ALL Book Reviews The New York Times Book Review

Two Divergent Girlhoods in Ghana, United by the Same Debt

For The New York Times, I review Peace Adzo Medie’s second novel Nightbloom: “If family figures as one creditor in the novel, and the suppressed memory of rape another, then Medie intertwines the two, fingers welded in one devastating grip.”

ALL Essays The Boston Review

Unmaking Asian Exceptionalism

My essay for The Boston Review highlights a hidden history of anti-Asian violence in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s and gestures toward Black-Brown solidarities, past, present and future: “In the tension between the idea and the reality of “who we are” and “what we stand for” as Americans, I do my work as a writer. I consider myself a lucky embodiment of the American Dream—lucky that my body was not broken with bricks or baseball bats for living it and lucky to have a body that, in a society beset by anti-Blackness, did not hinder my chances at it. Ever since the Dotbusters showed me how words could be weapons, I try my best to use America’s uneven, ironic blessings to illuminate how we have been led to hate each other and how we might transcend that history.”

ALL Book Reviews Politics The Washington Post: Book World

Read Dangerously

For The Washington Post, I reviewed Azar Nafisi’s new book Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times: “Her observations implicate both adherents of Make America Great Again and their political foes. She sounds alarms about the alienating effects of technology as well as ideology, conjoined twins in preventing us from seeing the full humanity of those we disagree with.”

ALL Articles Migration Politics

“The Prakash Churaman Story”

Photo © Ed Kashi

Arrested at the age of fifteen, and interrogated without an attorney present, Prakash Churaman spent six years locked up, four of them while waiting to be tried. Prosecutors argued that he orchestrated a fatal attempted armed robbery at a friend’s home in Queens in 2014. A New York State appeals court overturned his conviction in June 2020, ordering a new trial, and bail was granted six months later. For the past year, he’s been on house arrest, monitored through an ankle bracelet.

Even as he prepares for his new trial, expected to take place this spring, he’s been campaigning for the charges against him to be dropped. Single-minded in his pursuit of that goal, his determination a magnet, he has attracted a diverse coalition of supporters and activists, from socialist party members to fellow Indo-Caribbean immigrants.

Here’s my long-form profile of him in two parts, published in The Margins, the literary magazine of The Asian American Writers Workshop. It’s about race and criminal justice, the long arc of Caribbean indenture and the political education of a working-class immigrant kid from Queens.

Photo © Ed Kashi

Part One: Raised by the System

“Suddenly bearing down, in the precinct room with Prakash, was the piled weight of his father, of the detectives, of both systems with centuries-long afterlives that have scarred him.”

Part Two: Fighting for His Freedom

“The persistent low boom from planes departing from an airport nearby mock his own inability to take off. Underscoring the irony, the sheriff’s office called to warn that he was in danger of violating bond whenever his ride home from the doctor’s office or courthouse approached exits to the airport.”



ALL Book Reviews Migration The New York Times Book Review

Perpetual Sorrow

For The New York Times Book Review, I write on Code Switch co-founding editor Kat Chow’s memoir of grief and family, immigration and ancestors. Guided by the work of scholars in Asian American studies who have developed a theory of “racial melancholia,” elaborating on Freud, Chow links her own life and species of grief to their explanation of how identities are formed in immigrant families who try to preserve the memory of the places they left — in a sense to taxidermy the past. Seeing Ghosts gives flesh to this theory, the idea that loss of country and loss of loved ones can hook us with similar perpetual sorrow, through storytelling that brings alive both Chow’s mother and father, drawing their characters tenderly but with unflinching honesty.