Captain’s Log, Supplemental
My agent sent me an article from Publisher’s Weekly that discussed this incident:
Chinese Take-Out Spawns Christian Controversy
And here’s also a blog post that talks about it in more detail:
The Fighting 44s
This is Soong-Chan Rah’s blog:
The PCS blog
Apparently Zondervan (yes, my publisher), who has partnered with Youth Specialties, had put out a youth leaders skit that had stereotypical Asian dialogue, which offended many Christian Asian Americans.
In response to the outcry, Zondervan/Youth Specialities put out a sincere apology and is not only freezing the remaining stock of the book, but also reprinting it and replacing the copies people have already bought. I am very proud of my publisher for how they have handled this situation.
The skit writers have also issued a public apology. (I feel sorry for them, because they were only trying to write a funny skit, not stir up this maelstrom of internet controversy. I’ve been in youth work long enough to know how it probably went—they were probably sitting in Starbucks and getting a caffeine high, and they started throwing out more and more outrageous ideas for a skit that would entertain ADD teens.)
And isn’t it very telling that the publisher who buys my book, which is the very FIRST Asian American Christian fiction novel in the entire CBA, is Zondervan? That says a lot right there.
I understand how many Asian Americans—particularly Chinese Americans—would be offended by the dialogue in the skit. It can give a wrong impression of the Asian American culture.
However, as an Asian American myself, I have to say this:
I have known and heard Chinese restaurant owners who speak in just that accent. That piece of dialogue is not incorrect, at least in my experience, although granted, it is a stereotype.
Obviously, not all Chinese restaurant owners speak with an accent or would say something like the dialogue in the skit.
I’ve been to many Chinese restaurants and I have relatives who own or are good friends with the owners of Chinese restaurants. (I actually like Chinese food more than Japanese food, to the chagrin of my mother.)
Not all owners have that strong an accent, but many do if they are first generation Asian Americans. Heck, many Japanese American restaurant owners have strong accents, too.
Maybe I’m ignorant of these things, but I didn’t see how it was so very bad. Was it the accent? The substance of what the character was saying?
I personally thought the dialogue was really funny, especially the end when he eats it! Am I somehow degenerate for thinking it was hilarious?
(The only thing I didn’t recognize was the use of the word pu pu, which I’d always thought was a Hawaiian word for appetizers, not a Chinese word for food. At least, that’s what I’d grown up to understand.)
I’m also a bit disappointed that so many Christian Asian Americans responded with some hostility.
Update: Thanks to Andre for pointing this out, but not all bloggers who responded did so with anger, and I hope I didn’t imply (with my above statement) that everyone did.
I understand their objective—they don’t want something so blatantly ignorant to happen again—but for many bloggers I read, their responses were emotional and aggressive.
I personally don’t like reading people from my own racial group responding this way when I don’t personally feel the same way, and making it seem as if all Asian Americans think as they do.
I personally don’t like the hostility I’m reading, because the people involved certainly didn’t set out to deliberately bash Asian Americans.
And now I’m probably going to get flamed for thinking this way, but I really feel I have to say something as an Asian American author, who has worked with Asian American youth at my Asian American church for ten years, whose Asian American Christian novel comes out in September.
This whole controversy has made me totally worried about Sushi for One?.
Are Christian Asian Americans going to rise up against me for writing characters with accents because that’s offensive to my ethnicity?
Will I be ostracized because I find humor in some Asian American stereotypes?
Will I be considered insensitive because I make fun of aspects of the Asian American culture, since I grew up in it?
Are all Asian Americans going to be offended by what they perceive as incorrect portrayals of their culture?
I am hoping to show many different aspects of the Asian American culture—people with accents, people without. Some stereotypes that are true, some that are not.
However, are Asian Americans going to be offended by things they think I shouldn’t make fun of?
I am not of a serious turn of mind (and those of you who are long-time blog readers certainly know that). I find humor in a lot of things. I’m not the most PC of people.
Asian American culture is FUN! Sure, there are very serious aspects of Asian American history, but growing up Asian American is hecka fun!
A lot of the things I make fun of in my novel are true not only for Asian Americans, but also for other ethnic groups. That’s what makes it funny.
I mean, my own mother laughed her okole off when she saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I don’t think she’s even eaten Greek food more than a couple times, much less known any Greek Americans.
Besides, what is chick lit but finding humor in the things that are all around us? Finding the absurd in the things we grow up with?
PS--> Feel free to disagree, although please keep cussing to a minimum.
Update: Just to let you know, nobody at Zondervan or Youth Specialties asked me to write this. I'm doing this just because this is my own personal reaction to what I've been reading in cyberspace.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Captain’s Log, Supplemental