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Volume 92: February 22, 2019

“Spiral Alley,” by Cambodian American artist Anida Yoeu Ali

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ICE ALERT: ICE is planning raids on Cambodian communities over the next few weeks. If you or someone you know is Cambodian with a deportation order and were asked to check in with ICE, contact Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s raids hotline at 415-952-0413. For resources and information on how to prepare, visit

Here’s one way to get a wedding invite

If there’s one thing folx know about Indian weddings, it’s that they’re events. Hundreds of people. Multiple days. Maybe there’s an elephant.

According to, the average American wedding will run you $29,000 with 140 guests. The average Indian wedding? $65,000 with 500 guests.

In fact, in America alone, Indian weddings boast a $4 billion to $5 billion industry: outspending wedding spending in India itself.

So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that you can now literally buy tickets to an Indian wedding.

Like Airbnb, but for weddings lets Indian couples sell wedding invitations to foreign tourists, giving tourists both the thrill of an Indian wedding and the opportunity to meet locals.

The company also says guests can “dress in traditional Indian garb, taste the exotic flavors, dance to the enchanting music, and take part in beautiful wedding customs.”

The incentive for Indian couples? Recouping expensive wedding costs. Fees range from $150 for a one-day pass to $250 for a full weekend.

Don’t quit your day job, but

In his book, The Future is Asian, World Economic Forum alum Parag Khanna writes that this trend might not be going anywhere anytime soon. Even as second-generation Indian Americans have grown up wholly in the States, the Indian wedding is definitely still A Thing™.

“Even though second-generation Indian Americans may be uncomfortable with religious rites they don’t fully understand, they are drawn to the pomp of weddings involving horses and drummers,” writes Khanna.

In fact, experts say the Indian wedding industry, which is worth $40 billion and growing at 20% a year,  is even recession-proof. Which to this editor means it might be time for a career change. Indian wedding industry, here we come.

“You haven’t been to India until you’ve been to an Indian wedding.”

NOW PLAYING: Hulu's PEN15 is like if Freaks and Geeks and Eighth Grade had a baby and made a Napoleon Dynamite-Broad City-esque show that grants hilarious closure on how stupid middle school was.  

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play two best friends navigating middle school, casting their 31-year-old selves among actual twelve-year-olds.  They figure out crushes, hormones, drugs, thongs, and what it means to be best friends.

Erskine carries the show with her bowl cut look and deadpan tone, with memorable scenes from trying to impress her dad with a mere 3-note drum solo, owning the power of wearing a thong, and discovering masturbation, even while believing her late ojiichan (grandpa) is always watching.

It’s a laugh out loud, let-me-text-my-friends-if-they-remember-that-too, type of funny. From the Hawaiian surfer necklaces, to that damn Lisa Frank-esque whale poster everyone seemed to have in their room, to the impeccable soundtrack ("Hanging by a Moment" by Lifehouse, in particular), Erskine and Konkle actually manage to captured middle school as it really was.

And their balance in showing how so, so, incredibly lame we all were without shaming and hurting our 13-year-old selves (I’m looking at you, Eighth Grade) is an act of brilliant balance.  It’s sometimes beyond ridiculous, where you can’t tell whether you're feeling discomfort, secondhand embarrassment, or just a sense of long deserved self-love. But it's always a roller coaster of nostalgia.

Natalie Bui, editor, who in fact was not a fan of Napoleon Dynamite, but appreciates how it contributed to her middle school experience

Hopefully, legally, never again

77 years ago this week, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

And last Friday, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) introduced the Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2019.

Named after Japanese American activist Fred Korematsu and the late Representative Mark Takai (D-HI), the bill would prevent the imprisonment of citizens due to their race, religion, nationality, sex, gender, ethnicity or disability.

Not the best status quo

This bill comes 8 months after the Supreme Court both upheld 45’s travel ban on Muslim countries and denounced WWII Japanese American incarceration in the same breath.

“The forcible relocation of U.S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of presidential authority,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

Yet the U.S. Department of Defense continues to positively cite WWII cases such as Hirabayashi v. United States, which allowed for curfews against a minority group during war. And that citation comes from last year.

The world’s waitin’

The Korematsu-Takai Civil Liberties Protection Act has appeared in Congress before. In December 2017, Sen. Duckworth introduced a version, S.2250, in the Senate. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, which is also the latest action on this year’s version.

But this year marks Fred Korematsu’s 100th birthday, and the 75th anniversary of Korematsu v. United States. And if the Korematsu family can remain hopeful, so can we.
Keep track of the bill

My father was always the magician,

not I. One swift pull and

the silk streamers would spill

from his mouth, flooding the floor.

The chains always broke. The cage always

vanished. The canary always returned,

chirping, from the dead.

— Shuang Ang, poet, from their poem “The Magician’s Daughter”

This Weekend ... 📅

  • CHECK OUT * checks notes * JAPANESE CHICANOS? When Walter Thompson-Hernández first heard that some Japanese folx were adopting Chicano culture, he traveled to Japan, wondering about cultural appropriation. Instead, he found that Japanese lowrider enthusiasts weren’t just about the surface level: they’d stayed in contact with their Chicano inspirations, and made something all their own. You can’t miss this piece.

  • WATCH SOME TV and get ready for more. What with Kal Penn helming a new NBC comedy and Greta Lee developing a show about Ktown, television just might be in for an Asian American wave, according to Vanity Fair. That said, hey, it’s a lot of East Asians. Here’s to South Asians, Southeast Asians, Pacific Islanders and indigenous folx getting their due, too.

  • TRY THIS FOOD ANNOTATION TOOL. You know how when you’re reading an article about “ethnic” food, and the writer goes out of their way to explain every “ethnic” food name, thus alienating you because the article’s suddenly for some food Columbus rather than for you? Frank Shyong and the Los Angeles Times have a solution. Try clicking on the phrase “bánh bột lọc” in this article. Ingenious. (And the story is important too.)
  • READ THIS INTERVIEW. You might remember the piece Michelle Zauner, a.k.a. Japanese Breakfast, wrote last year for the New Yorker—“Crying in H Mart” was definitely one of our top stories of 2018. Now, read Zauner’s interview with Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, about her love for Maangchi, her childhood as a child of mixed race, and how Jeju diving women inspired her second album. It’s a good one.

  • OPEN IN EMERGENCY. Real talk: the Asian American Literary Review, and in particular assistant editor Tyrone Nagai (thanks for coming to the UCSD Career Center, Tyrone!), inspired me to start this newsletter. Which is why I’m ultra-excited that AALR is reprinting its most recent issue, OPEN IN EMERGENCY, this fall. Centered on Asian American mental health, the issue comes with a set of Asian American tarot cards, created by the community. Submissions are now open.

  • AAAND FINALLY first a disclosure: this person is my godsister. But Kathie Hsieh is a real percussionist goddammit and she’s looking to feature the work of visual artists of Asian descent alongside her percussion performance, also featuring composers of Asian descent. No “for exposure” shenanigans—you can send in existing work and she’ll show you off. Send in your work by March 24.

This week's stories are curated by Andrew Hsieh, editor-in-chief, not a-Hsieh-med of blatant nepotism here. Got a tip, or just want to share? E-mail us at
See ya next time.
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