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Updated: Feb 19

I remember when I first came to the U.S.,

People asked for my last name

So I said, “Wang”

the clerk at the hotel chuckled and said to his colleague,

“We spell that with an ‘O’, not an ‘A’. ”

But I didn’t understand why my syllables had to accommodate their tongues.

I couldn’t grasp why my last name that represents my family

Could become the chatter for their afternoon tea.

So when they asked,

“What is your name?”

I told them it is


J U D and Y each letter spelled clear and loud

They asked me to say it louder.

As if afraid that my brown rice colored skin couldn’t hold a voice loud enough

for them to hear.

We are people from the mountain, from basins,

from deserts to river valleys. We have voices

that could tumble out of the Himalayas and give the chilling snow a tremble. We are the people who discovered gunpowder to make fireworks.

Who created gifts for human celebrations rather than for human elimination.

So when they say:

“No, No, No what is your real name?”.

I spelled it out for them.

HEXUAN. and I repeated it for them, loud. Each fragile letter standing alone

Never pieced together as if switching to my birth tongue would have

wounded the civility of this conversation.

It was me trying to contain each letter within itself

So that each character could stop reaching for their other halves