Each issue we feature the work of Asian female writers all over the world. Here are this issue’s poems:
Audiobook Voice by Jarea Fang
I spent my childhood reading books aloud to my little brothers who were too young to read. But they never ended up reading, because years went by and they still hand me a book and say, “Jie jie, read to me.”
So I read to them anyways but but I keep my voice within the confines of this house, and I can’t explain to you why but tell you that I once asked my friends if I had an audiobook voice and they said, Yeah you do, It’s soft and doesn’t have A heavy accent.
But In my head all I heard was, Still an accent.
Let’s start again.
I spent my childhood reading books aloud to my little brothers who were too young to read, but here’s the catch: those books were in Chinese. They never ended up reading, because years go by and they still hand me a book and say,
“Jie jie, read to me,” because they never learned how to read Chinese.
Even after years of speaking English the trace of my accent never left. I hear it in conversations, in essays, in my grammar that is still slightly off.
They say English is just three languages stacked up wearing a trench coat but professors pass back my papers and they tell me, You turn on the light, not open the light; You travel on the weekends, not in the weekends. These ambiguous rules are to abide by and there is no space for me under this trench coat.
But far from the shopping center of America where this trench coat lives, I have a mother who can’t pronounce the word athletics. We share a love in reading, but even after years of living in the U.S. she still prefers to read in Chinese.
She once handed me a paper with a word she didn’t understand. Precipitation, I read aloud, with an accent as Chinese as hers. I was six years old.
But I also have brothers who can say precipitation perfectly, even before they could walk. They sit under the racks where the trench coats sell and throw clothing hangers at each other as little boys do.
They go swimming and wet their coats and it is my mom who carefully peels the trench coats off their skin and gently put the coats in the dryer. Because the price she paid for for them to speak English better than Chinese is far too great to ever lose.
So I read to my brothers anyway and keep my voice within the confines of this house, my accent existing somewhere in between the rooms, because I know my mother is listening. I know she is waiting for me to say athletics and precipitation because she has also paid a price for me to learn those words.
English is just three languages stacked up wearing a trench coat, but my mother doesn’t mind that Chinese isn’t one of the them, as long as I stay warm, with a coat and a book, within the confines of this house where my brothers gather around me to hear a mixture of Chinese and English stories.
So I ask my friends if I have an audiobook voice and they say Yes, you do. It’s soft and doesn’t have A heavy accent. So inside my head I say, still an accent, and outloud I joked, “Yikes, I don’t sound white?”
But even before my friends responded, I already knew it was okay. I already knew that there is nothing wrong with me. Because I do have an audiobook voice.
My vibes are contagious now, wanna know why? It wasn’t always that way, I ain’t gonna lie. I was always insecure; I just wanted to hide. Cuz… I was told I was weak because I cried, I was told I was worthless cuz my mom left my side, I was told I was ugly cuz I dressed like a guy, I was told I was a bad girl cuz I wouldn’t subside.
I listened to the damage that filled my ears, I listened to the hurtful words that pierced, I listened as my eyes balled up with tears, I listened, as they all became disabling fears, So much so that I’ve been living in the dark, People can’t tell cuz I’ve hidden that part, Tucked away, far away in the depths of my heart, And dodging questions of my past soon became an art.
What happened you ask? What did I do? I can’t say for certain, but inside I knew, That not everything I heard growing up was true, Through life lessons and supportive people I grew, I learned how to talk to myself with a new point of view, I learned how to control my emotions and become positive too.
It sure wasn’t easy and I can’t say that I’m there, It’s an every day process that I’m still learning to share, It’s those silent battles and sometimes I’m unprepared, But I try to remind myself that there are things that matter and people do care.
Now I fill myself with positive energy and vibes, I pull strength from adversity instead of trying to hide, I know how the bottom feels and parts of me died, But my roots ran deep, nurtured by the tears I’ve cried.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.