Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm not going to the chapel but I am...

...going to get married tomorrow at 4pm at an undisclosed outdoor location with just immediate family (my parents and Southern Man's parents and siblings) in attendance.

[this is the graphical representation of how I feel]

While I know this is rather personal to be sharing (although as regular readers will note, I've been sharing more personal news on this blog since major life events seem to keep popping up and hitting me in the face), this particular bit of personal information is actually quite apropos of this blog because I am an Asian American woman marrying a white American man.

Even more specifically, I am a divorced, born in NYC but raised in the Bay Area of CA, Chinese ancestry, Jamaican culturally identified, transplanted to the southern U.S. feminist scholar-activist marrying a born and raised in the U.S. South Italian American/Scotch-Irish American no-longer-practicing/former-alterboy-Catholic, fluent-in-Spanish white ally.

Our household and now our combined extended families are truly a mixture of various races, ethnicities, cultural and religious influences, and sexual and gender identities.

So I'll be busy picking up folks from the airport, finalizing details on all the festivities this weekend, and just plain enjoying myself because I'm with those nearest and dearest to me celebrating the union of myself and Southern Man, who is an exceptionally amazing person.

When the dust settles I'll try to come back with something interesting and insightful. Unfortunately it will coincide with the beginning of a new chapter of my life: chemotherapy (yep, that begins the week following the wedding--sigh).

But that's to worry about next week--for now, I'm just enjoying myself!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why we need a passport to enter Arizona

So you know I've been self absorbed with health issues because I haven't blogged about Arizona yet. To be honest, because my diagnosis of breast cancer came right before the madness of Arizona's double-doozy laws: the anti-immigrant, "lets-make-everyone-carry-papers" law and the anti-ethnic studies "lets-make-everyone-say-nice-things-about-white-people" law.

But I just read this article in The New York Times and then followed the link to the Talking Points Memo (both are specifically about the anti-ethnic studies law and especially about the bill's sponsor, Tom Horne, and I just have to say


Let me repeat this:


[Aside: Yes, I swear now (actually, I always swear, I just tried not to do it in this space). I'm sorry--it's one of the things about me post-breast-cancer-diagnosis that I seem not to be able to help or rather choose not to self-censor. I do apologize to anyone who may be offended by my strong language, but I'm at a place where I feel certain events call for strong language, and my cancer and what's going on in Arizona seem to warrant these kind of expletives right now]

I don't even know WHERE TO BEGIN.

I guess with what is so messed up with the bill, which:

"Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:

•Promote the overthrow of the United States government.

•Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

•Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

•Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."


OK. So I guess they aren't going to teach the history of the Civil War since the confederates were exactly looking for the overthrow of the U.S. government. And I suppose this also means that we can't teach history that comes from Texas textbooks since all of it is geared for white Americans of a conservative nature (point #3). As for promoting resentment toward a race or class of people, well, I guess they are going to be teaching a lot of social justice classes to help against promoting resentment toward a race or class of people because the current way of teaching history or social issues seems to only promote a sense of resentment against people of color and poor people--and shall we now say that the curriculum is going to be queer friendly since most public school curriculums have not been so queer friendly--and yet clearly Arizona wants people not to promote resentment of different classes of people, right?

As for treating people as individuals rather than as ethnic blocs, again, I suppose they are going to be heavily emphasizing white privilege and white supremacy as a way to understand how people of color have not been seen, traditionally, as INDIVIDUALS and only been counted as a MASS of people in which white Americans were not and continue not to be seen as a raced and classed and ethnicized group of people.

Of course, all of the above is the OPPOSITE of what Mr. Horne had in mind. He apparently has a big axe to grind, specifically, with Mexican Americans. And I gotta say, Mr. Horne clearly needs to have a sense of REAL history to understand that to discount Mexican American history or to divorce it from Arizona history or U.S. history is like saying we should discount the revolutionary war or the Louisiana Purchase or Civil War history (the war of northern aggression as some would say south of the Mason-Dixon line). Because parts of Arizona used to BE Mexico--so what the hell is Horne afraid of? That people will learn THE TRUTH???!!!

Sometimes there are grey areas--times when we aren't sure if we should use the dreaded "R" word. And sometimes it's clear:

Tom Horne is a racist. This bill is racist. All of this is evidence of institutionalized state racism.

Any questions?

P.S. The title of the post is meant to convey that I think that what is going on in Arizona is so fucked up right now that it seems to be it's own country and that maybe EVERYONE who lives in Arizona should be the ones who should carry papers because they are the ones who need a passport to enter the rest of the 49 states of the union. And yes, I know how simplistic that is to say--and I suppose I'm not counting the people in Arizona who are unhappy with both bills, but it just seems SO FUCKED UP that I wanted to convey that Arizona seems to be its own freakish little white-supremacist state right now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

MRA Book Review: Ann Patchett's Run

One of the pleasures of taking a time off from life (and I definitely feel like I am taking a time-out. I know for some people, a vacation means sight seeing and becoming edified and going places and doing things. My ideal vacation has always been about being still--about the ability to do nothing and to have no obligations other than to myself and the call of the ocean and sand, since my ideal vacations always take place near the sea), is that I get to do a lot of pleasure reading. Or even if it's reading that may intersect with my research interests, it's still a pleasure to read contemporary American fiction.

Which brings me to today's book review: Run by Ann Patchett.

I must confess that this is the first Patchett novel I have read. She's most acclaimed for her fourth novel (the one that immediately precedes this one, Bel Canto). And certainly it is on my "to read" list--it has been for a while, but especially now that I've finished Run (which I read in a 24 hour time span--I could not put it down and Patchett's lyricism make the book a delight to read), I will be sure to check out Bel Canto.

But besides being an enjoyable piece of contemporary fiction, this novel is appropriate for Mixed Race America because at its heart is a family, the Doyle's who are comprised of the senior Doyle, former mayor of Boston, his biological son Sullivan, who shares the same read hair as his deceased mother, Bernadette, and then there are the two brothers that Doyle and Bernadette adopt, Tip and Teddy, named after those iconic Boston politicians, Tip O'Neill and Ted Kennedy. And, indeed, the novel (which is set in the South End neighborhood of Boston) is about politics. It is also about transracial adoption--about adoption in general--and about how we find kinship and connection with those we do not share blood with.

Although one of the New York Times book reviews quite rightly faults Patchett for not delving more deeply into the reasons behind the boys being put up for adoption, Patchett does not shy away from race in the way that another reviewer accuses her of doing. Instead, I think Patchett drops in self-conscious observations throughout that make clear that she knows what kinds of assumptions and tensions others may bring or believe in seeing an older white man who is the father of two university-aged sons (one goes to Harvard, the other to Northeastern). Yet it doesn't belabor that tension and actually shows the tension to be something outside the relationship among Doyle and his sons. This isn't to say that the boys, raised in a privileged white background, are oblivious to race and the intersections with class. In fact, at one point the elder adopted son, Tip, acknowledges very directly that part of his difference from other black Bostonians comes precisely from his privileged class and educational status. It is one thing to be a poor Black citizen in Boston; it is another to be a wealthy Black citizen connected to a former mayor of Boston.

Perhaps it is the mood I am in--that my analytical lens has been tuned down. But I really did find Patchett's novel luminous and just simply a good read. I'd love to hear someone else's take on it--perhaps my rose colored lens aren't allowing me to be more critical of this work. Or perhaps Patchett's novel really is a page turner that let me briefly transport myself back to Boston (and perhaps nostalgically I liked reading about my old stomping ground). Or perhaps it is this. That sometimes it's nice to read a novel in which race is both the central point of the novel and absolutely marginal at the same time. And that is perhaps what I find most refreshing about Run--not that Patchett isn't aware of race and racism but that it doesn't necessarily inform the entiriety of her work--that these two young men get to be both young African American men but also (and perhaps more importantly) a devout Catholic (Teddy), a budding scientist (Tip), and brothers who loved their adopted mother devoutly and who treat their father and older brother were respect and affection--whose lives are defined, but not solely, but the color of their skin and whose personalities make them into individual character rather than caricatures.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shades of Ray

This just in from my cousin "W"-- who wants me to set it up like the old SNL skit with Mike Meyers doing "Coffee Time":

Talk Amongst Yourselves!

And here's the link from the website for the Shades of Ray film, where you can see two additional trailers:

Thanks Cousin "W"!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Have you hugged a Mom today?

Today is Mother's Day, which I've heard is the busiest day of the year for florists. I guess when you think of it, everyone has a mother. Some people have two or more mothers (since kinship networks can be so multi-faceted nowadays: lesbian mothers, stepmothers, aunts and grandmothers who mother us, and folks we're not even related to who serve as mother figures).

Unfortunately I'm 3 time zones away from my own Mom--but at Mixed Race America the idea of motherhood is really fluid and flexible. So I'm going to hug, virtually speaking, all the women who have mothered me -- from my own biological mother who gave birth to me, to the many women I've developed relationships with over the years who have nourished and nurtured me in emotional and psychological ways. Here's to the Mom's of the world!


Happy Mother's Day!

[This virtual bouquet is also for you! And if you are a Mom, hug your kids because without your kids, whether the ones you've raised or the ones you consider your own, you wouldn't be a Mom]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is it the dog or are people just friendly at the coast?

Since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo I thought about writing something related to why this is such an absurd holiday to celebrate in the U.S., one in which the actual meaning of the Mexican army defeating French forces in the state of Puebla becomes co-opted and forgotten in favor of 2 for 1 tequila shots at your local bar. Why does every ethnic holiday have to be turned into a drinking holiday??? Can anyone say St. Patrick's Day?

I also thought I should be blogging about the atrocity that is happening in the State of Arizona. I wonder if Arizona will next be announcing its secession from the United States. I mean, their legislature seems to be acting as if it did not recognize the current authority of our 44th President of the United States. But thinking of all of this just makes me mad enough to spit, and I'm pretty pissed off as it is dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis (click here if you are reading those words for the first time).

Which brings me to today's post. I'm taking a break from reality. I've taken our dog "B" and have headed to a small coastal town where I can be near the ocean and smell the salt air and not worry about returning phone calls since my cell phone doesn't get reception out here. I do have wifi access at the beach house I've rented--and there is a landline for emergencies and for getting in touch with my cancer docs. But for the most part it's sleepy coastal living.

And I have to say, folks are pretty friendly for the most part, something I wasn't certain I'd encounter since it is OBVIOUS that I am not from here. How do I know? Because I haven't seen any other Asian Americans in this tiny coastal town. And believe me, I'd be noticing another Asian face amidst the sea of white townsfolk and fellow vacationers. I did glimpse an African American man in a truck--he looked like he had done some early morning fisherman with a fellow local or vacationer--hard to say--but the guy driving the fishing truck was white, so they are either friends vacationing together or locals fishing together who are friendly. But that's it. One African American middle-aged man and me. We're the two spots of color in this otherwise rather monochromatic beach town.

For some odd reason, perhaps because I'm grappling with so many issues around the cancer diagnosis, my racial paranoia has not kicked in. Perhaps, also, my assumption about being noted as a non-local is that there is some natural hostility towards out-of-towners, vacationers, from the local folk--I've seen it in every resort town and vacation hot spot I've ever been to. The local economy in part depends on tourists but the locals often resent the tourists, so there is a love-hate relationship going on, which is class inflected along various vectors (education, region, socio-economics). Anyway, I figure there's a natural amount of that going on here, and since I'm so clearly marked as being not from here, naturally my assumption is that anyone not being totally friendly to me may be because I'm so clearly a local. Why I assume that as the first point rather than assuming racial tension, I'm not sure. I think my racial radar is on the fritz or is just tuned really low right now -- it's like the cancer diagnosis has messed up the frequency of my natural racial paranoia. I suppose one way of looking at this is that one is a literal threat to my life and the other a potential threat to my identity, so that the literal, life-threatening issue of cancer is superseding all others.

But maybe it's just that locals here are a bit friendlier. Or perhaps word has already spread here that I'm the gal from Chapel Hill with the dog who has breast cancer. I mention this because I had to go in the hardware store recently to find a battery for the cordless phone here at the house. It's not holding a charge and I really do need to be accessible for my doctors, and the other phone the owners gave me doesn't seem to work. So when they told me at the hardware store that they didn't have a replacement battery and the best they could do was to sell me a phone, I tried to explain the urgency of my situation (and the phone they were going to sell me was the same phone the owners had already dropped off) so I just said simply that I really needed to figure out the landline situation because I had breast cancer and needed to get in touch with my doctors.

What followed was that the owner of the hardware store offered me the use of his phone (which was kind and which I declined since I have my laptop and can place outgoing calls on skype--what I need is the ability to pick up the phone when the doc calls). Other men in the store (and they were all men) offered different suggestions on what could be the problem I'm having--like water in the lines interfering with reception. And then one guy--a man who works for the cable company who lives 4 doors down from my rental with his wife who does massages--offered to come by and look at the situation for me. So he checked the line (it is working) and then he brought an extra phone he had lying around to loan me while I stay here. SO NICE!

And while I've been out walking "B" around the village everyone I see either walking or biking or in their cars waves and smiles at us. And while some of this goes on in my small college town, I am inclined to think that either people are friendlier here, or perhaps it's how cute "B" is (and he's a damned cute dog, half corgi, half collie--looks like a little puppy right now since he has his summer shaved look). Maybe a woman walking her dog is the least threatening thing to witness in a neighborhood, esp. an Asian American woman because we have the passive-not-threatening stereotype attached to us (ahhh...these people just don't know how angry I am--hopefully they won't try to run me over while walking "B" because I will cuss them out with a firestorm of curses to curl your toes).

And on that note, I'm going to keep on with my lazy Thursday morning. I am putting together my tenure file while I'm away at the beach, so I suppose I'm not really being that lazy. And although I've been sleeping more since I've been here, I still wake up between 6-7am (I just go to bed earlier now). So I've been returning email and reading and writing, but in sporadic fashion. Which means I have been trying to also keep up with some much neglected blog reading and will be leaving you with this youtube clip I found thanks to Angry Asian Man's blog--it's very appropriate for what is going on in Arizona right now--a comedic take on the ridiculous situation and dangerous situation that is brewing there:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Intermittent blogging -- an explanation

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled "Too Much Information?" -- I was trying to figure out how much personal information was appropriate to share in this space. It's an ongoing issue I return to, as I suggested in the post. But I had a specific reason in mind--namely, I had been going through some issues with the health care system/institution and knew, in the worst case scenario, that I would be taking a hiatus from this blog and/or only blogging intermittently.

The worst case scenario has happened. About 2 weeks ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A week ago I had some surgical procedures done and the biopsy results have come back this week: I'm in stage 2A. It means that it hasn't hit my lymph system but they removed a rather large mass on my left breast and I have some indication of cancer in the pre-invasive stage (DCIS for those of you in the know) on the right, which they excised and biopsied.

This is all, of course, devastating to me. And for those of you who know me personally, who read this blog, I'm sorry to share this with you in this space rather than in a more personal manner. It has been hard for me to let everyone know by email, let alone by phone. If you want to contact me off-blog, feel free to do so.

For those of you who only know me as the blogger of "Mixed Race America," esp. you long time readers, I'm sure this is also coming as a surprise. I wish I weren't opening up and giving you all this news. I wish this weren't happening to me.

What I can tell you is that I'm overwhelmed but doing OK. I'm a highly functioning person who compartementalizes my emotions and I'm very focused and organized and have been on a fact finding mission to discover the extent of the cancer and the best treatment and surgery options to pursue because I want to live. It's really that simple.

Anyway, there's much more to say and write about. And as I come to grips with the diagnosis and make a decision about surgery (they didn't get clean margins last week so I need to go back and do some additional surgery and I'm trying to decide on which procedure will be best for me) and treatment plans (I'm definitely doing chemo--UGH--and it's going to be aggressive and I will lose my hair).

I also wanted to share some stories of going through the hospital system. It has been an interesting experience, to say the least, and race has popped its head up and I'd like to be able to write about that as well, while maintaining my relative anonymity and the anonymity/privacy of my medical team and loved ones.

Southern Man and our dog "B" are doing OK for the time being. As things progress, we know it will get harder and harder. Which is why I may or may not be blogging on a regular basis in this space anymore. Please be patient with me. And if anyone has experience with this disease, I'm all ears on suggestions for how to get through--anything from skin care treatments (because apparently you need to use different kinds of lotions when you go through chemo) to wig options (need to look into that in the next month) to books and articles to help sustain me (although my one caveat is that I'm not a pink ribbon kinda gal--it's not a diss to the Susan Komen foundation nor to anyone who finds the symbol of the ribbon inspiring. For me, seeing the ribbon is a mark of cancer and I refuse to be marked by this disease so I've developed a motto: No Fucking Pink Ribbons (sorry for the swearing--it's what I do when I'm upset and I've been upset since I got the diagnosis). I'm a fighter. I'm going to live. And I'm open to any and all suggestions about how to fight and to live through this disease.