There is much discussion going on at the moment about cultural appropriation in literature, springing off from a Wiscon panel (edit to replace with single roundup by rilina). I feel like I ought to have something to say, because (1) my biological ancestors, probably to a long way back, were from Korea or adjacent regions; (2) I like discussing literature, and (3) I'd like to think of myself as thoughtful and reasonable about culture and race. And yet, I've been watching the debates without commenting.

This is one of the more self-centered posts I have ever written: I rather doubt anyone noticed that I haven't been commenting before I said something about it, let alone has wondered about it. But I can't seem to shake wondering why I'm not, and so I'm trying to figure that out. Honestly my stomach rather knots up at the idea of entering this discussion, but my backbrain seems to want to. So, with trepidation, I jump in behind the cut.

navel-gazing. and overuse of italics. )

On Saturday, I got up early-ish, had routine yearly blood tests and breakfast (too much breakfast, because I was nearly falling over with hunger by then), and then went to work. Moved a bunch of paper around, came home cranky, sat in the sun and read Thud! and felt better. (Yes, this is a pattern.) We had dinner in a new-to-us Indian place, called Karavalli (9-B Johnson Road, Latham NY 12110), which a colleague of Chad's had recommended. It's in a strip mall behind an outlet mall, so I have no idea how anyone found it, but it was terrific. I had chicken in an almond-cashew cream sauce, wonderfully subtle and fragant, and Chad had huge shrimp with cilantro and spices. At 5:30, when we arrived, there was only one other party there; by the time we left, there wasn't a free table in the place. We'll be going back there, probably with reservations.

I also spent a bit of time on Saturday musing on [livejournal.com profile] pegkerr's post about being a woman (will be friends-locked shortly). I was interested to realize that I have very little identity as either a woman or female: when I free-associate "being a woman," I come up with "dealing with a dumb-ass reproductive system"; when I do the same for "being female," I get "unavailability of useful clothing sizes" and "dealing with the occasional bit of sexism." That's it. Sexuality, body image, physical activity—those are separate things inside my head. Actually, the most obvious things about me to a stranger, my gender and my ancestry, are possibly the least important bits of my identity.

On Sunday, I did work I'd brought home; I apparently fell asleep mid-afternoon over my reading, pen in hand and binder in lap. I needed the sleep, but I think I slept in a way that put pressure on my jaw because I woke up with a nasty headache. And then I watched the Patriots play the Steelers—they ended up winning, but I wouldn't have put money on it during any time I was watching. Another ugly game, and Matt Light and Rodney Harrison both went out with injuries (Harrison is apparently gone for the season). I did wish I could find the camera earlier in the day, though, as Chad set up a toy roller coaster on the floor (to see if it would work as a class demo) and the dog laid nearby supervising. Terribly cute.

Today at 5:10 p.m. I saw a MOUSE in my OFFICE and said, "that's it, I'm outta here"—grabbed my bag and my coat and fled. I'd heard that we'd had problems with mice but had never seen one; I've always been careful about food all the same, but I shall be hyper-vigilant now, because I like not sharing an office, and certainly don't want to start sharing with vermin.

In other news, my browser of choice, Opera, is now ad-free for everyone, so I'll link to an older post about why I like Opera. And I've relaunched Outside of a Dog in Movable Type, finally, and I think it's spiffy. No new content at the moment, but I'll be working on getting rid of the backlog (I've been logging stuff as I read it recently, but there are things from a while ago that aren't up yet). The RSS feed (and therefore [livejournal.com profile] insidedog), inbound links, etc., all should still work.

This afternoon, when I was walking towards the little convenience store downstairs, I passed a man who said something to me. I didn't quite catch it, but it seemed non-threatening, so I mumbled "Hi" and went into the store. As I was contemplating what I wanted for a snack, the man came back in. He said that he'd said "Hi" to me in Chinese (he didn't specify a dialect), but realized that my face wasn't Chinese, it was Korean, and he wanted to apologize for the mistake.

I automatically kicked into Small Talk Conversation #18 ("you know, it's funny, about half the time people think I'm Japanese, and the other half Korean; yes, I was born in Korea but came to the U.S. as an infant when I was adopted; no, I don't speak the language."), and then he went away and I bought my snack and went back to my office.

Being greeted in an East Asian language happens to me, oh, every year or so. It always makes me rather uncomfortable, but for some reason it wasn't until today that I really pinned down why:

It's a manifestation of one of the two major stereotypes attached to people of Asian descent in the U.S., namely "foreigner." (The other is "the model minority.") I wasn't wearing anything more exotic than a business-casual short-sleeved shirt and skirt, I hadn't spoken, I wasn't with a tourist group . . . in short, there was absolutely no reason to think that I was something other than your average native-born U.S. citizen who only speaks English and maybe high-school Spanish. If I'd been a redhead, he wouldn't have greeted me in Gaelic, or if I'd been black, he wouldn't have said hello in Amharic or Swahili or whatever. But because I was Asian in appearance, he assumed he knew something about my cultural and linguistic status.

I'm not precisely offended. He was obviously trying to be friendly, and probably thought he was being culturally sensitive as well. (I was considerably more vexed when an opponent in a case, a pro se prisoner, called me by my first name in legal documents.) But Small Talk Conversation #19 is "I'm lucky, being Asian on the East Coast, at least, is much easier than being black, I've hardly ever had problems." And this is true. (A couple comments in high school, but they wouldn't have liked me anyway; two behind-my-back utterances as I was walking down New York City streets that I found disturbing, but that didn't go beyond that.) But not having problems isn't the same as not having felt the effects of racial discrimination, and now I've found a way that I have.

May 2017

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