How My Family Ended Up in Texas

Literary / News
A magazine open to a spread. There is an illustration of a man behind a counter and the text reads, "Counter Revolution. My grandparents from China risked everything to start a humble grocery store in an unlikely place and changed by family forever."

If you fly Southwest Airlines, check out the April issue of their magazine. I have an essay about my grandparents’ grocery store. It’s also the story of my family’s journey from a rural village in Southern China to El Paso, Texas.  (I would like to take a moment to say: Yay print magazines!)

You can also read it here.

Immigrant Love for the Filet-O-Fish

Literary / News
A photo illustration of a Filet-O-Fish against a background of yellow, green, and blue.

Shondaland has published my essay on a very important topic: my love of the Filet-O-Fish — and why it was the only McDonald’s item my immigrant family would eat (besides the fries, of course). I loved hearing from so many people after this piece ran about their own McFish memories. Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s a fast-food favorite of many immigrants: Chinese, Bengali, Korean, Somali, Filipino, and more. I was moved to learn that this fish-and-cheese combo connected us all.

Illustration by Brianna Ellis-Mitchell for Shondaland

What I Wrote in 2017

A reconstructed guard tower at Manzanar. In the distance are snow-capped mountains.

As I look back on 2017, I wanted to share a few things that I wrote this year.

I wrote about my relationship with swimming and how it helps with chronic pain and writer’s block. It was my first published personal essay, thanks to editor extraordinaire Nicole Chung.

In April I wrote an essay about visiting Manzanar, site of an internment camp where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

In August, in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, I penned a love letter to Houston, my hometown, in Vogue.

Journalism wise, I reported on gentrification in Chinatowns across America for NPR.

I interviewed educators, parents, and kids about how youth and schools are coping with the political climate after the presidential election.

I talked to education experts about whether colleges and universities are ready to serve the increasing number of students of color.

I got to do some uplifting stories too, like this one about a 70-year-old immigrant woman who ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents.

I interviewed actor Danny Pudi about his childhood and his first romantic lead role in a film.

And I talked to novelist Lisa Ko about her debut novel, “The Leavers.”

Photos From the Road to Manzanar

Journalism / Other Stuff
A sign by the side of an empty road reads, "Vacancy, Motel."

I wanted to share a few photos I took in early April  when I drove to Manzanar National Historic Site, the former internment camp where Japanese Americans were incarcerated, to write this essay for NPR.





1) Vacancy sign in Cartago, CA along U.S. Route 395. I had to drive the southern route from San Francisco because the northern route was impassable due to a storm. This added two hours to the drive. (Total drive time: about eight hours).  2) Recreation of a guard tower at Manzanar. There had been eight.  3) The remains of what was once a garden at Manzanar. Residents built gardens to make camp life feel a little more normal.  4) Offerings by the Manzanar cemetery and monument.  5) The post office in Independence, CA, the closest inhabited area to Manzanar, about six miles north.


On Swimming and Living with Chronic Pain

Literary / News
The image for "To swim is to endure," which is a painting of a female swimmer's back.

Catapult published my personal essay, To Swim is to Endure, about my relationship to swimming and how it helps me get through chronic headaches and writer’s block. This essay has been many months in the making. Though part of me is wary of putting something so personal out in the world, I’m thrilled to be in Catapult. If you don’t know it, be sure to spend some time on there. The site is full of great writing.

Art by Ellen Orseck / Image via brad, flickr

A Review of Writer and Journalist Portfolio Sites

Journalism / Other Stuff
journoportfolio portfolio review

After a decade-long break from journalism, I returned to the field and realized that I needed a better-looking online portfolio. I’ve been keeping links to my writing clips on this website, but it’s rather text heavy. I tried adding one image per story, but the page looked rather disorganized since it’s essentially an article format with images and story descriptions piled up vertically one after the other. So, I explored portfolio sites out there for writers and journalists. (UPDATE: I’ve since figured out how to make a more visually-appealing portfolio in WordPress, which is what my site is built in, but the portfolio sites are easier to use.)

What I looked for:

  • clean and organized look
  • easy for the reader to navigate
  • easy to use on the account or dashboard end
  • looks good on mobile
  • the ability to organize content by sections (say, by type of writing or by topic)

The portfolio sites I considered:

For all the sites, you can add a clip by simply entering its URL. The sites do all the work for you, grabbing the headline, an excerpt, and an image for you. (Some do a better job at this than others. I found myself having to upload images for some clips.) All of them have editable fields in case you want to change the text or upload a different image. For stories that don’t live online, you can also upload PDFs. All of these sites also have spots for your social media handles.

At first I tried to get away with just looking at existing samples of these sites. But I realized that in order to truly understand how they worked, I had to sign up so I could experience it myself first hand.

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Exploring the History of Chinatown Through Food

Journalism / News
A photo exhibit inside a gallery. A few photos of Capital Restaurant are on the wall. There is also a cabinet with pink bakery boxes stacked on it.

APEX Express on KPFA-FM aired a story of mine about an art show in San Francisco Chinatown that explores the history of the neighborhood through food. The photo exhibit commemorates classic eateries that have been operating for 40 years or more. My segment begins at 39:00.

Here are a few photos I took while reporting this story. The photo above is of the exhibit, “Eat Chinatown,” at 41 Ross. Below: popular dishes at Capital Restaurant, the interior of Eastern Bakery, and the bakery’s dan tats.

Dishes on a table at Capital Restaurant.