A reading, an art show, and thoughts on having a moment

It’s been a busy month.

I went to Chicago to help promote the anthology, The Places We’ve Been: Field Reports from Travelers Under 35, a fabulous read for all travelers (and armchair travelers). I got to meet some of my incredible fellow contributors and our amazing editor, I got to be on the radio, and you can catch me on YouTube talking about diversity and reading from my piece.


Last week, my kitchen portraits made their début at APAture 2014, a curated annual multidisciplinary showcase for emerging Asian American artists. I dressed up and went to San Francisco for the four-hour opening party. Despite my initial anxiety, I had the best, best time. My family came out. Erik’s family came out. Several dozen of my friends (many of them brilliant artists in their own right) came out.

next four images © 2014 Kearny Street Workshop/ Astra Kim





photo by Kevin Hsieh

From Kevin

threesisters selfie!


And meanwhile, I am collaborating with my hair salon on a portrait gallery for their wall, and may be at their upcoming community festival doing live sketches.

I suspect it looks, from the outside, like I am having a major and meaningful moment — which is true. But from the inside, there is a strong feeling of unreality, of deer-in-headlights, of perplexity and not a little paralysis. So I am having a moment. What do I do now? “Just keep doing what you’re doing,” I hear you say, but quite frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing, and now this moment is making it look like I did. This sounds like impostor syndrome, but it isn’t (at this point, impostor syndrome and I are old friends); it’s more like I have been given a really cool gift (public exposure, affirmation and support, some new credits on my CV) and I am awed by the responsibility. I’m not afraid, I’m not ungrateful, I’m just… thinking. Sitting with the gift unwrapped in the middle of my living room (still surrounded by its packaging) because I just don’t know where to put it, and it’s too heavy to move more than once.

Perhaps because of these thoughts, I’ve been following with interest some other artists’ moments.

Roxane Gay, for gosh sakes, who is all over the bookshops and the internets these days, whose essay collection Bad Feminist is the kind of book I take notes on, just posted this: “Your problems, insecurities, and fears, don’t disappear when you have a moment, just so you know.” This was after her description of an extreme humiliation that happened in the literal midst of this, her moment.

My friend Nayomi Munaweera, whose novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors you may remember from this very blog back in 2012, is in the enviable position of having had her book accoladed in both Asia and the US, and by The New York Times no less. She read at a Berkeley bookstore last night.

Sep 30 - Nayomi

As I listened to her there I was struck afresh by tiny glimpses of the long backstory to her moment: the decade-plus of obsessive work on the novel, completing it in 2007 and hearing from her then-agent that “it’s not finished” and then finally realizing in 2009 that the agent had been right, her consciousness that just because a book has been published and awarded and reviewed and sold, does not mean it won’t just disappear from sight.

In thinking over my moment and these two much larger ones, I am reminded (as ever) to cultivate perspective. Moments are wonderful, but their meaning doesn’t come from their existence; meaning comes from the trajectory that is only built from many such moments. And yet the trajectory, also, is invisible until we understand the moments that make it. Everything is everything.