the language and cultural barriers, but this shutdown is adding on and compounding that level of insecurity," said Joon Bang, the chief executive of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA).

A report published by the NAPCA also found that while AAPI seniors are among the fastest growing senior group, AAPI subpopulations experience higher rates of poverty than their counterparts. The report found that 9.5% of the general senior population is living in poverty, and among white seniors 7.3% live in poverty. That percentage shoots up to 23.9% among Cambodian seniors, 19.3% among Vietnamese seniors, 20.3% among Korean seniors, 23.5% among Bangladeshi seniors, and 26.6% among Micronesian seniors.

In the SEE program alone, 160 seniors rely on food stamps. Bang is uncertain what it could mean for them if food stamps are cut.

What happens next?

Chandra Kanta, a SEE participant, lost her administrative assistant income due to the shutdown. On top of that, her application for Social Security benefits are on hold. Kanta has cut back on groceries, internet, and cable in order to make ends meet, but she's still anxious about what may happen if the shutdown continues.

Kanta has begun paying more attention to politics in order to understand what's happening. Her ask of #45? “Just be kind to the public,” she said. “What did we do?”

Chery Sutjahjo, editor

Learn more about SEE

NOW PLAYING: You know what they say: you never forget your first time. That’s why we’re ultra-excited about this round-up of “First Time” stories, curated and published by our friends at the AAFC (Asian American Feminist Collective). From the first time saying no to parents to the first run-in with racism and everything in between, this collection of eight stories is a refreshing and at times raw journey through the unique lens of AAPI women. 

Chery Sutjahjo, editor

Deported adoptee files lawsuit against South Korea

CW: Abuse

In 1978, then-3-year-old Adam Crapser, born Shin Song-hyuk, was given to a South Korean orphanage, where he was adopted by one abusive American family, and then another.

After Crapser was thrown out by his second set of parents, Crapser pleaded guilty to burglary when he broke back in to retrieve a Korean-language Bible and a stuffed dog from his orphanage.

Still, Crapser opened a barber shop and an upholstery business. He married, and had two children. But when a green card application triggered a background check, Crapser learned he was not a U.S. citizen—neither set of adoptive parents filled out paperwork for his citizenship.

In 2016, he was deported to South Korea—where he must remain today for another eight years.

“Gross negligence”

This week, Crapser filed a landmark lawsuit against South Korea’s government and Holt Children’s Services. Crapser argues that the country allowed “gross negligence” over how he and thousands of other Korean adoptees were sent to the United States, but not made citizens.

It’s a 200 million won, or $177,000, civil suit. But Crapser says the money is less important than holding government officials responsible for fraudulent paperwork, screening failures, and other forms of negligence.

Eight more years

Today, Crapser struggles with depression and anxiety. He’s unable to speak Korean, which makes daily life in Seoul difficult. Though he’s able to see his birth mother every few months, he often has no interpreter.

"It's heartbreaking,” Crapser told NBC News. “A lot of the depression that I deal with, a lot of the hopelessness that I feel at times is attributed to the separation from my family that I created and not being able to be actually involved in their life every day like I was.”

Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief

On Crapser’s birth mother, Kwon Pil-ju

At Sundance, actress Tiffany Chu wants to help people feel less alone

As a kid, actress Tiffany Chu devoured Chinese songs and TV shows by the dozen. From Meteor Garden to My Fair Princess, Wang Leehom to Jay Chou, Chu got a crash course on the essentials of mid-2000s Chinese and Taiwanese pop culture.

“I was one of those kids who secretly liked Chinese school,” Chu tells me. “Even if I didn’t like the homework so much.”

Between stars like Fan Bingbing and Jolin Tsai, Chu got an education in acting, too, emulating actresses she’d seen cry on cue. “I’d be in the shower, and [start crying] and be like, ‘see? I can do it too!’” she says. “But I never had the courage to do something about it.”

Now, she has. Chu’s fresh off the first season of Artificial, Twitch’s first scripted drama and Emma Approved director Bernie Su’s latest work. Artificial is streamed live, and has a plot like any other television show. But thanks to an integration with Twitch’s chat room, Artificial’s plot is directly influenced by Twitch chat. Chu’s character, the robot Sophie, grows along with decisions Twitch chat makes, and the script changes based on each choice.

“There’s nothing that’s ever been done like that. It’s very hard, because people who know about Twitch, they’re like, ‘oh, that’s interesting.’ But they don’t understand how the show could be live and scripted or whatever [with interactivity],” says Chu. “As Bernie would say, there’s a lot of sci-fi shows like Westworld, but you only get to watch them and observe them. You don’t get to be a part of the decision-making.”

Twitch’s notoriously fickle chat caused some spit-takes, too. “There’s been a few decisions that surprised us. At one point, [chat] decided whether [the protagonist’s neighbor] Juju was a good friend of Sophie’s,” says Chu. “He’d been sharing information with her, talking with her a lot. So we thought, yes. But the audience said no. So as the actress, I’m going on the same emotional rollercoaster as the audience, because I don’t know what’s really going to happen, either.”

That rollercoaster’s continuing upward with Chu’s first Sundance Festival appearance this year, with Ms. Purple, director Justin Chon’s latest film. Chu plays Kasie, a doumi girl, or karaoke hostess, who reconnects with her estranged brother during her father’s final days. It’s almost the polar opposite of Artificial: whereas Sophie may learn to emote freely, Kasie has feelings to spare.

Having immigrant parents, Chu says she resonates with Kasie, especially her loyalty to her family. But beyond that, Chu’s interested in the conversations Ms. Purple can start. “I feel the film shows that everyone can understand what Kasie’s depression feels like—what everyone has in their lowest of lows,” says Chu. “There’s a lot of people where, if you just start the conversation, it’s already better for their mental health. I think this film opens the possibility for those conversations as a community, where we can share our emotions, where we won’t feel mentally alone.”

 

Interview Highlights

On the DIY films she made before acting

You know how Staples and Office Depot have sales? Me and my dad would go get folders and pencils and stuff, and he’d go back to Taiwan to donate the supplies that we got to a school for indigenous students. And I just visited, and I had a small camera that I had, and spent a day with them and recorded some random stuff. I didn’t know what I was doing—just like, a day in the life. And I talked to the teachers and students and edited the film using Sony Vegas. And I translated it, and broadcast it through [non-profit California TV station] CreaTV.

On her roles after Ms. Purple and Artificial

I want to do an action role, because I’ve been getting into martial arts lately. But I want to make sure it helps people explore their relationships and their identity, with their family, with their language, with themselves. Because I feel like, as actors, when you play a character, it’s art that you’ll see, that everyone experiences themselves on different levels. And through these characters, I learn so much from them that it gives me confidence to be more like those characters.

Because when you play a character, they’re 100 percent themselves. But in real life, we’re not 100 percent ourselves. And it’s because we grow up. There’s fear. And these characters, even if they have fear, they overcome it, and you see them tackle it in their own ways. And it’s a way for me and hopefully others to understand it, to look at it from a different perspective.

On how her role in Ms. Purple helps her look toward her parents

I’m very lucky and fortunate that I get to choose what I want to do, even though I am still struggling. But our immigrant parents came here when they could have just stayed with their family to try to do something, even if it’s for themselves. But because they have children, they’re doing it so that I have a choice of doing something I want to do. And they might not be doing something they enjoy, but they’re doing everything they can so that I can have a choice. I think [Kasie’s experience in Ms. Purple] is a reminder for everyone to be appreciative of their parents and the time that they have with their parents.

On whether Chu would stream on Twitch

The one thing I might do is mukbang. Because people watch that! And I like to eat, so.

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This weekend ... 📅

  • REFLECT ON MLK’S SPEECH. No, not that one, and as great as that one is, that’s not the one I’m referring to. Instead, think about what he said in his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam.” Viet Thanh Nguyen outlines why MLK’s radical speech advocating against racism, materialism, and militarism is especially relevant today.

  • THROWBACK TO 50 YEARS AGO. The Third World Liberation Front protested at UC Berkeley in 1969, resulting in the creation of the Ethnic Studies department which housed African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, and Native American Studies. A celebration was held to honor the work of the TWLF and to continue reflecting on how a university education should respond to the changing political climate.

  • HEAD TO SUNDANCE, or at least pretend you’re there, because Ms. Purple isn’t the only film shaking things up in Asian America. Variety and NBC News have the scoop on the films you can expect to be talking about way before all your friends do, and look super-hip while you do it. (Kids still say hip, right? RIGHT?)

  • EAT VICARIOUSLY. Saqib Keval, Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, and Jocelyn Jackson founded the People’s Kitchen Collective almost ten years ago, and since then, they’ve stormed the streets of Oakland with feasts celebrating communities of color. With carefully researched dishes that represent events and ideas important to people of color, the People’s Kitchen Collective funds its free meals with donations and grants, and we’re here for it.

  • CELEBRATE FILIPINO REPRESENTATION with the first Filipino American Alexander Hamilton. And while Marc delaCruz, who debuted in the Idina Menzel vehicle “If/Then,” is not throwing away his shot, neither is director Bobby Rubio, whose short film “Float,” for Pixar SparkShorts, also features Filipino American leads.

The Slant is brought to you by:

Brian Hsieh, Marina Cheung, Billy Huang, Kevin Lin, Paulina Dao, Delwin Lau, AJ Grey, Michelle Pal, Mandy Diec, Carl Shan, Lloyd Lee, Patrick Trinh, Emily Chi, Naomi Iwata, Kyla Hsia, 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, Alexander Quion, Diane Lee, Angela Yang, Katherine Chin, Paul Kerr, Talisa Chang, Claire Tran, Sara Mitchell, and Jeffrey Wang, who feel like they're really here, right here, at 3:42am PST hello everyone.

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“There’s a pipeline for those creatives coming from the independent space. [With last summer,] you had executives take pause and think, ‘How can we serve this audience better? How can we feature more voices? Maybe we misunderstood and under-appreciated this demographic.’”

— Minhal Baig, filmmaker, “Hala”

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