“What do social movements have to do with art? With media?”
It’s almost a daily occurrence: yet another screenwriter, comedian, academic, writer, or artist steals our colors to paint a picture. One that justifies the violence done to our communities, erases our trauma, and parades in the power seized in the process.
In preparing our first themed issue, the staff at As[I]Am pressed each other to say why media-making should be considered activism. We don’t pretend that art is the only way we resist. We don’t ignore the fact that for every person whose work can win visibility, there are too many among us whose labor may never earn fair wages, much less applause.
But we are tired of seeing our bodies exploited for profit. We are too aware of the cost of being denied our reflections, and we know callouts can only do so much to change the minds of people who cannot let us exist even in their made-up worlds.
How can we redirect some of our energies from trying to prove our humanity to the oppressors and instead give attention and care to our own experiences? If we recognize not all Asian Americans are the same, then we must make space to center our intersecting identities.
We chose the theme of “Resistant Bodies” because it was an accessible way for readers to talk about our lived experiences through our bodies. “Bodies,” physical and metaphoric, could hold many distinctions, but what about that other distinction: “resistance”?
The editorial staff opened ongoing conversations to redefine “resistance.” We wanted to envision it beyond the reactionary clash of fists and waving of signs. When we read about mixed-race heritage and body image, we were challenged to open up the definition of Asian American. When we listened to the journey of an immigrant environmental activist, we resisted the notion that issues of sustainability are “only for white people” and inaccessible to people of color and immigrants. When we saw art about the performance of queer identities, we refused the perception that all queers are white and all Asian Americans are straight. With a collective “mmm” of agreement, we began to see resistance movements woven into every tool we use in activist movements: our language, our artwork, and our physical bodies.
Mainstream media depictions of Asian Americans are filled with stereotypes that we are obligated to celebrate simply because they are so few and far between. But our many-layered lives are not just throwaway material for easy laughs. This is our first foray into creating that space. We recognize that this issue release could never encompass all of our stories, and we encourage readers to submit their own throughout the year. We invite you to engage with these pieces by Asian Americans, for Asian Americans.
With love & solidarity,
Jordan, Amanda, and Kyla
Table of Contents
“RED:” A Poem by Jess X. Chen
Jess Chen performs her poem “RED,” honoring those who protested during Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.
The Constant Presence of U.S. Drones in the Sky
by H.H. Bhojani
H.H. Bhojani writes about the experience of one Pakistani family living under drone warfare.
“Warpaint”: A Photo Series and Short by Coco Layne
Coco Layne uses the photo and video media to explore her gender presentation.
“You can do it your own way”: An Interview with
Sally Tran and Coco Layne
We interview artists Sally and Coco about gender presentation and white & pretty privilege in queer spaces.
What’s R(ace) Got To Do With It?: White Privilege & (A)sexuality
Alok Vaid-Menon begins a series of essays to explore how “my ‘asexuality’ can never been seen as outside of the saga of racialized violence against people of color.”
“Deconstruct Me”: A Poem by Isabel Cajulis
Isabel Cajulis writes a poem to reclaim the body:
“i bite my lip and taste my cursed lineage, // to the boy who told me // he loved my hooded asian eyes.”
“Where Do I Begin?”: An Interview on Food Politics with Sophia Trinh
Sophia Trinh talks about her journey as a student in environmental, food, and anti-racist activism.
“Be Your Own Dumpling”: Written and Illustrated
by Rowan Buchanan
Rowan Buchanan uses the metaphor of food to meditate on how we police who is “authentically Asian.”
“API Hair & Queerness”: A Film by Sally Tran
Sally Tran interviews self-identified API folks about hair and LGBTQ identity.
Talking Transformative & Disability Justice
with Mia Mingus
We interview Mia Mingus about her work and advice to young activists. (Interview mentions activism around child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence.)
Laying It Bare: An Interview with
Photographer Vivian Fu
Vivian Fu talks about how her self-portraits resist how Asian bodies, female-passing in particular, are depicted in mass media for the consumption of others. (Pieces contain nudity.)
Bodies and Battlegrounds: An Interview with
Activist & Painter Christine Oh
Christine Oh talks about her solo exhibition, Political Figures, and how she reconciles her passions for art and North Korean human rights advocacy. (Pieces contain nudity.)