📖: Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown (2020)
🍸: lychee margarita-tini
Why this book?
What does it mean to be Asian in America? Each of us will give a different answer because Asian Americans are not a monolithic group. And yet, we’re often treated as one. And throughout much of American history we’ve been seen as a threat. Not just in the 1880’s during the Chinese Exclusion Act, or during the WWII internment of Japanese communities. It’s happening right now, with COVID-related hate crimes against our Asian elders surging this past week. It’s been scary and devastating, during a time of year that’s otherwise celebratory for us who observe Lunar New Year.
Anti-Asian hate crimes aren’t new, but many go unreported because of systemic barriers that @_itslitbooks_ discusses in her recent IG post. The model minority myth also comes into play in this underreporting – to keep us quiet, to not rock the boat, to equate assimilation with the American Dream. This is white supremacy at work. It’s hurting not just our Asian communities, but all communities of color.
This week has been rough. Recent events keep bringing me back to Charles Yu’s INTERIOR CHINATOWN, which I think is an excellent exploration of the invisibility that often feels part of being Asian in America. Yu’s protagonist finds that no matter how much he advances in his acting career, he’s still trapped in a “show that doesn’t have a role for [him].” The novel brings up the idea that we also need to be aware of our complicity – whether it’s through internalized racism or when we fail to stand in solidarity with each other AND with black and brown communities who are also hurting. This is showing up in some responses to the hate crimes, with communities calling for more policing, a solution that’s rooted in anti-blackness.
Gifting and being in community with each other are important traditions for Lunar New Year. In honor of the year of the Ox, consider donating to orgs that do anti-racist work. Support your local Asian or Chinatown businesses. Speak up against race-related hate. Check in with Asian friends and neighbors.
Why this drink?
In Act I, we learn that this is the signature cocktail served at the Golden Palace restaurant where Willis Wu performs his role of Generic Asian Man.
(This recipe has been adapted from the Lemon Lychee Margarita, made by the Barrio in Chicago.)
1.5 oz golden tequila
1/2 oz Riesling
1/2 oz lemon juice
½ oz lychee syrup, from the can
4 canned lychees
black lava salt and lychee
- Rim glass with black salt
- Muddle the canned lychees, and strain the juice into a shaker. (You should have ~3/4 oz of juice from the muddled fruit.)
- Add all other ingredients into shaker, and shake well with ice.
- Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with lychee.
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!