Author: Luis H. Francia

  • Chinatown ’89: Outside Looking In

    THE AUDIENCE LEAPS TO ITS feet, moved to wild applause. The reviews are ecstatic, and the public reveals itself to be as keenly appreciative and discern­ing as it is culturally mixed. Not once, in a society expansive enough to encourage heterogeneity, are the labels exotic and ethnic mentioned. This is the dream, shared by all […]

  • Till Verse Do Us Part

    The younger poet beds blondes and bets on horses. The older one loves baseball and Manhattan. Sons of immigrants and refugees from failed marriages, Milton Klonsky and Delmore Schwartz banter, reminisce, trade insults, mourn, and fantasize in Romulus Linney’s Klonsky and Schwartz—a literate, sophisticated couple but more Felix and Oscar than Vladimir and Estragon. This […]

  • Fearing the Unfamiliar: A History of Asian Demonization

    Racism is as essential to Anglo America as a hair shirt to a would-be penitent: an ugly goad to proscribing the alien other while simultaneously prescribing equal rights and assimilation. Who isn’t familiar with the noxious vocabulary that ceaselessly describes the threat of color to the virtues of an upright (if not uptight) god-fearing majority? […]

  • Give Us Moore: Braving the Firestorm From Fahrenheit 9/11

    Think of the event as “Michael and Me.” The man the neocons and chicken hawks would love to see in Guantánamo (Rummy’s country club for alleged terrorists), the ubiquitous, unlikely, in-your-face poster child for populist politics, Michael Moore takes the stage to tell us all about the different firestorms that have broken around Fahrenheit 9/11 […]

  • Homebody/Queens

    In the earlier parts of his Asian Boys trilogy, Nicky Paraiso explored with a ruminative yet passionate voice his growing up queer and Filipino, with a strong-willed mother, in a Queens landscape of loss and ambivalent belonging. In House/Boy, the third installment, he sings of his father, who has previously remained mostly in the background […]

  • Seoul Food: The Korean Vodka Soju Replenishes the Spirit

    These days of half-cooked Rice cry out for fortifying one’s existence, and staving off, like a sturdy mujahideen, the slings and faux missiles of mass destruction. A tidy refuge, Mandoo Bar offers Seoul food, solitude, and soju (Korean vodka)—here the fortifier of choice. In ascetic but soothing grays, TV sets bookending it, the cozy, low-key […]

  • Theater

    Bleakly funny, autobiographical, and melancholic, Anchorpectoris (The United States of the Mind)—written and directed by Gerald Thomas—takes a chilling look at how deeply alienated society has become, with television standing in for reality, and consumerism for self-affirmation. Lip-synching to pre-recorded voices of real and imaginary people, cast members carry on a dialogue, with Thomas, themselves, […]

  • Brave New Body

    Eternal youth has always been the holy grail of aging hedonists, whether vampires, religious cultists, or rock ‘n’ roll stars. What wouldn’t they—we—give to have our gonads ceaselessly re-charged? Yet to be perpetually young could mean being trapped in a clueless, callow state. Adam, the successful middle-aged playwright protagonist of Hanif Kureishi’s novel The Body, […]

  • Brown Man’s Burden

    SIDEBAR to “The Empire Strikes Back: The Tribal Rites of America’s Military Leaders” by Ian Urbina In 1896, Filipinos rose up against their Spanish overlords, in the first Asian revolution against a Western colonial power. They had largely succeeded in defeating the Spanish when the United States, eager to join the ranks of empire, declared […]

  • Fortune’s Child

    The most celebrated contemporary Arab poet—he once drew 25,000 people to a reading—the 61-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish has been a bane to the Israeli authorities ever since, as an eight-year-old schoolboy, he read a poem of lamentation on the second anniversary of the Jewish state’s founding. Exiled for 25 years and now living in the […]