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SXSW: Charles Yu and Lisa Ling talk feeling invisible in light of Atlanta shootings

In light of the recent spa shooting in Atlanta and over a backdrop of increased acts of violence against the Asian American Pacific Islander community due to COVID-19, New York Times bestselling author Charles Yu sat down for a keynote with CNN's Lisa Ling to talk about the importance of representation in the media.


Yu began the session with a statement on the Atlanta spa shootings, in which eight people were killed at two different spas, six of whom were of Asian descent. Yu said he was still processing the news.

"My heart and thoughts go out to the victims and their loved ones," Yu said. "I also want to remember that those who were killed were more than just victims. They were individuals, human beings with lives and families."

The events in Atlanta are just one of the many crimes against Asian-Americans that have happened since COVID-19 hit in the United States. According to NBC, there have been 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents in the past year, compared to 2,600 last year.



Yu said he feels like Asian-Americans are often boxed together into a single group, not accounting for nationality, which can be damaging no matter if it is a positive or negative stereotype.

"We're perceived as a group. I mean, if there's one thing that's unifying these attacks it's that, 'oh, that's an Asian,' whatever signals Asian," Yu said. "Those victims have come from all different backgrounds, you know, but for whatever reason, they're lumped together as Asians."

In his book, "Interior Chinatown," Yu tackles the same sense of "feeling invisible" through Willis Wu, or as he is known in the book, "Generic Asian Man," who is stuck playing a background role but dreams of being "Kung Fu Guy."

Growing up in a world where Asian people weren't on TV or had hurtful traits and accents when they were, Yu said he learned that invisibility from the way people who looked like him were only given certain roles on the small screen.

"Asian characters were invisible on-screen, punctuated by brief moments of visibility, that's often accompanied by a sort of self-consciousness or even shame, because it's like, 'oh, here's my brief window of visibility and this is what it is,'" Yu said. "It's like, keep all the Asian stuff over here in this corner. I think that really sort of shaped my sort of consciousness, in terms of where do I fit into this story, where do my parents fit into this story."

Yu and Ling, who are both of Taiwanese descent, weren't able to learn much about Asian history until college. When they did, it bothered them to learn about things like the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese immigration, juxtaposed against concepts like the model minority, which has historically been used to avoid intervention for socioeconomic disparities.

Both said, even though they were born here, that they might never feel truly American. Yu said that as his kids grow up and ask him things like "what are we?" he is forced to articulate a hard truth about their identities.

"It just makes me think, how can we ever change it if it hasn't changed in close to 200 years," Yu said. "I feel like it's driven by deep-rooted perception, you know, of these are foreigners, this is a foreign face this is a foreign body and it is really unsettling, and yet not totally shocking."

Yu, who is developing "Interior Chinatown" for Hulu and writes for HBO, FX and AMC, said he hopes to change how Asian-Americans are perceived in the media in his lifetime by bringing issues into open conversations and reaching out to people with shared experiences.

Seeing Asian media get more and more attention over the past few years looks like a sign of progress to him.

"That's really why I wrote it, you know, to connect with people," Yu said. "All of a sudden people feel like there's some kind of shared experience and that's an extremely gratifying thing, to be having this conversation."

Popular

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway