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Every week, we will feature a reading from an AAPI writer in our community. Check back weekly for new featured authors!


siesta is a testament to shape, color, and sound. an exploration of human sensation. a song of sadness.

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American Dinner

American Dinner" illustrates the jarring experiences that often characterize assimilation; a compulsion to feel accepted, a bitter longing of home; and what it means to grow estranged from the latter. The theme of "dinner" is both literal in scenes at the dinner table, and symbolic of an intense desire to achieve the American Dream. 

i can’t hear when it thunders—

rain calling me to the depths of 

childhood, monsoon home


nostalgia in the folds of these dumplings, 

the wetness in the air— loud silence 

plays percussion for loud voices 


upstairs i am scrawling words blind

with ignorance; china, china, china,

in my american way i pretend to understand


the sound of shattering, shards of porcelain 

grinding to dust between my teeth;

faded characters lifting from my tongue


downstairs father brews his coffee, says 

“how blissful your life is” 

and from his mouth white smoke 


takes the shape of a snake— zodiac; liar

every poem collapsing into one, every word 

of understanding rising but never cresting


in this household “immigrant” is bitter 

like the cold thanksgiving turkey, its corpse

torn apart with chopsticks, always 


in quiet so electric, lightning flinches from the storm 

watching the golden gate crumble,

waiting febrile for dreams—


the american dream, in my american shoes 

and with my american tongue i speak so fast 

i transcend the dinner table,


only to find myself longing

for the rot of the fish market, for the 

rolling spines of earth to dampen


these flames on every red thread that once bound 

us; thrown into the melting pot and

our jade smiles smolder, because we all knew 


it was plastic from the start. flimsy with 

hope, we chew our rice to the beat 

of the thunderstorm: by the dawn’s morning light. 

excerpt from Two Girls Dancing

Two Girls Dancing explores the conflicting intersection between American identitiy and growing up in a traditional Confucian household, exploring ideas of traditional femininity and cultural differences. With the vehicle of a music box, the story explores themes of of definition and self-acceptance, integrating outward and inward familial influences into its narrative.

A Daughter

Mama and I are flipped sides of the same coin, sewn together from either end of the universe, shared blood flowing into different rivers. I always thought that one day, when I was older, our rivers would join together and rage as one, down mountains and fields and open-mouth valleys. Mama seems to think the same, so once, when I’m still young enough to listen to her, she introduces me to her God. She buys pocket scriptures and plastic hair clips off of Taobao and her words skin my scalp as she presses fish-bone barrettes into my hair. He, she said, was Confucius, Kǒngzǐ, a God born out of love. He, she said, loved his ancestors to the last thread of His life, that He’d dug through His roots, through time and space, to find those who’d come before, just so He could pay them his deepest respects. I cling on to her arm, silent, and she grabs me by the teeth and sinks them into the marrow of His lessons. Humaneness. Lawful behavior. Filial piety. She takes a highlighter to one of the pages of the scripture. ‘The parent’s age must be remembered, both for joy and anxiety’ soon roams in yellow marker, and the paper is as wrinkled as her breath when she finally nods and steps back, satisfied.

As much as Mama loves her scriptures, she seems to love her husband more. I often wonder if it is love or dependence. She draws the chants of respect from her mouth and trades them for fake, plastic coins when my father steps through the door every evening. Hours later, as I watch him roar and stomp the dust out of the carpet, I wonder if family is only a word to be used by a man, where he can twist it in his hands like putty and stick it to my mother’s forehead. On those nights, Mama ushers me into my room and shuts the door. On those nights, the music box rattles on my nightstand. On those nights, Mama’s God becomes my vice.

Every time, when it’s over, Mama comes into my room. She wraps her arms around me and sighs into herself. “My daughter,” she says, “thank you for staying here. Thank you for listening.”

I sink into her chest, quietly. I wonder what she would say if she knew I had left my faith on the cutting room floor, scraps of family squirming around in smashed little bits.


A Wife (from a Fairytale)

One day, Mama tucks me into bed and tells me a love story. Once upon a time, a beautiful girl named Meng  married a handsome boy, Fan, who was soon called away to help build the Great Wall of China. Meng decided to seek out her husband, traveling many miles to bring him warmer clothes for the winter. However, when she finally found him, he had already passed away from fatigue, and she wept so deeply that a part of the Great Wall crumbled away and revealed his powdering bones. As she finished the story, Mama sighed away a tear. “What a shame, that their love was taken too soon.” 

I tell her that I hope to one day love someone as deeply as Meng did, and she laughs. “You know that you must learn to be a lover first, in order to love?” 

I’m not sure what she’s talking about, so that night, as we cook dinner together, she teaches me how to love- she shows me how to gut a fish for the first time, rose-colored flesh against a splintered cutting board. She strips the meat onto a pan and scrapes in bits of scallions and duck sauce. My hands scramble and slip among the measuring cups and tablespoons of water and oil, but Mama knows each ingredient by heart. It’s my father’s favorite recipe.

When we serve dinner later that night, I collapse into a chair, my knees aching and raw. I imagine this, like clockwork, every night until my bones run red. I imagine Mama’s hands, rough as her worn-down spatulas, and I imagine my own, wondering how much longer they have left before their softness flakes away like dead skin.

nameless haibun

"nameless haibun" is about a girl dreaming of following her gong gong (maternal grandfather) in his immigration to America. Throughout the poem, the scenes alternate between the girl's dreams with her gong gong and her reality of looking through photos of him with her mother. The poem ends with a haiku of the girl holding onto her gong gong's ticket, showing how people tend to hold onto parts of their heritage that are unknown to them.

When can I say your name and have it mean only your name and not what you left behind?

—Ocean Vuong 


in this dream, war unfolds with the movement of gong gong’s lips. he sits cross-legged with yesterday’s newspaper on his lap, baking his tattered palms by the fireplace. in this dream, we are nameless but whole. whole but leaving. leaving but not looking back. gong gong pulls out two boat tickets so old that if i look close enough, a film of mold yellows to gold. look at this. he presses his fingers over the creases. this currency is enough to feed us for months. he tucks one in my palms, cracking a toothless smile. i crinkle it and stuff it in my pocket. and remember, if they ask, say your name is—


—stashed somewhere upstairs, my mother says, ushering me to a crate littered with photo albums and wooden frames. i pick one up and swipe off the film of dust. oh, that one. she points to the faces. me. your po po. your gong gong. you remember him? i peer into the man’s expressionless face, his eyes and cheekbones smeared from the poor quality, mouth curled into a sliver of shadow. he was always out of the house, she says. rode the train back every few months to visit.


in this dream, i knit my palms with gong gong’s. stay close, he says. he tightens his grip. behind me, the girl who always made mud cakes in our neighborhood digs her knees into the cracked dirt. outside, there is not enough water to quench anything. the girl tilts her chin and opens her mouth, spooning fistfuls of air, unaware of the smoke gorging on her belly. i imagine this kind of hunger as the worst thing that can happen to the body—skin thinning until her ribs betray her chest. don’t look back. he tightens his grip. 


but gong gong, that girl, i mouth, eating the wind every time i look back. gong gong. i shake his arm. i think her name is—


—gone? i swear i had kept some of them when we moved. my mother fumbles through the rest of the albums. i don’t think he liked pictures. he never drank alcohol. was always out of the house, always smoking, my mother says. she likes to ramble random facts about gong gong if she felt that there wasn’t enough said. i last saw him at the harbor. took all the things he told me to take. this crate. two pineapple buns. he tucked two tickets in my pocket and told me he’d be back. 


now, an ocean away, my mother still doesn’t know where he went.



under this bleeding sky, we are leaving but not looking back. i do not know how far we’ve gone, only counting gong gong’s footsteps to track the distance. not far enough, gong gong says every time i ask. i watch him wear his war-worn body like a prayer. i think of his white-knuckled fist clenching mine and know that no matter how tight i hold on, we will leave this country with our palms rusted. red because we’ll never surrender to this shrapnel-strewn soil. red because i’ll only remember the way gong gong parts his lips to the syllables of his name—raw and curdled in his mouth like a confession. my name. he tightens his grip. my name is—


—forgotten. i’ve forgotten his birthday. my mother sits across from me on the sofa, uncovering a photo tucked beneath a pile of bills. your gong gong. i snap my head up. i think it was sometime last week, she sighs. the 21st. no 22nd. no 19th. 


let me see, I say. my mother nods, hands the photo over, then squeezes her fingers, relearning how to count the days in september. how we are both lost in the truth of him. me—learning retellings from my mother. my mother—reinventing all the things she thinks she knows of him. the photo is a tombstone carved with characters of a language i cannot understand. 


read this, she leans over me, tracing the characters. i crinkle the photo. can you read this? your gong gong, she nudges. his name is—


—here. in this dream, he

tucks his ticket in my palms.

i tighten my grip.

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