Wisdom From Cheryl Strayed + All Things AAPI
Modern vampires, Bling Empire and AAPI brands.
A couple weeks ago I attended a writing workshop with Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild). While I already wrote about one transformative experience from that weekend, I thought it would be useful to share some of the sage wisdom she gave during the workshop. If you aren’t already aware, Cheryl Strayed is also beloved for the advice she gave on the Dear Sugars podcast, so naturally her quotes read like universal guidance, not just tips for writers.
“Aspire to credibility, not likability.”
“Being brave will make you braver.”
“Let the story be brave. Dig for the truest story. Risk vulnerability.”
“Truth is a balm, not a weapon.”
“Write the beauty into the broken things.”
“We forget things in our daily lives, our memories go into storage. Writing takes us into that storage space. Be open to what you find there.”
”Writing is revision, it’s like a lasagna, you gradually uncover the layers the deeper you go.”
“Surrender to your mediocrity, let go of the pressure to make yourself one of the greats.”
“Part of what makes you strong as a writer is the struggle to do it.”
And a quote that Cheryl Strayed shared:
"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." -Phillip Pullman.
On a totally unrelated note, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is officially over, but I think we should celebrate AAPI culture year-round. So the rest of this newsletter is dedicated to all things AAPI.
On my latest trip to New York City, I had the pleasure of checking out acupuncture clinic WTHN. I went expecting a quick treatment, but within minutes was floored by the wealth of knowledge my ‘healer’, Qihui Jin, possessed.
He checked my tongue, my pulse and asked me questions about my lifestyle to determine which acupressure points to target. The needles were so fine, I hardly felt them. I left feeling a deep sense of calm and was so inspired that I decided to share what I learned about this ancient therapy in a later interview with WTHN co-founder Dr. Shari Auth in my latest for Forbes.
When I was a little girl, I was OBSESSED with Buffy. I was more into it for the girl power message over the vampires (although Spike was hot AF), but ever since, I’ve had a soft spot for vampire stories. I don’t think I’ve read one in my adult life, but my local bookstore put me onto Woman, Eating by half-Japanese author Claire Kohda.
“Lydia is hungry. She’s always wanted to try Japanese food. But, Lydia can’t eat normal food. Her body doesn’t work like those of other people. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London—where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first—is much more difficult than she’d anticipated.”
It’s refreshing to read a story about a Japanese-Malaysian-English young woman grappling with the nagging desire to eat and connect with humans. While she is a vampire, all her struggles—the themes of alienation and appetite—are relatable to *human* women too.
Other books by AA authors I’m currently reading:
🕰 Time Is A Mother by Ocean Vuong (Latest poetry collection from the brilliant author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous).
🪴 Goodbye, Again by Jonny Sun (Comical short essays).
🚗 Afterparties: Stories Book by Anthony Veasna So (Short stories about Cambodian-American life).
🪞Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (Collection of culture essays).
✍️ On the loneliness of being a writer.
“It is the loneliness of many mornings or nights writing words that you hate or fear. It is the loneliness of setting your own pace of how you should write, when you should write, what you should write, and whether you should write. It is the loneliness of responsibility, of finally having the time you wanted, of finally being alone, but alone with the doubt, perhaps, that you are not who you wanted to be.” - Yanyi.
📖 Being a Native writer is both a gift and a burden.
💼 And what it’s really like to work at a women’s magazine (or at least the way it was pre-pandemic).
“When I said I wanted to die, I wasn’t actually suicidal or anything. It was more like… it seemed life would be so much simpler if I didn’t just keep waking up every day, you know? There would be no more questions about if you’d screwed up, or if you’d ever live up to your potential. Once you were dead, things had either worked out or they hadn’t.”
👵🏼 To all my boomer readers, are you a post-menopausal coastal grandmother?
“She fought the patriarchy and then smothered it in a cashmere pashmina; she bought the big screen and has total command of the remote. She knows that things can always be a little more delicious, more relaxing, more high-end. She’s not stomping around in a nap dress; she’s napping.” - Caitlin Flanagan.
🎥 What do we think celebrities owe us?
👋 So long Ellen Degeneres.
🏋️♂️ The thin white men who package diet culture as “wellness.”
“If you’ve eaten a meal recently just because you craved it, and didn’t apologize to anyone in the process—know that you’re breaking free from more than the GOOP-ification of modern food culture.” - Virginia Sole-Smith.
I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended Bling Empire here before but season two is so good I can’t help but call it out again. It’s basically a real-life (or as real as reality T.V. can be) depiction of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. The staples of season one are back and fiery as ever: socialite and botoxed-out Anna Shay whose worth hundreds of millions, model Kevin Kreider who grapples with his confused identity as an Asian American adoptee and heiress Cherie Chan, who is grieving the loss of her mother.
I’m not a huge fan of the focus on DJ and socialite Kim Lee, but I love watching her drama triangle with Kevin and Kane Lim. But perhaps the cast member I love-hate the most is Jaime Xie—her outfits and awkward dates kill me.
I’m not usually one for reality T.V. but being half-Asian, it moves me to see Asians occupy space in this genre. Not every effort at representation should be at the calibre of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, we need to be seen in crappy pop culture too. And while this show fails to portray the economic diversity of Asian Americans, at least we see some cultural diversity, not to mention a whole range of personalities.
A few months ago I read All You Can Ever Know, a memoir by Nicole Chung on navigating her identity as a Korean American adoptee raised by white parents.
“My parents loved and would have done anything within their power for me. But one thing they struggled to do, at least fully and consistently, was to see and understand me as a Korean American woman. We never talked explicitly about race when I was younger, even though I was usually the only Asian kid in every room; the closest they came were statements such as ‘we would have adopted you if you were Black, white or polka-dotted’ and ‘we’re all the same on the inside.’ ” - Nicole Chung.
As a half-Korean raised by the white side of my family, I saw so much of myself in this memoir. And I’m not the only one. This episode of a new pod I’m loving called Snooze accounts one woman Abby’s first reading of the book in the context of her also being a Korean American adoptee, who, like Chung, is contemplating having her first baby.
“If I am blessed enough to have a biological child, it will be the first time I’ll know what it’s like to look like someone in my family.” - Abby.
Keeping in line with this newsletter’s loose Asian theme, here’s some AAPI-owned brands that I’m loving lately.
In the kitchen:
🔥 Omsom spice blends (I especially love the Korean-inspired bulgogi).
🥣 Yishi adaptogenic oatmeal (Taro bubble tea and matcha are my favorite flavors).
🍵 The Qi whole flower teas.
🍜 Immi Eats and Noodie instant ramen (plant-based!).
😴 Cocokind beauty sleep tonic.
🍎 Potli CBD-infused apple cider vinegar and honey.
In the bathroom cabinet:
👓 COVRY glasses specially designed for noses with low bridges.
🖤 Metange gua sha stone (🇨🇦 ).
✨ Tower 28 highlighter.
🥚 Superegg moisturizer.
🌱 Humanist Beauty CBD-infused facial oil.
🌙 Wyld moon dew (🇨🇦 ).