A mixed-race body moving through homogenous spaces often inspires attempts at conversations of classification.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-02-06 02:29Z by Steven

A mixed-race body moving through homogenous spaces often inspires attempts at conversations of classification. Whether through the form of a sudden, uneasy speechlessness followed by a mumbled comment, or an incessant stream of questions, this body of mine often seems to inspire the same disquietude in others that I experience within myself. In a crowded Tokyo mall, I once found myself the subject of a Japanese man’s gaze. When I moved to avoid him, climbing the stairs to the next floor, he positioned himself silently beside me, all the while staring at my face, my posture, my hands, my body. Only when I turned to exit did he open his mouth to mumble, “Jyun-japa?” (“Pure Japanese?”). He lifted his eyes to mine and I felt myself overcome by a blanketing silence.

Nina Coomes, “What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity,” Catapult, October 16, 2017. https://catapult.co/stories/fans-what-miyazakis-heroines-taught-me-about-my-mixed-race-identity.

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Nina Li Coomes

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive on 2019-02-06 01:35Z by Steven

Nina Li Coomes

Speaking of Marvels: interviews about chapbooks, novellas, and books of assorted lengths

William Woolfitt, Editor


“how does one carry oneself in the between?”

haircut poems (dancing girl press, 2017)

Could you tell us a bit about your growing up and your path to becoming a writer?

I was born in Nagoya, Japan and moved with my family to the United States on January 1, 2000. Most of my writing is informed by the “between” of existing as both Japanese and American, existing in both of these places, even the literal travel it takes to get from one place to the next. I’m not sure what led me to start writing exactly. Perhaps it’s genetic. My mother has told me before that she wanted to be a writer as a child, and my father told my sister and I what he would call “verbal stories” for much of our time growing up. There’s something about growing up shuttling from one country to another though that impresses upon you just how temporary or fleeting something might be. In many ways, I think my writing comes from a place of urgency, of wanting to note everything in case it fades…

Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful back story to you? What’s the back story?

Perhaps not a backstory, but the poem “yesterday” draws from a couple snapshots. The preoccupation with red and red lips in particular comes from something I once heard at a Mixed Race Studies Conference about how after the war, in US occupied Japan, comfort women wore red lipsticks to signal their availability to American GIs. As you may know, comfort women were employed by the Japanese government in Korea, the Philippines, and even in Japan where certain women were designated a sexual buffer for soldiers, whether they were Japanese soldiers or American ones. I think this is a very shameful, condemnable part of history that needs to be better acknowledged. I also think a lot about how mixed-race children after the war were primarily borne of this violence, and what it means to come from violent histories, and how one might reconcile ore reclaim them…

Read the entire interview here.

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What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2019-02-06 01:17Z by Steven

What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me About My Mixed-Race Identity


Nina Coomes

Miyazaki tells us something about bodies in flux: There is no easy answer; only the conflict, the question.”

One summer day when I was nine, I climbed into a hair stylist’s chair and asked them to cut my hair to my ears. Until that point, I’d always had a head of long hair tumbling over my shoulder, useful for coquettish tossing when I imagined myself as Snow White or Cinderella. I had never worn short hair, had never wanted it; I’d always thrived on girliness that fed into my obsession with imitating what I perceived to be the ultra-feminine Disney princess archetype. But that summer, sitting in a chair too tall for me, I asked the friendly lady with the scissors to take it all. After a moment of thought, I told her, “Short—like a princess raised by wolves.”

I was referencing San, from Hayao Miyazaki’s Mononoke-hime or Princess Mononoke. In the film, San is a human girl left as a sacrifice to the gods of the mountain by her human parents, raised by the very god to whom she was sacrificed—Moro, a wolf-like Inu gami—and convinced, as a result, that she too is a wolf. When the viewer meets San for the first time, her small face is pressed to an open wound in her wolf-mother’s flesh. She turns her head toward the viewer, momentarily breaking the fourth wall, her face smeared in bright red. She spits a jet of blackening blood and rubs her fist along the edge of her chin, as if to wipe the stain of blood from her face. The utter humanness of this gesture, paired with her clear physical intimacy with the wolf-god, immediately casts her identity into conflict—a theme to be played over and over throughout the movie. Is San a wolf? Is she a girl? Is she neither, or both, or something in between?…

Read the entire article here.

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haircut poems

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Poetry on 2019-02-06 01:01Z by Steven

haircut poems

Dancing Girl Press

Nina Li Coomes

haircut poems | Nina Li Coomes

Nina Li Coomes is a Japanese and American writer, performer, producer and artist. She was born in Nagoya, raised in Chicago, and currently resides in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in EATER, Catapult, The Collapsar, RHINO poetry, and The Margins, among other places.

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