When people showed me Game Of Throne’s tv show the first time, scandalized at the opening nudity and following sex scenes, I laughed at their innocence.
If there is one thing you will learn about me, it is that I am quite well read in fantasy as long as it isn’t typical ‘high fantasy’ (though I’ve read quite a few of those as well). The books varied throughout my life, but they all had one thing in common: the sex scenes.
Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I got the normal sex education which mostly consisted of the idea of puberty and hormonal changes rather than details of the down and dirty. Through fantasy books, rather than titillating a young mind, the experience was normalized in a way that I was unable to appreciate at the time.
Each author had a different approach to the act, and, of course, each differed depending on the situation. Within this abundance of consensual sex, the majority was cut-and-dry with the norm being two people in love consummating something beyond my scope of experience.
Then, some time in high school, came one of my favorite books of all time.
Not gonna lie: As an Asian American, growing up I always, always gravitated towards the Asian characters in any show, no matter how poorly represented or stereotypical, or even how small their role actually was in any given show. This is a trend that has continued — and dare I say strengthened — with every passing year. (My girlfriend laments my fiery passion for Top Chef’s Melissa King who continues to have a mediocre showing on most challenges but who I will defend to the ends of the Earth because we need to continue the trend Kristen Kish started with queer Asian women dominating. I’m just saying.)
…In any case, here are my top ten favorite Asian American characters from my childhood, in Western media only. (Note: Yes, there are more women than men because I was and continue to be starved for their presence in my life. Also, majority are East Asian as those are the characters I most identified with as a Japanese American. Ironically, most of the people on this list are Chinese or Korean.)
10. Phoebe Heyerdahl in Hey Arnold (Half-Japanese, half-white)
I know, I know. With her squeaky voice, humongous glasses, and academic perfectionism, — to say nothing of her servitude to “best friend” and bully, Helga Pataki — Phoebe is a raging Asian stereotype. I know. But I adored her all the same.
My parents were generally not overly strict except in one aspect: Television. We did not have cable in our household until I was in eighth grade. Nickelodeon was a revelation and Phoebe was the first Asian character I encountered in a cartoon outside The Magic School Bus’s Wanda Li and the Yellow Power Ranger (more on her later, I assure you.) Phoebe may have been a stereotype but I related deeply with her maniacal need to be the best at everything — and the crushing defeat of never reaching your own lofty expectations. The episode where she cheats on a poetry contest has always stayed with me. If the Hey Arnold characters ever aged, I guarantee Phoebe’s arc would have paralleled my own high school mental breakdown.
That got dark pretty quickly and we’re only on number ten.
After Cheri’s wonderful review, I’m going to lower the expectations for myself right from the start. Rather than a thoughtful and well-formed synopsis with insight and careful commentary, I am going to gush about one of my favorite books: Ender’s Shadow.
No, I did not misstype Ender’s Game, which is Orson Scott Card’s Nebula and Hugo award-winning military sci-fi novel, I am referring to the lesser-known parallel story to that famous book of gifted children.
Ender’s Shadow is sold as a companion to Ender’s Game — emphasizing the fact that the golden boy from Game was not alone in his trials and tribulations. Shadow follows the story of Bean, one of the child generals who “became Ender’s right hand, his strategist, and his friend.”
Now comes my oft-contested claim: Ender’s Game is a dim candle to Ender’s Shadow’s brilliance.
I cannot fathom why anyone would choose Game over Shadow (feel free to relieve me of my ignorance in the comments). I feel like I could sing odes to this thought-provoking, multi-socio-dimensional, cross-cultural, cross-philosophical, cross-religious, cross-scientific book. So I will:
Hey, readers. Chebk and I hit a Friends of the Library book sale recently and made out like bandits.
To top off the day, we also spent time in Barnes and Noble, looking through the YA section for an overview of popular books and diversity representation in their selection. It was slim pickings, friends.
I picked up a copy of Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe there, having seen a few good things about it over on Tumblr. Two boys, Ari and Dante, befriend each other over the summer. They are polar opposites and their perspectives on life and each other help them discover truths about, well, the universe, I guess.
Things I Expected Going Into the Book
-Angsty male bonding
-At least one POC main character
-Possibly queer love story
-Probably unrequited love, I know how these things work
-Awful, unnecessary love triangle
-I don’t know; swimming because that word was on the back of the book
“We read to know we’re not alone.”
Not too long ago, The #WeNeedDiverseBooks (http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/campaign ) launched its grassroots campaign to address the need for diverse experiences in children’s books, “including LGBTQAI, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic/cultural/religious minorities.” Their goal is to empower a wide range of readers that will “embrace diversity, acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.”
This impact on children especially will hopefully create future generations that view diversity as a necessary norm, but the current representation of different genders, races, and other minority populations leaves somewhat to be desired for the rest of us, particularly in Young Adult literature and popular fiction.
OK Potato is Chebk and Cheri, Japanese-Okinawan writers who have been competing with and encouraging one another since kindergarten. We have been voracious readers all our lives, with very different interactions with diversity in media and hopes for the future of media representation. OK Potato is the space we have created for media reviews (books, films, TV), general discussion on diversity in media, and, really, whatever else we feel is relevant.