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.”
For The Nation, I write about Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s experiment with magical realism in The Undocumented Americans. She goes beyond conventional reportage to mirror the surreal ways in which the undocumented experience their lives. Her work exposes the unsustainable fiction built into the economic and political systems that invite the labor of the undocumented into the country but fail to protect them once here. The pandemic has only sharpened this structural fabulism.
To commemorate the late poet Meena Alexander’s life and legacy, Feminist Press has reissued her brilliant and gutting memoir Fault Lines. This new edition includes an afterword by me, “A House Filled with Women,” paying tribute to Meena. Here’s the Asian American Writers Workshop on the afterword and the reissue.
For the December 2020 issue of The New Republic, I write on caste, race and Isabel Wilkerson’s recent book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
“By neglecting individualized Dalit experience, by skipping stories about the violence against lower castes in India, Wilkerson misses an opportunity to achieve a more radical goal: to build popular and more reciprocal solidarities on a global level––between the resistance movements against anti-Blackness here and casteism there, for one. Ironically, her approach embodies one aspect of the American exceptionalism she challenges: It centers the United States, using the world outside our borders mostly as reference point, as foil to show Americans that we are not better.”
In this short essay for The Guardian, I tell the story of the British overthrow of the democratically elected government in Guiana, its sole colony in South America, in 1953. The piece engages with the conversation in the United Kingdom around attempts to rehabilitate and revise the history of empire and imperialism.
“The parable of the misconstrued red flag was as true for 1953 as for 1964, when it was fact. It imparts a lesson about the tragic consequences of outsiders misunderstanding Guyana’s landscape. That year, there was a shining moment of utopian possibility in the colony, and the emergency fractured its politics in ways sadly still evident. The most recent election was resolved in August after five months of impasse, with racialised violence a spectre throughout. Significant reserves of oil, discovered by Exxon five years ago, have created stakes for the rest of the world. Guyana still amounts to its resources for some. For those of us who carry the wounds of 1953 within us, as the heirs of divide-and-rule, the stakes have always been clear and heartbreaking.”