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Chopsticks Alley Pinoy: Letter from Asela Lee Kemper, Co-editor

Dear Chopstick Alley Pinoy Readers,

For a while, I thought about how I would introduce myself.

Growing up, I was exposed to limited Asian American representations. On TV, I saw myself in Mulan, Pokémon, and any movie that starred Jackie Chan. When I turned to books, Asian stories were written as exaggerated retellings depicting an ancient-version of China or Japan. As a kid, I internalized these representations as accurate Asian American stories. I once believed that Asian Americans only exist as ninjas, people who wear kimonos every day, or a foreigner who needs a white man to explain what a hamburger is. I held onto this idea until I picked up Cynthia Kadohata's book Kira Kira at my school's annual book fair. Kira Kira follows a Japanese family that immigrated to a small town in Georgia as they faced challenges affecting their mental health and adjusting to life in America. Reading Kira Kira introduced me to contemporary stories that are more realistic than romanticized versions of Asian American experiences. It led me to read works by Maxine Hong Kingston, Alex Dang, Ken Liu, and one of my favorite poets, Franny Choi, who writes honest but introspective poetry on being a queer Asian American woman in the 21st century. When I read her poem "Sweat," I finally saw myself. I was so in awe of her work that I thought to myself, "If she can do it, so can I." Through Kira Kira, I’ve opened up to poems, books, and other media that uplift Asian American stories.  

Although I was able to find these writers sharing their Asian American experiences, I realize that there are little to no platforms that amplify Filipinx American writers in the same way. Filipinx writers like Anthony Christian Ocampo and Barbara Jane Reyes rarely appear in mainstream reading recommendations listed on sites like Buzzfeed as far as I know. My close friends and colleagues, who identify as Filipinx American, have written incredible poetry and fiction. Yet, they expressed uncertainty regardless of whether they’ll get recognized for their work and culture.

Some people may wonder how I will use my voice in a field that aims to uplift Filipinx and Filipinx Americans. As a non-Filipinx American, I could not fathom why Filipinx and Filipinx American writers were not getting the recognition they deserved. However, contemporary stories like Kira Kira have taught me that representation connects with communities and shows us that we are not alone. Representation is a keyword that I, an American of East Asian descent, am no stranger to. 

As an editor, I will use my platform to advocate for Filipinx and Filipinx American writers. I will reach out to the community to encourage future writers interested in literature and the arts. There will be moments where I will make mistakes. Still, I am willing to be open and learn with and from my co-editor, director, community, and Chopstick Alley Pinoy readers, so Chopstick Alley Pinoy will continue to be a space where Filipinx and Filpinx Americans see themselves represented. 

My name is Asela Lee Kemper, and I am excited to be your new editor at Chopsticks Alley Pinoy.

Thank you, 

Asela Lee Kemper

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Asela L. Kemper - Oregon

Co-Editor Chopsticks Alley Pinoy

Asela holds a BFA in Creative Writing with a minor in Emerging Media & Digital Arts from Southern Oregon University. She holds many positions including poetry reader for Timberline Review (also as a copyeditor for poetry), Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and Marías at Sampaguitas, contributor for Royal Rose Magazine, and poetry editor for Ayaskala. She has also previously published in SOU Student Press, Flawless Mag: The Border Issue, Silk Club: QUIET, Reclamation Mag, and No Tender Fences. Asela uses her passion for creative writing to open conversations on diversity and identity in literature. As an Asian American, she uses her platform to engage and uplift underrepresented Asian American artists. She resides in Oregon, USA with her family.

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