How I became terrified of sleeping, and the loss of the “privilege”
I think a lot of people don’t truly understand what it means to have privilege. In our society, the ones who understand it are the ones who usually don’t have a sense of privilege. However, it’s hard to think about privilege when you’re on the better side of things.
My understanding of privilege completely changed over the course of the past year in a very unique way. To put it in the most simple way, I lost the privilege of sleep.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Basically, this “common” sleep disorder blocks your airways when you try to sleep. It can result in snoring, or even constantly waking up at night. Well, the thing is, it’s commonly found in obese or elderly people, not young, healthy-weight people. The doctors said I was a rare case.
Let me tell you why I knew to get treated: I’ve always known I would end up snoring pretty badly when I’m extremely tired, people have told me that. Especially one of my roommates. In fact, we had a system—if I was snoring (in a way where he couldn’t sleep), he would wake me up and I would change sleeping positions or something and usually I would stop. Don’t worry, it was my idea—I don’t like the idea of people having to deal with my snoring.
Towards the end of that year, however, I became extra stressed out due to school related things, and then the snoring became extremely worse. It was common to have nights where he would constantly wake me up, probably twenty times in a night. It got so bad, the last few weeks of school I didn’t sleep in my dorm room—I slept in close friends’ who didn’t mind, or the dorm lounge, etc. It was pretty bad, but I didn’t mind—I understood how bad my snoring was. Because people made fun of me all the time.
New Inspirational Memoir: Beggars or Angels
I’d like to let The Green Papaya community know about a new inspirational memoir I wrote for/with Rosemary Tran Lauer titled, Beggars or Angels: How a Single Mother Triumphed Over War, Welfare and Cancer to Become a Successful Philanthropist(published August 2013, Oaklight Publishing).
Beggars or Angels tells the story of how Rosemary – a Vietnamese refugee, struggling welfare mom, entrepreneur/business owner, cancer survivor – came to America and championed the cause of affordable, quality child care through the nonprofit she founded Devotion to Children. If you would be interested in reading the book, I will forward you a paperback copy for review.
Beggars or Angels is now available on Amazon.com, and Asian Fortune News recently featured an excerpt (Chapter 1) in its December 2013 issue: http://www.asianfortunenews.com/2013/12/stories-from-vietnam-local-philanthropist-pens-touching-memoir/. Thanks for checking it out!
Please stop by our Facebook pages – “Devotion to Children” and/or “Scott Beller – Writer” – and let us know what you think of the book!
Best regards, Scott Beller and Rosemary Tran Lauer
This is what it feels like to be an Angry Asian Girl
Diana: Hey, Mindy.
Mindy: What’s up? Isn’t it like 3am over there?
I can’t sleep.
I was just thinking.
I don’t think kids are done growing up until their personal identity hits them in the face, until they start thinking about where they fit in between the lines of sexuality, race, gender, class, etc…
There’s really no telling when it’s coming or how it necessarily happens. It kind of snaps into place. And it is just as awkward as when your first pimples start to appear.
I wasn’t even in high school yet. I was in one of those summer before high school enrichment programs. One day we had an Asian substitute. She had an Asian accent. My classmates suddenly thought it was a perfect time to make fun of nail shop workers.
I thought I would never get pissed at a mama joke. They weren’t even saying your mama jokes. They were saying things that were indirectly related to my mama, but I got angry.
"My mom is a nail shop worker. Yeah, her English isn’t good. She works hard, and she’s my mom!"
Nope that didn’t happen. I just stood up and cried.
"Stop *sob *sob *sob talking about my mama. Stop talking about my mom."
No one understood what I was saying but— hey. They knew that I was angry.
Diana: I dunno. I just feel like I’m the only angry one.
Mindy: At what?
That wasn’t the only time I stood up. Alone. By myself. Angry. Looking crazy.
I ranted to friends about the flirtatious waiter who insisted that I was Chinese. Their reaction? To go to the same cafe but to take a guy with me the next time.
I joined an Asian American organization with the intent to bring back its political activism. Good luck, Diana
I called someone culturally insensitive for sticking his nose up at my avocado smoothie. I was called oversensitive.
Mindy: Hello…answer me…Diana???
If there is anyone who would make a big deal out of everything and anything remotely Asian, I learned that she would be me.
Diana: At shit people say about Asians!!! People should think twice about what they say. They should walk on eggshells.
I think it’s fair. You can walk on eggshells as I walk on broken glass.
I have been told that my English is exceptional. But if you listen close enough you can hear my Asian accent. (Here, put your ear closer to the speaker and really try to listen for it.)
With a slip of the tongue and a drop of an s, I suddenly arrived to the shores of America; I am fresh off the boat.
I can be either way too Asian or not Asian enough for adding soy sauce on my eggs, eating with chopsticks, not professionally playing more than one instrument (nevertheless one instrument or the recorder), or not being able to read and write in my parent’s language.
The depths of my heritage and ancestry is often reduced to a steaming bottomless bowl of pho. Yes, pho is the bomb.com, but where is the love for the fish sauce ‘doh? Pieces of our culture are picked and pulled like the bean sprouts floating in the bowl of pho to suit your taste at the expense of us.
Diana: Sorry, I sound so dumb.
I’m not supposed to care, but these little things matter
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.
I get that phrase a lot, in different variations. It has become cemented into my mind like it’s a fundamental equation, Newton’s fourth law, the eleventh commandment, or something.
But what is 1 + 1? It equals 2. Add a backhand comment of how good my English is here, a suggestive comment there, and the total of comments is four.
I have stopped and thought which comments and messages I should let go.
How often did you have to stop and think? For how long?
Mindy: Yeah I know what you mean. It’s tough being Asian.
Diana: I know right?
What’s so tough about being Asian?
There’s this overgeneralizing statistic that says we are successful. Asian Americans disproportionately attend elite academic institutions and earn the most of all demographic groups on average. However, this morsel of praise turned us into scapegoats to suppress. We did it, why can’t they?
The biggest problem is that everyone thinks we have 99 problems but racism happens to not be one of them.
I grew up practicing to sound like an American native, to numb my tongue and hold my throat from producing Vietnamese tones. I let my house air out to dispel not so much the aroma of fried fish but the fact that my family often eats it.
Yet I’ve seen someone else patted on the back for their struggles attempting to order in Vietnamese. Owning a bottle of fish sauce has become “the” cultural phenomenon. Yo, since when have the things I’ve been doing my entire life been super awesome?
Diana: Most of all, even Asians don’t get it.
We are Asian American. It is an experience. It’s not up to you whether or not you like it. It is not an experience you choose to have.
It is the experience of code switching between White American eating customs and traditional customs, facing the stereotype threat that we might be acting a little too Asian, and personally removing ourselves from the Asian American community and rejecting our identity.
We all want to automatically be considered American. This sentiment is why we are not. This is why we are Asian American.
You cannot run away from the Asian American experience.
Plastic surgery, new friends, and skin whitening may make some changes,
but I will always be Asian American.
Diana: Mindy, I’m the only Asian American who has a problem.
Mindy: No, it is just that not everyone has recognized it yet.
*gif credit to Buzzfeed and giphy.com
Southeast Asian Student Coalition (SASC) Alumni Diana Nguyen writes a GIF piece, “This is what it feels like to be an Angry Asian Girl” on Microaggressions.
Southeast Asian American communities throughout the country are calling out President Obama and the 113th United States Congress to stop deportation and to keep families together by signing this petition on Change demanding immigration reform.
As immigration reform progresses rapidly we, the undersigned, are unified in our stance to support true reform that focuses on uniting families and addresses the deep root causes of inequity and disparity in this country. While we recognize that we may not achieve everything all at once, we are committed for the long term.
To certain outside viewers, Vietnamese in America may have become synonymous with flag-waving conservatism, embodying a reactionary and censorious nationalism couched in the rallying cries of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom.’ That’s definitely not me nor quite a few other Vietnamese Americans both young and old. But neither are we the conical-hatted, machine gun-slinging peasant warriors glorified in the lore of America’s left movement.
[However] there is a Vietnamese history in America — and a leftist history at that — going as far back as the 1940s national liberation struggles among émigrés in New York against French colonialism, to the 1960s anti-war activism of Vietnamese students and early immigrants. On July 2, 1972 in Los Angeles, the Union of Vietnamese in the United States was formed — the only group of Vietnamese in America to organize against the war.
Reclaiming our Vietnamese American history and identity has come to have a lot more meaning for me these days. It will mean, I think, careful and strategic organizing work within our communities. It will mean nurturing the youth and not antagonizing the elders. It will mean growing and struggling in the U.S. without forgetting to fight the imperialism that brought us here.
Q’s on Health Insurance Marketplace Answered in Vietnamese
Join us on Google Hangout at 3pm ET! We’re answering your question on Health Insurance Marketplace in #Vietnamese. Please share with your Vietnamese speaking friends & family!
Hãy tham gia Google+ Hangout lúc 3 chiều ET! Sẽ bàn về Thị Trường Bảo Hiểm Sức Khoẻ bằng #TiếngViệt. Gửi vào câu hỏi của quý vị
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HealthCare.govCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Check out this Draw My Life video of Richard Louprasong’s “Hmong Life” where he gives a entertaining and playful yet insightful experience through a story of his life as a Hmong-American.
He starts off talking about the motherland and gives a quick lesson about who Hmong people are, the Vietnam War and then how his family sought refuge in America. Using amusing anecdotes he narrates his experiences: from talking about his father’s preference of deer over third-world-stomach-gases from eating their sponsors’ cheese covered food, to talking about how he wore his Mighty Mouse underwear over his pants growing up as a kid. He even talks about his experience in a Hmong gang, his high school Korean Drama phase and at the end, his experiences with love.