Exactly one year ago today, I held my book release party for my strange li’l novelette, Wallagalore! That’s right—it’s been a whole year since we all crowded the tiny but mighty (and semi-air conditioned) Women’s Center for Creative Work to eat tacos and take pictures in the photo booth! It’s kind of crazy how fast time has gone by and how quickly my lil community has grown since then. It’s also kind of crazy how much my life has changed.
Before I released Wallagalore, I feel like I was loosely associated with the people around me. By that I mean I sometimes went outside, sometimes talked to people, and mostly didn’t follow up if I said, “we should get coffee.” To be fair, I still suck at the latter, but at least I’m going outside more, and I now feel connected to people and places and to what brings us together.
On the night of the official release on April 18, I tabled at Tuesday Night Café as the featured visual artist. I knew I was going to have to say a few words about my work, and myself, and was kind of dreading it. I’ve never liked to talk about my experiences even though my work has always been deeply personal.
Whether I was writing about my fascination with religion (and the satire of such), feelings of not being good enough, or neuroticism when it comes to hating when people move my belongings, I was always able to safely distance myself from everything, convincing people that I wasn’t, like, that attached to things. I did this so people wouldn’t ask about what inspired my stories because talking about oneself can be strange and embarrassing and uncomfortable, am I right?
With Wallagalore, I couldn’t quite do that. I pulled from so many parts of my life that I couldn’t deny that, yeah, that’s literally my dad, or that yup, that’s my actual job, or even that yes, I really did get kicked in the head in a mosh pit and got a concussion. In a way it was scary for me to be putting so much of myself out into the world for people to see and judge and eventually ask me about. But in a way, it was also somewhat liberating to not have to deny that everything in Wallagalore is me.
In the few moments leading up to my two minutes on the TNC stage, I hastily scribbled down some words, trying to describe Wallagalore in a way that would have universal appeal. I’m not sure I accomplished that, but I did talk about my parents. When it all boils down, Wallagalore is about family. Underneath the breakup and Mormon hipster and escaping a murderess from Nebraska, it’s about my relationship with my dad.
From then on, I knew how to talk about it, and learned that this family dynamic—pretty specific to Asian-Americans—was something that resonated with azns and allowed us to bond over our unaffectionate parents. I was amazed that this little story that felt so weird and nuanced and specific to my life was helping bring together a group of people that felt the same weird, nuanced, specific way.
Because of the response to Wallagalore, I’ve released three other illustrated publications, each dealing with things quite personal to me. I’ve attended a handful of open mics and zine fests, and I am still blown away when people tell me that they feel the same about “yellow fever”, or trying to act “so happy for you”, or about their post-grad, twentysomething “crises”. I feel like I meet amazing storytellers at each event I table at, which is pretty great considering I hate people, like, 95 percent of the time. I’m working on that, but hey, it’s only been a year.
If you’re new here, welcome. If you’ve been with me for a while and were at the release party, I appreciate you so much. All of you are integral parts of my community, and I hope that we continue to lean on each other and share each other’s strange li’l stories.
To celebrate the anniversary, I’m discounting Wallagalore on Amazon for the rest of the month– get it for $8 here!