momma, do you remember when

“remember when” by alan jackson played on the stereo loud

enough to chase the smell of summer through every room

in the house and out the open windows.

my mom was probably sweeping or folding laundry on the couch,

there was a list of chores for my sister and i to finish by the

end of a hot dry day.

my mom loved making lists 

-probably still does-

she had a planner to keep her schedule,

and dad’s and the three kids’ lives in a busy order.

i have to dig deep to remember these things like the music she played, 

the morning chores and breakfast, how i would sit on the edge of an empty 

bathtub, pointy elbows on scraped knees, while she curled her

pitch black hair and applied smokey shadow to her eyelids.

there was always a candle or wax lamp in the kitchen that

smelled like fresh cut frasier or mulled wine or sweet gardenias,

i learned to know what season it was by the early evening flame on the counter.

summer nights were a different kind of special when my socialite

mother had another family over for a bbq and swimming, these

are some of my favorite memories.

july nights were warm, the temperature was the same in and

outside, all the windows were open while music played on the stereo 

loud enough to fill the house, the scent of chlorine mixed

with the tennessee honey candle in the kitchen, which meant the moon 

was watching the stars dance across the surface of the pool.

water dripped down my ankles while i walked through the 

sliding glass door to my parents’ room to their bathroom,

sitting on the edge of the toilet next to the empty tub, my toes barely

touched the white linoleum floor.

it is difficult to remember these times, they seem so distant with a million

memories between my mom’s shadowed eyes, charcoal curls

and this moment.

recently, i’ve decided to reach for forgiveness, it’s a challenge to reconcile 

some memories, i keep a list of my mother’s injustices she apologized for

-more than once-

telling me that i crushed all her hopes and dreams but those words 

echo in my ears every time i say the word lesbian in her house.

but we have the same eyes, same smile, same handwriting, same laugh,

i cannot escape her memory.

i love to light candles or wax lamps to mark the seasons,

i keep a planner with classes, birthdays, and to-do lists

i sprayed her perfume on my baby blanket, the one 

she crocheted while i was still in her tummy.

at thirteen years old i was taller than her, but she was still stronger,

on my tippy toes i would reach something for her on the top shelf, 

for dinner she would make something hot with salad on the side 

with fresh fruit from her garden down the hill behind the pool.

she suffered the half death of a child she still puts to bed every night,

she used to cry when she was mad or when my baby sister wouldn’t

-or couldn’t- 

sleep or maybe when she slept alone.

she got older, i got older, struggled to grow into this skin and

new spaces for love.

momma, do you remember when 

old country music danced with sweet gardenias and

open windows breathed in summer air?

Sidney is a first year MA candidate for Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. They are pursuing research on interracial lesbian relationships in United States women’s reformatories and penitentiaries during the early twentieth century.

My Name Is…

My name is Mia Cai Cariello

And I want you to know,

I was born in China, Guangxi Province 

As 吴彩卓

I wasn’t even old enough to know

That my own government wanted me to go

It would take a year for them to ship me out 

People would have you believe my life would blossom and sprout

That the stars aligned

when I was adopted to the U.S. in 1999

It was told to me that in this new country I could sew a new future…

A future with freedom and liberty

No police censorship or brutality 

Freedom to be who you want and need to be 

Everyone hand in hand 

equality – achieved.

But that’s just the American dream

Playing constantly on the world-wide screen

propaganda masking the imperialist scheme

I was taught that the US is the greatest country on Earth 

But then why am I still judged by the place of my birth? 

Kids Making fun of my eyes with a slight slant

kids being given the seed of racism to plant

Early on 

Acting like my whole ethnicity is a phenomenon- 

That’s meant to entertain them. 

Yelling Ching Chong

Acting like I don’t belong

Saying all Asians look the same 

And when they’re called out

All their excuses are so fuckin lame 

Tired of people assuming I can speak fluent Chinese

Like a language with 30,000 characters can be picked up with ease

Tired of people assuming all I eat is rice 

and that I’d be their china doll if they just act nice

Tired of being told I don’t look like a “real Asian” 

As if there’s only one specific look.

Like I should be studying out of some sort of handbook

Would you like me better if I took a page from your Asian look book

In a qi pao, sari, kimono, or hanbok?

Tired of being told that I am not a real Asian because I’m an adoptee

Spitting names like banana or Twinkie

The adoptee experience is real and the dismissal of it is ominous

Because Our collective Asian identities are still a plethora 

of experiences that are not homogenous  

I may not be innately gifted at math

But I know I am more than the sum of my parts

it’s hard to believe so many people still play a part in the perpetuation of our subjugation – constantly chaining us with limitations, fixations on how we must be from a different nation, questioning our affiliations, forcing our assimilation, migration, but still profiting off imitations of our culture. 

I guess I can’t blame people for thinking Asians have made it, 

When the only image they see is Crazy Rich Asians

But I gotta get something off of my chest,

Our struggles are glossed over 

For the story of the model minority —

I want you to see 

Our existence in this country is missing some facts

How many people even knows about The Chinese Exclusion Act? 

Were you taught about Executive Order 9066

Or were Internment camps glossed over in the name of politics?

Do people know our demographic has the largest wealth disparity? 

Not all of us are living a life of luxury 

The Asian image is tailored to pale skin and exotic 

and all the fetishization is nauseating and toxic 

I’m tired of playing this game 

That results

In the perpetuation of white supremacy 

Telling me to open my eyes wider so that I can see

I can already see

And the answer is simply and beautifully me

We don’t need to change our eyes

go down a size

Or Whiten our skin 

To be worthy 

Worthy of love and respect

Our self-worth I will kill to protect 

Don’t be fooled by the lies you’ve been told

Self-love and dignity are worth their weight in gold,

But my liberation isn’t complete 

Freedom for my fellow People of color must be concrete

Stereotypes try to lock the truth uptight,

Trying to keep it out of the light

We are not separate from one another’s struggle 

we have a place next to our black and brown sisters and brothers

We can be limitless

but we must continue to fight 

To ensure that all who follow us can forever revel in the light

Mia Cai Cariello (she/her/hers) is a Chinese transracial, transnational adoptee from Guangxi province. She is a third-year Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major with minors in Studio Art, Human Rights, and Asian-American Studies at The Ohio State University. Mia is a Morrill Scholar and is currently the President of two organizations on The Ohio State University’s campus – Transracial Adoptees at Ohio State and Take Back the Night at The Ohio State University. 

AM I WORTHY: A CHOREOPOEM

BY VAR

Am I worthy? That is the question that I have been asking myself all my life.

Little white girls are told they are from birth and at as if,

They are put on the self worth pedestal and carry it with them.

Black women question whatever good they get

Until a catastrophic or any life changing event

Occurs and they get that Oprah “Aha” moment,

We are told “Don’t be too proud”, “Stay humble”,

“Don’t put on airs”; “Don’t show your Black Girl Magic”.

But not feeling worthy enough has been a many a detriment to many a black girl,

We stay in relationships that aren’t worthy,

Hoping he would change, praying that someday the man you see in him would show up instead,

We stay in a job that isn’t worthy,

Making less than our worth, treated unworthy,

Breaking our backs working long hours,

Hoping someone would recognize our worth,

We hang around girlfriends that aren’t worthy of our time,

Friends that see our worth but are too jealous to tell us,

Or they don’t value their own self worth,

So we sit around and talking about how unworthy we all are, how unworthy we are to leave that man, that job or them girlfriends,

In Webster’s Dictionary unworthy has a black woman’s picture next to it.   

 

About our guest writer: Hailing from the Boogie Down Bronx, Velvet A. Ross is a graduate student in Women’s History and Writer, Filmmaker, Actress and Singer. She is dedicated to writing historically and producing creative pieces about black women who have been marginalized and hidden in the arts. 

Get Your Women’s History Podcasts…

By Amanda Kozar

If you’re like me, you are still excited to learn about women’s history even when you’re not in school. If you are stuck on a long car ride or flight, it’s always helpful to have a few podcasts loaded onto your cell phone or tablet.*

These podcasts don’t necessarily have a common theme other than “women’s history,” but I think that you might find something of interest to you here.

Do you have any podcast recommendations? Let us know!

“We Real Cool: The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks” (The Documentary, 9/30/15)

“Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women and the Freedom Movement” (Farzaneh Milani, Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, Stanford University, 5/29/12)

“Conversation with Dorothy Cotton” (American civil rights activist) (Morehouse King Collection Office, 3/18/13)

“The Exemplary Life of Germaine Tillion” (French Resistance activist) (Tzvetan Todorov, Stanford Humanities Center, 7/23/10)

“Lady Liberty” (Latino USA, NPR, 6/19/15)

“Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story” (PBS) (Originally, I heard about Noor Inayat Khan on a podcast, but apparently, it isn’t available anymore!)

*You may need to download the iTunesU app to listen to some of these recordings! Check the instructions for your device.

[I liked you better before]: poems

By Jamie Agnello

For our pop-cultural issue, Jamie let us use two of her celebrated poems (inspired by the character of Chuck Bass on “Gossip Girl”).

You can find more of these linguistic gems at  http://ilikedyoubetterbefore.tumblr.com/

I Liked You Better Before

Have a glass of champagne. Please. We’re closing the kitchen early.

You think I don’t know why you left town?

It’s a party. Things happen.

I think you’re more like me than you’d admit.

There’s something wrong with that level of perfection.

Dating forever. That’s a dark thought.

Look. Easy, Socrates— happiness does not seem to be on the menu,

but you’re entitled to tap that ass.Let’s catch up, take our clothes off, stare at each other—

I’m Chuck Bass.

Your Deflowering

That’s enough, ladies— I’ll be sure to tell my father how committed you are to the hospitality industry.

Unless you have a reason to be here, I’ll have to ask you to wait on the curb with the rest of the trash.

So, you slept with your best friend’s boyfriend— I kind of admire you for it.

I told you— better a broken nose than a broken heart.

So little time, so many sluts to defend.

Here’s the key

to my suite, his heart, and your future happiness. I’m honored to be playing even a small role in your deflowering.

I’m Chuck Bass.

{Jamie is a current MFA student in Poetry and Theatre at Sarah Lawrence. She is originally from Oil City, Pennsylvania. It is a real place. Jamie keeps it real.}

 

Dis/assembling Identity: From the Margins to the Page

by Muriel Leung

(Note: This paper is a condensed rewrite of an original piece which is currently 60 pages in length)

The emergence of Asian American poetry as a genre is not without its historical grounds. Asian Americans’ contributions to the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s eras introduced performance, song, and poetry as forms of protest against injustices towards Asian Americans during this politically volatile time. The social and political materials which informed Asian American experience were later solidified as a new type of genre by the spirit of 1980s multiculturalism in which Asian American writers as well as other writers of color began to gain mainstream appeal. The dramatic shift in social and political visibility played a valuable role in the transformation of Asian American identity discourse as it grew from grassroots arts and political movements to earning the institutional legitimacy of academic scholarship.

A discussion of Asian American poetry as a genre and “Asian American” as an identity is impossible without recognition of its social and political grounding. While these were formidable years that demonstrated the efforts of countless Asian American activists and artists to concretize their presence in the traditionally exclusionary U.S. historical narrative, contemporary Asian American identity discourse acknowledges that this identity is more prone to fracture than union. This is not to say that the works of previous Asian American scholars and activists have failed in their efforts. Rather, in the face of dramatically shifting political and social terrains, Asian American poets are challenging traditional ideas of identity formation, and ushering in new themes and styles of exploring Asian American identity which welcome fragmentation. Continue reading