Author: LJSharks

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Crazy Rich Asians

I don’t know if it’s like this anywhere else, but on Long Island – well, white, middle-class suburban Long Island – there’s an entire culture surrounding the debate of whether to send your child to a Catholic high school, or public high school.

The summer before eighth grade, my mother enrolled me in a Catholic High School Entrance Examination prep course at Chaminade High School. She then purchased an Anne Geddes wall calendar, which she used to keep track of the open houses of various Catholic high schools on The Island. I had my heart set on one in particular – Holy Trinity.

Trinity had a reputation for producing world-class performers. I was enrolled in a summer theater program, and took an instant liking to improv. While writing had always come naturally, there was something about being on stage that made me feel at home. I don’t remember the exact conversation Mom and I had, but by the end of it, I understood one thing: there were no roles for Asian women in Hollywood.

Because of Crazy Rich Asians, that is no longer true.

***

In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more seen than I did watching Rachel Chu’s mother explain that despite Rachel’s face being Chinese, and Rachel being able to speak Chinese, in her head and in her heart she is different.

There were points throughout the movie where I felt like crying, where I wanted to stand up and applaud, where I caught the drift. But, throughout the entirety of the film, I felt pride. Pride and hope for all the Asian girls out there who don’t have to feel like there’s no place for them in Hollywood, the board room, the world. Because things are changing.

Rachel Chu is told that despite being Asian, she is the wrong type of Asian. She experiences alienation within her own racial community, and this has been my struggle for years. Ever since I was young, the Asian people I met (and my, they were few) were often first-gen. When I was eleven, my first Asian friend, Youri, laughed when I said I was Korean. She said, “You’re not Korean – you’re a Twinkie.”

“A what?”

“A Twinkie – yellow on the outside, white on the inside. You’re not really Korean.”

But I was Korean. Not in the sense of keeping my last name of Park or knowing how to cook kimchi, but I was Korean to the people around me. To the strangers who assume I cannot speak English upon our first meeting, to children who think I know karate, to white men who picture me in tartan miniskirts and pig tails.

I am Asian, but the Asian community does not see me as one of their own. I am American, but when I think of what an American looks like, I can’t help but picture someone with skin paler than mine.

Crazy Rich Asians might not have you leaving the theater questioning how you see or interact with Asian people. A lot of people might say, “Lauren, it’s just a rom-com – it’s not that big a deal. The movie isn’t even deep or intellectual. It doesn’t even go into politics.”

But these people are wrong. Crazy Rich Asians isn’t just a movie, it’s a movement.

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America

The below video’s quality is bad, the angle is wrong, the lighting leaves much to be desired, and the singing is BAD, but I needed to share it with you tonight – right now.

But first…

Do you have someone in your life who has seen your ugliness—who has seen you at your absolute worst—and loves you anyway? I do. That someone, for me, is my father. Or, as I call him, Dad.

As part of his Father’s Day present, I got Dad two tickets for us to see Jurassic World, the latest installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. I wouldn’t say Dad has gotten frugal in his old age, but these days, he likes to get something for his dollar. And pickings at the movies have been slim as of late. But there’s just something about dinosaurs we can’t seem to pass up.

“I can’t believe you’re going to see Jurassic Park,” Mom said as she kissed Dad goodbye.

“It’s a movie about dinosaurs, Kath. I can’t believe you’re NOT going to see Jurassic Park.”

On the way to the theater, we talked about death. Well, not necessarily death, but the people who’ve left us – my father’s father, my cousin, and other friends and family gone from this world too soon. I mentioned how I still find it hard to believe my cousin, Alanna, lost her fight with breast cancer at 34…how ridiculous it seems that I can’t talk to or hug her.

“Death is final, Lauren,” he said. “That’s why it hurts so much.”

***

Three years ago, I was at the beginning of my graduate school career, had finally moved out of the house into a new apartment comprised solely of cardboard boxes, and was working a job which literally sucked the life out of me. Dad had been calling all week, and it was starting to annoy.

“Hey Smedley,” he said, when I finally picked up.

“What is it, Dad? I’m working.”

“Ah nothing, just wanted to see when you were coming home.”

“I don’t know, Dad. Listen, do we need to talk about this now? I’m kind of in the middle of something.”

“Got a lot on your plate, huh?”

I could see him in the kitchen in the house on Elderberry – one hand in his pocket, staring at his feet, probably looking for his glasses.

“Yeah, I’m busy. So what do you need?”

“I just need to talk to you is all.”

“Well…” I said impatiently, “Talk!”

“No, no. I need to see you. Not over the phone stuff.”

“Is it important?”

“Kind of.”

“Really important or you need help with the tablet important?”

“Real important.”

“Fine, I’ll come home tomorrow. I gotta go.” I hit the end button halfway through him saying, “Love you.” and went back to my work.

I remember being so fucking annoyed with him. I assumed the “important” thing was vacation related. Ever since I was young, Dad loved planning summer vacations with the family. Sometimes, I felt it was the very thing that kept him going. The only thing he loved more than planning a vacation was fitting something into the car Mom declared as “never going to fit”. But with the advent of adulthood, work schedules, and significant others, our family vacations had been less and less frequent.

Dad understood. In the beginning, he enjoyed crossing places off his bucket-list with Mom. But, every so often, I’d get a call or a text asking if I could take ten or twelve days here and there. I’d always be bothered, “Dad! I work – I can’t just take ten days off.”

It was dark when I arrived at the house on Elderberry that night. Dad was in the den, as per usual. I flicked on the lights without so much as a “hi”, and plopped down on the ottoman in front of him.

“So what’s this important news?” I said, using air quotes for “important”.

I don’t remember much after that.

Early. CyberKnife. Chemo. Recovery.

Dad was sick.

***

It’s been almost four years since Dad’s surgery, and most days I forget there was a time when he wasn’t 100%.

As we left the theater tonight, we laughed about the predictability of the plot, the corny nature of the jokes, and debated about which coming attractions looked promising.

“But did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yeah, I did.” he smiled.

Just as we turned onto Jericho Turnpike, we heard the humming of Simon and Garfunkel. Dad turned the volume up instinctively, and we both began to sing, “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together/I’ve got some real estate here in my bag/So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies/And walked off to look for America.”

On those vacations, Dad didn’t just teach me about music, he taught me about time spent with family, about how to make memories, about life.

As we sang together, driving over the empty Long Island streets, I couldn’t help but think how one day I’d remember this. How one day, all I’d be able to do is remember Dad. But damn it if I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

We sang America to the end. Then, we got a bonus: Mrs. Robinson.

It was then, I decided to take a video because I HAD to preserve this somehow. So, even though the below video’s quality is bad, the angle is wrong, the lighting leaves much to be desired, and the singing is BAD, but I needed to share it with you tonight – right now.

And I’ll also share this: hug the people you love. That’s all. No more, no less.

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The Dream

Last Friday, I woke up to an e-mail from my publisher. The subject line read: page proofs/Inconvenient Daughter. After I opened the e-mail, I clicked the attachment and saw this: Read more “The Dream”

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Pick A Color

It was an ordinary day – I rolled out of bed seventeen minutes before I needed to clock in, brushed my teeth, and ate the last Chewy chocolate chip granola bar on my way to work. After putting my car in park, I unclicked my seatbelt and began digging through the backseat for my green apron. The stench of burnt milk wasn’t too overpowering as I put it around my neck, and I figured I had about two more days before I’d need to wash it. Read more “Pick A Color”

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To Alanna, on Jirish Day

Of the things Alanna loved to tell people about herself, the fact that she was Jirish was probably her favorite.

The first time she mentioned this term to me, I was a teenager – an angry, confused, and hateful teenager. I was sulking on the balcony of our shared godmother’s Upper East Side apartment, trying to ignore the laughter and happiness coming from inside. Read more “To Alanna, on Jirish Day”

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Faker

I open my eyes, and see the same magazine clipping that’s been one strong wind away from being blown across the room – the one I keep telling myself I’m going to re-tape as soon as I get home from work. My arms extend back against my pillow, my toes past the covers and off the edge of the bed. Read more “Faker”