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Featuring filmmakers Adina Luo and Vivian Huang of The Kids Table

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We’re with Dr.Ford

(CW: sexual assault. Also, if you need a break from the Kavanaugh hearings, go ahead and scroll down for some celebratory news. We’ll be here.)

We believe women.

Survivors like Dr. Ford face traumatic challenges every day as a result of sexual assault. And for Asian American women, cultural stigmas and societal expectations compound those pains.

Running the numbers

21-55% of Asian women in the U.S. report experiencing intimate physical and/or sexual violence, though up to 82% of sexual assaults go unreported if the offender is a friend or acquaintance.

Furthermore, immigrant women often face social isolation, which exacerbates mental health issues stemming from sexual abuse. One study of Indian Americans showed that sexual abuse limits immigrants’ socioeconomic mobility—their jobs don’t improve in America, and their home countries have limited options.

A culture of silence

That struggle’s something actress Padma Lakshmi alludes to in her op-ed this week, not just as a victim of sexual assault, but as an Indian American woman.

At age 7, a family friend sexually assaulted her. When she reported it, she was sent to live with her grandparents in India, teaching her an early lesson: “If you speak up, you will be cast out.”

Meanwhile, Yale law professor Amy Chua allegedly told women to dress in an “outgoing,” “model-like” way in their interviews with Kavanaugh—staying complicit in a power structure that disadvantages people of color.

Bottom line: this hearing impacts not just the Supreme Court, but how sexual assault survivors are treated.

But much like Mazie Hirono (whose Asian American background ain’t no coincidence) calls out bullsh*t, we need to listen to all survivors and believe them when they're ready to come forward.

Chery Sutjahjo, editor, and Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, who are sad-binging food (pizza and noodles, respectively)
More AAPI data, disaggregated

NOW PLAYING: Welcome back to Chery’s ~*Corner of Love*~, which is as on-again off-again as my real love life (I can’t even tell if that’s a joke or not)! Anyway, in this edition we’ll discuss the concepts of “love”, “marriage”, and “forever”, as portrayed in Alan Yang’s new series, Forever (now bingeable on Amazon Prime).

Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen play June and Oscar in Yang’s depiction of a committed marriage facing the challenge of, well, forever. Though the series admittedly gets off to a slow start and lacks the quote-worthy humor of Yang’s previous shows (TREAT YO SELF, turtle in a briefcase), what it does provide is a close observation of a couple’s progression through a devoted relationship as they struggle with banality, meaning, and shifting views of self.

It’s unexpected in what it delivers and how it delivers it, and is insightful, endearing, and mysterious—Yang and his co-creator Matt Hubbard very intentionally gave away little in the time leading up to the show’s premiere, and are still insistent that reviews don’t reveal too much information about the show (including its premise). At eight episodes long it’s a great weekend binge, and if you need a little more convincing, read this spoiler-free review from Vulture (or this interview with Yang).

— Chery Sutjahjo, editor, who would really like to discuss this show so please hit her up if you’ve finished

Now for some good news

We’ve talked before about the need for more visibility and education on the history of Asian Americans. Stories like Vincent Chin’s and the waves of Asian refugees to the US go mostly unheard by the majority of Americans. But now that’s starting to change.

Enter the Bulosan Center

Last year one-third of the students at UC Davis identified as AAPI. Now the school is taking an unprecedented step towards serving its Filipino students by opening a first-of-its-kind center devoted to the Filipino American community.

Named for migrant worker, activist and writer Carlos Bulosan, the center will be devoted to research education and advocacy on Filipino history. But perhaps more pressingly, the work done at the center will also draw connections to issues Filipinos face today and advocate for policies to address them.

But why wait until college?

Hopefully, thanks to a new law signed by California Governor Jerry Brown last week, California students won’t need to head to UC Davis to learn about the history of different AA groups.

The law, authored by State Sens. Janet Nguyen of Garden Grove and Ricardo Lara of Long Beach would create curriculum on the history of Vietnamese refugees and their experiences in the US, the Cambodian genocide and Hmong history and culture.

California is home to the largest populations of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Hmong Americans. While teachers won’t be required to adopt the curriculum it’s a big step forward in educating California students about some of the vibrant communities that often get overlooked.

— Jessica Yi, editor, fully acknowledges her pro-California bias in pitching stories

Here's the full text of the bill

Audience members at the premiere of The Kids Table. Photo courtesy of Adina Luo.

Adina Luo and Vivian Huang left Silicon Valley to tell Asian American stories

Filmmakers Adina Luo and Vivian Huang took a circuitous route to Hollywood. After stints in venture and software engineering, respectively, Luo and Huang chose to pursue their passions for storytelling, and especially telling Asian American stories. Their latest series, The Kids Table, launched September 25 on YouTube.

“We wanted to tell a deeply Asian American story that wasn’t explaining our identity to someone else, but rather exploring it for ourselves,” Luo tells me. “We didn’t want to just debate about whether cultural appropriation existed. We wanted to talk about how we were going to navigate it.”

Focusing on a group of Chinese American family friends, “forever relegated” to the kids’ table at a family friend gathering, The Kids Table explores identity through food and gossip. The show discusses the typical “Asian American” topics like dating and parental expectations, but also mixed-race Asians’ fight for acceptance, and what Asian Americans “owe” their communities.

I spoke to Luo and Huang over the phone and chatted about The Kids Table, leaving Silicon Valley for Hollywood, and the fallacies of being a “good” Asian American.

These are highlights. Read the full interview on Medium.

Interview Highlights

On the Asian American experiences that influenced The Kids Table

Adina Luo: Thematically, every episode draws on experiences we’ve had in real life. I will say the premise, which is that someone’s getting married and here’s what’s happening at the kids’ table — that’s what happens in real life for my kids’ table. You know, we got back from a wedding that was an older person at the kids’ table getting married.

Vivian Huang: Certainly a lot of things I think about on a bigger level are things that — we both left our jobs, my boyfriend is not Chinese. But across the series, we didn’t feel we were the only people who were going through [these experiences]. Whether it’s interracial relationships or people contemplating whether to leave their jobs.

AL: We had a lot of conversations about not having those [personal] experiences be the only ones represented, but go beyond this 101 conversation of “oh, here is an interracial relationship, these exist” and go beyond to what it really is to be uncertain of one’s identity.

On the dichotomy of “bad Asians” vs “good Asians”

AL: There’s two frames that are loaded into good Asian, bad Asian. There’s the “how Asian are you?” frame, which is like, are you ticking all the boxes off Asianness? And there’s the “filial responsibility to parents” frame, which I feel is slightly different.

When we wrote the first episode, we spoke to both and the interchangeability of those frames. When Jonathan is like, “wow, you’re not doing so great, if we’re talking about how parents approve,” he’s like ticking all these important boxes. And it becomes apparent how much of a contrast these things really are.

And over the course of the episode, what we wanted to get at was how it’s become a very jokey thing, and most of the people at the table are okay with having this conversation. And yes, there’s some truth to it — I guess some of their parents are happy or upset — but at the end of the day, they can mainly feel good about who they are.

It’s Chloe who tries to prove her Asian American identity in some kind of way, which I feel is why this becomes her episode. She’s the one driving a more serious part of this conversation. Because whereas everyone else is like, “haha, fun joke,” she’s like “no, there’s something to categorizing people in this way.”

On leaving Silicon Valley to go to Hollywood

VH: You have to be ready to unattach from a lot of the things that you got in tech that you got really used to. Like getting used to being in a place where you make little money, and being unemployed for maybe, like — there were three months where I was earning maybe $1,000. And another month when I was unemployed. And I just started working this summer.

But it’s just kinda like, you can’t expect things to move at the same pace. You have to be ready to suck it up and wait for the right opportunity. So it was kind of a different perspective and an adjustment.

AL: I think there are a lot of people who kind of graduate from school, who jump to entertainment as maybe an assistant. And they often have to get money from family or make it work in some other way. So you know, I do think often the Asian American path has a little more to do with, okay, have your first job, build up a little bit of a nest egg. And I think in that sense, Silicon Valley was a helpful transition. And being able to have a little bit of runway so you have time to figure it out.

VH: Anyone I know who went into entertainment straightaway, they’d do the weirdest odd jobs ‘cos it’s kind of like, you need to do it. They don’t have the freedom to be flexible. Even people I know who started as assistants out of college, after a couple years they’d say “look, I don’t have the time to make the things I want to make, so I’m switching to freelance life.”

Adina Luo is a filmmaker and media entrepreneur focused on diversity and representation. In addition to the Kids Table, Adina has worked in production roles for several films, including a work in progress feature on police brutality and a recent Guardian-distributed documentary. Also, check out her current (non-film) projects at www.deartechpeople.com and www.forothercards.com.

Vivian Huang is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. In addition to co-creating The Kids Table, she works as the writers’ assistant and script coordinator on an upcoming TV series from UCP/USA.

Read the whole interview on Medium

This weekend ... 📅

  • CHECK OUT the Chinese American Museum in L.A. exhibiting “Don’t Believe the Hype: L.A. Asian Americans in Hip Hop.” The show features a wide array of influencers and art forms within hip-hop with an Asian American lens. And though exploring racial identity within the genre, it also shows how it’s allowed Asian Americans to go beyond the labels of race as well.

  • EXAMINE Mazie Hirono’s Asian American background and see why it’s important. The Democratic senator of Hawaii has been applauded for calling out men unabashedly. We’re reflecting on the ways in which Asian Americans have been depoliticized, how they’ve participated in call-out culture,  and why Hirono has been seen as an “anomaly.”

  • GET SOME HISTORY on why East Asians are often called “yellow.” This week, Kat Chow at NPR’s Code Switch dove into the history of that term, assessing its cultural significance, pain, beauty, and reclamation.

  • SIDE EYE J.K. ROWLING for like the 6,000th time this year because once again she’s looked back at her work, thought “hmm! I bet I could score some diversity points!” and decided to canonize an Asian woman who’s a * squints * brainwashed snake doing a magic Nazi’s bidding who ultimately gets beheaded by Neville Longbottom. Thanks, but no thanks.

  • REMEMBER Dawn Bahoulano Mabalon, Filipino historian, activist, and advocate who passed away last week and is a big loss to the community. Believed to be the first Filipina to earn a Ph.D in American history at Stanford, she worked tirelessly and endlessly to preserve and disseminate knowledge around the Filipino community and Little Manilla as a whole. Read more about her work here.

This week's stories are curated by Natalie Bui, whose heart was gutted by the Nagini incident. 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 literally our lifelines? I mean. They are. Thanks y'all.

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“I don’t want to straightwash myself to represent as Asian. It’s more important to me that I’m representing queer Asians, rather than just ‘Asian,’ because that’s just stripping a whole side of me.”

Rina Sawayama, singer, from her interview with Broadly

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