FOUND IN A TWEET: “THE ONLY LANGUAGE I SPEAK,” BY VICTORIA CHO

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Nearly one year after beginning to blog, I’ve finally stuck a big toe  — just one — in Twitter. About certain matters, mainly digital, I’m very slow. (I think I’ve mentioned that before, but thought I’d repeat it just in case anyone forgot.) It took half a day for me to master the Twitter button widget. Thank God for Julie Lawford — who knows the ropes, and kindly offered to guide me through the quagmire of hashtags and punctuation when I tweeted helplessly in her direction.

So now, at bottom left, anyone with patience and time to kill can see the most recent sound bites I’ve managed to tweet. But that’s not what this post is about. Besides, there’s not much extra there you won’t find here — certainly not much of substance. 140 characters is practically jail for folks like me who need freedom from word counts.

Will all this toil in Twitter’s vineyards bring more views to TGOB?  Only, I suspect, if I spend far more time than I’m willing to contemplate in building up follows on Twitter.  As the young might tweet: OMG!

However — and this is a big however — on my very first day of following other people’s tweets, I did discover something:  A link to a splendid post that beautifully illustrates the benefits of addressing the blank page or screen bird by bird.  (See Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, four posts back, in “Give Yourself A Short Assignment.”)  Which just goes to show there are rewards in heaven for the various purgatories on earth, such as learning to tweet — in this case, one less post I have to dig out of myself and a lovely read for you.

Although the link was to a piece in Perigee, a WordPress blog maintained by Apogee: Reclaiming the Margins, a literary review interested in issues of diversity and ethnicity, I couldn’t find a reblog button. (Shame on you, Perigee or Apogee.)  So I’ve had to recopy it  (which is not exactly a reblog, but the best I could do). It comes from Issue 3 of Apogee, and was posted on September 22, 2014. I’m thumbs up both on what it says and how delicately it’s put together — rather like a collage (which I understand its author also practices). I do hope readers and writers who stop by at TGOB will enjoy it too:

THE ONLY LANGUAGE I SPEAK

By Victoria Cho

My elementary school classmates ask, “Are you from China?” “Are you from Japan?” I say no to both. They ask, “So where?” I say, “My parents are from Korea.” They ask where that is. I say, “Close to China and Japan.” They don’t ask any more questions.

***

My brother and I are sent to a summer camp for Korean Americans in a small Korean town. The other campers are surprised we don’t speak Korean. The teachers give lessons on Korean music and food. My brother and I are bored and play basketball. When we return to Virginia, my parents ask if we picked up any Korean. We shrug and say, “Not really.”

***

I am a college freshman. I join the Korean American Student Association. We’re planning the first outing of the year, and someone recommends a club. Someone else says, “That place is too white.” I realize the only places I go are full of white people. I realize I’d feel uncomfortable at a place full of Koreans. I drop out of the Association. I make new friends. None of them are Korean American, but a few are not white. It is my first time with not white friends.

***

In Thailand, locals greet me with, “Konichiwa.” I assume my colorful outfits and short haircut reflect Japanese trends. I almost don’t get a job teaching English because the school principals don’t believe I speak English. I tell one principal, “English is the only language I speak.”  She asks, “But your face?” I get this question everywhere. Vendors and tuk-tuk drivers ask where I’m from. I say “America,” and they ask, “But your face?” I say my parents are Korean, and they nod with satisfaction.

***

People say “Konichiwa” and “Ni-how” to me on the streets of New York. They are usually non-Asian men and occasionally teenagers or children. My responses range from, “I speak English” to silence to curse words. Sometimes waiters or shop owners in Chinatown or Sunset Park say “Ni-how” when I enter. I speak English, and they switch. The transition is fluid and forgotten.

***

A guy I am dating says I am the third consecutive Asian woman he has dated. I think of the time one man told me Asian women are known for having small, tight vaginas. I think: everyone I have dated has been Caucasian and male.

***

A drunk young man on the subway asks where I’m from. I say, “Virginia.” He asks where my parents are from. This is what people ask when they want to know why you look like you do. I reluctantly say, “Korea.” He asks if I speak Korean. I say no, and he wags his finger at me. I stop speaking to him and look annoyed. He apologizes. I think of my guilt that I do not speak Korean the rest of the ride home.

************

Victoria Cho’s writing has appeared in The Collagist, Quarter After Eight, Word Riot, and Mosaic Art and Literary Journal. She was born in Virginia and now writes, collages, and plays in New York.

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5 thoughts on “FOUND IN A TWEET: “THE ONLY LANGUAGE I SPEAK,” BY VICTORIA CHO

  1. Purgatory is right. Which is why my blog is tweet- and FB-free. And curses LOL. Victoria, I really enjoyed these snippets. With roots in NYC, I have been to VA and its own tristate area. I would comment further except I’ve done my share in a series I ran earlier this year with bloggers around the globe in which we explored race, culture, boundaries, identity, belonging. I will presume that it’s all right with our wonderful hostess that I share a glimpse of that journey and my own story with you:

    http://holisticwayfarer.com/2014/03/10/my-race-coast-to-coast-part-1-2/

    I appreciate the look if you pop in and the best of luck in Twitter Land egh.

    (Thanks for directing me here, N.)
    Diana

    Like

    • Diana, I’ve sent tweets both to Victoria and to Eugenia Kim, a somewhat older Korean-American writer and editor of Apogee, the literary review in which Victoria’s piece first appeared — asking them to revisit my reblog of Victoria’s piece to see your comment. I then sent both second tweets with the pasted link to your posts last spring. As I don’t have their emails, and they are not WP bloggers or subscribers, tweeting was the only way to reach them. (Forgive, forgive!) I do hope they both come read your wonderful posts and leave some indication that they’ve done so. Best I can do. I will be over to read them myself as soon as I can. Be well. Nina

      Like

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