Angry Reader of the Week: Anthony Ocampo

"Everyone's got a different view of what their neighborhood is 'really' like."

Hey, everybody! 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 -- the final Angry Reader of 2019 -- is Anthony Ocampo.

Who are you?

I'm Anthony Ocampo. I'm a writer. I'm also Filipino American and queer. I'm a son of immigrants. I very much identify as a Los Angeleno To be clear, I'm Northeast LA and definitely not from West LA. There's a difference!

What are you?

I'm a college professor by day at Cal Poly Pomona. I teach sociology. Statistics, race and ethnicity, immigration, gender and sexuality -- you know, the fun stuff. By night, I'm a dog parent. A partner. A good immigrant son (I hope).

Where are you?

I'm at my house in Pomona. I'm sitting at the IKEA kitchen island Joe and I got at the "As Is" section for half price! (You know my family was very proud of that one). I'm sitting on a refurbished stool we got from campus (I am an aspiring furniture flipper). I'm typing on my laptop and intermittently peeking at CNN's coverage of the Impeachment proceedings playing on my living room projector. Right now, they're discussing that six-page letter the President "wrote." This administration is just, wow. My God.

Where are you from?

I'm from Northeast LA. Eagle Rock, specifically. My family's been there since 1987. Before that we rotated through Koreatown, Highland Park, and Glassel Park, which were more working-class immigrant neighborhoods. Eagle Rock's more middle-class, and it's home to a lot of Filipino and Mexican American immigrant families. At least that's how I knew it growing up. If you check the Census and just look around the neighborhood a bit, there's also a fair number of older white residents who've been there for decades, as well as millennial hipsters with money. Everyone's got a different view of what their neighborhood is "really" like.

I was born and raised in the States, but my family's from the Philippines, and so I feel a deep sense of cultural and emotional connection to the islands. I dream of living part of the year back there some day.

What do you do?

On any given day, I do some combination of the following: Wake up super early to write before anybody in the house is up. Listen to podcasts of writers talking about writing. At some point, I change out of my sweats, throw on jeans, a collared shirt, and some chucks, so I look decent enough (by my mom and dad's standards) to teach a few classes. I'm the resident statistics professor, but I manage to infuse a lot of the shit I care about into the class, whether it be immigration or queer stuff.

In between classes, I spend the day thinking about whatever writing project I'm working on. If I can't sneak in more writing, I'll read. I don't read read a lot of academic books, but I super close read creative nonfiction. I like reading for the prose. I love thinking a writer's creative choices in what's put in versus what's left out. I learned from my very first writing teacher Kiese Laymon to read for the rhythm and musicality of the sentences. I never did that before I met him. I think that's why his writing is able to reach so broadly, not just in the literary community, but in Black communities, in the South, in his home state of Mississippi. I admire that so much, and real talk, I spend hours each day trying to figure out how to write more like Kiese -- not in terms of his writing style, but in how he approaches and positions his writing, his art vis-a-vis the people he loves, whether they're living (his mom, his grandma) or not (Baldwin, the ancestors).

Pivoting from academic writing to creative nonfiction is my ultimate dream. If I'm really honest with myself, I think that's deep down what I really wanted to do -- I just never had mentors who presented this as a career option.

What are you all about?

I've been on this whole re-centering kick. I've been trying to re-center what I consider to be important for me to read. Right now, it's memoir, especially by writers of color, many of them queer. Right now, I've been all about Saeed Jones, Roxane Gay, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado. Imani Perry is an academic who I consider to be my ultimate academic/writer role model. Meredith Talusan and Grace Talusan (They're cousins, can you believe?! How Filipino!) are my favorite Filipinx American writers in this particular historical moment. If I had their words growing up or even in college, I would've decided to become a writer a lot earlier than I did.

Right now, right now, I'm halfway through writing my second book Brown and Gay in LA: Queer Sons of Immigrants Coming of Age. It took me like four years of writing to really figure out the voice I wanted for this book. I had started writing it back in late 2015, but then the year after, the Pulse shooting happened, and later that year, the election. That fucked me up, especially because it was less than a year after the Supreme Court ruling made marriage equality the law of the land (not that that's the end all and be all of queer rights, of course -- it definitely isn't). I threw everything I wrote away because the tone of it just wasn't urgent enough for the times. Plus, I just couldn't get myself to write that book for like a year after Pulse. With a lot of love from writer friends, I've been able to climb out of that hole, and started back up on it in November 2018. I think I'll submit it to my publisher by fall of 2020 (fingers crossed!).

My dream dream would be to pen a memoir or work of nonfiction that's generationally and regionally somewhere between Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel and Michael Arceneaux's I Can't Date Jesus. Alexander is a novelist and the son of a Korean immigrant and white woman. He grew up in Maine, lived in SF and NY, and came of age during the AIDS epidemic. Michael is a queer Black millennial from Houston, a little younger than I am. He's a journalist who has a mastery of the digital landscape (He's the writer who, by far, makes me LOL with his words). I'm right in between them in age. I'm from the west coast. Of course, I can't hold a candle to Alexander's literary chops or Michael's incisive social critique and humor, but I think I got something that I haven't necessarily seen out there. By the time this second book is done, I think I'll have mustered up the courage to embark on that writing project.

What makes you angry?

These days, there's a lot of things. The President. The willful ignorance that surrounds him. The willful ignorance that surrounds me. Filipino Trump supporters. The constant reminder that mediocrity gets rewarded if it emerges from bodies associated with privilege, whether it be race, gender, size, or ability. That shit gets me so mad, my God.

I also get angry at invisibility. I used to be OK with it because invisibility was all I knew as a Filipino. A lot of times Asian American spaces made me feel doubly invisible because these were spaces where I was supposed to feel like I belonged. In fact, I wrote a whole ass book about Filipinos feeling invisible in Asian American spaces. Over time though, I've come to see how that's more a fault of white supremacy -- which leaves little space for people of color to get airtime -- than it is the fault of Asian America.

I don't forget though that invisibility can feel like a superpower used to surprise people.

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