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11.18.2016

Angry Reader of the Week: Leah Nanako Winkler

"I am both, not half -- and I am from both. I find power and identity in that answer."



Good people of the internet, it is time, once again, to meet the 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 Leah Nanako Winkler.


Who are you?

A mixed race Japanese American playwright. A collaborator. A loyal friend. A listener. A daughter. A sister. A niece. An unfiltered writer with neurosis only in retrospect. A collaborator. A conversationalist. An advocate with a sense of humor. Lover of satire with moments of disorienting sincerity.

What are you?

I get asked this all the time because I'm biracial. Most of the time I just say I AM A HUMAN BEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGUHHHH. Or "not Emma Stone."

Where are you?

Right now I'm in an Uber that is taking me to see my mom and aunt who came all the way from Japan to Los Angeles to see the West Coast Premiere of my play Kentucky currently running at East West Players (tickets here).

I don't get to see them a lot and we're all going our separate ways tomorrow so I'm feeling a sense of bittersweet tenderness. What a joy it is to have people who love you travel to see your art -- even if it's a semi-autobiographical story that gets too real and isn't seen through rose colored glasses.

Where are you from?

I'm from Kamakura, Japan and Lexington, Kentucky.

To explain: I was born in Japan and moved to KY when I was a kid -- but even when I became engulfed in Big Blue Nation (GO CATS) I always had family in Japan (English is my second language) and Lexington's strong Japanese community allowed me to attend Japanese school on Saturdays where my mom teaches. I always had a dual identity because of this and I truly think my existence is a true meeting of the East and the West. I don't feel obligated to choose a side even though I've been asked to so many times in my lifetime. I am both, not half -- and I am from both. I find power and identity in that answer.

What do you do?

I write plays.

I also write pilots. Sometimes submission packets for Late Night type shows. Jokes.

I love the act of writing more than anything else in the world so exploring different muscles has been a treat.

At the core though -- I'm a theatre person.

Theatre is REALLY white and filled with upper-middle class white people and super privileged people with rich parents but I never viewed it as a ridiculous life choice because my love for the art form has provided me with the drive to get out of many bad situations as well as the gall to donate my eggs for $4500 when I was 21, buy a laptop and a Greyhound ticket and move to NYC.

So you can often find me watching plays in New York.

Or curled in bed with my laptop cry/writing.

Teaching a class.

Going to meetings.

Lots of meetings.

I love meetings.

I love meeting people.

I also cry during spin class. I love cats. Sunlight. Big tall buildings that make you feel small but strong. Natto. Netflix.

I used to love naps but now I have trouble sleeping because of the election results.

So I'm working harder now in every way possible and clinging to motivation.

What are you all about?

Strengthening the narrative of a mixed race, mixed class culture by writing strong, flawed, complex, hilarious, heartfelt, human roles for POC -- primarily hapas and women of color. Challenging the definition of "relatable" and "universal" by creating leading roles for Asian women who aren't defined by their ethnicity so that we can move past "Asian" being an entire character type (I'm assuming they're offer-only but Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie wouldn't go in for the same roles so why should Asians who are different from each other audition for the same part-you know what I mean?)

Putting interracial relationships on stage without comment. Humanizing working class low-income families by creating funny, dynamic stories that tell undiscovered truths. Writing "unlikable" female characters to destruct the soft-spoken frail sexy baby as the ideal. Subverting cultural norms that root from ancient outdated sexist traditions and finding the humor in it. Listening. Speaking loudly. And right now- not being afraid.

What makes you angry?

The President-elect and his angry bigoted supporters. The people Trump has surrounded himself with and everything he stands for.

When people say "everyone will be caramel by 2050" without acknowledging how racially homogenous weddings are. People who dismiss valid points as "outrage" just because they aren't used to underrepresented voices having a digital platform to broadcast opinions that always existed. Knee-jerk defense mechanisms. White fragility. Having to check the "other" box on weird Survey Monkey surveys. Overblown perspectives getting accolades because of racial bias. Feeling underestimated. Death. How death doesn't discriminate. Wow this is getting dark. Okay. I need to go eat a block of cheese. Ugh. But also not being able to eat whatever I want all the time without it affecting my health makes me super angry.