Negative Asia

Weekly column written for the Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here . May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Until I moved to the US, I had not thought of myself as Asian. I had thought of myself as Singaporean in nationality, Chinese in race, and Hainanese in ethnicity, but not Asian in any way. At a diversity training session at my private school on the Upper East Side, I gave Chinese for my race, but was told that, no, I was Asian. To be Asian will forever include an element of imposition, a compound of artificiality. But don't all identities—national, racial, or gender, or what have you—include the same element and compound? I had no say in being born in Singapore. My instincts have always led me to do the best with what I have been given. In school I have bonded with my students, Asian and otherwise, over reading Asian authors, though not exclusively. One of my most memorable classes resulted from our study of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's

Against Anti-Asian Hate

  Last night's event "It's white supremacy, not sex addiction, stupid!" was informative and inspiring. As we remembered the eight victims of the March massacre in and around Atlanta, six of whom were Asian women, the readers also reminded us, in eloquent prose and poetry, of the long history of racism, sexism, and imperialism in the US. Thank you, Jerrine Tan, Paula Mendoza, Celina Su, Devi S. Laskar, and Pauline Park, for speaking to and with us. A big thanks too to our co-organizer, the Evergreen Review. Singapore Unbound is donating all revenue from the sale of Gaudy Boy books from March to May to MinKwon Center for Community Action, a non-profit based in Flushing, Queens, which advocates for low-income tenants, turns out the vote, and provides social services in Korean and Chinese. Please check out our books: To read new work by Celina Su and Devi S. Laskar, go to:

The Philosopher

Chin was an old army mate, whom I met again years later and oceans away, in NYC, in the home of common friends. We had to see one another again, of course, and find out what has transpired, as much for the window into another life as for the mirror held up to our own. We had a most engaging conversation, after which Chin approved of the poem "The Philosopher" that I wrote for him. It's a part of a working series of poems about Singaporeans in America. Here's the poem , two years later, in the midst of a pandemic, published by Creative Flight, an international open-access peer-reviewed e-journal in English. Thanks, Dipak Giri, for publishing it.

Simple as A-B-C-D?

Weekly column written for the Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here . Psalm 118 is an abecedarian, as is Geoffrey Chaucer's translation of a French prayer, "An ABC." The abecedarian is an ancient poetic form that follows an alphabetical order. Psalm 118 consists of twenty-two stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In Chaucer's poem, the twenty-three stanzas go from A to Z (skipping J, U, and W). The modern abecedarian is now more of a mnemonic device, but the tone of prayerful petition lingers. Secular prayer and sacred memorial, Devi S. Laskar's "Elegy Abecedarian" calls us to remember the eight people murdered in Acworth and Atlanta just last month. Six of the eight people killed by a white suspect were women of Asian descent. Among the six was Suncha Kim

Striver and Survivor

Weekly column written for the Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here . This spring I started teaching Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun to my VII's (the equivalent of Singapore's Secondary One) with some trepidation. The play, about a Black family living in the segregated Southside of Chicago, required careful contextualization, much of which was new to me. I had to prepare my students to read aloud with accuracy and respect the African American Vernacular English spoken by the Younger family. Throughout the study, I had to be mindful not to make the one Black student in my mainly white class feel either invisible or hypervisible. After reading just the first twenty pages, the students have fallen in love with the play. They identify with young Travis who is about their age. When Travis has to ask for an extra 50 cents for school, they understand why his mother said no, constrained as the family is by financial precarity. They also understand why h

Make Impossible Demands

 Weekly column written for the Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here . After last year's hullabaloo about the rising COVID infection rate among Singapore's low-wage migrant workers, what has now become of them? These workers come mainly from South Asia to work in the dangerous industries of construction and shipping. They number more than 300,000, and almost half of them contracted the virus because they live in crowded dormitories. Though most of those infected displayed mild or no symptoms, several continue to experience the long-term effects of the sickness , such as debilitating pain and fatigue, months after testing positive. The authorities responded by ordering the private dormitory operators to control and restrict the workers' movement. The workers were not allowed to use communal facilities or gather in the hallways; they had to keep to their bunk rooms, which accommodated as many as ten of them. When the COVID situation in Singapore stabilized,

The Case of Brandon Elliot

Weekly column written for the Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here . Brandon Elliot, 38, was arrested yesterday for brutally assaulting 65-year-old Filipina American Vilma Kari in midtown Manhattan on Monday. Elliot is to be charged with assault as a hate crime, among other charges. News reports of his arrest highlight the fact that Elliot was out on parole for stabbing his mother to death. Easily lost in the sensationalist reporting is the indictment of NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea of the city's treatment of parolees . “When you’re releasing people from prison and you’re putting them in homeless shelters, you’re asking for trouble,” Shea said on TV. “There’s got to be a safety net and there’s got to be resources for them. It just never should’ve happened.” Before the assault in Hell's Kitchen, Elliot was staying at a nearby hotel, which has been converted by the city into a homeless shelter because of the pandemic. Elliot had been incarcerated since he was