​one of the longest running traditions i have on social media is titling the current chapter of my life — it’s something i’ve been doing since 2007, and it always consists of one word for the year. (rookie, to mark my first year as a teacher, was 2015, for example.)

so, with it being deep enough into 2016, i have my title to share with you guys this year, but to understand why i picked this also involves sharing something really vulnerable, too.

in july — actually, the day KD decided he would be a Warrior — i had a relationship of 1.5 years come to an end. i am still cleaning up the fallout from this now, and probably will be for the foreseeable while, even though it’ll end up better in the long run not to have that kind of toxicity and a significant other who takes me for granted in my life. 

my breakup isn’t the only thing that happened this year, though, and when i think back on 2016 i will equally remember the struggle of turning 25, which, while a milestone, hasn’t yet been a lifechanging 3 months the way we would love to think. there are signs that i am moving toward fully functioning adulthood, but i still often feel behind the curve — i don’t cook regularly, i don’t run errands on time and am constantly flooded with stuff i haven’t graded and and and and — especially in comparison to everyone else around me. (i run in some accomplished circles, evidently.)

most of these first few months have been spent trying to learn that that’s okay, as long as i keep moving in the right direction, and that i still have value even in my incompleteness. 

i’m a slow learner with some big goals that i’m inconsistent about reaching. 

but i’ll get there. eventually. just like everything else so far. 

this year’s title is some wordplay that captures both those experiences.

xxv. – n – 

1) a year in my life in which i x’d out my ex: v. 

2) the 25th chapter in the novel of nam, filled with struggle, slow growth, and hopefully before long, sunshine.working title.

On: Teaching Asian American Literature

I could have avoided it.

I think.

Maybe I could have finessed my way around the oddity of teaching Asian American Literature to a student population that’s 95% Hispanic and Latino, many of whom did not choose to be placed in the course.


I like to think I could have.

I went the other way, though, and took the awkwardness of the situation head on. Same as I ever have, really. I’m not old enough yet to know better, so all my students ever get is honesty — they know, before too long, that I’m open about my screwups, honest and critical in my feedback, and truthful about damn near everything else.

Plus, they say it’s the best policy, or something.

“You’re probably wondering why you’re in this class,” I guessed, met by a smattering of slight nods and a room still cautiously attentive. “Most of you aren’t Asian, after all.”

Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Curse of Nostalgia

While Harry Potter is a fantastic, engrossing, reading experience for anyone of any age, I’ve always believed that it was most special for kids who were growing up with Harry — the kids who were adolescent around the time he got his letter to Hogwarts, and verging on adulthood by the time he left it. That generation — my generation — got the special magic of living things out alongside him, our imaginations inhaling each glimpse into his world, our hearts seeing him as an intimate friend, despite never seeing him at all.

Close to a decade later, and that feeling of childish wonder — or perhaps more specifically, the want of that feeling — still hasn’t really left us. Any of us.

Nostalgia is a funny thing, though. It’s a tricky, an impossible thing, actually, if you look at it closely enough — because even if the thing itself, a movie, a book, a tv series, is recreated to perfection, the conditions for that feeling still can’t be. Ever, actually.  Try as we might, we’ve all grown away from that moment when we were simply in love with the adventure itself, reading whole-heartedly, and without question.  Continue reading

#The52Project (18) – “Write some fanfiction.”

It is 10 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. How is Harry dealing with PTSD?

The wizarding world had found a decade’s peace after Voldemort’s demise, but all was not yet well, for one more battle remained. It was one Harry had long put off fighting, against opponents long gone and even longer unseen.

In the immediate rebuilding, Harry had been too distracted to notice what was happening – there was the pressing need to bury his loved ones and classmates, to compose his own testimony before the Ministry of Magic, the sound of fluttering that meant yet another demand, another request, another interview. These were tasks that emptied his life’s hourglasses, items on a to-do list that magically, miraculously never got any shorter. In the spare moments he could manage, Harry often found himself cursing that he had smashed the Minstry’s stock of Time-Turners, knowing he could surely use one now.

This – cursing himself  – was something he found himself doing increasingly often. Continue reading

[no title necessary]

If you’ve known me for any substantial amount of time, it’s pretty obvious that writing is a big part of who I am.

Before I even had my first crush or inkling of romance — Traci Liang, sixth grade — I remember loving writing — sitting with my dad, whose native tongue is Vietnamese, working on a Pokemon-inspired universe that would have surely failed any intellectual property lawsuit;  penning out my general confusion in angsty, adolescent poetry, and at one point, there was even something about a food themed superhero with a nacho cheese blaster for an arm. Continue reading

I wrote a poem. It is about my relationship with literacy. Read it if you like.

i know the narrative of my language quite well

how could i forget, when
all it takes is but a moment of listening
to notice
the tussle of tongues straining to be heard
every time i open my mouth at all;
a fatal four-way between
my studied, polished English and my laid-back slang
the lingoes of my interests and the language that lives, almost literally
in my blood
these traceable lineages that line my every syllable
each a Belt holder for moments, but rarely longer

what’s funny is
in all the times i’ve told it and all the times i’ve written and recounted,
“why i want to be an English teacher”; “why i started writing”
this tale, openly on display, now well worn by my vocal cords
in it always make sure to mention Ms. Barrett from 11th grade,
Stine and Rowling and Sajak and White and Applegate,
those childhood mainstays,
forgetting to mention my other teacher:
simply living at all

now, i’d rather not force the metaphor of life and lesson
but it’s still true
child me plucked up new words from magic: the gathering card backs
read from, through endless screens of video game text and dialogue
helped, where possible, to decode American legalese for my parents
(how ironic that they now return the favor)
finally finding himself home, entangled in an interweb from far too young an age

the discourse of this course
was raw and often profane
in a dialect too inappropriate for children under 13
left to navigate it myself, with no scaffolds and no guides
i slowly crawl my way toward understanding,
learning to mimick the proper codes of protoc(l)ol in the communities
until I could hide in plain sight, sharing all of me at the same time

still do, now
my voice
on topics I know both too much and too little about
sh@ring anything and nothing all at once
to strangers who feel closer to me and know more about me than people I know in real life
I connect
I converse
and my language

Fresh Off The Boat; Into Your TV

Even with the slight unease that the show’s title invokes in some, Fresh off the Boat arrived in undeniable force to the American airwaves this week. Close to eight million people tuned in and got a glimpse at an honest to God novelty in mainstream media: a distinctly Asian American show, the first one of its kind in over 20 years. This is where we insert jokes about how a black man got into the White House before we got another half hour block allotted to us by a major television network…and then another one about Detox still hasn’t dropped. Continue reading