I got my books & made an unboxing video. See embedded Instagram post below!
Category Archives: Personal
Focal Point cover reveal & pre-order info
Friends! I’m so excited to finally share my book cover, designed by my brilliant friend Hilary Steinberg. I also have a book page here, and pre-order is available through Steel Toe Books and elsewhere (all links are available on the book page).
Some backstory on this cover: I took the photo in Mammoth Lakes, CA last summer, before I found out that my book would be published. What makes this cover extra meaningful for me is that Hilary is one of my oldest friends and one of so few people remaining in my life who remembers my mother. It’s so special to me that I was able to work with her on this.
Day 275: book announcement
I’m excited to finally share that after being a finalist in a number of contests, my debut poetry collection, Focal Point, was selected by Dustin Pearson for the Steel Toe Books Poetry Award and will be published next fall. Link to the announcement & words from Dustin Pearson on the book here. So grateful for this at the end of such a long year.
Though I have continued to not update this blog, I have been tracking every day since COVID-induced shelter-in-place started in San Francisco. Today is Day 215. It’s the third day of another heatwave, temperatures up to 95 degrees. I don’t remember it ever being this hot in San Francisco for this many days in a year. Granted, this is in part because I used to live in the Sunset, closer to the cooling ocean breeze, but it is without a doubt also due to climate change. When I moved here a decade ago, I yearned for summer days like this, but now they fill me with a deep sorrow.
Here are some updates and things I’ve been up to this year, in part for whomever follows this blog and in part for me to mark the passage of time in a year when time feels so altered:
- At the beginning of this year, I started a new remote job. It has been a tough year and a steep learning curve, but I’m getting used to it and like the people. I still struggle with my science and writer identities.
- Right after starting aforementioned new job and before the pandemic, I participated in Tin House’s Winter Workshop. It felt like a dream then. It feels even more like a dream now.
- At the beginning of the pandemic, I worried it would be terrible, but did not anticipate how terrible it would actually become. The first few months, I was burned out – from work, from grad school (STILL), even from writing – and aside from the terror of the circumstances, I was okay with slowing down. I read a lot of books, including a lot of not-very-literary, probably problematic, purely escapist fiction, and I saw no one, did no readings, and became so isolated I didn’t know how to become a part of society again.
- This summer, I was sort of forced out of my cocoon by fellowships and workshops, and it has been challenging and necessary and ultimately quite rewarding. I started my stint as a Grotto Fellow, completed IWL and wrote about the weirdness of my reemergence into society for KSW, started doing readings again in August. (You can watch one of them here.)
- On day 90, I moved to a new apartment, and in this larger apartment I finally have a little separate writing nook, from which I am typing this update.
- The wildfires in California and all of the West have been the worst in history. On day 177, the sky was orange.
- My poetry manuscript has been a finalist for two book prizes this year, the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and another that I’m not sure I’m allowed to disclose yet.
- Today, day 215, I taught/facilitated my first-ever poetry workshop for Rooted and Written. Zoom is weird, and teaching is weird, but I think it went well. So wild that this time last year, I was a participant. Wilder still that this time three years ago I had just finished my PhD, had not yet started my first real-person job, and I was just starting to be more involved in the literary world and knew absolutely nothing.
- My grandmother is dying of kidney failure. She’s 95, and she never really accepted the limitations of old age. I think on some level she has been ready to let go for some time. I’m not really ready to say more than that.
There is so much to grieve, so much to be grateful for, this year and in this life. So difficult to hold them side by side. This is all I have in me for now. Be well, friends.
Why the Chungking Mansions are actually awesome
When I emailed my uncle the address for Delta Hotel, a small budget hotel in the Chungking Mansions, he immediately called me to express his concerns about the safety and cleanliness of the area. “You should cancel the booking and stay with us,” he urged. “A Chinese girl was raped there before. It was all over the news–you can Google it.
I reassured him that I’d done my research, and the place seemed fine. If I really felt unsafe, I would just leave after the first night and stay with them.
Truth be told, I was aware of the Chungking Mansions’ unsavory reputation. It was the site of a 1988 fire that killed a Danish tourist. About a decade later, it was in the headlines again for the murder of an Indian tourist by her partner. That same year, there was a police swoop that led to the arrest of ~50 people from Asia and Africa for failing to provide IDs, overstaying their visas, using false documents, etc. All of this led to its image as a refuge for criminals and undocumented immigrants.
Nevertheless, I was not deterred.
Continue reading “Why the Chungking Mansions are actually awesome”
god of beginnings
My dad, who has been hosting on Airbnb for several months, asked me to make some paper cranes as gifts for honeymooning guests. Miraculously, I didn’t feel weird about it, despite the strong connection between these cranes and my mother. I placed a pink crane (her favorite color) in front of her photo and burned some incense, and I carried on without resentment. This feels like the beginning of the nebulous future I was waiting for.
I keep thinking of the phrase “god of beginnings” as I pat the little ears of a Ganesha figurine, the favor from my cousin’s recent wedding in San Rafael and now one of my most prized possessions. It’s perfect.
The wedding was a glorious mishmash of Chinese and Indian culture (and square dancing), and the poet in me can’t get over how momentous the occasion felt. Continue reading “god of beginnings”
25 before 26
- My poem “Angles” is out in Spry!
- It’s National Poetry Month. In honor of that, I am sharing one of my favorite poems.
- I’ve started watching the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and it’s as good as everyone says.
- It was National Puppy Day and my birthday two weeks ago. To continue the tradition, I’ve made a new list of new things to try.
To explain, since high school, I have been a huge fan of Sarah Von’s blog Yes and Yes. She seems genuinely interested in being a part of the world, and I’ve always aspired to be a little like her (or at least her branding). In keeping with that vibe, every year on her birthday, she makes a list of new things to try, an annual bucket list of sorts. In the beginning, the number of items was dictated by her age that year. I’ve followed in her footsteps, and I’ll probably keep up with this system until I no longer want to share my age.Continue reading “25 before 26”
Immortality, lost and not quite found
Yesterday, I spent over two hours injecting cancer cells into mice, looking through a glass barrier in full, identity-erasing protective gear. As I did this, I listened to a Longform interview with Wesley Yang, of “Paper Tigers” fame. When the Longform hosts introduced him, they noted how unique he is among their interviewees in his convoluted path through journalism and writing in general.
As Yang describes it, when he initially became a journalist, he was not super set on that path or particularly ambitious. He just wasn’t good at anything else. What lingers with me most is the few minutes when he said that he was just always lost, still is lost.
Today, I went to the Asian Art Museum for its 50th anniversary celebration. There was an exhibit on the use and symbolism of gold throughout the ages. The placards noted its association with prosperity, divinity, and immortality. As I read this, I thought what strange creatures we humans are, to desire immortality with such fervor. What drives us to construct tombs containing thousands of warriors, to build pyramids on the bones of the unfortunates, to create and collect records of civilizations? Continue reading “Immortality, lost and not quite found”
Five years and counting
I am remembering for some bizarre reason the last time my boyfriend cooked rice. “You rinse it first, right? Until the water turns clear?”
I’d forgotten I ever told him to do that. My mother used to nag at me to rinse the rice before cooking it, and I never did because it seemed like an unnecessary extra step. What’s the point when the heat will destroy whatever needs to be destroyed?
I only started doing it after she died. I suppose it’s another weird ritual I made up, like the cranes and the notes in simple Chinese and the incense, the obsessive idea that if I burned these things she would get them or, better yet, the flames would open up a tiny portal into the parallel world in which she is living a new life without me and can see me continue to live mine even if I can’t see her. I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and what a pleasant way of referring to these delusions of the grieving.
Yesterday marked exactly five years since she died. I’ve lived a little over 20% of my life without her, and every second that passes is another second away from when we last coexisted. Tonight, I feel acutely alone.
Love and light at the end of the tunnel
My essay is out in The New York Times, and in the process, I got to talk to Daniel Jones on the phone, after years of reading his words and edits. Since then, I have been on the receiving end of so much love from friends, acquaintances, and kind strangers. That has filled at least a few dreary days in lab with light.Continue reading “Love and light at the end of the tunnel”