Love in the time of Asianness

Hey, everyone! So, I had written a post for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (which was the month of May) that, for a variety of reasons, I never posted. But now that I’m thinking clearly, I figured I’d still go ahead and put it up, even though it’s a little bit late. Because, in the end, I get to be Asian all the time and not just in May. So it’s still relevant!

SummerRain-200x300But before I jump into that, I want to shamelessly plug a romance anthology that came out on Monday that myself and a few other Wonksters, plus some friends of Wonk, are in. It’s called Summer Rain, it has nine exclusive romance stories in it, and all author proceeds from the sale of the volume go to benefit the Rape Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)!

Here are the buy links, for ease of purchasing.

Amazon * B&N * kobo * iTunes * Amazon UK

And now, on to talking about Asian stuff!

So, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m a romance author who happens to be half Asian. My other half is Caucasian. I was born and raised just outside of Austin, Texas, I moved up to the Northeast for college when I was seventeen, and I’ve been freezing my butt off ever since because I haven’t bothered to move back just yet (It’s only been eighteen years but…any day now.)

Because of my mixed background, I’ve had some interesting Asian-related (I’m making that an official Thing) experiences. But talking about those in a blog post…well, I wasn’t really sure what one or two things to pick to focus on. Obviously, I can’t represent the full spectrum of Asian experience. And I can’t even represent the full spectrum of my Asian experience in a single blog post. So, I decided to stick to the things I like best…the first of which is hot guys.

Yep. Hot guys. Can I just say how bummed I get over how the hotness of Asian men isn’t usually well-represented on TV and in books? Usually, they take on this kind of asexual nerdy friend role in films, or they’re human weapons (read: masters of martial arts) who belong to bordering-on-mystical crime syndicates in the East. And that makes me sad, because they’re so much more than that.

I mean…they’re hot.

Take Exhibit A: Andy Lau, super mega Chinese hotness:

Or Exhibit B: Yoon Seung-jun, super mega Korean hotness:

Or Exhibit C: Takeshi Kaneshiro, super mega Japanese hotness:

I’m just sayin’.

Also, you’re welcome.

My late grandfather, rockin' his mid-50s.

My late grandfather, rockin’ his mid-50s.

Anyway, all of this to say that, all kidding aside, I’d really like to see more Asian heroes in media. Television, novels…especially romance novels. Because they’re sexy and wonderful and just as tough-but-caring, gentle-but-rough, and awesomely powerful as men of other races and ethnicities. They’re men I know because I grew up around them, and they are men who feel just as deeply as any other man. Romance heroes are, after all, human at their core—and what does it say about us as a people if we have a problem recognizing our common humanity? I’m probably preaching to the choir, here, but I just had to get that out.

Of course, let’s not forget about Asian women (*raises hand*). They deserve love, too! But I think that, for Asian ladies, it’s the opposite problem—that in media they’re too frequently reduced to only sexual beings. And that’s a little intense, because I can promise you that, just from personal experience, that kind of message really does get snapped up and internalized by the viewing/reading/information-consuming public, in ways that are so ingrained and accepted that it’s hard to recognize them as having a yuck factor. Like, I can’t even tell you how many times someone told a boyfriend of mine that he had Yellow Fever just because I happen to have nut-shaped eyes. (People. For real. Almonds? C’mon.)

I think Asian women are awesome. Just like I think all women are awesome. Women do all kinds of cool stuff that makes a positive difference in the world and such a small fraction of that cool stuff has anything to do with sex. Which leads me into my next topic: comic books. Recently, my little kids got into superheroes and comic books, but I couldn’t find any comics for young children that featured kickass, non-Caucasian women supers. So I was all, By the power of Grayskull! I’m gonna make my own! (Okay, fine, it wasn’t really that dramatic. I basically added a line item to my to-do list that said, “Comic book. Female superhero. Not white.”)

So…I created a half Asian female superhero concept, wrote a creation story for her, Alexis Anne hooked me up with an incredibly talented artist, Chris Nawara, and the rest…well, it’s not history yet, but I’d be pretty happy if maybe someday it would be.


Speaking of Asian Pacific Americans, even though it’s not “our month” anymore, here’s one last heritage-type thought to round it all out: that is, in all seriousness, I hope folks who might never have actively thought about it will explicitly realize and reinforce that Asian Pacific Americans are Americans, too. I’ve been on the receiving end of choice comments like, “Are you one of them ‘Nam babies?” and “Go back to China!” and “Ching chong chang!” (What does that even mean?) Hopefully, it’s obvious why that’s kind of crappy. But I will also say that the wide majority of comments on my race and ethnic background that I’ve gotten have been genuinely curious or even complimentary. And that’s one of the very, very cool things about America, and living in a place with such a wide diversity.

In the end, I’m grateful that I live here. I’m grateful that I had the experience of growing up with a Chinese father and a white American mother. And I’m grateful for hot Asian guys, kickass Asian women, and having the luck and privilege to have been born in a country where I am allowed to write romance novels, drive a car to the bookstore to buy romance novels, access any website I want to watch all the romantic comedies I want (featuring hot Asian men), and—above all else—to be the steward of my own life.

Rock on, America.

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22 Responses to Love in the time of Asianness

  1. Sarah Wynde says:

    Hmm, you have made me worried that I fell into stereotypes I didn’t realize existed! My first book’s main character is half-Japanese, half-Caucasian, and I knew that having her be serious and scientific might seem stereotypical. She’s also sarcastic, stubborn and sees ghosts, so… I guess I recognized the possibility, but that was simply who the character was to me, and not all of who she was. But she’s also sort of sexually matter-of-fact. When she decides she wants the hero, she seduces him. I didn’t have any idea that could be falling into a sexual stereotype of Asian women. I guess we don’t always recognize our own stereotyping but I’m glad to have learned it now, anyway.

    As for hot Asian men, Godfrey Gao should be included on any such list! He’s beautiful!

    • Audra North says:

      I actually think that sounds awesome! It doesn’t sound like you’re having other people make her into a sex object, or having her be a prostitute or nympho just because she’s Asian. So, yay for sexual independence and strong women of all races! :)

      And you’re so right. Godfrey Gao yesssssss.

  2. rube says:

    Tried to read a romance novel recently where a character’s father was Korean and her mother was “American” even though both parents lived in the US. It really really bothered me that American meant white. (That and the character had “exotic” eyes. Ugh.) Tried to stick with the book a little longer but I couldn’t finish.

    Anyway, I would love to see more of the aforementioned superhero. Also, let’s gaze at Daniel Henney forever and ever:

    • Audra North says:

      I shouldn’t have clicked on that Daniel Henney link first because now I am ruined for the rest of the day. How am I going to get any work done?

      Ah, exotic eyes, exotic beauty, exotic elbows. I mean, yeah. I grew up in an interesting place, where old men who’d fought in the wars and had been stationed in the Far East were often some of the most accepting but also hilariously racist people I met. Like one guy who would come into the restaurant where I worked and talk about “the round eyes” and “the slant eyes.” Which was, like, wtf at first, but when he’d been stationed abroad, the local population called the American (white or not…though most weren’t Asian, anyway) soldiers “the round eyes.”

      Not sure what that had to do with the book you’re reading, which sounds like a different kind of projecting was going on, but the eyes comment made me think of that.

      And…interestingly, when I was growing up, my father’s family referred to non-Chinese as “American” because my family members were always referred to as “Chinese” even though they were American citizens. It was a funny little F-U to the exclusion.

      • rube says:

        Oh yes, my family did the same thing, too: referring to non-Chinese as (in our case) Canadians, as if we were a tiny stronghold against a blue-eyed tide. (And I feel pretty ambivalent about this stance, but that’s another story.)

        But in this novel, the Koreans vs American thing seems like faulty editing at the very least (because American isn’t what is meant here) and furthermore I find it annoying and problematic.

        Or maybe I’m just being nitpicky. Anyway, I’ll be in my bunk looking at Daniel Henney and Takeshi Kaneshiro pics.

        • Audra North says:

          Oh, yes. I totally agree if it’s obnoxious if “white” is the default meaning of “American” in a way that comes from a culturally ignorant POV.

    • Holy cow, that may be the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.

  3. Nu says:

    Fully agreed that Asian guys are underrated and hot as the next guy. That’s why I’m writing one. By the way, if you’re looking for Asian superhero comics, I’d recommend Shattered Identities if you haven’t picked it up yet, although I didn’t like one of the representations. Can’t win them all, I guess.

    • Nu says:

      And for your consideration may I add Aaron Kwok? *_*

      • Audra North says:

        YEeeesss Aaron Kwok! Definitely. I think it’s that smirky little mouth that does it for me.

        Shattered Identities is good. I wanted something for my kids, specifically, which SI is a bit…not quite for kids. :) There are some Wonder Woman comics and girl-power comics for kids, but the females in those are often super cartoonish, like thick black outlines, very little shading so not much muscle definition, etc. They look flat, which bothers me a lot when compared to the well-developed, tough-looking male supers.

        • Nu says:

          Hm, I see what you mean. I would recommend Ms. Marvel, but I don’t know if she’s age appropriate since she mentions concern-trolling in the first issue. She might go over the young ones’ heads, lol.

          • Audra North says:

            Ha! Awesome. Well, my daughter is 2, so we’re at the Little Golden Books comics stage. But my 4-y/o boy is the one who asked me about it. He wanted to know why there weren’t any “grown-up girl” (his word for women) superheroes. I figured he needed to see there were some already, but most of them are in teen-level or above books. :)

          • Popping in late to say that my son enjoyed the Power Pack comics/graphic novels when he was younger. Still rereads them actually. There are four siblings, two girls and two boys, and he always thought the youngest girl’s power was the coolest. :) My friend who owns a comic book shop (this is Pat again, Audra!) recommended them to us. They’re all white kids, so no diversity on that end, but the girls at least have story lines of equal weight to the boys, which is cool.

  4. Jackie Horne says:

    Hey, Audra:

    Great post. Do you have recommendations for us for romance novels with hunky Asian heroes, ones that don’t invoke racist stereotypes?

    • Audra North says:

      I have one contemporary recommendation, which is Suleikha Snyders Bollywood series. Bollywood and the Beast was yummm. Solace Ames wrote an erotic romance featuring an Asian-American hero, too–also a rec!

      I have read a couple other contemps with Asian or Asian-descent heroes, but unfortunately I can’t recommend them for reasons that have mostly to do with really problematic portrayals of the hero’s race and race-related issues.

      There’s Jeannie Lin’s historicals, of course, and Marjorie Liu and Jacqueline Carey write Asian characters in their fantasy/paranormal books, but contemporary…not so much. Sadly. If anyone has read a good one and can add, I’d welcome it!

    • Justine says:

      I liked Short Soup by Coleen Kwan. Both the H/h are ABC*. It’s a contemporary friends-to-lovers novella set in Australia.

      *Usually signifies American-born Chinese, but means Australian-born Chinese in this case!

      • Audra North says:

        Thanks for the recs, Justine! I only know Coleen’s Entangled books, so I will check out Short Soup. And I LOVE friends-to-lovers. Woot!

  5. Fiona McGier says:

    I used to be a lunch mom in a school with 15% students who spoke something other than English at home. Every month I’d choose another language and the kids had to ask “please” in that language for me to give them a life-saver as a treat. Chinese for “please” is “Ching”. Used to sound like a bunch of little bells going off around me when they crowded me!

    So the next time someone is so crass as to say that to you, give them an irritated look and say, “Yeah? What do you want? Why are you asking me please?” That will hopefully make them realize what utter cretins they’re behaving like.

    Great post and gorgeous men! But then I like to look at any color of gorgeous men!

    • Audra North says:

      I love that idea, of teaching words to children in other languages, or having them teach one another. It’s a great way to connect.

      It’s interesting to me that, despite the increasing diversity in our schools (in our area, anyway), people still want to pigeonhole my kids. Even when I explain that they’re of Chinese-Yemeni-Dutch-German heritage, I’ve had a couple of people go, “Oh, wow, Chinese and Arab, that’s something!”

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  6. Love your post! I am always looking for a greater variety of heroes and heroines in terms of everything (race, income, professions, locations, languages, interests).

    I will confess having grown up in a town with lots of yummy men of Filipino, Samoan, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese decent I tend to adore an Asian hero. I clap my paws in glee.

    There are not enough for sure.

    I have Pinterest Boards featuring different kinds of heroes. On one hand, I worry about objectification and on the other representation. Tricky stuff.

    Here are my recommendations of Contemporary Asian Heroes.

    I second Solace Ames’ The Dom Project
    Fire and Ice byAnne Stuart
    Visual-Kei Rock Star by Shiree McCarver:

    And here is a lot of very hot Asian men…

    I added in yours!

    • Audra North says:

      I have been sucked into your Pinterest board and can’t get out! Oh, wait…I don’t want to get out. :)

      I love it. I think of it as paying homage to underappreciated hotness.

      And thanks for the recs! I’ll check out those other two! Meanwhile, I’m off to write an Asian hero because clearly…gotta put my money where my mouth is. Or something like that. I’m sure I’m mixing up expressions somehow. Woot!

  7. Alexis Anne says:

    You rock so hard! Love you!