angry reader of the week: may-lee chai

You know what time it is. It's time to meet another Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is May-lee Chai.

Who are you?
I'm May-lee Chai, a writer and educator. I've written six books, both nonfiction and fiction. My latest is a novel, Dragon Chica, about a Cambodian family who have survived the Khmer Rouge and are now trying to survive in a small town in Nebraska in the 1980s.

What are you?
Ha ha! Usually my brother gets this exact question because we're mixed race. He's often mistaken for Native American, Hispanic, or Korean. (Go figure.) I'm Chinese on my father's side, white on my mother's (strong Irish background on the maternal line, plus German, French, Welsh, English...). Last time I was in Shanghai with my father a couple years ago, all the store clerks came up to me and asked (in Mandarin), "What would he like to buy?" They assumed that I was my father's translator and that he was some kind of foreign, Asian but non-Chinese businessman. My father thought that was hilarious and so then promptly pretended he couldn't speak Chinese. And he was born in Shanghai and even understands Shanghai dialect! So interestingly enough, I "pass" for a Chinese person born on the Mainland even though I speak Mandarin with an incredibly strong American accent.

Where are you?
San Francisco.

Where are you from?
I was born in Southern California, but we moved a lot when I was a kid and then I moved a lot, too. I've lived in 14 states (maybe more, because I think I lost count) and four countries.

What do you do?
I work for an educational nonprofit as my day job, and I've also taught literature, creative writing, and even media and politics classes at a number of universities.

My other career is writing. I write for The Jakarta Post Weekender Magazine about social and political trends in the U.S. I used to be a reporter for The Associated Press, so I still like to conduct interviews and write features from time to time. But I also like to write books so that I can really explore a subject in depth.

You can also follow me on Twitter @mayleechai or read my blog. I write everywhere.

What are you all about?
I'm about speaking up.

When I was 12, we moved from the New York metropolitan area to a farm in rural South Dakota. Life became very violent for my brother and me very quickly. We were attacked for every reason we never imagined existed: because mixed-race people are the Devil's Spawn, because we are signs of the End Times, because a Chinaman shouldn't marry a white woman (yes, people used the term "Chinaman"), because the Japanese were taking over America in the 1980s and so we "foreigners" had to be driven out, etc. etc. Our dogs were shot and killed. Too much to go into here. This community was way too small and isolated, and the national media were in full fearmongering mode. I experienced firsthand the effect the media have on people's psyches and their actions.

So naturally that had a profound effect on me. I realized I needed to be part of the media or I'll always be at the mercy of the fearmongers.

After all, creating enemies is a sure way to create ratings.

That's why I follow Angry Asian Man and really appreciate what you do! It's important that everybody speak up when falsehoods, stereotypes, fear and other forms of hate are spread in the media—whether in the "news," movies, TV, books, punditry, etc.

What makes you angry?
Bullying, fearmongering, ethnic profiling, homophobia, religious bigotry. I really hate stereotypes in the media. Just drives me into a mouth-frothing, barking mess.

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