Archive | October, 2014

The Beauty of Uglinesses

11 Oct

Recently, I got invited to meet at a bar, Butterfield 8, an Asian networking group to support Asian Women’s Centre (AWC) that provides safe houses for abused “immigrant” Asian women. This upscale bar is located in the 30s on the East Side where White “corporate” men were congregating. As I scanned the ambience and wondered why we were cordoned to a corner of the bar, I made small talk and explained over a glass of wine to the newly selected AWC’s director, a young Vietnamese woman, that Butterfield 8 is the phone # of a prostitute based on a movie performed by Liz Taylor. I asked, “Who selected this place?” A Chuppie said he did and gave me his business card which had a title as Sir Adam Chan. He is a technical writer for Cambridge University Press, and smiled slyly. Our conversation was interrupted as one guy commented on his fancy shirt. The men and women were only communicating to their own sexes and rarely seemed to talk to each other. To break the ice, I suggested ordering appetizers and instead got colder stares as the Asian women continued talking about their managing jobs and the men about their latest investments. Obviously, this is not a group I can participate. The only woman mingling was a recruiter for World Financial Group who convinced me to attend a workshop. Later, I declined her “work-at-home” job offer.

Again, I found this polarization prevalent when a recent research about Asian women in America, in their mid 30s-40s, have the highest rates of suicides. Most of these women are single and have achieved some form of careers. How appropriate because I can list several suicides in my lifetime. Katherine Tsoy, a Korean roommate, at the age of 40; Barbara Tsao, wife of Peter Kwong, Professor and Chinatown researcher; Iris Chang, writer; Frank Chin’s ex-wife, Elizabeth Chin, a writer who immolated herself like the burning Vietnamese monks protesting the war. Recently, last winter, I wrote about a Japanese woman who became homeless. Upon her boyfriend’s request, I obliged my sofabed for several nights as a place to rest. She in turn also died via suicide. There seems to be a gender generational class struggle added to the class of apathetic Asians that remains as an insular community. In summation, the perpetual stereotyping of Asians in America still prevails.

US-born Asian-American women more likely to think about, attempt suicide

Although Asian-Americans as a group have lower rates of thinking about and attempting suicide than the national average, U.S.-born Asian-American women seem to be particularly at risk for suicidal behavior, according to new University of Washington research.
The study shows 15.93 percent of U.S.-born Asian-American women have contemplated suicide in their lifetime, exceeding national estimates of 13.5 percent for all Americans. The finding comes in a study published in the current issue of the journal Archives of Suicide Research. Lifetime estimates of suicide attempts also were higher among U.S-born Asian-American women than the general population, 6.29 percent vs. 4.6 percent.
Data from the study were drawn from the larger National Latino and Asian-American Study and were based on bilingual interviews with almost 2,100 individuals at least 18 years of age. Two-thirds were immigrants from Asia and women made up 53 percent of the respondents. Participants included 600 Chinese, 520 Vietnamese, 508 Filipinos and 467 other Asians, including Japanese, Koreans and Asian Indians.
“It is unclear why Asian-Americans who were born in the United States have higher rates of thinking about and attempting suicide,” said Aileen Duldulao, a UW doctoral student in social work and lead author of the study. “There is the theory of the ‘healthy immigrant’ that proposes immigrants may be healthier on average than U.S-born Americans, because of the selectivity of migration or the retention of culturally-based behaviors. But it is unclear if this theory is the mechanism at work with regard to our findings.”
Evidence supporting this idea was previously found among Mexican-American and Latino American immigrants. However, Duldulao said, the health of immigrants tends to decline with the number of years they spend in the U.S. and start adopting behaviors that are less healthy than those found in their homeland.
The suicide data echo a 2006 study that showed Asian immigrants to the U.S. have significantly lower rates of psychiatric disorders than American-born Asians and other native-born Americans. That study’s lead author was David Takeuchi, a UW professor of social work and sociology who is also a co-author of the suicide study. Seunghye Hong, who recently earned her doctorate in social work from the UW, also contributed to the suicide study.
The new research also found that:

  1. The percentage of Asian-Americans who reported thinking about suicide increased the longer they lived in the U.S.
b. Young Asian-Americans, between 18 and 34, had the highest estimates of thinking about (11.9 percent), planning (4.38 percent) and attempting suicide (3.82 percent) of any age group
c. Asian-Americans who were never married reported the highest lifetime estimates of thinking about (17.9 percent) planning (7.6 percent) and attempting (5 percent) suicide.
d. There were few major differences by ethnicity, although Chinese (10.9 percent) and Filipinos (9.76 percent) reported the highest rates of thinking about suicide.

“This study highlights the fact that we may be underserving Asian-American women born in the U.S,” said Duldulao. “While there was little evidence of sociodemographic differences in suicidal behaviors among various Asian-American groups, there was some anecdotal data from people working in the community. It is important for service providers, as well as policymakers, to know that U.S.-born Asian-Americans, particularly the second generation, are at high risk for mental health problems and suicidal behavior.
“In most cultures suicide is just as unacceptable as it is here. It is pretty much a taboo. That’s why this study is important and why Asian-American communities need to talk more about suicide and mental health,” she said.
The researchers used a modified version of a World Health Organization questionnaire to assess whether and at what age people had suicidal thoughts, made suicide plans or attempted suicide.

Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington

Ed:

I didn’t know about Peter Kwong’s wife committing suicide, do you know what happened?

 Yes, I know what happened: 

Barbara Ho & Peter Kwong were passing out flyers during the Confucius Plaza demos stating “not to demonstrate”. However, Asian American students were so emotionally charged up about Vietnam War; restaurant & garment workers as well as senior citizens got tired of working for low wages; AA historical moments in America were being researched such as during WWII Japanese–American internment camps; Chinatown gang killings were popular; there were no Asian (American) artists; and the list can go on that we all ignored their anti-protest knowing our issues were more important after our awareness of Black Panther, Young Lords & IWK were getting somewhere in NYC. After the demos, I burned out & decided to get a life. I heard (I don’t know if it was before or after her divorce) that Barbara was hanging out with Black Jazz musicians at Soundscape. It sounded a rare occasion for an Asian American woman to mingle with jazz men after being married to “prestigious” Peter Kwong who is from Taiwan & teaching @ Yeshiva University at the time. Something happened and next thing you know she killed herself. Peter on the other hand, had remarried a “white” European woman & wrote his book about statistics of Chinatown’s labor history (where he interviews Corky Lee & Bob Lee about Confucius Plaza demos) as well as teach Asian American studies in the city university network. His book is the source for other researchers & proposal writers to get grants in the Asian community.

As for Kathryn Tsoy (nicknamed “Soy Sauce”) of Korean descent, she was my roommate in my first LES (Houston & Elizabeth) apt. She was tall, gorgeously beautiful. She had 2 years of Barnard College; worked out with nun–chuks; grew up in Riverdale & went to Fieldston elementary & high school (where Producer Lorne Michaels went); friends with E. G. Marshall’s son, an artist & Richard Tsao, the painter; goes to Montauk to work as a waitress & hang out at de Koonig’s studio; joined the Hell’s Angels & rode a motorbike cross country for 2 years as well as be an artist.

The most important story she told me in my orange-painted kitchen that I call “cookin’ in a pumpkin” in LES was about her father. Her father was in the hospital and he got bored so he made up a game based on Parcheesi. He taught the game to the guy in the next bed. The game was called “Monopoly” and the guy was one of the Parker Bros. As you see, her father never got any credit or monetary compensation. It was just appropriated.

So by the time Kathryn was 40 years old, she must’ve got tired of ALL the men who two–timed her and I suspect her beauty was fading that she took some pills. I was shocked when I met Richard Tsao at an Asian Artists panel discussion with Bob Lee & he told me of her suicide. He has her cigar box filled with her special things and he was going to give it to me but he was in the midst of moving into another studio in LES. I only have photos of her when we were roommates. Unbelievable, how many Asian guys would be infatuated with her beauty and would constantly call her at my LES apt. She would brush them aside and try to be an artist where we would go to Bob Blackburn’s studio to learn etchings. She also wanted to be part of Basement Workshop.

I am sure this is alot to digest and nothing changes as viewed by this recent article:

http://www.examiner.com/article/911-was-an-inside-job

I hope the truth will eventually come out because by gathering all resources and not just by one man, we’ll be able to learn or maybe practice a little more compassion & understanding towards one another rather than make-up lies to pacify their Western Freudian egos that is a constant in my lifetime.

Best,

Susan