Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Messy And Beautiful Adventures From Jersey Shores To Espana

Aloha, Hip Hapa Homeez! 

Big ups, big hugs and big fat smooches to you all. Your Hip Hapa appreciates your continued purchases of Hapa*Teez t-shirts. Every penny of profit goes to support our Watermelon Sushi film, and earns you a rear crawl credit. Be sure we have the correct spelling of your name for when the film is produced and released. If you’ve already bought a Hapa*Teez, drop us a line at And, if you have a pix of yourself in one, please share.

Rob Lee shares Hapawood with you!
Your continued participation in our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook indicates that the topics of being mixed-race, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, interracially involved, transracially adopted, and/or crossing cultures continues to be important ones. Keep up the comments, discussions and posts of relevant subjects!

Watermelon Sushi and Hapa*Teez also have Facebook fan pages, and there’s a myCuz @Oprah campaign on Twitter. Follow us at watermelonsushi, read about us on HUB, and please sign the twitition. I hear my cousin Oprah is looking for OWN projects so let’s help her out.

This month’s featured Hip Hapa Homee is the hilarious and irreverent Ali Berlinksi, author of A Beautiful Mess. Chapter one is titled You’re Not White, and you can read it here:

Here are more of Ali’s links and, below them, a Q&A:

Ali in Paris
Q: You’ve had one heck of a mixed family experience. Please divulge some details.
A: In addition to being biracial, I’m also bicoastal. My birth mother is a Filipina immigrant raised in San Francisco, ergo she's wasn't your typical immigrant Filipino parent. As for my father, he's from Jersey. His other ethnicities include Polish, German and Welsh. I was born in Jersey, but moved to Northern California when I was 9 with my birth mother, Puerto Rican stepfather and two younger siblings, who are Puerto Rican-Filipino. Growing up, I visited Jersey twice a year to see my father and two older brothers, who are from my father's first marriage and half-Italian. Though I’m not ethnically Italian or Puerto Rican, I very much relate to the cultures. (See family diagram, below.)

Ali's Family Tree
Q: Were you always funny? 
A: This question is the best compliment anyone has ever given me! Um, no. I don't consider myself funny but rather, entertaining. If anything, I've always been eccentric and a bit awkward, which happens to be in fashion these days as far as comedy is concerned. Consider me your hot, female, ethnic Michael Cera. I don't try to be funny. If I make people laugh then great, but when this humor trend eventually changes, and it will, I'll continue being my zany self.  
Ali before she left NYC
Q: You currently live in Spain. I'm guessing being half Filipina has something to do with it, right?
A: Three words: chorizo, wine and siesta. This place is a foodie's paradise. Before moving abroad, I applied to teaching programs all over the world. I had to get the hell out of NYC. My life there was too comfortable and I desperately needed a change. Spain was my first choice. For one, they really have their priorities straight--work to live and not live to work as we tend to do in the U.S. They also have amazing coffee, which if I were Popeye would be my spinach. I'm sure my Filipino "Puerto Rican" roots did play a role. For, while the culture is different from my own, it's still very familiar. Still, the most important thing to me was that I radically change my life. Moving abroad seemed to be a fun way to do that.

Q: What are the biggest differences in identifying as a multi-cultural person in Spain versus presenting yourself like that in the U.S.?
A: Whenever you're considered a "not", it reinforces whatever qualities make you a "not". In the U.S., I'm considered "Not White" and so I align myself with minorities even though many minorities would consider me "whitewashed". Even the “nots” have “nots”.
The idea of a biracial person doesn't exist in Spain. They're a very homogeneous insulated society. Moreover, the Spanish don't tend to think in terms of race, but culture. To them, I'm just different, period. Thus, here I'm "Not Spanish" which reinforces my American identity. Subsequently, I crave peanut butter more than I ever did when I was in the states. By no means are the Spanish egalitarians; rather, they have a completely different understanding and relationship with these ideas.
Ali goes "all Waiting to Exhale"...
Q: What inspired you to write A Beautiful Mess?
A: This book has been a dream of mine since forever. In a way, I've always understood my life to be different. After going through some really tough breakups and realizations, I decided to take some time and reboot. Writing has always been my sanity, and writing this book provided me with a productive way to express some really tough emotions. Although the book is deeply personal, the issues I discuss are very relatable: divorced single-parents, sibling rivalry, racial identity, heartache, cancer, death of a loved one, career struggles, gay, "handicapped" and bipolar family members, and so on. Clearly, my life can be ridiculous, which is why I think it’s so important to laugh. 
Right now, the book is available exclusively through There, you can read a chapter and support my book for as little as $10. I need to have 1000 people pre-order it in the next 60 days in order to get published. I need as much help spreading the word so tell everyone you know--and don’t know, for that matter! When I reach this goal I'm published just like any other author. Plus, those who pre-order can list themselves as an original discoverer of my book. It's a company I'm really passionate about because not only does it help me get published, but it also helps promote literacy in third world countries. For every book you buy, a book is donated to the featured charity. Tell everyone you know!
Q: Some of the encounters you describe in your essays are not vastly different from what most mixed-race people experience as far as being constantly questioned and validated. Are you writing to assure the multicultural community, or is it more for informing the non-mixed population about our issues?
A: My essays are intended for everyone and the only message I hope to convey is that everything in life is a choice. Aside from that, I'd be flattered if a person reads an essay and has an “ah-ha” moment, thereby motivating questions and eventually, a dialogue. But then, you can never tell what people are going to take from your work. 
Q: What's next? Another book, films, TV appearances? 
A: After this book gets published, I plan to do lots of publicity, which will probably include TV appearances, book talks and tours this summer. It’s exciting and yet daunting. Whenever you put yourself out there, you risk getting hurt. But I stand by my book and am excited to share it. And, I’m writing a second book that will focus on my life now that I've moved to Spain.

Bravo! Ole muy bien, Ali, and mucho gracias.

So far, Hip Hapa Homeez, 2012 has been beyond busy for us. Mad props to each one of you for coming along on this journey towards One World. Mahalo nui loa to you who know who you are. Until next month, when we present another Hip Hapa Homee, I am

Your Hip Hapa,