When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities by Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

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Pages: 248
Genre: Non-Fiction, Race and Culture, Japan, Mixed Identity
Format: Paperback
Published by Stanford University Press

Puerto Rican, Chinese, African American. Afro-Chino. Mestiza. A not-so-serious Catholic.  Who am I?

This whole book is Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu and a load of other similar writers who struggled with this one question, “Who am I, exactly?” The author is Japanese and Irish, sometimes he calls himself the “Celtic Samurai.” He was born in Japan and lived in the U.S. and then went back to Japan as an adult. Everybody in this book talks about their life experiences as a mixed race East Asian person. The author struggled with growing up in two worlds where he is not accepted fully. In Japan, he’s a foreigner that speaks Japanese, in the United States, he’s a Japanese that looks somewhat White, but is still not accepted because he isn’t “White enough.” Then there’s a Mexipino, a Blackinawan, a Korean Jewish adoptee, and many others who feel foreign wherever they go. This book covers a lot of history about post-World War II Japan and Okinawa that I highly suggest people should read, it really opened up my mind and cleared up a lot of the skewed perceptions people have about other countries. A lot of people don’t want to see both sides when people hear about xenophobia. 

The perspectives I can relate to the most was the Mexipino, Rudy, and the Blackinawin, Mitzi. Rudy’s was close because I’m Puerto Rican,  I don’t speak Spanish and I can’t dance, in this case it’s salsa, to save my life and I am too timid to do so. So of course, right away, I know that I don’t fit in with most Puerto Ricans. Despite that Mexican and Puerto Rican cultures are different, they do share similarities, like how Japanese and Chinese culture share some similarities but they are all different, and they are vastly different from Filipino culture. Mitzi’s story relates to me because like most African Americans, I struggled a lot with the “bad hair” complex, and both of us are not visibly Asian looking, knowing that colorism and anti-Blackness is so prevalent in Asian communities. We constantly have to prove who we are. Being Black, but also Asian and Latinx at the same time means receiving Asian microaggressions despite not being full Asian, getting yelled at for speaking Spanish like a gringo and for actually not knowing Spanish at all, and feeling awkward because I literally do not know most of what it’s popular in Black pop culture. It also doesn’t help that my first and last name is Chinese and for some reason I’m constantly mistaken as Filipino. This is what this book is all about, healing, accepting, and exploring one’s self.

 One aspect of a culture doesn’t represent a people as a whole. You don’t need to speak fluent Spanish or Mandarin to be “authentic” Puerto Rican or Chinese, you don’t need to know the latest hip hop hits to be an  “authentic” African American. Actually African Americans have invented so much of our American culture, way more than hip-hop, that I honestly get confused when people say that rock music is White people’s music. However, the reason for that is two words, White supremacy and cultural appropriation. There was an article by Zoë Kravitz that was very relatable to me, but I can’t find it at the moment. (I would like to talk more about identity and stuff, but then this review will get too long.)

And now here’s some points I didn’t like about this book:

– Too many books about mixed race Asian experiences focus too much on East Asians, especially Japan. I know that since the author is half Japanese, he will automatically gravitate toward everyone who is Japanese. But in general, there is  little representation of mixed-race Asians who aren’t East Asian and are non-White. Afro-Asians are always the least represented. What about Latinx Japanese people? What about Afro-Arabs? What about Arab Chinese? What about Afro-Vietnamese or Afro-Indians? 

– Possibly by pure coincidence and because of the generation the writers were born in, too many books about mixed race Asians have military parents. Not all of us have parents from the military or are military kids. My Singaporean Chinese father was a chef and my mother is a teacher. I am aware that most are from the military, but not ALL of us are.

There needs to be more from those who are American born. A lot of these essays tend to be from people who were born on their native lands and moved here or elsewhere. (Does this make sense what I’m saying?)  I read this point over and realized how underdeveloped and silly it sounded. Thank you Melanie Page,  for bringing up a good point. One of the people Murphy-Shigematsu covered was a woman, I can’t recall her name at the moment, who is a second or third generation Japanese American. Of course, I mean I want stories that are not only U.S. centric. I meant that I wanted to hear more stories about people like the woman I just mentioned, who were disconnected with their culture over the generations, and decided to reconnect. But I also want to hear about the diasporas that take place in other countries like let’s say Ireland or somebody like how Kazuo Ishiguro who is Japanese, not mixed race or mixed ethnicity, but lives as a British Japanese who is British all the way through. But since the author is American, of course, he will have more American experiences. 

Rating: 3.5/5

P.S. Some people misinterpreted the title of this book and thought that it was about mixed race Asians identifying as Full Asian. No, he’s saying that mixed race Asians are becoming whole, becoming whole as in accepting both sides. Not just the Asian side, not just the other side. What he means is taking all of you and becoming whole. No fractions.






Listicle Reviews: Violet Dusk by Ankhesen Mié and The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other by Chris Rhatigan


Pages: 102
Genre: Noir, Novella
Format: E-book
Published by KUBOA Press

1. A noir novella with the most handsome book cover.

2. It’s about a bunch of guys who live in a boring suburbia who have done horrible things.

3. Once again, like I said about My Friend Dahmer, it’s about that secret evil that lurks in the shadow of suburbia. A lot of people are bored and they think nothing happens, but guess what, people are stalking and killing each and chopping you up.

4. Friends who keep secrets are not the most trust worthy friends.

5. Because they will kill you and stalk you and make sure you don’t spill the milk.

6. Like most noir novels, this is a spitting, cursing, nihilistic little book about a guy who kills his friends and runs away. All because they sat down one day and had some drunken banter about their deepest secrets.

7. Written with prose that is lurid and yet somehow dull in the main character’s apathy. 

8. One thing that I tend to notice about anti-heros in the noir genre is that for some reason, you think they’re really cool. Which is bad, because in real life they are much worse than what is in these novels. 

9. Although I will admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much as his novella in  you don’t exist with Pablo D’Stair.

10. But it is excellent in its execution and would probably make a good short indie film.

Rating: 3/5

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Pages: 27
Genre: Poetry, Chapbook
Format: E-book
Published by Middle Child Press

1. It’s a short chapbook of poetry. 

2. It’s written in that classic style that I never remember the names of.

3. It’s hard talking about poetry, but I do love the essence and feeling of them.

4. This is refreshing to read. They weren’t heavy love poems sweating with lust or angsty poems sweating with tear drops or dripping them. Instead, they are poems that are complacent and sure of themselves, in their own seat, possibly a computer chair or a comfy cushion.

5. The poems are developed, reminding me of the form of pantoums or sonnets. I think that’s what they are.

6. Each poem is a representation of the author, because poetry like I will be saying a lot in this blog, is a form of healing and understanding one’s self. 

7. Like her novella collection, Folklore and Other Stories, she used folk tales and metaphor on her canvas.

8. Folk tales and fantasy are the tiny strings that somehow compose realities.

9. I honestly have nothing else to say. But I would definitely read more of her poetry.

10. Poetry reveals what’s  unconscious, hidden, and difficult to thread out of the mind. While fiction reveals it whole and exposed, sometimes a little too harshly. 

Rating: 4/5

Listicle Reviews for Two Books: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf and Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

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Pages: 224
Genre: Graphic Novel
Published by Abrams Comicarts
Borrowed from the Library

1. An autobiographical graphic novel about knowing someone that became one of the most infamous serial killers.

2. It’s very sad, so sad.

3. But utterly repulsive as you witness, in paper and ink, Dahmer slowly falling apart and you can’t help but pity him, but be disgusted, as his family leaves him alone to his demons.

4. Derf is just living your usual suburban life.

5. It’s about what lurks underneath the skin and consciousness of your neighborhood while you’re on the bus minding your own business, listening to some feel-good tunes. 

6. It’s about the biggest demon you fear that is sitting right next to you.

7. The art is comical but fits the hidden dreariness of isolated suburbia and teen angst that usually builds up a serial killer like Dahmer. The boogieman that lurks in suburbia streets. 

8. You question why something like this exists, but it’s about a guy who actually knew Dahmer.

9. It’s a form of  healing of sorts. Trying to comprehend a sadism that you don’t  want to know. 

10. The last haunting words on the last page: Dahmer, What have you done?

Rating: 4/5

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Pages: 192
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays, Speeches
Format: E-book

1. A collection of essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. A lot of people have read this since she is definitely one of the most important and influential women in history. Which is why my words on it aren’t really that important because it’s no different than anyone else’s.

2. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but this was written in a way where I could easily digest it without clawing my eyes out. It is written in her lovely voice by her lovely fingers.

3. She is delicate and strong, knowing that she is shoved outside of everything by every sister.

4. She is a women and a feminist.

5. A Black women and a Lesbian.

6. A poet and a word weaver.

7. Writing is a form of healing for those who know they are consistently clawed out of existence or muted.

8. Sisters should always join hands but yet we never do it.

9. You know that overused quote about pens being a weapon? This book is one of the most powerful swords, it will rip every form of organism and matter with one slice.

10. And that all I have to say. By the way, I wonder if she has a book dedicated to her travels, I really liked that first essay. Of course, I loved all of the other ones, but that one stuck with me for some reason, the way she describes people and landscapes, I guess that’s just how her poetic mind influences her prose.

Rating: 5/5

The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai

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Pages: 175
Genre: Literary Fiction, Japanese literature, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Published by New Directions

So I decided to break the silence on here for a little bit and write a short review of this rather short novel. I’m not sure if it’s short enough to be a novella, but most people don’t seem to notice and claim that it is.  I find it very hard to find pictures of this novel in the Google image searches. I had to search for it on Goodreads, but for some reason you can get the pink, No Longer Human pretty easily. 

It seems like No Longer Human, which was his first novel, is much more popular than The Setting Sun and honestly, I will admit that I was quite disappointed with this one. I gave it a three-star rating, but I honestly felt like giving it a two. I couldn’t though, I just couldn’t bear to do that to Dazai since I enjoyed No Longer Human so much. 

The Setting Sun almost felt like a sort of side story to No Longer Human since there were so many similar elements, the main character with a tragic flaw, the deeply flawed man who commits suicide who was actually a lot like the main character of No Longer Human, and of course, that unattainable desire. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what was the point of this novel. It was definitly one of those novels that were more of a concept than actual meaningful plot. If that makes sense. I do read a lot of concept or driven novels, but this one left me scratching my head. I know it’s supposed to be about the fall of the aristocrat class in Japan after World War II, but something about this novel made me shrug my shoulders and forgot all about it.

The whole plot of the story is centered around the tragic heroine’s life living as an aristocrat who’s life of being an aristocrat has died. She cheated on her husband and is divorced and basically does nothing except housework and occasionally a little bit of labor for when the money gets low. But what’s constantly looming over her head is the possibility of her mother passing away and leaving her alone to the world, because all this women had was her mother and alcoholic depressed brother and a lover who is also a bit of a bum.

Much like Dazai’s first novel, the main heroine gets into a lot lof shameful mess, such as once again cheating on her husband and doing ditzy crap like almost accidently setting a village on fire. Unlike, his first novel though, he brings in some weird coincidences where black snakes seem to predict incoming death or misfortune.

The woman is lost and in love, in fear of the future as her mother passes, and trapped in her home with her mother and brother as they depart from her life. And then all she has is the one lover who isn’t really there for her, because forbidden love stuff, and he’s married already. 

The Setting Sun is a lot like No Longer Human, but it’s just subpar, plot-wise. The prose is beautiful and delicate, much like Yukio Mishima’s works, who was influenced by Dazai, but towards the middle of the book, it got weighed down by the tragic heroine’s constant moping. I get that the situation would cause this, but it was just so overwhelming, I felt like I was watching one of those really over dramatic soap operas. So this second novel, very nice and classical, but it was a total flop for me. 

Rating: 3/5

Not Dead, Just Busy

1. I’m in summer school, but it will end soon. (The 28th.)

2. Sometimes I’m in a blog funk, especially in the summer, ironically enough. It’s usually when I have lots of free time that I procrastinate everything.

3. I like to do many projects and then get overwhelmed. What am I doing?

a. I’m running an e-zine  And I’m still working on the second issue. If you’re a writer and want to submit, just read the blog. The second issue needs poetry and prose that is weird, experimental, Sci-Fi, and surreal. Here’s the first issue. If you want to download it, just comment, and I will send you a link to the PDF.

b. I’m writing my own zines. But I keep scrapping them because they suck. But this one I will stick to. It’s going to be a perzine reflecting on my mixed-race identity and the non-fiction book: When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities by Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu. The perzine will be called “Penumbral Eclipse.” The title may change. There are very little media out there that is relatable and makes me feel less lonely.

c. I also write my own fictions and had one little fiction scene published in a little zine, little non-fiction proses published in two little zines, and some terrible poetry in one zine. Should I put a “Stuff I’ve written” in the tabs? I generally do not like talking about my own writing because it is pretty bad in my opinion. These zines are little zines run by zinesters, they are not major publications like The New York Times or Five Quarterly or something. Which is why I don’t talk about my writings anywhere. I’m also writing for a zine. I also write under various pen names. But I’m sticking to one right now. No more changes.

d. Maybe, just maybe, I will publish snippets of my writing here and then provide them for pay what you want on Gumroad, which means free, if you want it free, just put a zero. But lately I have been super lazy and dry with writing. And honestly, I don’t really care about being published and recognized. I rather give it away for free and have like 5 ratings on Goodreads. That’s enough to make me happy. If my friends like it and some random stranger liked it, that’s good enough. I like indie and obscure.

4. Once again, the blog is not dead. I love this blog.

Mira Corpora by Jeff Jackson

Mira Corpora

Pages: 182
Genre: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Published by Two Dollar Radio

This book received a lot of well-deserved hype in the small press world. Sadly, I will probably not see this in Barnes N’ Nobles or Book Outlet. I also won’t write a good enough review for it either. No sympathy tears, I just finished this awhile ago, and when that happens it’s hard to get words for it. You can also blame summer laziness in my tardiness of getting stuff down. But I don’t think I will be forgetting this book anytime soon. I guess like I did with MW, I will be doing a listicle review. I will admit that it took me awhile to get into the first part of the book, but as soon the narrator escapes into a reality, I was absorbed into it.

1. It starts off like a journal where he opens up this new world in which he apparently never leaves until he “grows up.”

2. This is the dysfunctional YA I’ve been waiting for. Yes, that sounds a little sick, but let me explain. This book took place for most of the main character’s young life and ends at an age that is towards the end of the young adult phase of life. It’s rough, but not sugar coated, it’s bleak, and it never stops to coddle the reader. It’s quite brutal and deviant much like the punk rock movie poster cover. It’s terrifying.

3. What makes it more harrowing is that this book is so unforgiving and yet it’s so magical. I’ve never read Chronicles of Narnia because I am a peasant, but the prose in this book totally clashes with the horrific stuff the narrator goes through. It has a dreamy, innocent quality, you can’t really tell what’s real or not since for most the book, the narrator was a child for most of the novel. And yes, 20 years old is, according to older people, a kid still. 

4.  The book’s cinematic prose reminds me of how the author is a playwright and you can definitely tell that that carries on as an influence in his writing. In it’s exact but not so heavy use of imagery that seems to flow right with the story, no info dumps of description, and the characters feel real, the narrator is whispering in your head, as he faces nightmares of temporarily leave an unaccepting civilization, only to come back, and die a little inside.

5. As expected, there’s no happy ending, but instead a closure to what is supposed to be left behind, not finished, but wanting to be over with it.

Rating: 5/5


The Shortest Review I Have Done In A While: Drifter Volume 1: Out of the Night by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)

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Pages: 128
Genre: Science Fiction, Graphic Novels
Format: E-book
Published by Image Comics
This was received from Netgalley for an honest opinion

Either Image Comics provides most of the graphic novels on Netgalley or I’m just a religious follower of Image Comics and I don’t even realize it. 

I can’t say much for this. I’m into Saga but not this one. The cover is immaculate. The artwork is pretty decent and the usual for the genre. The inking and coloring inside are very appealing to the eyes, especially the blues and reds. 

The plot however, didn’t interest me much. I had no idea what was happening in the beginning  and then eventually I lost interest. It’s your typical mysterious hero with little memory, or in this case, the storyteller takes forever to reveal things about the past in order to make the character mysterious and as if he forgot everything. There’s conflicts and the main character is exploring this world he crashed into and he’s just like “Whoah,” as the friends he makes, that found him and nursed him, fight off some monsters and dudes. Then there’s this guy who’s doing some nefarious stuff. And honestly I skimmed through most of this and don’t remember anything. Lots of sand, aliens. Borderlands stuff.

There were flavourful coloring and good looks. But the plot just didn’t get me in the first 30 pages. So this was just a forgettable sci-fi volume. Maybe I should I pick it up again if I see it in a library because it looks like it might be a hit. Maybe, I will give it another try some other day.

Rating: 2/5