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.


10 responses to “A reading, an art show, and thoughts on having a moment

  1. “After winter must come spring…” of course, your last words there brought this Lauryn Hill song to mind. Nothing enlightening to add here, I’m just full of joy that you’re having your/a moment.

    • I almost linked to the song but I figured if folks know it, it would get into their heads by itself. 🙂 Thank you so much for the joy. That means a lot.

    • That totally makes sense. Actually, I’ve been wishing for a couple of weeks to just go on retreat by myself, even if that just means staying home and writing and painting on my own commitments. I can’t do it now, but maybe in a couple of weeks I will.

  2. I was struck in this post by how many people love and support you and are celebrating these moments with you. You have cultivated a wonderful community for yourself, through your craft but also simply by being who you are. Navigating these experiences internally is one thing– a solo journey– but hopefully it has helped to be surrounded by people who appreciate the processes (hard work, challenges) behind the accomplishments. You keep good company who knows that you are the real deal, and that is a perpetual gift you know exactly what to do with (in contrast to the big, heavy one you’ve just unwrapped– but I am sure you’ll figure out a nice place for it).

    I am so happy for you I came out of my hole to comment. 🙂

    • Sabrina!!!!! Thank you for emerging long enough to say hello! So much love to you. And you’re so right. The love and respect and support are truly the constant gifts. Sometimes when I think of that I am just overwhelmed — it’s like when I throw a party and more friends come than I expected, and they all seem to leave happy. I just feel so rich and so amazed that this happens. I hope all is well with you. I keep beaming that you left this comment. 🙂 I’m so so happy.

  3. I love it! I love to see folks doing their “thing”, whatever that is, and being fully immersed while doing so. You’ve been doing your thing! Enjoy the moment. No impostor syndrome – it’s all you and your gifts bearing fruit, that all may partake. Really…enjoy it, woman. Be.

  4. Pingback: Inward focus: Notes from an at-home retreat | satsumabug.com·

  5. Pingback: On faith and friends | satsumabug.com·

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