Who and what is the Asian American?
Throughout my life, this has served as an integral question and theme both directly and indirectly. As a half-Chinese girl growing up in a small American city in the 90's, this pondering was almost exclusively informed by my home life and the stories told to me by my family. I didn't see very many Asians other than my family for a large part of my life; there were only a few other half Asian girls in school, one of whom I was regularly mixed up with (though she was 7 years my senior). My family frequented the small array of dim sum restaurants and banquet halls, ate pho at run down noodle shops, and bought bok choy at the Korean market. As a child, that area of town seemed very far away, and those "other" Asians lived on the other side of tracks, removed from me and my family.
My grandma, who will certainly become a fixture of this blog the same way she is a fixture of the family, chatted up the restaurant managers, bugging them to get us the best tables and sending back the food that was too cold, often times being most of the dishes. She collected the Chinese language newspapers wherever we went, took hours to do her basic grocery shopping at the Asian markets, and seemed to know every Chinese person in Denver. My late grandpa, a stoic yet warm retired architect, took my sister and I to Burger King, regaled us with stories of escaping the war, and regularly designed and printed pixelated photos of us with his Microsoft Paint application. He would always take me to get small gifts, his favorite place being Best Buy for CD Rom games, purchasing for me most notably a Disney Mulan game that ended up shaping my career path (more on that another time). Every time I slept over my grandparent's house, I would fall asleep on the couch watching TV with my grandma and my grandpa would carry me to his room to sleep.
My mother, another character who will most certainly pop up time and again in this blog, was the quintessential Asian American to me as a child. I now realize, in most ways, how that label I assigned to her was both perverse and fitting. Bombastic, unhinged, gregarious, and very tan, my mother functioned as a twisted super hero for me as a child. She would often tell me how she always felt rejected from other Chinese Americans, and in a separate breath, from the mostly white upper-middle class people who surrounded our daily lives. I'm finding more and more that this crisis in identity spans over a large portion of Asians Americans, no matter when or how they immigrated, and no matter their gender or class.
It's important to initially introduce these few characters, though there are many others, as they very early on formed my understanding of being Asian in America. Now as an adult, I realize more and more how much my family and my identity as an Asian American informs everything that I do. My music, my writing, my interests, even some of my daily conversations are very tied to this wavering identity. My feelings around this topic are at the very least complex, and my musings and opinions on racism, politics, sexism, classism, and art all exist within my female Asian American context.
Ming Lumino is a poetic, half translation of my Chinese name, Ming Dahng 明登. My grandma tears up every time she explains the meaning to me in broken English: "going up, step by step, bring the light to the dark". Literally it translates to either bright light or bright ascension. Either way, I saw it fitting as a name for a catalogue of the Asian American experience and our hugely underrepresented stories in American history. Through Ming Lumino, my first intention is simply to create a curated database of a wide range of diverse work from an equally diverse group of contributors. Through this range of experience and opinions, we can explore some of the questions at the forefront of this globalizing climate: why are Asian Americans the least politically engaged and the minority group least likely to vote? Why are they the least represented minority group in the media?
In the end, I hope only to make you laugh, contemplate, feel, and share in this slice of the human experience.
And hopefully, yes, shed some light on the ever evolving, wildly diverse Asian American narrative.