Saturday, May 23, 2020

Staff picks: Asian American quarantine comforts with Gabrielle Nomura Gainor

Gabrielle and daughter Mika. 
Gabrielle Nomura Gainor is the Communications & Community Engagement Manager at Seattle Opera. A former journalist, she's written many company blog posts, lobby displays, and even created a BuzzFeed series with operas retold by cats! In addition to showing opera's more playful side, Gabrielle is passionate about representation for People of Color in the arts. She's helped Seattle Opera to build more meaningful relationships with the Asian Pacific Islander community during Madame Butterfly and An American Dream. This lover of pop culture, intersectional feminism, and BeyoncΓ© is proud to share some of the wonderful things getting her through the global pandemic. 

Many of you may have first known Chanel Miller through the name Emily Doe. I remember questioning my choice to read a book that deals with assault during an already challenging time. But when I started listening to Miller's booknarrated by the author herself on AudibleI felt embarrassed for having approached Know My Name as simply a "victim's narrative." With courage, resilience, and so much ferocity, Miller's reclamation of her own experience, including her growing-up years, is an engrossing and inspiring piece of literary art. The book is a reminder to all, but particularly to victims, women, and even People of Color, that we are multidimensional beings with the right to tell our own stories. Know My Name might just be the fire you need to get you through this tough time.    
The author, right, and her memoir.
“I had grown up in the margins. In the media, Asian Americans were assigned side roles, submissive, soft-spoken secondary characters. I had grown used to being unseen. To never being fully known. It did not feel possible that I could be the protagonist.” Chanel Miller

P.S. Miller, whose Chinese name is Zhang Xiao Xia ("Little Summer") is also a fantastic Instagram follow.

This sign...always such a welcome sight.
- Chiang's Gourmet in North Seattle 
- Patrick's Bakery in White Center

If we weren't in the middle of a global pandemic, you would catch me and my entire 10-person-family eating at Chiang's Gourmet (just off the Lake City exit on I-5 North) as much as possible, but at least once a month. Thankfully, the sweet-and-sour porkchop, Shanghai Noodle, and green onion pancake are just as good at home. My other favorite is Patrick's Bakery and CafΓ© in White Center, which you can do carry-out orders from Friday-Sunday. Try the fried rice with scrambled egg, lumpia, spam musubi, and pineapple scones.

The Randall Park and Ali Wong characters as kids in Always Be My Maybe.
Always Be My Maybe on Netflix starring Ali Wong and Randall Park

Talk about feel-good. This rom-com is silly, delightful, and will surely take your mind off of COVID-19. As someone of Japanese, Filipina and Irish descent, I loved the many different ways of being Asian. The movie showed Asians of different skin colors, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds; there were "crazy rich" Asians, and also working-class ones. I loved Keanu Reeves representing a Mixed Race Asian experience (and poking fun at himself much to our delight as viewers). I felt seen in the fact that the elderly Asian American dad speaks without an accent. (The almost-80 year-old Asian patriarch of my own family was born in Los Angeles, not Japan). In western culture where we uphold stories of white men who fall in love with "ethnic" women (ahem, Cio-Cio-San!), there's also something nourishing about an Asian/Asian romance. Plus, who can resist a movie where there's a hip-hop group called "Hello Peril?" 

Food from Jade Garden posted in the Community United Facebook group. Photo by Ngoc Vu
The Facebook group Support the ID – Community United

If you live in the Greater Seattle area (and like eating delicious food), check out Support the ID -Community United on Facebook. This is an informal grassroots effort benefiting community businesses and restaurants, many of whom have been devastated or nearly wiped out due to the current coronavirus trauma. "We urge friends, co-workers, and families to patronize the Seattle Chinatown International District (Chinatown, Nihonmachi, Filipino Town, and Little Saigon). Small family businesses are the heart and the backbone of the CID." Created by Sarah Baker and Bill Tashima, the group has expanded to also include restaurants from Lynwood to Bellevue to Tukwila.

𝑫𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒆, π‘©π’‚π’šπ’‹π’†, π‘»π’‚π’π’Šπ’”π’‰π’‚. Photo by Sharon Chang

Sharon H. Chang's "Safety Not Stigma" series on social media

While many artists and arts organizations have been forced to put their activities on pause for now, my Asian American sister in the struggle Sharon H. Chang has been busier than ever capturing this moment in time from her camera: "Panic and anxiety will not protect us from the pandemic and certainly will not heal us later during the fallout. But community and caring for each other–definitely will. So, I put on my artivist lens and set out to create MY OWN content about this time. It made me feel 1,000 times better." Check out what she's been creating on her Instagram and Facebook. Sharon's Safety Not Stigma portrait series sheds a light on the disproportionate impacts of coronavirus on communities of color. 

My 2.5-year-old Kiyomi loved her WeBop class with Seattle JazzED. 

- Musical storytelling videos from Seattle Opera and Seattle JazzED
- Families of Color Seattle meetup groups  
- Studio Ghibli movies on HBO Max

If you, like me, are also a parentyou're probably trying to keep your sanity as you juggle at-home work with kid-care. I have a few recommendations. In addition to Opera Time at the Opera Center (a musical storytelling series for kids), check out Seattle JazzED's WeBop online offerings for kids 8 months - 5 years. Seattle JazzED was one of Seattle Opera's community partners for Charlie Parker's YardbirdI love JazzED's culture of celebrating racial difference, and the teaching of Jazz as a Black American art form. 

I also highly recommend the group Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), which is currently offering digital ways for parents and kids to connect, including an upcoming Zoom group for moms with newborns. FOCS (pronounced like "folks"), defines a family of color as a family having at least one child of color. 

For parents, kids, (and anyone, really), screen time is inevitable right now. Why not choose something truly worth watching? Studio Ghibli films (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, to name a few) will be available for streaming in the U.S. on HBO Max as of May 27, 2020.

A still from My Neighbor Totoro.