In another live edition of Hard NOC Life recorded exclusively from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT — the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo — writer Amy Chu stops by to talk about angry Asians, adding diversity to the world of Poison Ivy, and being a woman of color in the comics industry.
Like the rest of the nation, I woke up this morning to an unfathomable reality. Despite our best efforts, the country has chosen hate and division. Those dystopian science-fiction novels don’t feel so far off anymore. Still, we at The Nerds of Color must soldier on. I’m doing that by participating in CTRL+ALT, the Smithsonian’s pop-up Culture Lab on imagined futures this weekend in New York City. Though, to be honest, I’m having a difficult time imagining the present, much the less the future.
In 1994, exactly 20 years ago, ABC decided to pick up the pilot for comedian Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, making it the first sitcom to put an Asian American family on network prime-time TV. The show was slammed by the press and rapidly faded in the ratings; after airing just 19 episodes, the decision was made to cancel it. In her book, Cho cited bad reviews from Asian American cultural critics as being a key reason for ABC’s lack of faith in the show, calling out one in particular — me.
Two decades have gone by, and no network has aired another Asian American family sitcom since. But this weekend, ironically, ABC officially picked up Fresh Off the Boat — a sitcom based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s New York Times bestselling memoir of growing up with his two brothers and immigrant parents as a hip-hop-loving outsider in suburban Orlando, Florida. Playing little Eddie: My son, Hudson Yang.
The irony — or is it karma? — in the situation led me and my friend, illustrator Louie Chin, to collaborate on this comic.