December 26, 2016

Welcome to #aznbooks2017!

So here's how it all started. After *the* *election*, I started feeling haunted by this sense that the racial discourse I so wanted to be part of did not have room for me. I mean I was hearing a lot of chatter and analysis and cultural critique etc etc etc that pitted the black experience against the white experience ... and that was all. Sometimes there was a fleeting mention of Latinx identity, but rarely did you hear about Asians or Native Americans -- and forget about mixed race folks. According to these peeps, if you weren't black, you were white, and if you weren't white, you were black. 

I felt erased and silenced and so frustrated. Beyond the selfish anxieties of not seeing yourself represented in popular racial discourses, there's the fact that binaried thinking is ultimately detrimental to our discourse and our multiplicitous society as a whole. When you only have room in your mind for black and white identities, and you've assigned goodness and badness to those two sides of a coin...yeah, that's not great for anyone. It reinforces the good and bad feelings you have for each side, you see? 

I think there was also a part of me that was feeling intense guilt as I weathered this frustration, because despite my indignation, I was largely unable to name political thinkers and cultural contributors who were asian (despite like, Margaret Cho and Aziz Ansari). So my internal voice was like, "OK Alex. Let's put your money where your mouth is. Let's see how much you really care about this." 

So that's how this weird project, #aznbooks2017, was born. I am starting this newsletter in order to document the experience of immersing myself in asian writers for the next year, and I hope you'll join me for this.

Here are the rules: 
  1. I will read books by asian authors (simple enough, right?). I am considering a broad definition of the word "asian" here to include anyone from South Asia, the Middle East, of mixed race and diaspora.
  2. I am not 100% beholden to asian authors. I will give myself space to explore this project in a free way that doesn't feel like homework. If that means I want to take a break and read a nice Lena Dunham something, I will not feel guilty. 
  3. I will keep a journal of my reading/reflections. This is on paper, and it's a tiny lil Field Notes book. I wish you could see it. 
  4. On the first of each month, I will send you an update. You will keep me accountable! Not for sticking to my reading plan, but for continuing my reading in a critical and thoughtful way, rather than just absorbing words for the hell of it (my preferred state of reading). 
I hope that this project will bring me a bit closer to understanding my own asian identity. I also hope that by writing about this project semi-publicly, I can bring a little bit of attention to the way our binaried racial discourse still silences large groups of people. 

I will send out the first *real* issue of this newsletter on January 1. In the meantime, you can check out my Goodreads reading list here!