On being Asian American in Hollywood

INTERIOR CHINATOWN By Charles Yu (New York: Pantheon Books, 2020, 288 pp., $16, paperback) During Act I of Charles Yu’s comical and award-winning novel, “Interior Chinatown,” I had a flashback to the mid-1980s when my late father, Nisei writer/actor Hiroshi Kashiwagi, landed a role as a Chinese coolie in a murder mystery play. As Yu […]

The ‘Bamboo Ceiling’: Hollywood Shuns Asians, while new media embraces them

In a recent New Yorker cartoon, a dog is shown lounging by a pool and saying to a pup: “YouTube’s one thing, but cats will never make it on the big screen.” A funny commentary, surely, but in America that statement could just as easily be applied to ethnic minorities, especially Asian Americans. Cats and […]

Five things you should know about Asian Americans

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. In honor of the occasion, here are five things that I think you should know about Asian Americans.* 1. We Don’t All Look Alike. In fact, most of us aren’t alike at all. When many non-Asians conjure a picture of “Asian American” in their minds, they see an East […]


When I set about writing my retrospective of Asian Pacific Islanders in the media in 2012, I thought of it like explaining a diagnosis to a patient. “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” If it were me, I’d almost always want the bad first, but I quickly realized that getting […]

A place of their own

OTAKU SPACES By Patrick W. Galbraith, photographs by Androniki Christodoulou (Seattle: Chin Music Press, 2012, 240 pp., $20, paperback) Patrick Galbraith is no newcomer to the otaku scene in Japan. A journalist by training and the author of “The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider’s Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan” and one of the main […]

RABBIT RAMBLINGS: How to be Asian American

I have been seeing a young black writer, Baratunde Thurston, on TV who is promoting a book that he has written called, “How To Be Black.” I have not read it yet, but I plan to, since the concept is, first, sort of funny (ha ha!) in that there’s some kind of “way” of being […]

A rant from a Japanese American: Pete Hoekstra, this is about you

Dear Mr. Pete Hoekstra, You appealed to the general public on Super Bowl Sunday to vote for you, rather than that spendy Democrat incumbent of yours. That ad, which you say is not racist and not at all demeaning to Asians — and is actually just rhetoric against the taxing excess shown by Debbie Stabenow […]

The princess phenomenon

CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture By Peggy Orenstein (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011, 256 pp., $25.99, hardcover) While true gender equity has yet to be achieved in this country — women are still underrepresented at top levels of government and industry — we’re at least at […]

ENTERTAINMENT RE-ORIENTED: How far have we come? ‘Hawaii Five-O’ 40 years later

Any TV producer who wants to court Asian Pacific American viewership benefits from having a very low bar to hurdle. If an Asian character pops up in a sitcom and the proceeding 26 minutes aren’t full of lazy racism, it’s generally considered a small triumph. If you have a show with several Asian Pacific Islander […]

ENTERTAINMENT RE-ORIENTED: TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK: People of Color Dancing at the Box Office This Winter

This holiday season’s top box office earners include a surprisingly large number of films about people of color. The controversial “Precious,” a gritty story about an obese, pregnant black teen, cracked the top 10 and “The Blind Side,” an “inspirational” story about a rich white lady who takes in a troubled, black teen, and turns […]