Angry Reader of the Week: Jean Ho

"Good eyebrows get you a lot more social capital than you'd think."

Hey youuuu guys! It is my pleasure to introduce the latest 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 Jean Ho.

Who are you?

I'm Jean, I'm a writer in LA. I write fiction (short stories, mostly; a novel, one day), creative nonfiction essays, journalism features and interviews, humor pieces. I've written some poems but they were no bueno. Because it's LA everyone asks if I write screenplays. No, I do not. I once told a guy I was dating (a screenwriter) that "I prefer sentences" and he got waaaay offended. "There's sentences in screenplays!" he said. That's it, that's the end of the story.

If you listen to Serial, here's an essay I wrote about Hae Min Lee that was published this week at Flavorwire.

What are you?

My mother's daughter.

Where are you?

Right now? In my room, sitting at my desk, writing this on my computer.

Where are you from?

I was born in Taiwan and grew up in southern California, in a little suburb outside of LA called Cerritos. I went to Whitney High School, which is this magnet school for high-achieving students. I had about four friends, who were all super mean, like the Heathers but Korean, so even more scary, if you know Korean girls. Well, one of them was Taiwanese, and she was the most crazy. When the California Blue Ribbon School committee came to inspect our high school, the administration asked her to stay home that day. So people probably thought I was mean, too, because I hung out with these girls. Actually I was (and still am) sort of a shy nerd who loved to read books. But, ok, so I probably bullied a few freshmen into giving me the money they were collecting for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

What do you do?

Besides writing, I'm a Board Member at Kaya Press, an independent publisher of experimental literature from the Asian/Pacific Islander diaspora. I first learned about Kaya years ago because a friend recommended R. Zamora Linmark's Rolling the R's, which was one of Kaya's first novels. That book completely blew my mind. Later on, I heard that the spoken-word poet Ishle Park had published her book The Temperature of This Water with Kaya. I'd been a big fan of hers since college and I loved reading her poetry on the page. Kaya Press was established in New York in 1994, and they moved to LA three and a half years ago (the press is now affiliated with USC's American Studies & Ethnicity Department). I met the publisher, Sunyoung Lee, in 2012, and was honored (and also incredulous, like "Are you sure about this?") when she asked me to join the board. If you're shopping for loved ones in December, Kaya Press books make great holiday gifts! :)

Toni Morrison said that if there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you have to write it. But writers also need editors (especially writers of color, I believe, need editors with a very, very high degree of literary discernment and critical ability who also understand how race/ethnicity intersects with a particular artistic vision), and publishers to deliver the writing to a reading audience. This is why I think an organization like Kaya Press is so important – similarly, the Angry Asian Man blog, Kundiman, Tayo Magazine, The Aerogram -– the world needs more writing that expands the vision of what it means to be a member of the Asian/Pacific Islander diaspora.

What are you all about?

This is a hard question! Trying to be compassionate, and loving human being. It's hard because I'm very judgmental and generally skeptical. I like to ask a lot of questions. People get annoyed by me, but they forgive me because I'm cute. Good eyebrows get you a lot more social capital than you'd think. Phil Yu has good eyebrows. I have to draw mine in. I've been using the same Shiseido pencil since forever. If they ever discontinue that product I don't know what I'll do.

What makes you angry?

It's hard to be articulate about my anger, because anger is an emotional reaction to trauma. Anger is an unreasonable response to something unreasonable that happens in life. I feel as if I've been in constant low-grade rage these last few months, just simmering, ever since Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson. Couple months back I went to a reading with the poet Claudia Rankine, whose book Citizen addresses microaggressions, those everyday negotiations of "oblivious" remarks which actually reveal the fucked-upness of race privilege and oppression manifest in the US (as an example: "You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there"). At the time, the Ferguson grand jury non-indict decision for officer Darren Wilson hadn't been handed down yet, and I remember Rankine spoke of daring to allow herself hope in the face of imminent disappointment -- the same hope she held during the George Zimmerman trial -- for a chance to see justice served. But then: nope. And now, no indictment for the homicide of Eric Garner. I don't understand how a person can not be angry at this. It just makes no sense to me.

angry archive