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2016 Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought…

Like most people, I’ve been thinking a lot about 2016. While there have been tremendously heartbreaking setbacks, like Trump’s election, celebrity deaths, more personal sick days than I would have preferred, and not enough money in the bank, last night I began listing meaningful achievements and moments from the past year, and I was surprised by just how much 2016 has brought me.

  1. I interviewed Olympic swimmer Lynne Cox in my role as content coordinator for a neighborhood magazine.
  2. I got my first byline in Essence.com for an interview with teen filmmaker Gabrielle Gorman.
  3. I got a book published as a writer for hire and now have an Amazon page!
  4. I got an article accepted at The New York Times that I’m hoping pans out (I’m still holding my breath because I can’t quite believe it).
  5. I attended my first premiere in Beverly Hills, for the movie Loving.
  6. I got to hang out with Grey’s Anatomy actor Jason George.
  7. I shadowed writer and performer J. Ivy at a social media conference.
  8. A writer friend published a chapbook for me, and used it for three readings in L.A.
  9. My highest paying article rate increased by 800%.
  10. I was miraculously reconnected with my best friend from 6th grade.

This list isn’t meant to position myself as some sort of success story (and I haven’t included links for that reason). Rather, I often make myself list what I’ve been able to achieve because I’m usually too focused on what I haven’t accomplished.

It’s easy to get down on ourselves we compare our lives to others’. There will always be someone with a better resume, a better job, better health… you name it. But if we’re always focused on the carrot just out of reach, sometimes we forget those that have already come into our lives–even those carrots we never expected. One of those unexpected carrots was seeing my 2-year-old niece squeal for joy in the Santa Monica ocean. That was perhaps the best moment of the whole year.

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Take some time to look back at your 2016… What from the year brings you joy? What meaningful experiences have you had? How has your heart soared? I’d love to hear your list in the comments!

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8 Things Fans Want Answered in the Gilmore Girls Revival

This didn’t get picked up anywhere, so I’m posting it here for any Gilmore Girls fans who haven’t yet seen the revival!

8 Things Fans Want Answered in the Gilmore Girls Revival

Women of the world rejoiced when speculation led to confirmation of a Gilmore Girls revival. Producer Amy Sherman-Palladino may have attempted to shut down rumors after Scott Patterson (aka Luke) accidentally spilled the beans at the reunion panel in Austin, Texas last year; however, her backtracking never quite seemed solid enough to accept. Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t want to accept it. Now that Netflix has picked up a four-part revival set to begin this fall, I hope some of the scenes will further a few key storylines.

  1. Did Kirk and Lulu ever move in together?

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Kirk and Lulu became the younger “Babette and Morey,” with their quirky romance that seemed to just work. They did have some hiccups though. Kirk couldn’t part with his mother, and his night terrors got in the way of “sleepovers.” Did he ever get over his night terrors? Did he decide his million dollars was worth spending on the Twickum house after all? Of course, that might mean he’d have to trade in his borrowed pants for some grownup clothes, and I’m not sure that’s the Kirk we know and love.

  1. Does Lane like sex now?

Just before her pregnancy announcement, Lane told Rory she abhorred sex. Granted, she’d only done it once, and on a beach in Mexico. But I hope beyond hope that regardless of her quick pregnancy (and the inevitable discomfort that followed), she realized the world wasn’t conspiring against her after all. She’d waited too long only to be disappointed, and I want Lane to have everything. Plus, bad sex is so not rock and roll.

  1. Did Rory ever go back to the DAR?

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Once Rory decided to put her life back together and re-enter Yale, she disappointed both Lorelai and Richard by telling Emily she wanted to continue with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). We never see her back in this role, though. Does she continue to dip her toe into her grandparents’ world, or does she trade her pearls for a more Jess-like lifestyle?

  1. Did Rory call Christiane Amanpour?

In the very last episode, Lorelai gave Rory a career-enhancing gift that didn’t come either from Richard and Emily’s connections or those Rory made through Logan. Lorelai has famous guests sleep and dine at her inn, including Norman Mailer and Rory’s idol, Christiane Amanpour. Did Rory ever contact Amanpour? Did they form some sort of mentorship? Regardless of any further communication, I bet Amanpour’s business card is framed on Rory’s wall.

  1. Is Paul Anka still alive?

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Lorelai was notorious for neglecting her pets, including her hamster Skippy, whose cage she stuffed with Kleenex before returning him to the pet store. So when she adopted Paul Anka, no one was sure the lovable dog would be safe in her hands. Lorelai and Paul Anka seem to have a special bond, though, that goes beyond a human-hamster relationship. How is Paul Anka doing? Does he still have his neuroses? And has Lorelai broken her pet curse once and for all?

  1. Does Lane have a father?

Up until the end of the first season, Lane refers to her two parents even though her father is never seen. His absence on screen was no doubt meant to be reminiscent of characters in other TV shows, like the neighbor Wilson in Home Improvement who only shows the top of his head over the fence. But once the series got into season 2, Amy Sherman-Palladino seemed to drop his existence, and Lane started referring to her mother only. Will Lane’s father—and lack thereof—ever be explained?

  1. Is Paris still attached to Rory at the hip?

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When Rory and Paris parted after graduation, they knew they were destined to remain a part of each other’s lives. Now that Paris is probably finished with med school, does she end up living annoyingly close to Rory? Does she move to Stars Hollow, the town she loves to hate? Do she and Doyle have children they teach krav maga? And most importantly, does Paris retain her long locks instead of succumbing to Bonnie Winterbottom’s mousey hairdo in How to Get Away with Murder?

  1. Who do Lorelai and Rory end up with?

Okay, this answer is quite obvious in terms of Lorelai. If she doesn’t end up with Luke, the world as we know it will implode. But what about Rory? Dean was never right for her, and even though Jess could have been, he made a horrible boyfriend. Rory seemed to have a lot more in common with Logan, but he lacked the maturity that Rory needs in a relationship. Which man won her heart in the end? Will she be a Stars Hollow wife with Dean, a hipster freelancer with Jess, or a country club career woman with Logan? Perhaps there’s a fourth man out there who will fit the bill, though he’d better be amazing to win our girl’s heart.

On November 25th, fans get to re-enter this “little corner of the world,” and I can’t wait to see what Stars Hollow is up to—Taylor and all.

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I Grew Up in Alateen and Al-Anon

My latest article for The Fix:

Four people describe their experiences as children in the rooms of Alateen and Al-Anon and whether it helped them cope with their family member’s addiction.

My mother has attended Al-Anon religiously for as along as I can remember. She left my dad when I was three after a particularly bad physical fight, in which he slapped her around while intoxicated. We spent that night at my grandmother’s house, and the next day my mom decided we were done for good.

Read the rest here.

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Does the Multiracial Community Like the Loving Movie?

On October 20th, I was fortunate enough to see the Hollywood premiere of Loving, which is set to release in the US on November 4th. Check out my article about the event here on Multiracial Media. I include quotes from other attendees, among them one of the child actors.

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Me at the Loving premiere, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
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A Race-Based Look at the Fall TV Lineup

I can’t watch TV without noticing race. I know when the first black extra gets a speaking role on a certain show. I’m aware of whether a white character is dating an Asian, an Asian character is dating a black person, an Indian is dating a Russian… well, you get the picture. So when I checked out some of the new shows in this season’s lineup, I definitely had my subconscious antennae up and wondered if they would satisfy my mixed race reality. I was pleasantly surprised, for the most part.

Timeless

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Photo courtesy of post-gazette.com

I’ve never been that interested in time travel shows, or at least those that go back in time instead of forward. Let’s be honest, if you’re a person of color in the United States, it’s best to stay in the present. Even if I get into a classic movie like Mansfield Park, I’m suddenly separated from the protagonist at the first mention of slaves.

The creators of Timeless either naturally wanted to appeal to my demographic, or they did so in order to boost ratings. Whatever their motives, it seems to have worked. Rufus Carlin, played by Malcolm Barrett, is a genius coder who flies the time machine, as he and his companions try to thwart a possible villain at crucial moments in history. Carlin gets to tell off racists of past centuries while, of course, hoping not to get shot dead in the process. Since he’s a central character and not another Rue, I’m guessing he gets to live.

Notorious

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Photo courtesy of thetvaddict.com

There’s nothing extra special about Notorious race wise, but it does co-star one of my celebrity crushes, mixed race actor Daniel Sunjata. He plays opposite Piper Perabo’s Julia George, and the two have a professional yet flirty relationship as a news producer and a criminal defense attorney, respectively. While the race representation in this show is fairly standard, I’m enjoying seeing a mixed race lead.

One thing that does leave me wanting, though, is the portrayal of Sunjata’s brother Bradley Gregorian, played by J. August Richards. It’s not apparent what Richard’s role is yet, given he only gets about five lines an episode, if that, and mostly to give Sunjata’s character Jake Gregorian an emotional compass. It’s also slightly annoying that Richards and Sunjata look nothing alike, and not just color wise. It’s as if the casting director thought, “Here’s another black actor. He’ll do for the brother,” without considering that not all black people look alike.

The Good Place

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Photo courtesy of indiewire.com

I couldn’t get past the first episode of The Good Place, and even that was a bit excruciating. It’s not so much the race representation in this show that leaves me wanting; rather, the storyline just seems a bit (very) bland. However, it does irk me that the central conflict seems a cheap knockoff of Selfie, which was tragically cut short after one season. Both shows center around a white female protagonist who tries to be good through the influence of a male protagonist of color.

In Selfie, Karen Gillan and John Cho’s characters had sexual tension that put the storyline into the well-known “will they or won’t they” category, which worked for this couple. However, in The Good Place (at least through the first episode), Kristen Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop has no redeeming qualities and no interest in her “assigned soulmate” Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper. Instead his whole purpose is to teach Eleanor how to be good in the afterlife. Jackson, from Texas, also loses his “Nigerian/Senagalese accent” before the first episode is over, and no one seems to mind.

This Is Us

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Photo courtesy of tvgoodness.com

By far my favorite new show of the season, This Is Us is a sentimental drama about a nontraditional family. The narrative takes place in two different timelines–the present day and the 1970s, and it centers around two white twins and an adopted black baby who was born on the same day and raised with them. The narrative doesn’t gloss over the racial implications of an ethnically blended family, which includes K. Sterling Brown as the adopted son. Nor does it shy away from displaying race-based tension within the family structure itself.

Brown’s character Randall was raised lovingly by his white family, but still desperately seeks to know his troubled black father who’s dying of cancer. It’s a storyline all to familiar to me: it’s one I’ve lived. This Is Us‘s blending of Shonda Rhimes-like racial exploration with Parenthood-like sentimentality makes for the perfect fall favorite.

I look forward to the next episodes of each of these shows (well, except The Good Place), and I’m enjoying seeing plotlines that include relatable roles.

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A Night with Jason George from Grey’s Anatomy

Ten years ago, I was suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, and I “slept” about 16 hours a day in my aunt and uncle’s basement in Carnation, Washington–a little town just outside of Seattle. Each night before bed, I’d watch a bit of Grey’s Anatomy, which, while filmed in California, is set in a fictional Seattle hospital.

Fast forward a decade, and I just spent an evening with Jason George, aka Dr. Ben Warren, at a private event put on by Multiracial Americans of Southern California. Jason approached MASC about raising money for the organization by hosting a fundraiser with himself as the prize.

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Jason is married to Indian poet Vandana Khanna, and together they have three children. His family represents the growing multiracial demographic of the United States, which is accurately reflected in the makeup of Southern California. Jason’s mission is to embrace and celebrate this cultural shift and views it as a way to bring people together. He certainly did that tonight, by checking any “celebrity-ness” at the door and mingling warmly with us everyday folk.

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L to R: Elessia, past president Farzana Nayani, and Caitlin

Caitlin S. of Tennessee was the lucky winner of the fundraiser, though she says it took her a while to believe it wasn’t a scam. She hesitantly called to confirm her prize, and then sat speechless at work. She brought along her good friend Elessia whom she’s known since college at Southern Adventist University. Caitlin and Elessia say their friendship was almost instantaneous, and they text each other multiple times a day.

Even on the plane ride over, Caitlin and Elessia weren’t sure they hadn’t fallen prey to some elaborate scheme, but their luck wasn’t too good to be true. MASC put them up in a hotel for an extended weekend, and they spent a busy day chatting up Grey’s Anatomy cast members on set, sitting in on ON with Mario Lopez, and then chilling at a private screening of the Grey’s season premiere with Jason and some of the MASC crew.

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Live tweeting the Grey’s premiere

As we watched the episode, Jason treated us to tidbits of behind-the-scenes information. Having stopped watching Grey’s at the end of season five when it seemed like one catastrophe too many, I was pretty out of the loop; though now that I’ve met a cast member, I may find myself picking up where I left off. Regardless, it was a quintessential Hollywood experience to watch an intimate taping, and I felt like my life had come full circle from those dire, sleep deprived days.

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With MASC public relations director Delia Douglas

Conversation was lively and continued even after the scheduled event. Jason, Caitlin, Elessia and many MASC members reconvened in the main part of the cafe, and I and two friends of mine, one Colombian and Indian and the other Black and White, stood talking in the warm Santa Ana winds about our experiences with race, the current political system, and our beliefs about how to improve the world we live in. Tonight we got a taste of what that world could look like, as races came together in unity and understanding.

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From left: President Thomas Lopez, past president Farzana Nayani, Elessia, Caitlin, Jason George, administrative director Athena Mari Asklipiadis, public relations director Delia Douglas

 

 

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From Watching Blossom to Writing for Mayim Bialik

Today something incredible came full circle. I was an avid fan of Blossom back in the day, and I wanted to be just like the spunky protagonist played by Mayim Bialik. I wasn’t as obsessed with her as I had been with Punky Brewster in middle school, but she was still a really cool chick. I especially wanted to be able to do her dance moves in the opening credits!

For the past few months, I’ve been contributing to a column called Feminism 101. It’s been fun getting the questions in my inbox and answering them when I have something to say. The column started off on SheKnows, and later switched to a new site, GrokNation, which just happens to be that of Mayim Bialik! Or, as some know her, Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory.

For me, Bialik will always be the girl in this picture, which I’d cut out from a magazine in my teens and has remained in my cedar box ever since.

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These past two years in Los Angeles have been a hard road. Sometimes I’m not sure how I’m going to eat the next day. Sometimes I get lonely and miss the friends who have known me for over a decade. But then, like clockwork, something amazing happens that reminds me why I’m here. Today that amazing thing was realizing I’ve been writing for Mayim Bialik.

Click here to discover my first act of feminism, complete with a photo of preschool me.

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Feminism 101: “What Was Your First Feminist Thought?”
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Celebrating the 1st Annual Mixed Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium

What happens when a young, mixed race boy asks his mother what ethnic day is meant for him? The Los Angeles Dodgers have special days for certain ethnicities, but none celebrating mixed race heritage… until now.

 

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Nice day at the Dodgers vs. Cubs game.

Sonia Smith-Kang and her business partner Delia Douglas approached the Dodgers about creating a Mixed Heritage Day. The Dodgers obliged, and yesterday about 200 people came to celebrate at a game against the Chicago Cubs. I arrived with my friend Jennifer, and at first I had trouble trying to find Delia and Sonia in the bleachers. I scanned the faces of the children and adults, trying to spot a large grouping of people set apart by varying skin tone and racial admixture. Funnily enough, I had difficulty finding them in the crowd, because the bleachers were filled with fans of all different hues. There wasn’t much that set this group apart, and that was the point. Los Angeles is becoming increasingly diverse and increasingly mixed, and having a day to celebrate a mixed race heritage is thus tremendously important for children who grow up in interracial families.

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Sonia and her family at the game. Photo courtesy of Sonia.

The Dodgers displayed “Mixed Heritage Day” on the jumbotron in between innings, just as they do for other cultural days at the stadium. This day was a bit different from most, however, because Sonia and Delia were presented a certificate by the Los Angeles mayor, who himself identifies as mixed race. Adults, children and families gathered together in celebration and community as they cheered their team to victory. It was a victory not just for the players, but also for the families who saw their love recognized and validated just like any other.

Sonia and Delia plan to make Mixed Heritage Day a yearly tradition. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to see what went down in 2016!

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See you next year!
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Is Culture Innate, or Is It Learned?

I often write about growing up folk dancing with my family in the Santa Cruz mountains. We mostly participate in Israeli and Balkan folk dancing, even though no one in my family is Israeli or of Balkan ancestry. Regardless of race, I’ve been doing this type of dancing since I was in the womb.

Just before I was born, my aunt (white) and my uncle (white and Japanese) met at folk dancing classes at UCSC. Another class member owned land in the Santa Cruz mountains, and he invited my aunt and uncle, as well as a few other people, I believe, down to his property to practice. This was about 40 years ago. It quickly grew into a biannual event, with weekend-long dances over the Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. This type of music is not in my blood, and I didn’t even grow up in this culture. However, I spent countless long weekends dancing with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including those who have immigrated from the Balkan region.

About 15 years ago, I surprised a Macedonian coworker by jumping right into a folk-dancing event at the nearby Seattle Center. She never saw it coming but was pleasantly surprised. Amazed that her black friend knew this aspect of her culture so intimately.

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At my sister’s wedding in 2013, with my mom second from right.

Whenever I dance in a circle with my left hand attached to one person and my right hand attached to another, I feel a sense of connection that I’ve never feel anywhere else. It’s not just the hand holding, and it’s not just the movement in and of itself. It’s this particular tradition that I’ve grown up with since birth. Whenever I attend weekends at what we refer to as “The Land,” I feel like I’m reconnecting with my roots.

I’m black on my dad’s side, and German, English, Irish and Scottish on my mothers. If anything, ancestry says I should love African dancing. I should love square dancing or English country dancing. But I don’t. For me, it’s Balkan and Israeli all the way.

This connection brings up many questions regarding ethnic identity. For example, if a black child is raised by white parents, is he culturally–in his bones–white? Can Rachel Dolezal claim blackness? Perhaps the simple difference is that I don’t see myself as Israeli or of Balkan origin. I don’t pretend to know much about the cultures or even the histories, besides what I’ve learned in school and picked up orally.

But when the music plays, whether it’s in the car or at The Land, my very bones feel that connection. My feet move as if they’ve always been meant to folk dance. I grab the belts of those next to me as if I were meant to perform this very act. Even when years go by between my visits –even when the landscape of who is attending is almost completely foreign to me–once I get on the dance floor, I’m connected to the wood, to the earth beneath, and to the rhythm that pervades my very core. I am a black folk dancer.

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On Reconciliation With an Alcoholic Parent

Dear Readers,

I’ve gotten behind in posting my latest articles to my blog! Without further ado, here is a researched piece from last month. I interviewed four women about their experiences with an alcoholic parent, if the parent was able to get sober, and if they were able to reconcile with their parent. This article was inspired by feedback I got from a father in recovery who wanted to know how he could reconcile with his daughter the way my father and I weren’t able to.

On Reconciliation With an Alcoholic Parent

For many parents who struggle with addiction, getting sober is only half the battle. Children often become “young soldiers” in an effort to protect themselves and those they love, including the parent. As the child gets older, forgiveness and reconciliation can become more difficult, even long after the parent has stopped using. My father never stopped using. My mother read an article recently in which I discussed the “demons” my dad saw as he was dying of lung cancer. “He was probably going through withdrawals,” she said. In the fifteen years since his death, I had never made that connection.

Read the rest here.