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Aug 27, 2014 / 2 notes
Aug 22, 2014 / 2 notes

Mash-Up Books: The Mash-Up Americans Presents Mira Jacob

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Mira Jacob, author of this summer’s astonishing The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, has blasted her way into the literary canon with an epic novel about an Indian family grappling with grief, secrets, love, and life as they make their way through this American life in New Mexico. Now living in Brooklyn, Jacob sat down with The Mash-Up Americans to talk arranged marriages, cultural identity, and why she’s probably not the next Jhumpa Lahiri (not that there’s anything wrong with that).


 

Let’s talk about names. What’s your maiden name?

Mira Jacob is my maiden name. I’m Syrian Christian, so it always fools people. My husband is Jed Rothstein. It’s funny because when his parents’ friends found out that he was marrying someone named Mira Jacob, they said, “Oh, a nice Jewish girl!” My parents came over in the late 60s from Kerala. I grew up in New Mexico. And it’s like, Oh, you have no idea.


 

Oh man. Does everybody make assumptions about your name, like I just did?

The thing about Syrian Christianity is that it started in India in 50 AD. But there’s this assumption that it came over with the British and colonization.  My family really bristles that. Like, we were Christian when you people were still chasing Odin around the woods! It’s a point of pride with our brand of Indian.


 

You’ve written beautifully about your parents’ arranged marriage. When did you find out it was arranged? 

When I was little. I remember understanding that there were love and arranged marriages. And love marriage to me sounded like a rock ‘n roll version of marriage. I’d watch all my friends’ parents, and think, That’s a love marriage for SURE.


 

Did your parents want you date and marry an Indian?

The good thing about my parents is that we were so far away from any other Indians they didn’t have that mindset, whereas I think when there’s a big Indian community, you can fall into that.  They weren’t like “You must date Indians,” because that would have meant dating my brother. The first person that ever took an interest in me was an African-American guy in high school. Everyone said we should date because we looked so good together. I mean, because we’re kind of the same color? He was mixed race, half white and half African American – but at that point, the white kids were the ones who set the rules on who was black, and he was black.


 

What did your parents think of you dating a black guy? 

They were okay with it, but they were pretty worried about what my grandfather would think of it when he came to visit because Indians and Indians raised in America are notoriously racist. My best friend, Laura, was white. My boyfriend was half black and half white. And when my grandfather saw him, he said, “Oh! Laura’s brother!” And my dad was like, "I guess there’s Indians and everyone else."


 

That attitude is probably true for a lot of people. So, were they were fine with you marrying a Jewish man?

Jed is actually from my hometown. New Mexico is its own country in America. My parents were so happy with the fact that I was marrying a New Mexican, they thought, Okay, you’re marrying one of us. I felt that way as well. Also, I was 31 when I got married, and they were just relieved that someone was going to marry me.  


 

Do you seek connection with an Indian community?

I’m a writer. In writing, you have to have a point of view. For a long time I didn’t write about my experiences because I felt I didn’t know enough about being American, or about being Indian. And at some point, I accepted that I just know what I know. I take my son back to India to meet his relatives and I think about how when that generation dies, he won’t really have a connection to the culture the way I do. But I don’t feel the same sort of longing for an Indian community that maybe my parents did, because my community, the family that I’ve gone in for, is the creative community of Brooklyn. That’s the family that I’ve decided to make. I need people to understand my lifestyle and my ideas and the way that I’m going to bring up my kid. And I get that from the multicultural Brooklyn experience.


 

We think a lot about authenticity and the question that you raised, of “Are you American enough” or “Are you Indian enough.” Does that concern you with your son? Is there a way to be both?

Sand moves through our hands so quickly. You’re always losing your cultural identity. And that’s terrible. But I never paid attention to the sand right under our hands. What does that loss change into? And that is valuable thing, that unto itself, and it’s important that it lives out in the world. Our parents are in such mourning for what they lost, and that’s what translates into longing for us, as first-generation kids. But that’s not the only way into the cultural conversation, and that won’t be true for our kids.


 

So tell us about your kid. We agonize about names at Mash-Up. Zakir Rothstein is a big name for a Christian Indian woman with a Jewish sounding name and her husband Jed Rothstein.

I told Jed, listen, he’s gonna have your last name, he should have a name that locates him as Indian, from me. One of my favorite names has always been Zakir, after Zakir Hussein, who was a rock and roll tabla player when I was young. He toured with Neil Young and Pearl Jam and represented to me the ability of Indians to be rock stars. However. It’s a Muslim name. And the majority of Zakirs in the world are from Pakistan. So I chose an Indian name that’s not even of my culture. When we told my mother-in-law that we were going to give him an Indian name, she said “Okay, just be sure not to give him a name that sounds like a terrorist.” Like, great! Thanks. To her credit, when she says stuff like that I immediately say something and she’s great about it and understands why it’s wrong. So Jed calls them up after our baby is born and tells them his name. They go and look it up and the first definition of “Zakir” that comes up in Google is “eulogizer of Allah.” We didn’t think about the fact that the internet was going to give our Jewish relatives heart palpitations.


 

What is the best part of being in a mash-up marriage?

When you’re both to the side of mainstream culture, you learn that you have to scramble and find solutions that other people wouldn’t necessarily have to look for. There’s a natural curiosity that we both have because of it.


 

The most challenging?

I think it’s the incidental racism, which is not always worth discussing because it’s not worth disrupting the whole familial relationship. For example, we got married right after “Monsoon Wedding” came out, and Jed’s family kept coming up to us and asking, “Is this going to be like Monsoon Wedding?” And I’m thinking, What are you looking for? Indians jumping out of cakes? Want elephants running through? Need rose petals thrown at you? What is going to make this feel like enough of a party to you for you to feel like you’ve had an ethnic experience?

And they’re like, Is it rude for us to say that? YES, IT IS. I’m having a wedding, not something for your entertainment. And also, we’re in New Mexico. So let’s go with desert wedding.


 

We love desert weddings! What one piece of advice would you give to Mash-Ups navigating their in-laws? 

Understand and expect that they will say something wholly damaging to your identity and that even in that, there is no point at which you should give up on your relationship. That ugly moment is going to happen and it still doesn’t mean the game is over. My in-laws, for example, are hard, but they’re really good. After I had Zakir, my in-laws went on a trip to India because they just wanted to understand where their grandson was partially from. That was the greatest gift that they could have ever given me. And they wanted to learn a little bit more about him, because they love him, and their love for him was even deeper after their trip. It was amazing. 


 

What else is amazing are your book reviews, all of which are glowing, and all of which compare you to Jhumpa Lahiri. How does that make you feel?

It’s funny because it started with one review that was like, “Comparisons to Lahiri are inevitable.” Then the next one was like, “There have been comparisons to Lahiri.” And next one was “She’s no Lahiri!” And I just thought, you’re talking in a vacuum to yourselves. On the one hand, great! She’s a great writer, and I’m thrilled at the comparison. On the other hand, I have about in much in common with Lahiri stylistically as I do with Woody Allen, and maybe more with Woody Allen. But what are you going to do?


 

Before you wrote your book, did you feel there were characters and stories in the world that reflected you?

Some of Junot Diaz’s characters. Danzy Senna’s story in Caucasia. But the reason I wrote this book was that I didn’t see the kind of Indians in literature that I knew everywhere. The Indians that are doing drugs and cursing and living life and having these outlandish American moments.  I didn’t see them anywhere and I wanted to write them.


 

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LOVE MIRA? YOU’LL ALSO LIKE THESE GUYS, TOO:

Mash-Up Books: The Mash-Up Americans Presents Heidi Durrow

* When You Love Your Parents But Not Their Food

* Mash-Up Music: The Mash-Up Americans Presents DJ Rob Swift

Aug 18, 2014

Mash-Up Round Up: Being Mormon, Transgender and Loved by Your Parents


 
This week was: being heartbroken; being heartbroken again; and finding healing in these tiny hermit homes. Peace and love, family. There’s a superhero in us all.
 
National Park Service Wants Minorities to Please Come Visit
New York Times

Only one in five visitors to a national park is nonwhite. Only one in 10 is Hispanic. The National Park Service is trying to attract more diverse visitors by sponsoring expeditions for minorities, hiring more diverse employees, and recognizing more minority figures at monuments. Change the ratio, yo.



Maryam Mirzakhani Becomes First Woman to Win the Fields Medal
Bloomberg

The Iranian mathematician was awarded the Fields Medal, considered the Nobel Prize for mathematics, for her work that — no joke — may someday help explain how the universe came to exist, among other things. Raised in Tehran, she is now a full professor at Stanford, where she lives with her husband and mash-up daughter. 


 
Roy Choi Lands a Show on CNN
LAist

Our one and only papi chulo Roy Choi announced plans for a show on CNN called “Street Food.” He’ll collaborate with Jon Favreau, whom he worked with on Chef. Besitos, papi! We’ll be cooking galbi in your honor.


 
The Story of a Mormon Family Who Embraced Their Transgender Daughter
The Atlantic

Acceptance of a transgender kid can be hard for any parent, and particularly for conservative, religious, first-generation mash-up parents. But for this extraordinary half-Japanese Mormon family in Utah, love for their daughter surpassed all cultural bounds. Our Cry of the Week. 


 
Dear Prudence: I’m Not Asian, But Everybody Thinks I Am
Slate

A white American woman who took her Chinese husband’s last name asks our favorite advice columnist (after co-founder Rebecca, of course) about what to do when potential employers are surprised or disappointed that she’s not Chinese. [Editor’s note: Isn’t everybody kindof Chinese?]


 
What Do These Top Editors Say About Diversity In Their Newsrooms?
BuzzFeed

The Guardian: “Diversity of opinion and perspectives, and of course the different lenses of people, are vital ingredients for a lively, balanced and enriched debate.” Vox: “A diverse staff should have a mix of racial backgrounds, sexual identities, and different genders. The team should come from different geographic locations and should have different economic, religious, and political backgrounds.” Mash-Up: We agree. Which is why this is disturbing.


 
Pope Francis Rolls Through South Korea in a Kia
KoreAm

Pope Francis arrived in South Korea this week and promptly squeezed himself into a Kia Seoul — er, Soul. Very un-Gangnam of him. 

Aug 12, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Money: How Full Disclosure’s Roben Farzad Finds Value

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Our dear Iranian-Jewish-American Mash-Up Roben Farzad immigrated with his family to the U.S. from Iran in 1978 as a young boy, settling in Miami. He went on to serve as a cultural and financial translator for his parents, his community, and eventually, the general populace, as a prominent journalist at publications such as Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a frequent guest on CNN, PBS, CNBC and others. He is the creator of Full Disclosure, a weekly radio show that blends culture with business and personality with finance, bringing it all down to earth in a Farsi and Spanish-inflected conversation that is all Roben, and all Mash-Up. We’d like to smack him with a bunch of scallions. Listen to his show, follow him on Twitter, and learn how a Tanzanian royal became a doorman and day trader in New York.


 

First, our Mash-Up Speed Round Questions! Who are you? 

I’m a renegade of funk (funk).


 

How do you mash up? 

I’m an Iranian Jew who speaks Spanish living in Richmond, Va., the one-time capitol of the Confederacy. I like to fix up my friends and get very different restaurants to collaborate on bizarre lovechild dishes. Moreover, I adore RC Cola. 


 

Where do you feel most at home? 

Holding my children. Smelling their hair.


 

What is your comfort food? 

Persian food: Kabobs w rice, Shirazi salad and tadig (the crunchy bottom of the rice pot). Those of you in Manhattan have to hit the joint Ravagh. Those in the DC area should try this at Shamshiri.


 

What do you call your grandma? 

Mamangigi was her name…she passed away in 2009. When we left Iran, she made me a red blanky that I could only part ways with at age 22. I see her smile and sarcasm in my son.


 

What is your bubbemeise? [Editor’s note: See Korean Fan Death.]

Jews can sanction strictly kosher Bacon bits! It’s true


 

Speaking of bacon, let’s talk about who brings it home and how. How did you first learn about how money works?

When I was five, I casually shoplifted orange Tic-Tacs at the grocery checkout. I then proceeded to offer them to Dad on the ride home. He nonchalantly u-turned, walked me to the customer service counter and demanded the manager let me take the mic to apologize to the store. For good measure, Dad, ever the patriot, made me recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The poor manager was, like, “Sir, you really don’t need to do this. He can keep them.” But Dad gave me a dollar and I paid the manager. Never again did I touch Tic Tacs.


 

How many languages can you say “money” in? How many languages do you speak, anyways? 

Three languages: English, Farsi and Spanish. In New York, a Korean co-worker taught me how to accost shop owners for a discount. I walk in to a dry cleaner or corner store, do a tomahawk chop and yell: “I love Korea. Everything Korean. Now, hook me up w/ a discount, sister!” [Editor’s note: It’s true, and it wasn’t even Amy.] And I once pulled this stunt.


 

How would you define your family? Working class, middle class, upper middle, professional, educated, intellectual? 

Proud workers who value education and family above all else.


 

Do you think how your family deals with money has more to do with being an immigrant, or being Persian, or being Jewish?

I come from a long line of illiterate merchants. My Dad’s father completely mortgaged his life to break the cycle and send his children to medical school. Iranian-Americans as a whole, I find, still stick to old half-truths about the can’t-lose nature of property, oil and gold. They are skeptical of the stock and bond markets. Many — particularly in “Tehrangeles” — still do self-destructive things like taking out loan-shark loans to marry off their daughters in spectacularly wasteful fashion. I’m grateful we opted for the East Coast stay-in-school route over the West’s Shahs of Sunset track.


 

How do you think your family’s immigrant experience shaped their relationship to money?

When you lose everything you’ve inherited and everything you’ve worked for to give your child a better life in America, you take nothing for granted and cherish financial self-determination.


 

Do you pay for your parents? [Editor’s note: We agonize over it here.] 

I do. I owe them so much. We fight over every dinner out, every plane ticket.


 

Was your family a cash family? A credit family? A put-it-all-in-the-bank family?

All cash. No credit = no problem.


 

Do they trust others with their money? Do you?

I wouldn’t trust Mother Teresa with my parents’ savings.


 

How does your background shape how you report on money, and the questions you ask about it?

It informs everything I do. In hindsight, I first became a journalist at age 6, when I’d fill in my parents on world affairs, science and Burger King’s horse meat secret when they picked me up from the school bus stop. I still judge my efficacy as a journalist in terms of how well I can explain things to Mom and Dad — and my kindergarten teacher.


 

How do you see culture has shaped how different guests you have talk about money? 

Just listen to all the shows we’ve done so far. See, for example, how my old day trading doorman from New York had to shed much of his world view as Tanzanian royalty in order to reshape himself as a successful U.S. investor.


 

What IS money to you? Power? Security? Duty? Another kind of currency?

A placeholder for status and power that too often distracts us from the important things.


 

We’re ready to go home and hug our kiddos, too. Thanks, Roben.


 

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH DOLLARS? 

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Like this? Try these:

Mash-Up Religion: What Makes A Hindu A Hindu?

Giving Your Parents An Allowance: Obviously or Hell No? 

* What’s Your Coffeeshop Name? A Story of the Cuban Y Generation

Aug 11, 2014

Mash-Up Round Up: Korean Tween Dramas & Speaking Fake Broken English

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This week was: gearing up to memorize the new Scrabble dictionary; becoming Spurs fans; falling down a wormhole of judgmental maps. Also, so many ice buckets


 
What if My Roommates Smoke Pot on Shabbat?

Jewish Daily Forward

Co-Founder Rebecca goes all Dear Abby on an Orthodox woman in college who wants to know if she can still really be Jewish if she lives with non-Jews. 


 
I’m Obsessed With Online Telenovelas for Korean Tweens
VICE 

Who couldn’t watch 6 hours of Pride and Prejudice-like romantic dramas? No, seriously.


 
Tales of Migration Explore Modern-Day Odysseys and ‘Hyphenated Identities’
NPR

Coming to America! This article could also be called: A Mash-Up Journey Through Books. Great book list, btw.


 
How Children of Immigrants Will Sway Future Politics
Center for American Progress

These kids are basically the future of everything. In 2032,19.3 million citizen children born today to Latino & Asian immigrants will turn 18. And they will be voting.


 
Americans are Now Stuffing Whole Fried Chickens in Their Bloody Marys
Death and Taxes

This is disgusting…right? Maybe we have to try it just in case. 


 
Breaking Out the Broken English
NPR

Codeswitching, for a living: Jeopardy champ & voice actor Arthur Chu, a Chinese-American, speaks in Chinese accents for roles.


 
PBS’s ‘America By the Numbers’ to Focus on Race This Fall
Colorlines

Yes, we are the future of America. Thanks!


 
Sport in India: An Ancient Game Gets the ESPN Treatment
The Economist

International expansion for Kabbadi? You be the judge: apparently this game includes a game of telephone, some wrestling, and not breathing while you play it.


 
Hootchy-kootchy Roles or Nothing? The State of Hollywood Diversity
LA Times

Dear LA Times: Please never use the word “hootchy-kootchy” in a headline again. That being said, a USC study finds that when Latinos actually get onscreen, they are usually naked.


 
Robotic Exoskeleton Turns Korean Workers into Ironman
Popular Science

Oh, you know, just sci-fi movies happening for real. No big deal.

Aug 4, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Round Up: Religion by Way of Donkey Kong

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Forgetting and Remembering Your First Language
The Atlantic

We could not relate more to this! (See: GUILT.) You understand a language perfectly, but you can’t get the words out in conversation. And then you’re traveling and visiting family and embarrassed by your lack of abilities. That being said, having a first language that becomes your third language is still pretty bomb.


 
Why I’d Rather Be Called Black Than African-American
Slate

The struggle with being a Mash-Up American is that the American part is pretty darn important, and takes on a life of its own.


 
Watch: Intensely Awkward Congressional Hearing
MSNBC

Oh, this hurts our feelings: Ever hear the story of the U.S. Congressman who talks to two Indian-American State Department officials, and asks questions about “their” country, India, assuming that they are not American?  


 
Is Race Plastic? A Trip Into the Ethnic Plastic Surgery Minefield
NY Mag

#Longread: Making your eyes more “white”? Easy. Does that make you more white? Confusing. Plus: Getting butt implants!


 
Amid Smoking Decline, Look Who’s Still Lighting Up
NPR

Lesson: Smoking is bad for everyone. But who’s still smoking? Gays smoke more than straights. Native Americans and “Multiple Race” people smoke way more than Hispanics and Asians. Oh dear.


 
How Asian Families Learn to Welcome a LGBTQ Child’s Partner
Slate

A series of portraits that show how intimacy breaks down a lot of prejudice. Sometimes new things just take some getting used to.


 
Diverse Boards Pay More Dividends, Study Finds
Science Daily

Diverse corporate boards do way better than others. DUH.

Jul 29, 2014 / 5 notes

Mash-Up Religion: What Makes A Hindu A Hindu?

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At The Mash-Up Americans, we take it as an article of faith that being mixed opens a world of possibility. But both faith and possibility are tricky. Are we born into a faith? Are we what we were raised to believe? Or are we what we choose? If you are half, can you ever be whole? Our Black-Indian-Baptist-Hindu-American Mash-Up Sharda shares with us how one Southern Baptist peeled back the layers to find her inner Hindu. It might have a little something to do with Donkey Kong.


 

From Sharda:

When I was a kid living in Jamaica, Queens in the 1980s, I remember asking my mom what she thought about reincarnation. I didn’t know that word, “reincarnation,” but I was curious about the concept. “What if you kept coming back to life again and again until you learn how to get it right?” I asked my mother. I remember her looking a bit surprised. She said, “I think you just explained Buddhism.”

I was also describing a core belief of Hinduism, not that I knew it at the time.

Other than being a vegetarian, I knew very little about what it meant to be a Hindu. My father was out of the family picture, and had been since I was a baby. He was a Hindu and came to the United States from India as a graduate student. He met my mother and committed his first act of shameless rebellion by consuming a burger. Fathering me and marrying my mom, a black woman from Detroit, was his next bold affront to family convention and tradition.

However, he soon got cold feet and ran away, presumably also renouncing burgers and returning to Hinduism. He gave me my name, but not much else. “Sharda” represents a manifestation of the Hindu goddess Saraswati, associated with wisdom, art and beauty. I thought of Sharda/Saraswati as an Indian version of Athena or Diana because, you know, I was in the U.S. getting a Eurocentric education and ancient Rome and Greece were my go-to pagan points of reference.

I was far more attuned to the Southern Baptist traditions of my mother’s black family – with the booming baritone of charismatic ministers, theatrical shouts of joy and stunning Sunday fashion statements. I have no idea where my “coming back to life to get it right” idea came from. Maybe it was the Donkey Kong I played as a kid?

I was in junior high when I first experienced anti-Hindu racism. In Queens at the time, East Asians had the intrigue and danger of gangs surrounding them. But South Asians were a favorite ethnic punching bag. Common insults were “Hindu,” “Red Dot,” “Patel” (because a bunch of Indian classmates had the last name Patel), “Apu from the Simpsons,” “Chicken Curry,” etc. I have a chicken pox scar in the middle of my forehead, which was naturally hilarious for my anti-Hindu tormenters.

I was bussing from Jamaica to Rego Park, where the middle class community was predominantly Jewish. A group of boys from school stood outside of their synagogue (monstrously, right in front their families) taunting me as a chorus, yelling “Hey Hindu! Hey Hindu! Why don’t you come over here and learn about a real religion?”

As someone who was baptized in a Detroit church – abruptly immersed in a small pool under the pulpit while the choir sang “Wade in the Water” – it was, pardon my French, kind of a mind fuck.

Does being tormented as a “Hindu” make me Hindu? Does my name? My belief in reincarnation? Did my father give me an innate Hindu-ness?

In college, I began to study yoga. I’ve had the distinct awkwardness of taking many yoga classes full of white people, and feeling on the spot for some sort of Indian authenticity that I wasn’t sure I had. However, the more I studied the principles and history of Hinduism, the more I connected to the religion, which allows for a very personal concept of what it means to practice and be devout. I’ve discovered that whether or not I am Hindu or identify as one [Editor’s note: Is there a difference?], I seem to have significant Hindu tendencies.

Being mixed forces you to see the world from different angles, which is both fabulous and isolating. The mutability can be frustrating, but it offers gifts. One of them: The ability to be asked, “Baptist?” “Hindu?” “Indian?” “Black?” And to respond with “Yes.”

To you, Sharda, we say yes. 


 

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DO YOU LIKE DONKEY KONG? YOU’LL ALSO LIKE THESE:

*Skinny in America, Fat in Korea: When Standards Collide

*When You Love Your Parents But Not Their Food

*When Half Leaves You Hungry

Jul 28, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Round Up: Catholics are so Over Church Weddings

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How LGBT Students are Changing Christian Colleges
The Atlantic

A near majority of Evangelical Christians under 35 support gay marriage, while Christian colleges are asking the government to exempt them from having to hire gay employees. A change is gonna come…


 
Camel Milk is the New Soy Milk
Ozy

Superfood alert! Apparently Camel Milk has more phosphorus and Vitamin C than other milks. The description of the taste is not delicious, per se, but given what we heard in Morocco about Camel Milk being natural viagra…maybe worth the $19 price?


 
Hey, Jeremy, Need a Place to Stay in LA? Try Craigslist
Angry Asian Man

Jeremy Lin is coming to LA, so a completely random Chinese-American lady, and Lakers SuperFan, offered him a room in her house, in exchange for tickets. Seems like a fair trade.


 
Star Trek’s John Cho Breaks Barriers as Romantic Lead: ‘I would call this revolutionary’
The Star

Mash-Ups on the tube! Well, this is kind of a big deal. We have an Korean-American man playing a romantic lead on a television show PLUS his love interest is white. 


 
The Spiritual Significance of a Church Wedding
The Atlantic

What does it mean to be Catholic without a cathedral? Between 2000 and 2012 the number of Catholic weddings dropped by 40%. Maybe people just want to get married outside? 



I’m Arab, He’s Jewish, Our Selfie Went Viral
NY Magazine

It’s trying times, and small gestures of shared humanity help. Mash-Ups can create bridges. 

Jul 23, 2014 / 126 notes

Mash-Up Issues: When Standards Collide

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The great thrill of being a Mash-Up is living as a bridge between cultures. But it can also mean living with clashing expectations of how you behave, how you speak, how you look — of how you live. Our Korean-American Mash-Up Joanne shares with us what it’s like to look Asian enough to be beautiful in America, and not American enough to be beautiful in Korea, and how she’s setting her own standards through the noise. 

From Joanne:

Like many girls, I believe there is no woman more beautiful than my own mother. My favorite compliment is “OMG, you look exactly like your mom!” Unfortunately, my mom is the archetypal tiny Asian woman: maybe 87 pounds sopping wet. I am not. My mom can eat three cream puffs and two bowls of rice for dinner and still worry that she’s losing weight. I eat a wedge salad with a tablespoon of low-fat yogurt and my “skinny jeans” are benched for a month. 

For my 19th birthday, my family took me to an American restaurant — the Baker’s Square just down the block. Even at 19, eating non-Korean food was still an activity reserved for special occasions. I planned on inhaling a slice of strawberry cream pie. The waitress came by to ask the table, “Did anyone save room for some pie?” Before I could raise my hand, my father said, “Don’t you think you should pass? You’re getting a little too fat, don’t you think?”

Perhaps he thought that couching the words “too fat” between the modest-sounding “Don’t you think”s would soften the blow, but I will never forget how his words sank like boulders to the pit of my stomach. I passed on my own birthday pie.

The pressure to look alluring is the birthright of all women. However, being Korean-American raises unique challenges. My body, my face, my jaw, even — they’re all being measured against disparate standards of beauty. My lessons in Asian beauty were dramatically accelerated when my sister-in-law moved to the states from South Korea. I have since been educated in skin whitening, the many-faceted functions of Botox, and jaw-shaving surgery, all in an effort to look more weh-gook, or Caucasian. When I told my sweet little sister-in-law that I was trying to lose weight, she reassured me with the following, “But, Unni, you are American. You are very skinny in America. If you were going to Korea, yes, you would need to diet, but you are in America!”

Recently divorced, my entre into singledom has inflamed all my insecurities like a heinous outbreak of herpes. For the first time in my life, I have started seeing non-Asian men. It’s upended my understanding of what is attractive to who, and whether or not I should care. Last week, when I asked my sister-in-law if I was sexy enough for my American date, she explained that I expertly blended my American-ness with my authentically “Asian” features — unlike some of my peers, I didn’t try and make my eyes look bigger with fake lashes or smoky eye shadow. “If you were white, maybe you need to be worried,” she said. “But you are Asian, so you don’t need to worry.”

Because Asian women are inherently sexy to American men? Oof. Swallowing my misgivings about post-colonial Asian fetishism and the contradiction — and probably profound truth — in my sweet dong-seng’s advice, I merely shook my head and put on my flip-flops as I got ready to meet my date. Somewhere, in the mess of skin whitening products and cardio sessions and low-fat yogurt, tucked in the folds of self doubt and budding confidence, is that slice of strawberry cream pie. I’ll eat it someday.

The pie is on us, Joanne. As many slices as you want. 

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IF YOU LIKE THIS, READ THIS TOO:

*A Name is Just a Name is Just a Name, Until it is Everything

*The Mash-Up Americans Presents: Heidi Durrow

*The Mash-Up Americans Presents; Awkwafina

Jul 21, 2014 / 1 note

Mash-Up Round Up: DIY Korean BBQ AKA Not Mad at That

It’s been an awful week for the world. Here is a story that reminded us of the strength of the human spirit. Peace and love, family. Let’s dance.


 
How Cultures Around the World Think About Parenting
TED

Co-founder Amy wrote a piece for TED about how different cultures parent. In Tokyo, 7-year-olds and 4-year-olds ride the subway alone and they LIVE! 


 
An Orthodox Brooklyn Clothing Company Shared a Photo of a Woman in a Hijab and Their Customers Flipped Out
Village Voice

Because sometimes we actually have more in common than not. These women are awesome and that neon maxi skirt is divine. 


 
A Food Has a Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It?
National Geographic

Yes. Like how that football team in Washington had to change its name. We want the delicious. Let’s stop with the historical awfulness. 


 
How Ching Chong Became the Go-to Slur for Mocking East Asians
NPR

And speaking of historical awfulness (this is how we feel about it). It’s a fascinating history!


 
Filipino Laborers and the Politics of Partying
Ozy

Damn! These Filipino laborers in the ’30s were like, “We are going to buy some fly suits and party with the white ladies.” Needless to say, there were critics.


 
Do We Choose Our Friends Because They Share Our Genes?
NPR

Apparently we share genes with our friends. Except we have different immune systems so that our spouses can take care of us when we are sick. This evolution thing is pretty amazing.


 


Accidental Racist: Wanda Sykes Has White Twins, and One of Them Loves Watermelon
The Ellen Show

Pick another fruit! Wanda’s white daughter loves watermelon and Wanda feels like maybe the kid is taunting her with it. 



Entertainment News!


 
New Comedy for Mash-Ups This Fall: Black-Ish
USA Today
 

For the first time, Tracie Ellis Ross is getting to play a mixed-race lady. Note: She IS a mixed-race lady.


 
Attention: There is Going to be a Live Action “Jungle Book
US Magazine

Maybe don’t read the original Rudyard Kipling. It’s a little, howdoyousay, racist. We do love Baloo though.