Hapa Happy Hour (blogs)
A lively discussion and celebration of the mixed heritage experience.
Rena's grad school is teaching Lisa's essay! Lisa's show is going abroad (?) and to southwestern US!

Dear readers/listeners,

I hope you're having a great 2015! Just wanted to share the exciting news that my essay, "Transforming Three Sisters: A Hapa Family in Chekhov's Modern Classic" is going to be taught in a graduate seminar on Rena's campus, UC Santa Barbara!

Also, my solo show, Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey, has been invited to two major international conferences: the SIETAR-Europa congress in Valencia, Spain (in May), and the Women Playwrights International conference in Cape Town, South Africa (in June-July)!  I've launched my very last campaign for this show on IndieGoGo, to try to fund travel/lodging/etc. expenses, in the hopes that the conferences will lead to a self-sustaining world tour: 

http://igg.me/at/aliencitizen

The show is also going to San Diego State University on April 16 and University of Arizona on April 22!

Thank you for following our podcast/blog--we do intend to publish another episode soon!

Warmly,

Lisa

Category:blogs -- posted at: 11:04pm UTC

Alien Citizen at Critical Mixed Race Studies conference

Dear readers & listeners,

Lisa will be performing an excerpt of her solo show, Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey, this Saturday, November 15 at 5pm at the Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University in Chicago.

Lisa will also be in the Mixed Roots Stories Roundtable "Creating and Performing a Performance Piece" on Thursday at 2:15pm at CMRS. For more info: 

http://criticalmixedracestudies.org/wordpress/cmrs-2014/

Thanks as always for tuning in to our podcast!

Category:blogs -- posted at: 11:59pm UTC

solo show and essay

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope 2014 will be your best year yet.

Quick update on my creative projects of late: I've been invited to perform my solo show, ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey, at Princeton University and M.I.T. next month. It has also been chosen as the closing keynote address at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference in Virginia in March. These are all wonderful honors and I am thrilled to be taking the show on the road!  It had its world premiere in Hollywood in May 2013--I'm happy to say that the 5-week run was a success. It then opened the 8th Annual Women at Work Festival Off Off Broadway in September. So I'm very happy and grateful that it continues to have a life.

I also wanted to belatedly announce the publication of my essay, "Transforming Three Sisters: A Hapa Family in Chekhov's Modern Classic," in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies.  You can download it here: 

http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/aaldp/vol3/iss1/13/

Thank you as always for your continued support of Hapa Happy Hour and its co-hosts!

Cheers,

Lisa

Category:blogs -- posted at: 6:47am UTC

Correction re: Jonathan Pryce & clarification re: Ang Lee

Dear listeners and readers,

I've been meaning to post this correction for months! My apologies for the delay--it's been a very busy time. Back in August on episode 27, "Re:Connecting," I mistakenly stated that Jonathan Pryce had played a Eurasian role in the play M. BUTTERFLY.  I meant to say that he had played it in the musical MISS SAIGON.  I am a huge fan of David Henry Hwang's beautiful play M. BUTTERFLY (saw it twice on Broadway starring BD Wong) and am deeply embarrassed by my error!  I spoke before thinking.

I also want to clarify something I said about film director Ang Lee.  At one point it sounded like I was saying that he had only worked in Taiwan before directing SENSE AND SENSIBILITY in the UK.  In fact, I knew he had worked in New York when he made THE WEDDING BANQUET (one of my favorite films!) and PUSHING HANDS. But I said "he had just been working in Taiwan."  What I meant was that he had most recently worked there (vs. only worked there).

Thank you for your patience with my impulsive speeches, and for listening to our podcast and reading the blog, and for your continued support over the years!

Warmly,

Lisa

Category:blogs -- posted at: 4:25am UTC

cohost published in Writing Out of Limbo

Dear listeners and readers,

I'm excited to announce that an essay I wrote, "Checked Baggage: Writing Unpacked," has been published in a terrific anthology!  The essay is about the process of writing my one-woman-show-in-progress, which in turn is about growing up in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and Connecticut as a child and adolescent.  The book should be available at the largest branch of your public library as well as in academic libraries all over the USA, the UK, and Canada.

This is what the book's introduction says about my essay: 

"Elizabeth Liang, who grew up in six countries, draws commonalities between that multiple-identity existence and her chosen profession as an actress, and tells us of her one-woman play-in-progress that aims to give dramatic shape to her childhood peregrinations and confusions. Her childhood moves between Panama and Guatemala, her first exposure to Moroccan Arabic, the shock of winter cold in Connecticut, the woes of a street cyclist in Cairo or Philadelphia—these and other roaming experiences form the fabric of a vivid stage monologue."

– Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel, Editors

If you know any global nomads, TCKs, or anyone studying or teaching anything "global" or "intercultural," the book might interest them.  A TCK is anyone who spent a significant part of their developmental years outside their passport country/ies or in a culture(s) other than that of their parents.  (Children of immigrants can be TCKs, and the multi-ethnic experience has a lot in common with the TCK experience.)  Below is the info on the book, and thank you so much for your support for "Hapa Happy Hour" over the years!  

Cheers,

Lisa

 

Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids

Crossing borders and boundaries, countries and cultures, they are the children of the military, diplomatic corps, international business, education and missions communities. They are called Third Culture Kids or Global Nomads, and the many benefits of their lifestyle – expanded worldview, multiplicity of languages, tolerance for difference – are often mitigated by recurring losses – of relationships, of stability, of permanent roots. They are part of an accelerating demographic that is only recently coming into visibility.
 
In this groundbreaking collection, writers from around the world address issues of language acquisition and identity formation, childhood mobility and adaptation, memory and grief, and the artist’s struggle to articulate the experience of growing up global. And, woven like a thread through the entire collection, runs the individual’s search for belonging and a place called “home.”
 
This book provides a major leap in understanding what it’s like to grow up among worlds. It is invaluable reading for the new global age.
 
 
Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids
Editor: Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel with Faith Eidse and Elaine Neil Orr
Date Of Publication: Dec 2011
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-3360-8
Isbn: 1-4438-3360-6

For more information and/or to buy, go to http://www.cambridgescholars.com/writing-out-of-limbo-19

For the author discount code, email Lisa at hapahappyhour@gmail.com.

 

Category:blogs -- posted at: 11:48pm UTC

Correction re: Pushkin

Hello dear listeners and readers,

I must apologize for having made an incorrect statement in Episode 23, "Theatre Arts Hapa."  I said that Alexander Pushkin's mother was Nigerian.  I was wrong.  In fact, she was Russian, and her grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal (aka Abraham Hannibal), was black African--possibly from what is now Cameroon, possibly from Ethiopia, it's not certain where.  But he was a page and then a general and friend to Peter the Great.  

Pushkin was a person of mixed heritage who was proud of his black African ancestry.  To listen to a fantastic podcast by two women with black and white heritage,

go to http://www.mixedchickschat.com.

Thank you all for listening to our podcast and reading the blog! 

Lisa

Category:blogs -- posted at: 3:11am UTC

WE MADE IT!!! Welcome to the 44th President of the United States of America, President Barack Hussein Obama. Welcome to the first president from the Aloha State, the great state of Hawai'i. (Happy Hiwa.) My heart is filled with gladness. Thank you, America. We're ready. We're ready for this new chapter in the history of our presidency. This is truly a happy hour. With joy, Rena

Category:blogs -- posted at: 10:21am UTC

Political Hapa

Hello blog readers and Hapa Happy Hour supporters! First a note: we normally publish new episodes twice each month… but this October 2008 we didn’t quite have our technical abilities at the ready… and, Lisa is celebrating her honeymoon, congratulations Lisa! So we have two blogs to offer, one from Rena and one from myself. We do have some really incredible podcasat episodes coming up so I hope you stay tuned.

Secondly a confession: I have never blogged before. I wasn’t planning to blog either until Lisa and Rena encouraged me… because I really wanted to talk politics before our big national election. So please read on if you’re interested, and as always, we are interested in your feedback: hapahappyhour@gmail.com. Thanks, Hiwa.

Barack Obama! Wow he has totally lit up our nation and our world; whether you decide to vote for him or not, I think that is undeniable. Part of his fascination is his ethnicity. I like this definition of ethnicity (from American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition) “Identity with or membership in a particular racial, national, or cultural group and observance of that group’s customs, beliefs, and language.” And when I read that definition the conclusion of ethnicity I reach for Mr. Obama is… American. He is truly an American. If you look at his customs, beliefs and language they are all American.

Fellow politicians McCain and Palin have been implying that Obama is un-American. What standard are they using? If it’s economics, and they are implying that Obama is a Socialist, which is not true, that would still be American. As a Republic we Americans can vote into office capitalists, socialists, any –ists. So what does it really mean to be an American?

It sounds like McCain and Palin think that being American is being like them. Which is not only narcissistic but also dangerous and ignorant. The white elephant in the room is that in the eyes of most people Obama is seen as a black man. (Although I hear people refer to his white grandmother and mother I don’t hear him being called mixed race.)  While McCain and Palin claim not to be “playing the race card” it seems obvious that part of the fear they encourage in their supporters and the undecided voters is the fear of Obama as a foreign, brown-skinned man.

Our war in Iraq (aside from the fact that we went in to Afghanistan to seek terrorists and conveniently-for-them Bush and Cheney added Iraq) over the last five years has added to the fear of foreignness, Islam, and brown skin and it is irresponsible and unconscionable that McCain and Palin should feed that fear. To say he is in league with terrorists is cultivating and focusing the energy of hate, when it would be of far greater public service to lead with integrity.

The office of President should be synonymous with the term public servant - alas it has been many a year since it has. As a leader and a senior citizen I would hope McCain would consider more thoughtfully his political strategy.

The economic recession, when it is not easy for some people to earn their living, should remind us all to treat each other a little bit better, not worse. At a time when people are being laid-off work, and not sure if they will be able to provide for their families, when tempers may flair, McCain should know better than to point an insidious finger at Obama. Aren’t they both fighting to lead and protect America? I trust, hopefully, that people know better.

And I’m so proud, not only that Hawai’i can claim Obama (and that I hope its patchwork quilt of cultures has influenced him).  I'm also proud that Americans have embraced so whole-heartedly a mixed race, intelligent presidential nominee. On a personal note I am validated with the belief that “you can do anything” when I see him campaigning. And he has been so inspiring moving beyond race so elegantly, knowing that it is the heart and minds of Americans that matter, that he is appealing to. Please go out and vote and we’ll “talk” with you again in November.

Category:blogs -- posted at: 8:39am UTC

Hello All!

A big thank you to Heidi W. Durrow, whose blogpost, "Obama's Biracial Background Makes Him Mysterious (Read Risky) to Southern White Voters," prompted this entry. Heidi, the co-host of the mixedchickschat podcast (along with the lovely Fanshen Cox), blogs regularly at www.lightskinnededgirl.typepad.com. Check it out!

In the New York Times article,"For Some, Uncertainty Starts at Racial Identity," (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/15/us/politics/15biracial.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin) James Halsey of Mobile, Alabama said of Barack Obama, “He’s going to tear up the rose bushes and plant a watermelon patch...I just don’t think we’ll ever have a black president.” Still another interviewee, a pipe-fitter who works north of Mobile, said, "“He’s neither-nor...He’s other. It’s in the Bible. Come as one. Don’t create other breeds.”

Other breeds.

Then, two of my students came to me this week and wanted to share with me a video they had found on youtube. The video, allegedly produced by a man registered as "independent" (He made a point of telling viewers this), claimed that Barack Obama was not a natural-born citizen, and therefore, should not be allowed to run for president. So convinced were my students that everything else on the yard fell away from me as they talked. I stood on the blacktop, utterly crushed, staring at these two intelligent, impressionable boys, and my mind was racing. Was this the culture they had inherited? How was I going to pry them from these political briars? How was I going to undo this abuse? In my mind, I was thinking, "That's absurd, you know. Barack Obama was born in Hawai'i. It's a state, you guys. A STATE," but I couldn't say that. I couldn't deliver the information with the sarcastic tone with which it was playing in my head.

He is that much of a threat to our national psyche? We could only be at the "bottom" to find ourselves voting for a Hapa? A Hapa, no less, and still our black and white society only sees the non-white.

I know I am not speaking for Senator Obama, nor do I mean to. I will probably spend three paragraphs describing what Barack would eloquently articulate in much, much (much) less. (One sentence.) But for my part, as someone of mixed heritage, here's what I want to say:

Barack Obama is white.

When you are a Hapa, you get to be the ethnicity of both parents. When you're a Hapa, you are.

I don't say that as if I'm trying to lay claim to some ancient parentage, some forgotten inheritance that would afford me something if I could only prove it were true.

People don't understand that, and because they don't, they dismiss me. It's not important. What's important is only what they can see. Folks immediately retort, "But he's African-American, too," as if that takes care of the conversation. If I persist, they look at me like I'm speaking another language or worse, attempting to practice ancestral voo-doo. They look at me as if to say, "Your magic won't work here."

Only folks who are multi-racial can understand what I mean.

It shouldn't matter, and perhaps it doesn't, but alas, here's the rub. If race doesn't matter, why is Barack's heritage so hard for us to wrap our minds around? Why is it such a paradigm shift? When my liberal friends say, "But he's African-American, too," and perhaps they mean, "and people won't forget that," they're still bearing witness to the fact that race does indeed matter.

I'm tired of people not acknowledging Barack's mixed heritage. It's true that he identifies with being African-American. I understand that. It's the way I relish being Filipino, the way I search for a box on the census to encompass all that I am. When I finally settle on Asian-Pacific Islander because all other choices fall short, believe me, I have not forgotten that I am Swedish and German.

We have no problem saying that Barack is black. Absolutely no problem with that. We're very comfortable with that box.

But, turn it around, and it's a huge mind shift. It's outside the box, and we don't know what to do with it.

Yet, Barack is just as much white, just as much, as he is black. And if we're comfortable letting him be black, we should be just as comfortable letting him be white.

When we do that, then race won't matter.

Barack Obama is a man of mixed race. His diverse background and global perspective in an ever-changing society, in the midst of a technological revolution, is exactly what we need in the White House. This world is smaller and more delicate than ever, and he understands that.

Just a few more days to the election! See you on the other side.

-Rena
Category:blogs -- posted at: 12:24am UTC

After weeks of traveling and visiting family, I am finally home in Los Angeles!  Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Filipino-American National Historical Society's (FANHS, for short) biennial conference in Anchorage.  Organized in 1982, FANHS is an organization that "collects, preserves, and disseminates" the history and culture of Filipino-Americans in the United States.  The conference is a place for experts from various fields to share their knowledge and experiences with the FANHS community.  Topics presented over three days covered a wide variety of subject areas: from the Filipino pioneers of the Lousiana bayous to the Filipina wives of Hawaii's plantations and the Alaskeros of the Alaskan canneries.  There were films, dances, panels on pinoy pedagogy, books galore, and no Filipino anything would be complete without FOOD.  Over three fabulous days, the conference enlightened, educated, and energized me. 

Dare I say it?

I had forgotten I was Filipino.

Of course, I knew it.  I love it.  But what does it mean to be Filipino-American?  It was emotional reconnecting with my "Asian" heritage, learning things new, and seeing research historians come together and create a community of Mabuhay in the frozen north.  Here are some my highlights:

In a writing workshop led by author Patricia Justiniani McReynolds, I was reacquainted with the word, "Mestizo," the Filipino equivalent of Hapa, but specifically for those half-Caucasian and half-Filipino.  Patricia's memoir entitled Almost Americans, A Quest For Dignity chronicles her experiences as a Mestiza, growing up in L.A. in the 1930s-40s!  Needless to say, I was in awe of her, mesmerized.  Her parents, a Norwegian mother and Filipino father, had been married in 1922. 

In the workshop she gave us 10 minutes to write about a turning point in our lives.  Since it was my personal theme of the day, I wrote about attending a high school dance sponsored by the Filipino Community (of Anchorage) and being stunned that none of the other kids would dance with me.  It was the moment that solidified my "otherness" as someone multiracial.  Patricia asked for volunteers to read their pieces, and after I spoke, an older gentleman passed me a note that said, "I can very much relate to your experience."  I was surprised and gratified at the same time.  Also an author, he was Ray Guimary, a retired gentleman who was Norwegian and Visayan.  He said when he would go to FANHS meetings, people would look at him like, "It's cool that you're here, but...why are you here?"  I introduced him to my mother, and as we were walking to the car later, she kept saying, "He looks white.  He looks white," as if she, too, could not believe it.  I found myself getting completely defensive for him.  "He's not white,” I told her.  “You see, that's it.  That's what I'm talking about."


There were three other sessions besides ours that discussed issues surrounding interracial marriage and families.  One was a round table of Native Alaskan-Filipino "Hapas" entitled, "Double Identities, Double Conflicts, and Double Fulfillments."  It was incredible.  Max Dolchok, an Athabascan (Alaskan Indian)-Filipino, talked about how he wasn't Native enough, he wasn't Filipino enough, he wasn't Japanese...  He said, "Nobody knew what to do with me."  He grew up in an orphanage, and because he could not fit into any group, he was treated mercilessly by the other children.  Ironically, his wife, Lisa, was Yupik-Filipino.  Most surprising, however, was George Quinto, an old family friend, who, as it turned out, was Filipino and Tlingit.  All these years, I had no idea.

As an actor and a director, I just have to share a session entitled, "Transforming Our Communities through Art: Theatre and Photography on the Edge."  Filipino artists on the edge?  You know I was there.  Noted playwright, musician, and poet, Timoteo Cordova, and documentary photographer, Abraham Menor, were not to be believed.  First of all, what these two guys could do with a kubing (Filipino jaw harp) would knock your socks off.  No lie.  Revolutionaries in their own right, they both expressed a desire for (Filipino) artists to produce work that is compelling and evocative.  "...Understand there are no limits," Timoteo said.  "Tradition has its place," but we "show proper respect to these art forms by being innovative."  He spoke of fusing different traditions and sounds and through self-expression, creating something new.  Say no more.  He was speaking my language.  My brain was on fire.   

On our panel was Dr. James Sobredo, a professor from California State University, Sacramento, who presented the work of Dr. Penelope Flores of San Francisco State University.  In Dr. Flores' new book, The Philippine Jeepney: A Filipino Family Metaphor, she interviewed 100 Filipino students and compared the answers of Philippine-born students to U.S.-born students.  One part of the study I found interesting was in asking these students how they identifed themselves: 49.3% referred to themselves as Filipino-American, 31.9% as Filipino, 7.2% as American or Biracial (I'm curious as to why these were lumped together.), 2.9% as Pacific Islander, and 1.4% as Asian.  It was the last one that struck me.  It's true I don't subscribe to being "Asian" in the traditional sense.  We're islanders.  We are not Confucius-based like our neighbors to the north.  (The Philippines actually "belongs" to Indonesia as it was part of the Indonesian trade network before the Spanish came.)

The study above prompted me to ask my cousins at home how they identify themselves.  Three of my Hapa cousins in Alaska said they were
Filipino and one said he was Asian/Pacific Islander.  None of them claimed to be mixed.  When I questioned Ivan about this, he said what people are really asking about is this, and then he pointed to his face.  "What you are," he said.  My cousin, Alex, thought that "being two things has made things more clear" (for him).  "When you're only one thing, things are not always as clear for you," he mused.  I'd be curious to ask my Aussie Hapa cousins how folks down under see them and then compare their answers to the Americans.

Also on the panel was Evelyn Abello who presented her research on different ways Filipinos cope with stress other than therapy.  One of the cultural characteristics she identified surprised me because I recognized it as a trait I possess.  While I'm not opposed to a good rant in a therapist's office, I will rely on my own inner strength (if you're curious, "lakas ng loob") to get through a rough patch.  I always thought that I just came hard-wired this way.  I never considered that it was cultural, that it was Filipino.

Finally, my mother, Maria, and I spoke about the need to provide context for children being raised in two cultures, Hapa or not.  We worked together, taking turns between theory (mom) and practical application (me).  I talked about my parents' ethnic backgrounds, their hometowns, and agreed with Mr. Dolchok that being Hapa is sometimes problematic for others. I told how my mother raised my brother and me to be proud of our heritage, but also to her family's dismay, to be "mouthy" Americans.  In Filipino culture, children do NOT talk back.  We did.  We were allowed because my mom wanted to know what was going on with us.  Information revealed itself in the discord.

Maria quoted Edward T. Hall, saying that "every individual is made up of many cultures and subcultures within himself.  The goal of education is to integrate all of these into one whole identity."  It's a dynamic process, one that never stops.  The Filipino culture, like all "Asian" cultures, needs context.  People discipline their children differently all over the world, and it's been said that the Filipino child is the "best" child that there is.  (Submissive, obedient, respectful.  Basically, seen and not heard, y'all.)  But if your children are growing up here in the U.S., they need to be guaranteed survival here.  Parents must define their values, communicate them to their children, and put them into context for them.  Then children can make sense of the conflicts they will encounter while trying to honor both belief systems.  Parents must also be willing to dialogue with their kids and be receptive to what they have to say. 

It's been said that culture is the sum total of all the answers to questions about daily life.  Language is the mechanism we use to pass on these ways of living.  Culture, then, is like the pair of glasses through which you see the world.  That means that I, and all of my Hapa brethen, have acquired coping skills, answers to everyday problems, from two different voices, born in two different places; these ideas embedded in my upbringing.  It's no wonder then, as cousin Alex pointed out, that we hapas have a unique perspective.  We seek to make sense of two (or more) different value systems and to live by these multiple sets of rules.  It's a dynamic process, one that never stops. 

I am this fusion.

I have made two cultures, two sets of answers, co-exist in one identity.

 It was an incredible, eye-opening, invigorating conference.  I was thrilled and honored to be a part of it.

 For any of you Mestizos out there, the next one is in Seattle, 2010.

Let's go

-Rena

Category:blogs -- posted at: 11:58pm UTC