‘Fresh Off the Boat’ cast mingles with members of Congress

Washington Post:

Sometimes, when Hollywood and Washington collide, they don’t always know it.

On Wednesday night, the cast of the new ABC family sitcomFresh Off the Boat” sat down with a few members of Congress and others for a dinner at the Source restaurant ahead of a screening of the show’s premiere episode at the Newseum. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) was gabbing with Randall Park and Constance Wu, the actors who play the parents of the Taiwanese household on the show, the first sitcom in 20 years to focus on an Asian-American family.

Talk at their end of the table was about the dearth of Asian American characters on TV and in movies, with Wu joking that her friend calls her every time she sees an Asian American actress onscreen and asks her if she auditioned for the role. Lieu chimed in about a character he loves: “My wife and I love ‘Veep,’” he said, “And there’s an Asian character, he’s great…”

Park cut off the congressman. “That’s me!” he said. The congressman took a closer look at him, then lit up when he connected the actor to the HBO show. “Oh, wow, I didn’t recognize you! You’re so good in that show!” Lieu said.

Park, who also played North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the controversy-sparking flick “The Interview,” also put to rest any conspiracy theories that the terrorist threat to attack movie theaters that showed the movie was actually a publicity stunt of some kind. “We had no idea,” he said.

Dinner guests also included Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.), writer/producer Nahnatchka Khan, and chef Eddie Huang, whose memoir was the basis for the series.


Asian American races to watch this midterm election


AsAm News:


Several Asian Americans are in extremely tight races going into tomorrow’s midterm elections.

A total of 22 Asian Americans are running for Congress. That’s up from 13 just six years ago. 159 are running for state offices including six for governor. By the end of the night, there could be four Asian American governors in the country.

Here are several races to watch:

In Rhode Island, Republican Allan Fung (pictured) is facing state Treasurer Gina Raimondo. According to the NY Times, a Brown University poll has 38 percent of the likely voters supporting Raimondo with 37 percent saying they’ll vote for Fung.  WPRI spoke to The Cook Political Report which recently upgraded Fung’s chances of winning.

In Hawaii, three Asian American candidates are vying to replace Neil Abercrombie as governor. Abercrobie was upset by David Ige in the primary. Ige faces republican Duke Aiono and independent Mufi Hannemann.

In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley (R) is favored to defeat Democrat Vincent Sheheen.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is in his last year as governor and will be termed out after 2015.

In California, two Asian American incumbents are in close races.

Rep Ami Bera (D-CA District 7) is facing a tough challenge from Republican Doug Ose. Bera won his first term in 2012 by just 2 percent. Ose served three terms before deciding not to run for re-election in 2004. More than $10 million   has been spent by outside groups in this race. Ose has loaned his own campaign $1.5 million, according to the Fresno Bee.

Seven-time incumbent Mike Honda is facing off against Ro Khanna in Santa Clara County’s District 17. Khanna has made up 20 points in the primaries with a series of relentless attacks on Honda and the support of Silicon Valley’s high tech community. Honda has strong support from the unions and the Democratic establishment. California’s District 17 is the only Asian American majority district in the continental United States.

California’s State Senator Ted Lieu (D) is favored to defeat Republican Elan Carr  for the House seat vacated by long time incumbent Henry Waxman  (D) who is retiring in California’s 33rd District.

In New Jersey, Roy Cho is given an outside chance of defeating Rep. Scott Garrett. However, Cho has been slipping in the polls in recent weeks, according to NJ.com.


Chinese Americans come to terms with their fake names


William Wong (standing) poses with his parents and nephew in an old family photo. Wong's mother immigrated to the U.S. from China as his father's "sister" to bypass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

William Wong (standing) poses with his parents and nephew in an old family photo. Wong’s mother immigrated to the U.S. from China as his father’s “sister” to bypass the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

What if you discovered the last name you’ve lived with since birth is fake?

That’s what happened in many Chinese-American families who first came to the U.S. before World War II, when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned Chinese laborers from legally entering the country.

The law, formally repealed by Congress 70 years ago Tuesday, prompted tens of thousands of Chinese to use forged papers to enter the U.S. illegally.

Today, their descendants are still trying to uncover the truth.

Paper Sons And Daughters

William Wong says that even as a child, he knew Wong was his last name on paper only; his real family name is Gee.

“We knew when we were growing up in Oakland’s Chinatown that we were a Gee family,” says Wong, 72, a retired journalist in Piedmont, Calif.

She was one thousands of paper sons and daughters who came to America this way.

Wong’s family was one of thousands made up of “paper sons and daughters,” Chinese immigrants who were the “children” of Chinese-American citizens only on paper — fraudulent documents with false names. Blood relatives of American-born Chinese, as well as Chinese merchants, teachers and students, were among the exceptions to the immigration restrictions, which targeted Chinese laborers.

After arriving in America in 1937, Felicia Lowe’s mother lived under the assumed name of Kam Sau Quon, impersonating an American-born Chinese girl who, unbeknownst to immigration officials, was already dead.

Lowe’s father lied, too. He was a paper son who legally reclaimed his real family name, Lowe, when Felicia was 6.

It was absolutely confusing! My father explained [changing our family name] was for business reasons, but how could any 6-year-old know what that means?” says Lowe, now 68 and a documentary filmmaker in San Francisco.

Playing The ‘Game’

Growing up in Oklahoma, Byron Yee didn’t know much about his father, who died when Yee was just 11 years old. Yee, now 52, began researching his father’s family history almost two decades ago. It helped inspire his one-man stage show, Paper Son.

After piecing together documents from his father’s old immigration file at the National Archives, he discovered that his father arrived as a teenager in Boston, where he claimed his eldest brother as his “paper father.”

Coming to America was a game. And the Chinese knew they were playing a game, and the Americans knew they were playing a game,” says Yee, a filmmaker in Los Angeles.

Yee admits that his father probably would not want him to know his true immigration story.

Some of [the information in old immigration files] were based on truth, and some of these were lies,” he says. “And I think that’s part of why the Chinese never really talked about it, because they don’t want to talk about the lies.”

‘A Total Change Of Heart’

For many Chinese immigrants, those lies were the key to opening America’s golden door, held shut for more than half a century by the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was the country’s first, and so far only, federal law to shut out an immigrant group based on nationality.

The anti-Chinese immigration law came at a time when low-wage Chinese workers were seen as unfair competition and unwanted neighbors.

The Chinese were seen as the dregs of society. They were seen as vice-ridden. They were seen as disease-ridden. They were seen as unassimilable,” says Judy Yung, professor emerita of American studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The law’s repeal in 1943 was largely a goodwill gesture in the midst of U.S.-China solidarity during World War II. While it allowed Chinese nationals in the U.S. to become American citizens, only 105 Chinese immigrants were allowed to enter the U.S. annually — tight restrictions that were finally lifted more than two decades later.

A total change of heart [on the Chinese Exclusion Act] doesn’t come until 1965, when Chinese immigration is put on an equal par with other nations in the world,” Yung explains.

Setting The Record Straight

Decades after the Chinese Exclusion Act has settled into history books, many of the descendants of paper sons and daughters are still trying to learn the truth.

I know for me it’s become extraordinarily meaningful just so that I can set the record straight within my own family,” says Lowe, who’s been working on a documentary about her mother’s immigration story.

Wong thought he had the record straight — until he recently spotted conflicting names in old documents, which led to more questions. “Are we sure Pop was legal? Or was he truly a ‘paper son’?” he asked his sisters.

The family story, and the story told to immigration officials, was that Wong’s father was the real son of a Chinese-American citizen, and that his grandfather was born in San Francisco.

Now, even that is suspect.

Still, Wong says he’s proud of being a “Gee” — so proud that seven years ago, he had the Chinese character tattooed in red on his left bicep.

Now, he’s planning to change his name legally to William Gee Wong.

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Chinese Americans come to terms with their fake names