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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


My sophomore year of college I cut my bangs super straight, Lady Gaga style,. I just thought it would be fun and new. I didn’t realize how much trouble it was going to be as my friends and fellow classmates told me, “Oh, you look so Asian!” I didn’t know how to respond to it besides just staring very hard at them and the obvious reply, “Um. Yeah. I am Asian.”

Needless to say, I’ve never cut my hair like that since. Because I’ve thought, well what did I look like before that? Not Asian? I didn’t think that was possible. Less Asian? How do you even quantify that?

I get it. I’m not some super-kung-fu-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-samurai girl like Zhang Ziyi or Michelle Yeoh. I’m not super sexy and exotic like Lucy Liu or Kelly Hu. I’m not super nerdy and I don’t have crazy strict parents who cry if I get grades lower than A+ like Rory’s friend on Gilmore Girls. I’m not a breakdancer, I don’t sing like every other Filipino girl, I quit piano a week after my first lesson, and I’m a communications major, not an engineering, pre-med, biology, or business major.

What am I supposed to do, start wearing kimonos, talk in a “FOB” accent, eat kimchi, squint more, and pretend I can kick your ass in science and math for you to get that I’m Asian? Just because I bum it in jeans, date outside of my race, and I don’t speak Tagalog 24/7, doesn’t mean I’m whitewashed, or I’ve forgotten my culture.

I’m an American, as well, have people forgotten? I don’t bleed red, white, and blue, but having lived here the last 20 or so years of my life, I feel just as American as most natives. I feel like being American is having the freedom to decide who you are and what you want and actively pursue that. This may or may not be true in real life, but it’s something that I feel is being different than being cast as “Asian.” I think people have forgotten that simple fact.

On the flip side, there are other people who think I’m only Asian. And I can only do Asian things. I once went to a Barnes and Noble to buy the 4th Harry Potter book, Goblet of Fire, when it came out. The lady at the cashier register said I should join their costume contest. She said I could be Cho Chang, undoubtedly the only recognizable and visible Asian character. I was only twelve at the time, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was being discriminated against. I could only be the Asian character of the book? Because honestly, if we’re going to play with stereotypes, I think I’d connect with the Hermione character: a smart overachiever. Instead of a weak, lovesick, crybaby, like Cho Chang was. (Ironically, when I cut my bangs that one time, the Goblet of Fire movie came out at the same time. My boyfriend and I at the time were unofficially nicknamed Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory. I think there’s some kind of conspiracy going on.)

So what am I then? I’m Asian. I’m not. I’m not Asian enough to others. I’m not typical. I lack definition. Worse, I feel like I’m losing my identity because of these so-called Asian stereotypes people seem to be perpetuating and consuming. I don’t like being pulled from one end of the spectrum to another, whether I’m one thing or not. But I don’t know what other option I have, because the only one left is to be invisible and not exist at all.

Issa Morada

Photo credit: Loretta Humble at Wikimedia Commons


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