Explaining Myself

by Irene Villaseñor

Falling asleep while reading the Joy Luck Club (1989)
During breaks from IQ testing in elementary school
Must mean I’m one overworked Asian kid
But the truth is that book bored me–and I’ll fast forward
throughout its movie adaptation too. Mishima
was way more exciting because I’d rather be
a Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea than Waverly Jong.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to interpret compliments
That I’m beautiful like Mulan, especially when it’s coming from
sweet elderly Chinese women–like my acupuncturist. Am I
pretty like Disney’s Mulan (1998) or historical Hua Mulan?
Bridal Mulan or Warrior Mulan? Do they really think the only
striking reference I’ll have of an attractive or powerful Asian
woman is a cartoon? Or are they assuming I’d be familiar with
ancient Chinese poetry due to my studies? I will never know.

Nutshelling Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother (2011) means pointing
out Chinese people in the Philippines circled their wagons and
defended themselves by pursing excellence as their main protection
in hostile environments. But ended up eating their young in the
process. And some people keep spreading this disease.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) may just upgrade old Asian stereotypes and
introduce new ones. Already there’s disapproval for a casting as a leading
man Henry Golding, who’s half-white. But his other half is Iban from Borneo.
That part of his heritage comes to the fore because I’m not looking for
whiteness. But seeking instances where being indigenous isn’t shameful,
ugly, remote, brokeass, or backward buffoonery. If more Asians could see
and value indigeneity, then maybe whiteness would be less important.


This poem is a response to hardtruth #85:

#85, make productive fake documentaries

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