writing

Short Fiction

Whistle in the Dark // Ironwood Issue – MYRIAD Digital Zine

Suiko listened for the piercing whistle of the steam train as it rolled past the edge of the village. There should only be one long peal echoing through the forest. But on nights when a ghost train appears, there are always two. She listened. One whistle, then a dreaded second. 

In the Beginning, She was the Sun // new sinews

It began with a blinding rage, a spark, then the thick choking smell of smoke. The wind was strong, easily drawing eager flames upwards, coaxing them along the paper and wood framed buildings of the village. Embers floated nimbly through the air and in an instant everything was alight. 

Solitude is a Human Presumption // Catapult

Why can’t we imagine, just for the sake of argument, that a joyful spirit leaves some of themselves behind—an echo of joy in a place they once loved?

 

Selected Personal Essays

Minnesota Sound // Belt Magazine

For a decade I drove down Highway 5 through Chanhassen, Minnesota nearly every week. It’s a fairly uneventful drive; much of that part of the highway was framed by low, non-descript office buildings and warehouses, a flat monotony periodically disrupted by clusters of big box stores and chain restaurants.

Reclaiming Shinrin Yoku in the Forests of Minnesota // Outside Magazine

Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, though the number is actually more than 14,000. And there is no pithy nickname for the land that surrounds these lakes: thick forest that forms around small, marshy bodies of water. If you drive around the suburbs you’ll run into a number of these places, marked by old wooden signs with names obscured by cobwebs.

Cooking Osechi for New Years Helped Me Overcome My Fear of Not Being “Japanese Enough” // The Kitchn

I was born in Osaka, Japan, but for most of my life I’ve lived between Japan and Minnesota. Like other biracial people with a similar background, I grew up being Japanese in a piecemeal way — learning and loving certain elements, like the language and literature from my mother and Japanese family — while never encountering other key aspects of Japanese culture. Cooking, to the shame of my birth city, was my cultural Achilles heel.

Japan Sound Memory // The Southampton Review Online

There is a crosswalk directly below my grandfather’s condo, its beeping echoing most clearly on mornings I wake up early. My family is originally from Osaka, where I was born, and my grandparents moved to Nagoya for my grandfather’s work, living in the same condo for the entirety of my life. It is this particular space I continually returned to as a child and into adulthood. Though I visited relatives in other areas of Japan, I always ended up back in Nagoya.

How My Mother Protected Us from my Father and Found Solace in Art // Catapult

The first time I visited New York City, I was two years old. As I was so young, the only evidence of my being there at all are a few photographs of me and my mother. In one, she’s smiling from behind my stroller where I am caught mid-laugh, tightly gripping an FAO Schwartz teddy bear. Like a lot of people who lived in the Midwest, New York was a fantasy pieced together through snippets of pop culture and cliches about big city life. But, for me, New York possessed another layer of myth, because it was also a place my mother loved.

How to Grow Up Beautiful, Without Representation // Greatist

Growing up, I tended to avoid mirrors unless I needed them. Seeing my face was never intentional, only by accident when my eyes flickered to the reflective surface and caught a glimpse of myself. If you would have asked me what I saw in that mirror that made me so uneasy from such a young age, I would have simply said: I look like an alien.

Our old house // Issue One of Empty House Press

We have been in this house since the late nineties, and although I’ve steeled myself to face twenty years’ worth of debris, going through so much of the past shoved into forgotten closets and corners is enough to make me want to burn the entire place down.

“You’ll never believe it, Julia, there was a whole garbage bag filled with bottles—from how many years ago? The handyman pulled it out from behind the wall, I was so embarrassed.”

Passing // Ploughshares Blog (Best of the Net nominated)

Passing—who passes as what and when they are allowed to pass—is a topic that rears its head at unexpected moments and reminds me, for all the talk of “not seeing race” and for all the calls from certain groups to “not make everything about race,” that the way minorities are viewed often falls outside of our power. We don’t need to “make it” about race, because it always already is.

 

Selected Articles

What Has Seeped into the Animals, the Plants, the Soil? // Belt Magazine

Toxins are not constrained by fences, boundary lines, or ownership deeds. Toxins don’t care if you actually live here or if you are just passing through.

Producing Meaningful Asian American Stories in Minneapolis // Belt Magazine

The Minneapolis theaters exploring Asian American life in the Midwest, one scene at a time.

Why Linguistically Diverse Audiobook Casting Matters // Electric Literature

Over the last decade there has been a push towards better representation in visual media. While movies and television have provided more examples of non-white characters in key roles, there has also been an uptick in linguistic diversity in film. Movies like Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, which slips between Mandarin and English, and the more recent hit Minari, which is mostly in Korean, provide meaningful examples of what it feels like for many to not only be seen on screen, but also heard. 

Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police and the Dangers of Forgetting // Michigan Quarterly Review Online 

To forget is to be disconnected from the past, to make it easier to miss the connections that link events or people together in the present. The complete loss of an object, like a map, goes beyond the loss of the map as a physical thing. What disappears with it is the knowledge of where you are in relation to others on the island, the ability to travel, the understanding that other islands exist beyond the narrator’s limited purview. Once a critical mass of information is lost, the linkages between them disappear, making it easier to believe that the world we live in now is how things have always been and that there is no need—and no possible way—to chart another path.

These Women are the Modern Money Experts to Follow // Real Simple

The pain and disbelief in the voice of influencer Aja Dang is palpable as she shows viewers her laptop screen. On it is her total student loan debt amount for her undergraduate and graduate degrees, totaling about $186,811. The video is from December 2017 and marks one of the first in a genre of videos that has increased in popularity ever since: women-driven debt-free journeys.

Stories from Here: Sharing the Personal Narratives of BIPOC Writers in the Midwest // Poets & Writers, November/December 2020 Issue [Print only]

Avatar: The Last Airbender and Asian History // SYFY Wire

A quick perusal of the creators, the writers, and the voice cast reveals that for all the pan-Asian dressing of the animated series, the show itself was largely white-washed behind the scenes to begin with. Certainly these facts influence how we understand the show, particularly as its mass appeal is in its non-white representation. The question is what makes it work, this blend of cultures that never seems forced, offensive, or careless. It takes a myriad of factors, but the majority of the answer lies in history.

On Tezuka Osamu’s Experimental Shorts // Issue 16 of The World of Apu

Although Tezuka’s interest in philosophical themes permeates many of the shorts, some shorts are also simply stylistic experiments intended to push the bounds of animation. The shorts differ widely from each other in narrative and in style. Most notably, these shorts deviate from the rounded archetypal character design that Tezuka is famous for. Instead, the shorts shift between photorealism, vivid geometric shapes, soft watercolor effects, and scribbled line art to tell their unique stories.

The Star Wars Expanded Universe and the Promise of Multitudes // io9

As someone from a mixed-race background, I was used to never seeing myself in my favorite movies, including the Star Wars films. Because I rarely saw myself directly in the media I consumed, I learned to work with what was available. I imagined that there was a planet somewhere in this galaxy that was inhabited by people who did look like me—a daydream that launched a hundred fan fiction starships.

When the Emperor is a Void: Yukio Mishima and Fascism Today // Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Mishima’s Patriotism reveals the drives operating behind political movements and how ultranationalistic ideas become deeply entangled in the personal

How Faux-Documentary Audio Dramas Trick You Into Scaring Yourself // Electric Literature

Podcasts are now a fixture of popular media and while certain podcast genres consistently rank high on the charts — true crime and political commentary being the mainstays—there has been an increase in more creative styles of podcasting: the fiction podcast, sometimes called the audio drama. These stories use the medium to guide listeners through fictional sonic worlds, oftentimes laced with elements of horror, building stories that can readily blend fiction and reality.

There’s More to Japanese Literature than Haruki Murakami // Electric Literature

For those familiar with Japanese literature, there are a few names that inevitably crop up in conversation: Yukio Mishima for his beautiful writing, shocking suicide, and extreme political leanings; Kenzaburo Oe and Yasunari Kawabata for winning Nobel Prizes; and Haruki Murakami for being Haruki Murakami. In the last few decades, Murakami’s work has eclipsed that of many other Japanese writers, particularly for readers in the West. Many avid fans use his name as a synecdoche, claiming to love Japanese literature as a whole, yet when pressed admit that their only exposure is through Murakami’s work.

 

Selected Contributions to Ploughshares Blog

Loneliness and Parasocial Relationships in The Woman in the Purple Skirt

The Absurdity of Labor in There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job

Minor Feelings’ Exploration of Solidarity

Tokyo Ueno Station’s Anti-Stereotypical Portrayal of Homelessness

The Reimagined Tales of Matsuda Aoko’s Where the Wild Ladies Are

What Do Our Monsters Say About Us?

The Myth of the Perfect Translation

Reading the Uncanny

Womanhood in Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs

The Shape of Nations

The Violence of Dehumanizing Language

Affect Theory in The Hundreds

The Messiness of Resistance