my last name is yuen

my last name is yuen.

it's quite simple.

just yuen.

not yen, not juen, or wen or wan

or however the hell you'd say it

because at the end of the day

you think we all eat dogs and have yellow skin.

a bunch of pan-faced, buck-toothed,

squinty eyed rice pickers.

nay ho ma?

welcome to chinatown!

a tourist attraction for you

was a safe haven for us.

you steal our culture

our food, our materials, our pride...

we put trust into your rounded eyes

and pointed noses

your spacious lands

and endless opportunities

only for you to catch us by the neck

lynched with the red white and blue noose your founding fathers braided with their liberated hands

hands that have never touched the soft dough of

my grandmother’s bao

hands that have never worked the way my grandfather's did

hands that never washed and bathed seven children in shared, murky bath water,

because america offers no sympathy for chinks.

i put my mask around my ears and pull it over my mouth

i pull it over my mouth only for some unnameable face to yell "china virus!" through pointed teeth

we weep for those we have lost

we weep for our parents, our children, our elders

my grandmother struggled, trying to wash rice in a river much too frail for the calloused hands of a working woman

my grandmother always washed her rice.

she taught her children to wash rice so her grandchildren didn't have to

even when my grandfather died, she still washed her

rice.

my mother goes to work with sore feet and cracked hands, but she still washes rice

we wash rice because rice is all we have.

my last name is yuen.

it's quite simple.

just yuen.

not yen, not juen, or wen or wan

and i wash my f*cking rice.


I wrote this piece after I'd realized how easy it was for people to blame the AAPI community for something beyond our control. How easy it was for America to turn its back on us. I was sure I'd never felt so heartbroken in my entire life, so I wrote this to cope.

@gabsyuen


Cover art source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/19/well/family/Talking-to-children-anti-Asian-bias.html