Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Multi-Culti Info Goddess

Yo, Hip Hapa Homeez! Wazzup?!

Welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World. As we know, life is all about change; so, after tonight Your Hip Hapa will no longer publish this blog on a weekly basis. Change is on the horizon for our projects--including the Watermelon Sushi film and a book ready for publication--so we’ll only be here every other week from now on. Won’t you join our Facebook Fan page to keep updated about the Watermelon Sushi film? And, while you’re on Facebook, please navigate to the Hip Hapa Homeez group page and sign up to stay in the know with news by and about multiethnic and mixed-race folks, transracial adoptees, and anyone involved in cross-cultural activities. You can also follow Watermelon Sushi on Twitter. And, if you’d like to throw your support behind the film, please purchase a Hapa*Teez t-shirt. Not only will you help move the film production forward, but you’ll also get a rear crawl credit when it’s done and in theaters!

Early Warning: The amazing African American Japanese enka singer, Jero, will be performing on the West Coast next month! Stay tuned for more info.

Speaking of info, Your Hip Hapa can think of few people who are more informative than Frances Kai-Hwa Wang. We originally met many moons ago as Contributing Editors at, Asian American Village. These days, Frances is still with the site as an Asian American Village Editor, but she also writes for numerous other publications. Check out the links below that appear in her standard email signature. Above is Frances smiling despite dozens of deadlines piling up on her. Asian American Village Editor

Ann Arbor Chinese Center of Michigan Outreach Coordinator

American Citizens for Justice Advisory Board

Adventures in Multicultural Living column at

Japanese American Citizens League, and more!





and so on...

Q: In your standard email signature, you list no less than 15 links to your work, with the addendum “and so on…”

How can you possibly stay on top of everything?

A:I don't sleep. Seriously. My alarm is set for 4:30 every morning, but often I wake up before the alarm, around 3, and try to get some work done before the kids wake up.

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I've been writing since seventh grade, really, funny little essays, writing contests, newspaper press releases for 4H, literary parodies for a college humor magazine. But officially, I have been writing for 17 years, since I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal, and worked in international development and for local English-language publications. Right before I left graduate school, a professor asked me, "Why are you in academics? You can write! The only reason other people are in academics is because they can't write." When I was recently reconsidering academics, another professor said the same thing again, "You are a writer! Why don't you write instead of going back to school?"

Q: Today, you not only write, but you’re also a popular public speaker. Did you always know what you wanted to do career-wise?

A: I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

I do love public speaking, though. I used to compete in public speaking in high school and college, and it is the single best skill that I have. If anyone needs a keynote speaker...

And I love to write, to research, to think about all these issues, and to create a little art with my words. It takes such ego, however, to say the words, "I am a writer." For years, I said, "I write essays." Then, "I am a writer and an editor" (which mitigates it somewhat). But to be "a writer" is really cool. I still can't believe it.

Q: Who are your parents, and how did they meet?

A: My parents were born in China, grew up in Taiwan, met in college, and came to the United States for graduate school, after which they married and stayed. Pretty standard pre-1965 immigration pattern. My dad is a retired electrical engineer (also pretty stereotypical), and my mom is a retired second grade teacher (even stricter than stereotypical Asian moms).

Q: Did growing up in Cali provide you with a culturally rich upbringing or was it because of your parents?

A: I do not think my parents had an intentional plan to give me a culturally rich upbringing, they just were who they were. We spoke Chinese and ate Chinese food. They had Chinese friends. When it came time to lecture me, the reference points were Confucian rather than American. But a lot of things were not explained to me, so I had to figure it out. I often felt like I was not Chinese enough for the Chinese, not American enough for the Americans, but I could never tell what I was doing wrong.

I also went to Catholic Schools, so I grew up with Italians, Irish, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Mexicans, etc. Most of my friends were bilingual and bicultural, although we never talked about it.

As an adult, I have intentionally tried to fill in the gaps and learn more about my culture and other cultures, and I have taught my children the details so they know what they are supposed to do, how to read people/situations, and how to codeswitch cultures and create something new.

Q: Did you ever think you’d end up in an interracial marriage?

A: I did not intentionally seek out an interracial marriage, because I was brainwashed all my life that I should marry a Nice Chinese Boy. Only problem was that I was also brainwashed all my life that no Nice Chinese Boy would ever want me. I was too tall, too outspoken, too smart, spilled tea all over the table. Add on the effects of the mainstream media brainwashing me that the handsome prince is a tall white guy (with a geeky Asian manservant) and the demographic reality that there were not a lot of Asian American guys my age from which to choose, and so I ended up dating who I dated, marrying who I married. In the end, it is just the two of you, not your politics or your parents.

Sometimes I think it would be different if I did it again, that I would definitely marry Asian.(No, I don't have Tiger Woods Identity Issues. Really, I don't. I don't, I don't.) However, I think that the reality is that instead of simply overcoming the brainwashing against Asian male stereotypes, my eyes have opened to the beauty of men of all races and ethnicities--African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Arab American, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Northeast Asian, Pacific Islander, Southern and Eastern European--and most beautiful of all--hapa men.

Excuse me while I faint. There are a lot of beautiful men in this world.

My phone number is...

Q: Your Adventures in Multicultural Living column featured a very touching story about your children teaching your Chinese father about African American history. How do you envision the future for them especially since they’re multiethnic?

A: My kids are so cool, so much cooler than I ever will be. They’re Chinese, Greek, German, Scottish and English.

Because of the work that I do, they are well versed in multicultural issues and Asian American scholarship, and they read multicultural literature and media. When I drag them to seminars and documentaries at the university with me (for the food), they often get involved and answer the speakers' questions better than the graduate students. They understand what it means to be hapa, they have hapa friends, and they have hapa role models both local and famous. They are proud to be hapa.

We joke that they have self-esteem issues, too much self-esteem. They are going to conquer the world.


Wow. Is that just crazy-cool, or what? Thanks for sharing, Frances!

Parting is such sweet sorrow Hip Hapa Homeez, and Your Hip Hapa will miss connecting with you next week. But, just think, we’ll be pimping this blog with more bling for you. Please revisit us the week after next when we turn you on to The Bots, two musical blasian brothers on a mission. Until then, I am…

Your Hip Hapa,