Emily Chan: Yellowness
It’s okay to say that
“Asians are smart”
“Asians are good at math”
because those are compliments.
And now we know not to pull at the corners of our eyes
because “that’s offensive, honey.”
Most of us know not to say
“Ching chong ching” at the sight of yellow skin and Asian eyes.
Not everyone knows not to say
“Ni hao” at the same sight.
Not everyone knows
I look nothing like Lucy Liu.
Not everyone can name three Asians in Hollywood.
There were no Blacks nominated for Best Actress this year –
when was the last time an Asian was nominated?
1935, the first and last time.
Not everyone knows
I am not just my yellowness.
We are not our yellowness.
Are you your whiteness? Blackness? Redness?
In some ways I am,
I am an overachiever
a smart woman of ambition
but this is not some innate Asian advantage.
This is hard work.
This is my history –
my parents struggling so that I wouldn’t,
so that struggling to me means struggling to decide what to do with all I’ve been given.
I was my yellowness.
My veins thick with it,
my skin: sick with it.
my veins – rich with it
my skin – blazes with it.
The tide sucked her in and spit her back out on the rough, pebbly sand - unlike the smooth, grainy sands from the beaches of childhood. This sand did not massage her toes or mold into castles; it could not serve as a medium for her ideas of grandeur. As she peeled her body from the shore, she felt the shards of not yet formed sea glass embed themselves into her back, angry fish skeletons dig into the once soft flesh of her feet. The agonizing slowness of her body and of this moment was insufferable. She felt each limb, each digit, each hair on her body lift and fall with each step. No wind, no rain, only a stifling, paralytic ball of air.
Emily Chan lives and works in Manhattan where she is a Presidential Associate at the Estée Lauder Companies. She plays Ultimate Frisbee and writes poetry on the city's many benches and subway cars. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of Nimbus, the college’s literary arts magazine. Her poetry has appeared in The New York Times.