Sunday, January 13, 2008

Author Q&A on BlAsian Exchanges . . .

(1) Why did you decide to write about this subject matter? Did you have an epiphany?

I did have an epiphany that made me decide to write the book. It happened every time I was rejected by magazines to write a story about BlAsian relationships. A voice kept telling me I need to be my own editor since the world was not yet ready to hear the story I wanted to tell. But my own voice kept telling me at night that I was ready to tell the story and I needed to tell it now. So I listened to that voice and I feel I have at least started to tell the story. The book's publication has told me that the storytelling on this issue has only just begun.
I had been wanting to write about this subject of interracial attraction / dating /marriage for about ten years because I have felt that the Asian man's perspective on attraction for Black women has not been covered either by the mainstream media or the Black media. I guess I got sick and tired of reading the same stuff over and over again about white guys & black women. Given my intimiate involvement with Black women for the last 33 years of my life (I am now 52 and have been married to a Black woman for 7 years and another Black woman for 9 years) I felt I had a perspective that the public needed to hear. However, I was repeatedly rejected whenever I proposed to write the article. Essence magazine has rejected me twice (once with a form letter and once with a non-reply after an editor said in an e-mail I would be hearing from her which never happened) and several magazines did not even respond to my query letters. And two articles I did get published in Interrace magazine and Today's Black woman did not satisfy my needs to tell my story more. So I felt I had to just write my own story and publish it in book-length format. I turned negativity into a good thing, made something outta nothing as the protagonist in BlAsian Exchanges would say.

I also decided to write about BlAsian relationships to counter the contemporary wisdom that its not okay to embrace topics related to Black women's and Asian men's sexuality and also to counter the notion that things racial don't deserve to be discussed at this level ( i.e., a novel). I wanted to tell myself and the world that I do more than beg to differ with respect to both notions, I demand to be different.

2) Has the word "BlAsian" been around for awhile? It seems to be the preferred portmanteau over something like say, Afro-Asian. You use it in the context of Asian men and Black women—but can it not refer to someone who is just bi-racial (Asian/Black)?

I believe it has been. It has manifested itself in various parts of Asia including mainland China, the Philippines, Japan, etc. as well as Africa and the Caribbean - and of course, the U.S. There has not been anyone or any organization that gives it a name and thus it is not out there to the extent we see Black women-Asian men. But with PowerCouples_AMBW and books like mine out there, the politicization of BlAsian is getting out there and that's good to see for me because at some point the media will have to take heed and give us the same coverage like what MSNBC Nightly News gave white men with Black women this week, the last week in November 2007.

I did coin BlAsian term to mean Black women and Asian men after seeing the term referred to for kids who are of mixed Black and Asian heritage. I don't know what word would be right for Black men and Asian women but I just know that that that is a completely different IR genre that I don't deal with in any of my writings.

(3) What makes BlAsian relationships so unique? what makes it different than any other interracial relationship?

They are so unique because Black women and Asian men have a lot of similarities/differences in varying degrees that make them complement each other: both are people of color who are highly stereotyped when it comes to their sexuality, both tend to be well-educated, want to better themselves, both have been bashed by members of the opposite sex of their race not to mention have had challenging experiences with members of their race and want to move beyond that, are stereotyped oppositely in terms of sexuality ( e.g., Asian men are emasculate while Black women are promsicuous), and their respective races have a lot of historical commonalities including the fact that Asians did originate in the continent of Africa. BlAsian relationships are different from white male-Black female relationships in that BlAsian relationships involve two people of color together which is significant to me because being intimate & social with my partner means a lot of I do not have to explain to them the political meaning of what it means to be discriminated against regularly because of the color of my skin and standing up to it when I want to. I have noted a lot of denial by many white men intimate with Black women when it comes to the importance of speaking up about racist incidents that interracial couples often encounter; such a conflict can be detrimental to Black women psychologically and for the long-term health of the relationship. In my experience, that has been an issue if I was intimate with white women or any other person who is not Black.

(4) Why do you think the issue of BlAsian relationships is so important to get out there?

Because it is THE happening trend in Black women who have decided to date "outside the box" (i.e, outside of their race). Pursuing their attraction for an Asian guy is essentially a Black woman's compromise between still not wanting to be intimate with white guys and still wanting to go "outside the box." Many Black women who are going BlAsian or thinking about it are finding out that Asian guys are actually cool guys who really try to gel with their female mate and who are comfortable at adjusting to different situations that come up for interracial couples, including situations where a couple runs into haters and other forms of discrimination. Society still is ambivalent in accepting the Asian guy who is politically conscious, affectionate and polyculturally bold enough to pursue their attraction for Black women like I have - NOT the stereotypical Asian male nerd who is not romantic and not masculine enough to even have any sexual or romantic feelings about women. While media such as Essence magazine and MSNBC nightly news ( e.g., during the last week of November 2007) regularly cover Black women dating interracially as if only white men were the only non-Black men on the planet that existed for Black women, the rest of the world know that the Black woman-white man trend is not newsworthy in terms of what is currently happening in Black women dating interracially. The latter has been happening and covered superfluously by the media since the 1970s. BlAsian relationships have only started happening in the late 90s up to today and are regularly verified on the Internet in Yahoo! discussion groups like PowerCouples_AMBW with 300-plus members - mostly Black women - which I co-moderate and YouTube videos like the one showing the BlAsian couple in an IKEA commercial. Movies such as Akira's Hip Hop Soup and Fakin' Da Funk have also highlighted BlAsian couples in socially responsible ways that those movies with Jet Li fail miserably at being socially responsible. But BlAsian relationships - although newsorthy by any journalism standards - has yet to be covered like the above-referenced media have covered Black women-white men. Also, I guess what I am getting at is the image of Black women and Asian men needs to be broadened beyond their archtypal racial uniforms of accepting notions of white beauty when it comes to whom each group finds attractive enough to be an option for exploring romance. Stuff like the BlAsian couple in Romeo must die who don't do more than embrace are so fake and seem a lot like those Kung-Fu movies where the Asian guy plays the heroe but never gets the girl of his dreams in the end but sees her getting stolen away by the white guy.

(5) What have been the responses from the Black community? from the Asian community?

I think the response has been ambivalent at best. However, I would say that most people are sitting on the fence when it comes to how they perceive BlAsian relationships. Primarily, Black women have been very interested in my book. They have been the primary purchasers along with my Mom who bought several dozen and has been selling them to friends and relatives. Academic professors, primarily in ethnic studies courses, have also shown interest in having me speak to their classes or to seminars on interracial relationships.

(6) What do you hope your readers get out of reading "BlAsian Exchanges"?

I hope they get an enhanced understanding of what kind of life I've lived as a person who has chosen to pursue my attraction for Black women throughout my life as well as some of the joys and tribulations I have experienced as a writer living in California after migrating from the East Coast. I also hope they have a more enhanced perspective on the many different Black women and Asian men that exist in our society who do not wear the racial uniforms that each group is conditioned to wearing.

(7) What was the journey/process like for you to write this book? Did you gain any new perspectives of yourself by writing this book?

The journey was evocatively empowering and liberating for me as a male of color to tell my story after having been conveyed many negative things by folks when they learned that I have embraced Black culture and been intimate with Black women to the extent I have been. I have been told to watch out for promiscuous women who are golddiggers, that I am selling out on the culture I was born into, and that I am frontin' ( i.e., pretending to be Black) among other things. In my view, I have merely lived my life for myself and not the way other folks and society have tried to tell me. Black women and their culture are beautiful in their minds and bodies and I have become a better person for pursuing a BlAsian life. My writing about has brought me to another level of being a better person. A perspective I have gained is that while many, many people still do not accept BlAsian relationships those that do or are sitting on the fence as far as considering it valid are starting to open their minds to seeing Black women-Asian men as a positive things socially and politically. I see evidence of this weekly as co-moderator of PowerCouples_AMBW and I see it every time I have held an author event for my book or on the issue of interracial dating / attraction. Experiencing all this has taken me to a higher level of self-confidence in how I look at this issue and life in general.

8) How did you start getting involved in the BlAsian-sphere? Did you have to establish something or were you finding there were lots of groups addressing the issue of Black women/Asian men relationships?

On an individual level, I was BlAsian since I was 19 (I am now 52 believe it or not going on 25) when I lost my virginity to a Black lady who read me a poem about myself before telling me she wanted me to make love to her. With the exception of a one night stand with a Pinay lady, a date with a Chinese lady, and a date with a Jewish lady, everyone else I have been attracted to, dated, been intimate with, and married to since has been Black. I took my BlAsian life to another level in '99 and 2000 when I published an article titled "Black Like Me: an Asian man comes to terms with his 'Black' identity" in Interrace Magazine (Issue No. 44 which came out in March - 1999, this publication did not put dates on their issues) and in January 2000 when Today's Black Woman published an article in their "ManTalk" column I submitted titled "Asian-African American Relationships". These two articles politicized my BlAsian life which had been mostly individual. My joining PowerCouples_AMBW, the Yahoo! discussion group in 2002 further politicized my BlAsian life which moved a step further when I became co-moderator of PowerCouples in 2003. My BlAsian political life took a further deeper in 2006 when I published pre-launch editions of my book and started speaking at author events. The number of such events has furthered this year and I feel the panel on "Love Without Boundary: Black women dating outside the box" in New York City took me to another level on this issue. I am planning many, many more speaking events in the future including addresses on the BlAsian issue and African-Asian unity at SF State, University of Maryland-College Park, and the Asian Cultural Center in Oakland in the near future. Professors at MIT, NYU, Univ. of Hawaii-Manoa, and UCLA have also been contacting me of their interest in hearing me speak. I am also planning to continue writing on this issue: I have another novel in progress, a nonfiction book, and a nonfiction articl and a few short stories.

9) What is the BlAsian-sphere like?

It is existent mostly within the expressed interests of Black women on the Internet whom I have corresponded with in many e-mails and posts on discussion boards like PowerCouples_AMBW. I think mostly the Asian guys are sitting on the fence on this for whatever reason or don't want to be public /political with their BlAsian choice which I sympathize with because I went through a long, twisted journey before I came out publicly about my BlAsian life. However, I notice that guys in general are lurking and very quiet on boards. Make no mistake about it, though. Asian guys with Black women are out there. One of my strategies to hearing from guys who are BlAsian is getting out and speaking in public more at ethnic studies and other academic and organizationals settings. Once they see someone out there political and public with their BlAsian IR choice, they may feel more empowered and liberated about expressing their BlAsian IR choice then the media and the rest of society will recognize them more.

10) Are there any links that you recommend for people who want to know more about this subject matter? Are there clubs that cater specifically to BlAsians? If so, which ones?

11) You mentioned in your commentary on the BlAsian Exchanges groups on Yahoo! About your attraction to Black women most of your life but also your problem with the exoticization of Asian women and how that relates to their outmarriage to White men. . "— is there an "exoticization" of Black women among Asian men who prefer to be only with Black women?

I think such exoticization exists if one only goes for Black women because they are black period. However, I do not think it is exoticization if a guy also becomes attracted to a Black woman because she holds a conversation well with him, is compatible with him politically and personality-wise, has a certain gene se qua that he looks for in his kinda woman and she looks for in her kinda man.

13) What challenges did you face in your own BlAsian relationships? Subtle rejections from friends and family. I heard things like "there's this Filipino girl who's daughter of [family friend's name] why don't you date her" whenever I would utter the name of the latest Black lady I was dating. My reactions or non-reactions were usually followed by some oppressive actions against me like non-communication, a verbal slight and if I retorted I was usually repressed. In the workplace, I can remember co-workers and bosses acting different to me once I placed the picture of my wife up on my desk; yes, I have been denied promotions, refused for later going out to lunch requests, and other hostile behavior when people learned who I was intimate with. Rejection from the family of the Black woman I was intimate with has also been common. Probably my biggest challenge was getting over my divorce from my first marriage to a Black woman. When we broke up, her friends told her and she would tell me that I would probably wind up dating then marrying some sorry white or Asian girl and I would feel sorry for it. Well, today I am happily married to a very intelligent and beautiful Black woman and I feel happy and successful in all other aspects of my life, including my writing. I would venture to say that it takes a person of emotional and personal strength to make an IR choice and especially for an Asian guy who makes the BlAsian IR choice it takes a lot of personal and emotional strength.

14) You chose Greek mythology to complement your interest in Black women—what is the equation with that?

Greek mythology taught me alot about developing the so-called third eye - the sense of intuition that builds one's own common knowledge based on the wisdom that others have imparted to him or her such as wise sayings, mythological stories such as those from ancient Greek literature, etc. For me it has also included proverbs and family stories from my parents' Ilokano background.

15) Would you say you have embraced your "Asian-ness" more that you have found a common ground with Black culture?

Yes. I have embraced my Asianness more because of my Black culture background. Because of the advanced political maturity of Black culture in the 1970s which I could not find in Asian or Asian American culture during that period, I aggressively exposed myself to Black culture.

16) What is the international BlAsian scene like?

According to what I have heard, it is considered quite normal to be BlAsian in many countries in the Caribbean. The rest of the world, I do not know enough about to say.

17) Did you say that the e-mails featured in your book are all real? And if so, assuming that you edited them or did you keep them as is? They are all based on a seed of reality but what is in the book is slightly fictionalized - to what extent I will not say since that is for the reader to figure out.