"Will All the Asian Americans Please Stand Up?": The Politics of Self-Identification

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This is part two in a series of posts on Asian Americans, inspired by and in concert with CultureSHOCK, a charity event being put on by the Columbia student group, Asian American Alliance. Click here to read the first post in the series: "Who is an Asian American?" and make sure to join in the conversation!

Yesterday, I mentioned the idea of self-identification for Asian Americans - a topic that can be the fly in the butter for many individuals, but also for many groups trying to organize around this identity pool. Why is it such a challenge? Let me give a personal example.

In the United States, I am highlighted by my difference. I am a Bengali woman (or, more often, the generic "Indian" woman). But when I interact with my family in Bangladesh or otherwise abroad, I am categorized as an American. But what is an American? In the US, non-white peoples are already coded as "less American" or otherwise foreign, so it can feel very strange to have to pick ethnicity or nationality as one's primary identity.

As Asian Americans, are we more of one than the other? Do we identify most with our ethnic group, with our nationality, with our politics, or with something else entirely? We carry within us unique experiences that can relate to any one of those questions. The task is to integrate them and find where they intersect as we conceive of ourselves as whole people.

Tomorrow: representation of these complicated Asian American folk.

Who Is An Asian American?

Monday, January 30, 2012


This weekend, Asian American Alliance (a campus group that I am a part of) is putting on their annual charity culture show, called CultureSHOCK. It's going to be an electrifying event with a great lineup including Hari Kondabolu, Kelly Tsai, Brown Star, and many other Asian American performers and designers as part of our fashion show. All the proceeds will go to supporting CAAAV, the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence. As with all of our work, we'll be working to highlight the broad variety of cultures and politics that exist in the Asian American community. Simple, you say? I think not.

Throughout the planning of this event, we've tried to encompass as much material as is possible to put into one show about Asian Americans - and it raises a lot of intense questions. Who gets to perform? What type of representation do we want to lay out there? How political do we get and how do we get that political message through the jovial/de-politicized atmosphere of a cultural showcase? And then there's the nagging question that undergirds our club's entire existence. The one that the Facebook event for CultureSHOCK puts with a little more vulgarity than I will in this post: "what the f*** is an Asian American?"

While the show will give you some ideas in its jampacked all-star lineup, I want to put down some answers this week in plain text form. Let's begin:

Who is an Asian American? 

Insight from Virginia Woolf

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Virginia Woolf's New Year's resolutions, January 2, 1931 via Lauren Elkin:

    Here are my resolutions for the next 3 months; the next lap of the year.
    To have none. Not to be tied.
    To be free & kindly with myself, not goading it to parties: to sit rather privately reading in the studio.
    To make a good job of The Waves.
    To stop irritation by the assurance that nothing is worth irritation [referring to Nelly].
    Sometimes to read, sometimes not to read.
    To go out yes—but stay at home in spite of being asked.
    As for clothes, to buy good ones.

(thanks The Migrant Book Club!)

Caught My Eye: "Old" Books

Friday, January 27, 2012


At the beginning of every new semester, my shelves are graced with the delicate smells of the paper factory and the used bookstore. Thick textbooks and reprints of novels I haven't read come in waves through our mail system, and even two weeks in I am still receiving packages loaded down with titles like And Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology and Songs in Praise of Lord Krishna. I'll hoist my bag on home and dump them all on my bed, in awe that by the end of three months, all (or at least most) of these books will have been read and may possibly have to be shipped off to another destination.

As you might imagine, it can get kind of overwhelming.

So, today I will indulge my instinct to run away from all that is new to the comfort and safety of my favorite "old" books, which in themselves are not aged, but I came across them much earlier in my life and am eager to reread them. Remember that little girl version of me that wanted to read all the books in the world? She read these books and deemed them so important that she bought them for keeps and now carts most of them around whenever she moves to any new destination like, oh say, to New York City. Here's the short list:

The Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda - Pablo Neruda
Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
The Pocket Muse - Monica Wood
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
The Abhorsen Trilogy - Garth Nix
The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri

What are your old favorites? Tell them to me in the comments!

Also, if you are clamoring for something new to read, I'm always posting up interesting articles and books over at my Tumblr page.

Activist, Artist, Academic: On Integrating Identities

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I was talking with one of my friends from high school recently and, as we nearly always do, started talking about parks.

We hung out a lot late at night, driving around our suburb till my gas tank got down low (and, being Seattlites of a kind, we lamented the carbon emissions) and then we would stop at a park. Sitting in the car, listening to whatever music was available, we planned our escape mission. We would both go to college on the east coast, have fabulous adventures, save the world; we would become non-profit managers and write books and lead colorful lives in all the stereotypically naive ways that teens with ambition look at the future. We thought "if we just get out of here, then we can do whatever we want."

It was only partly true.

Guest Post on ThinkSimpleNow & Some More Lessons

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Today, I have the great pleasure to be featured on ThinkSimpleNow, a website that I have repeatedly recommended during the course of writing this blog. Check out my post on The Power of Rituals over at their website and, if you're interested in taking a few other leaves from my book, check out this collection of my top advice articles:






An Image from the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Global Summit

Monday, January 23, 2012

(Photo credit: Bernie DeChant via ToshiReagon.com)

There were so many amazing discussions and questions that were brought up at the Womensphere conference last week (some of which I encapsulated in quote form last Saturday), but I want to share today one of the earliest and most impacting images I took away from the conference: 200+ women in business clothes standing up and singing together at the prompting of Toshi Reagon.

After the opening remarks by the conference organizer, Analisa Balares, Toshi was the first guest she brought out. As you can imagine at 9am in the morning, most of us were still groggily saying our hellos to our tablemates and talking about traffic. Little did we know about our upcoming musical debut.

The room stood slowly. There were some early adopters who had bounced up out of their seats, clapping and smiling, while there were those who remained seated for the entire time. We all still sung in somewhat timid voices, not ready to speak above the rest, not at this early juncture where we had all just come together.

I won't blame this timidity entirely on internalized sexism or the incongruity it held with the idea of "professionalism" purported by these high academic conferences. No, I believe that the restraint employed by many of the women (myself included) was simply due to the fear of stepping into a different form of leadership.

Inspiration from Womensphere

Saturday, January 21, 2012

As I mentioned on the past two posts, I attended the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Summit this week, whose theme was Creating the Future. I left the conference feeling truly honored to have listened to these amazing women speakers who are all doing great work in their fields. Here are a few of the many inspiring quotes that I took down throughout the the first day of the conference (click on any of their names for more information about the women behind the words):

"One of your biggest weapons is the sound of your voice." - Toshi Reagon

"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." - Michele Wucker

"There is no substitute for shared experiences." - Angela Leaney

"Leadership is not a part-time job." - Angela Leaney

"It's important to be comfortable with discomfort." - Lisa Shalett

"You have all this runway in front of you. What are you going to do with it?" - Susan Tardanico

"I got put on this earth as a woman. I don't want to be a man. I want to be what I was put on this earth to be." - Madeline Nelson

"The legacy you live is the legacy you leave." - Virginia Ruesterholz

"Sometimes when people say 'no' really loudly, it tells you that you that it's a really good idea." - Keren Bergman

"You only really need to be 85% right." - Keren Bergman

"If you're feeling helpless, help someone." - Morley

"Being fearless is not an absence of fear." - Jacqueline Wales

How Roller Derby Challenges Stereotypes of Women in Sports (Re-Post)

Friday, January 20, 2012

This Thursday and Friday, I have the great privilege to be attending the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Summit (of which I'll be writing a solid retrospective next week), so rather than suspend posting, I'll be putting up two of my favorite posts from the past about women, leadership, and busting stereotypes. Enjoy!


This weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the roller derby championship bout of the Rat City Roller Girls in Seattle. It was at the Key Arena, which is a huge venue, and there were a ton of people who came to watch. It was a phenomenal bout with Grave Danger finally taking home the championship title.

For those who are unaware of this particular sport, roller derby is a sport played by women on roller skates who basically beat each other up – the main gist is that there is one jammer from each team who can score points by lapping all the other players and there are blockers who want to prevent the opposing team from scoring a point. Roller derby, like soccer, is extremely nuanced. There is a lot of skill and strategy involved, not only because you’re on skates, but also because you have to know when and how to position blockers so that you can get your jammer through. Watching the teams do it for the first time may seem like chaos, but once you realize all the different rules and strategies going on, it’s really satisfying. Oh, and did I mention the violence?

Anyway, as I was cheering myself hoarse and giggling at all the pun-filled derby names, I started thinking a lot about how roller derby is really an interesting sport. It’s not mainstream, it’s not money-making, and it’s not male-driven, which are three things that sports fans often opine as the reason that we like sports. Roller derby instead takes a lot of stuff that we assume about sports and turns them on their head. Here are a few that I’ve noticed:

1. It’s all ladies. In a country where women sports stars are often marketed for their beauty in order to drive ticket sales, roller derby prides itself on being a haven for women who are strong and fiercely competitive. The audience of this bout seemed pretty evenly split with male/female spectators, so that busts the stereotype that only women want to watch sports with women in them as well.

2. There’s no need for an athletic build. Athletes, women and men alike, often have to be a certain body type in order to enter into certain sports – in roller derby, there is a wide array of body shapes and sizes, and it instead depends on how well you can maneuver on wheels. Don’t get me wrong: these ladies are athletes. I cannot tell you how many muscles it takes to man those skates, but there is no necessitated body type for one to become a roller derby star.

3. Sexuality, vulgarity, and intelligence are prized. You only have to look at the names of some of their derby names to know that derby girls are nerds. And sexy ladies. And badasses, all rolled into one. In mainstream sports, when tennis players like the Williams sisters want to flaunt their sexuality, they are shamed – in roller derby, they are beloved. And there are no “dumb jocks” on these teams; all of these women can show off their wit just as they can show off their skills.

4. Violence and strength. No one can tell me that these ladies are pushovers. Women who are strong often are pegged as having masculine traits, but I believe that roller derby challenges the assumption that strength is an inherently masculine property.

I encourage you to take in a local roller derby bout whenever you have the chance – I myself am working on trying to become a roller girl sometime in the future. See you out on the track!

Read more of my opinions on women and feminism, as well as how I got into roller derby.

Single Sex Education for Women & Girls (Re-Post)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Thursday and Friday, I have the great privilege to be attending the Womensphere Emerging Leaders Summit (of which I'll be writing a solid retrospective next week), so rather than suspend posting, I'll be putting up two of my favorite posts from the past about women, leadership, and busting stereotypes. Enjoy!

Last Friday, I spent several hours teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade girls about body image in downtown Manhattan at Girls Prep Charter School. So this week I am weighing in on single sex education.

Going to Girls Prep, and talking to their amazing health teacher Lo (who is also a former Well Woman and hosts a foodie blog: The Amateur Chef of Brooklyn) has gotten me thinking about single sex education in a new way.

Previously, I never thought much of separate education for girls at such a young age. Sounds strange, doesn't it? I go to an all women's college, but I didn't give much thought to the idea for younger children. And, I must admit, I was converted pretty easily to the idea that Girls Prep was getting these girls ready to go into the world as women: they had strong personalities, were encouraged to pursue active and diverse activities, and got the opportunity to discuss issues in class that I did not confront until middle school.

As with all things, however, there are more complications to this story than allowing girls to flourish in an environment designed for their benefit. After speaking with Lo about the background of her program and single sex education itself, about a million questions formed in my head for every topic we discussed.

For instance, when is single sex education appropriate and when is it another challenge? While it appears to be useful in the elementary school or college context, should middle schools and high schools be single sex? How do you make sure you're not replicating the same hierarchies and stereotypes in an all-female school that you would see in a co-ed one? How do you manage or talk about the other influences that the children are getting from the outside world (yes, unfortunately, school is not the only place these girls are getting messages from)?

Overall, I believe that my experience at Girl's Prep showed me that women and girls really are being heavily influenced from a young age about their appropriate role. In a co-ed classroom, which I have experienced all my life (both as a workshop teacher and a student), girls are socialized to be demure and are complimented about their bodies/looks rather more often than their skills - that's the domain of boys' compliments. Single sex education definitely makes up for the treatment differential that I've seen in those classrooms because the teachers are really focused on the girls. The girls themselves also reciprocate by showing their true colors: they are sporty, loud, engaged, smart, silly, shy, loving, emotional, stoic, bossy, and so much more. But, most importantly, they are not just one thing. Unfortunately, they are often reduced to fitting one mold in co-ed classrooms.

But I also believe that it can't be done without some extreme commitment and serious planning. So, while Lo definitely gives her 100% to these girls, the same cannot be said for every all-girls school teacher in the country.

What do you think about single sex education? Where do you think the pitfalls are? The successes? Let me know!

You may also be interested in my opinion pieces Discrimination and Mixed Metaphors and my writings on feminist topics.

The Pale Thin Light: Looking Forward after a Loss

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


As I shared last week, there was a recent death in my family. As a result, I've been struggling to process the event while still keeping myself on a regular schedule, spending time with people as they return to campus, and getting ready for the new classes that started today. In some ways, the regularity and the busy school atmosphere are helping me to take my mind off of the loss, but it's definitely going to take some time to come to terms with. The thought regularly crosses my mind that this is not the worst of it - the hardest part will be returning to Bangladesh and knowing that that person will no longer be there.

But, while I find it very important to keep that in mind, I believe that its not the sole thought that should take over my spirit throughout these tough times. As a result, I have been thinking of ways that I hope to buoy myself up and work forward from this loss, and I hope to share them with you. Loss can appear in many forms other than death - small and large, there are many life events that can feel as if they will shatter our spirits and hold us hostage. All we can do in those times is to turn inward and keep our attention on the light that comes from within us, even when it feels as if that light has only a weak glow to offer.

12 True Things

Monday, January 16, 2012

Today? A round-up of wisdom, some clichéd and others not, that bears repeating.*


The world will not end should you decide not to engage with it.

"Be different from one another, and love our differences with big, open hearts." - Sally McGraw from Already Pretty

The memories you make are all you get to keep.

"Most of us have an invisible inner terrible someone who says all sorts of nutty stuff that has no basis in truth." - Sugar via The Rumpus

Loving yourself is not an option - rather, it is the denial of an essential truth.

"Saying I have to suggests that we do not have a choice, and that we are not in control of our lives... For starters, you don’t have to do anything! You know that. The world will not come to an end if you don’t do something (in most cases)." - Vanessa Paxton via ThinkSimpleNow

Take care of your emotions as if they were a bath: too hot and they burn you, too cold and they make you shiver. Let them drain out when it's time and build up when you need them. Don't leave the water unchanged for too long.

"You have permission to: not ever feel the need for permission." - Danelle LaPorte on White Hot Truth

Revision to the Golden Rule: Don't treat others the way you want to be treated - ask them how they want to be treated and honor that decision.

"…What matters is the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of colour and graphite scrawled upon a sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind becomes a light, life-charged." - Patti Smith via Nextness

Love the challenge. Love the process. Don't settle for less.

*If you're counting the picture, we have 12 True Things. Good eye! Here's a bonus:

You will become what you manifest.

Bounty

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When the food is in the oven, I start taking random pictures.
Here's to a bountiful, relaxing Sunday.

Encouraging Words from Ian Coyle

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Learning to love the process."
- a letterpress visual art piece by Ian Coyle (see the piece and many others here)

Caught My Eye: The Thing that Gets You Through

Friday, January 13, 2012

This week, rather than focusing on a specific book, article, movie, or art piece that touched me, I want to give a list of all the things that have gotten me through this week and continue to make me feel strong in a time of great weakness. In different ways, for different reasons, these pieces of media have made me think and brought me some entertainment, laughter, and peace. Hopefully they can give you just as much strength as they have given me.

The Moth podcast, particularly the stories by Charlene Strong and Elif Shafak.

Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) in audiobook form, which she herself reads and is hilarious because of it.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - a book given to me by my father as a New Year's gift.

Corinne Bailey Rae's music.

Unfinished (or Taking Time to Heal)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


It is harder to live.

You experience too much or not enough. You struggle uphill without a clear plateau in sight. Your priorities shift and what you've been working towards is suddenly invalidated. You stumble. You lose. You become covered in dirt and must wash yourself clean.

You listen to sad music when your spirits are up. You do everything incorrectly even when you know what needed to happen. You don't ask questions because it's scary to look vulnerable. You especially don't want to look vulnerable.

We are imperfect beings because otherwise we are unable to learn. We're not meant to know exactly what to do at all times. It's never made more clear than when you look back on the moments of your life and realize that they're an amalgamation of embarrassing, sad, fallible, and occassionally thrilling glimmers that can still produce a cringe or a rueful smile in your everday life. The state of happiness cannot exist without its opposite: we take the bitter with the sweet. Our strength is the product of our struggles.

I intend to make this post a hopeful one. Usually I write about my endeavors and artistic works on this day of the week, but I honestly admit to you that I have been "messing up" for the last few weeks on that front. I have been taking care of myself and making art has been put on hold. I have been re-evaluating and turning over in my mind every emotion in the book - even before this period of mourning, the semester had been studded with rough patches I had wanted to sit down and work through for some time. So I have been repeating the words that I started this piece with: it is harder to live. We are only given the burdens we can carry and, ultimately, we emerge as better people because of it. Believe me, I know what it is to be low down in the trenches.

For now, my thoughts are shrouded in a layer of "I'm not doing enough/doing it right/doing anything important." I am being a huge worrywort because I have taken this time for myself to rest and heal the raw patches of my heart. But I know that there must be a reason for this struggle, a reason to put these parts of my life on hold for the moment and just to breathe. To recognize the importance of slowing down and recapturing the energy of the universe in my own fragile body. I recommend it to others almost daily - now it's for me to practice what I preach.

The Almighty Force: Personal Faith and Perspective

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


In light of the recent death of one of my family members, I have been musing on personal faith and its context in my brief life. This faith has sustained me through both tragedies and triumphs in the past and continues to support me each day. I know that many of my readers are not religious, so please do not take this story as an attempt at conversion - it is exactly the opposite. Personal faith must be approached on one's own path, and this is my story of arriving at it.

I first learned about my religion through the media. Growing up in a secular household, with one parent Christian and the other Muslim, I had never really thought about Allah from the perspective of organized religion. He was a being in the abstract sense when I was younger - I have no memories of faith beyond the paper-thin symbolism of winter holidays. I didn't know about Ramadan then.

I've written previously about 9/11 and its role in making me a reactionary activist to the Islamophobia that followed. But seeing Islam as a personal religion is different than seeing it in the activist light. No, it came to me in another package: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read this book at an age that was much too young for its subject matter, though I appreciate that it came into my life at that point (and am intensely curious to see what different impressions I get when I finally read it again). Malcolm X was a convert to the Muslim faith, someone who did not take the teachings for granted and approached them with careful eyes. Though he did not bring Islam to me, the words of his book displayed to me that the religion is loving as it is powerful, and as familiar.

At that time in my life, I needed a force like that. I had been bullied in school and was suffering from depression, though at the time the only names I had for it were apathy and loneliness. I chose personal faith over personal destruction, though the idea was still abstract. To this day, it comforts me to know that this choice was the one that kept me stable and allowed me to fully experience the life that I lead now - faith has passed with me through the shocking times and the beautiful ones, and it resides within me to return to lest I forget.

I suppose that's why I am returning to it now. The reassurances that my faith provides keep the sadness at bay. There is an end to suffering and there is a better place that we pass into once we are in the care of Allah once more. But more than that, the strength and dignity of our religion keep me working to improve my own circumstances and take stock of the life I am leading: what can I do better to take care of myself and those close to me? What can I do to better the world that we live in, so that we are not waiting in vain to pass into death? Even as I am alone, I gather strength and perspective. We are only given the burdens we can carry, and I will carry on with the number of days, months, and years I have left.

Immigrant Mourning

Monday, January 9, 2012

How does one feel sadness properly?

This week opens for me with a very recent death and a very raw period of mourning. As much as I believe that death is a natural inevitable process, it still shakes you to the core when it comes close. It's almost enough to make me want to write clichéd sentences moralizing about those who have passed on and those who remain here with us. Almost.

But more than that, I feel very strongly that I must talk about the experience of being in mourning as an immigrant. I am part of the satellite family that lives several time zones away, and I am apart not only from our larger family, but from my own small family as well. Though it is never easy to drop everything and deal with a family emergency, we don't even have the option to return home. We can only orbit around, waiting for a time to return to them. We grieve alone.

I find it odd that this aspect of the immigrant experience is understated. Intellectually, I know that it is overshadowed by the rhetoric of the American dream and the opportunities of entering a new life, forging an individual path, and participating in capitalism, but my heart is focused elsewhere. It shows me the profound loss that is involved in moving halfway across the globe for so-called opportunities. The inevitable missing of births and deaths, the broken families, and the hard edge of being alone - my heart takes in these feelings and tries to blunt them so that I can be sad in a proper manner. So that I don't tie in my individual sadness with the infrastructure that contributes to it. So that I can still feel good about the place that I live in, have been adopted into, even as I yearn to be with my family and take rest.

Months back, during Thanksgiving, I wrote a piece on gratitude for Dear Sugar and I talked about returning to Bangladesh for the first time last year. I wrote:

"I am grateful for that empty place at the table. I am thankful that sometimes people need not know each other to care for them. We are contributing to the stockpile of love in the universe – whether that’s through writing advice columns or finding gratitude in the hardest moments. What we manifest is who we ultimately become."

I am caring and I am loving from afar. I cannot reach that empty place at the table, and neither can many of my family members. But it is there.

How does one feel sadness properly? I want to address this question in my posts this week. Look out for some more writing on sadness and mourning in the next few days. And thank you, as always, for reading.

A Feast for the Eyes: Cooking Photographs

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This week, I want to give a shout-out to Smitten Kitchen, Joy the Baker, and The Pioneer Woman for being amazing cooking blogs that have provided me with recipes to cook with and the inclination to photograph everything (especially when it comes out deliciously). Take a gander at what I've been making since Christmas Eve.


Here's a list of all the foods I've made/improv'ed in the past few weeks:
Hummus | Pita | Mushroom artichoke pasta | Artichoke olive crostini (mine came out blegh, but yours might be better) | Chicken tikka masala | Cheese grits | Strawberry yogurt parfaits | Pumpkin oatmeal (in our rice cooker!) | Homemade Poptarts | Veggie stew clearinghouse (for all those random leftover veggies) | Spinach artichoke dip | Shrimp and pasta in cream sauce | Chicken and noodles (almost a soup, but the noodles soaked up all the broth - still tasty, though!) | Pesto goat cheese pizza | Cornbread | Black bean barley soup
...stay tuned for more.










A Note on Time from Julian Barnes

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"We live in time--it holds us and moulds us--but I've never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly... And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occassionally, it seems to go missing--until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return." - Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Caught My Eye: Writing Like a White Guy

Friday, January 6, 2012


This article caught my attention (and held it rapt) quite some time ago, but I just now have had a moment to sit down and reflect on it in written form. I'm an English and psychology major (some days one more than the other) and have come to questioning what these two courses of study really entail. Particularly with the English major, there is one important question that continues to test my commitment to it: is being an English major a colonization of myself? I found it hard to form a response. My words get all caught up.

As a South Asian woman whose country was colonized by the British and who spurns canonical literature, I use English (the "master's tools" for anyone with Audre Lorde on the brain) in a wholly different way than they would be by a white author. Yet I still have grown up in a culture that prizes certain works, makes reference to them, and uses English as the medium through which all "proper" and "high" literature is considered. Anything else is lost in translation or sub-par. Minority authors are just that - part of a specific subset that is not as revered or canonical as the classics. So am I also prizing certain literature over others? Am I making English a prioritized language and disrespecting my ethnic heritage, my mother tongue (for which a war was fought to preserve, no less)? I have been consistently frustrated by this question, going back and forth over whether its even relevant and whether anyone has the same concerns I do.

Jaswinder Bolina's "Writing Like a White Guy" article articulates an answer to this question in a truly remarkable and sensible way.

Gentle Goals & Soft Manifestations (Or How I Stopped Obsessing Over Books)

Thursday, January 5, 2012


There once was a girl who wanted to read all the books in the world. She believed sincerely that she could chew her way through book after book, never re-reading and never looking back. She would read the good with the bad, the classics with the post-modern, and eventually conquer all the material there was out there.

That girl grew up a little bit, started writing her own work in the same proportion as she was reading. Created many good stories, learned a great deal of lessons about writing and publishing and how expansive the world of literature is. But she still held on to the idea that she could finish every book in the world someday. Someday.

And then the fated day came when that little girl became a teenager and felt like the entire world was too overwhelming. Including the world of books. She threw her head down on her desk, long hair flowing, and felt her illusions unraveling - there was simply too much to get through! Oh, the crushing defeat...

Ok, so perhaps my childhood fantasy went on a little too long. But, at one point in my life, I sincerely believed I could conquer all the written material in the world. I realize that's impossible now. And this hyperbolic personal example serves to illustrate my greater point: expansive expectations are the stuff of fantasies. They are bound to disappoint.

Gentle goals and soft manifestations, however, make magic happen.

30/365 Project

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I talked a bit on Monday about beginnings (and endings). About how there are a lot of them in this life to take note of, that we don't often choose to see. I was thinking about how I could make that concept concrete in my own life this year, starting at the generally accepted level of every day.

This year, I am going to embark on an experiment that I've been trying to get moving ever since... well, forever. Especially since watching this video that I posted quite some time ago on my Tumblr. I want to be creative for 30 minutes every day in a variety of ways, related to any project or no project at all. Devoting that little amount of time will be a small gift to myself each day this year.

Why I'm Against New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


New Year's resolutions always fail. Period. Full stop. This blog post has officially ended before it began.

You're probably wondering now why I, a generally positive person who dispenses advice on bucket lists and productivity, would be so strongly anti-resolution. There are a lot of things that I could be against in this world - why New Year's resolutions? Why something that is supposed to be fun and silly and made once a year? Let me explain:

Celebrating Life in the Small Moments

Monday, January 2, 2012

From humble beginnings...

In the spirit of ringing in the new year, let's talk about beginnings.

First, a cliche: for every beginning, there is an ending. I have been thinking a lot in the context of endings recently - our school semester ended, then the year, and several more personal events ended their long sagas during the month of December. It's a mixed bag of positive and negative. Sometimes you are dreading the imminent conclusion and sometimes you are looking at the potential opportunities to follow. Beginnings and endings? Inextricably linked.