Each issue we feature the work of Asian female writers all over the world. Here are this issue’s poems…
Muscle Memory by Catt Phan
For as long as I can remember my family tells me that my destiny is written in my hands. Random strangers tell me I should be a hand model – sell myself away to them, but my hands are priceless my father reads my palm lines as directions on how to better understand me. My Ba Ngoai reads in between those lines to tell me about my past lives and how I should live my life now.But for me, my hands are muscle memory. They remember every touch, every nuance, every event that the rest of me cannot. My hands remember holding my aunt’s face and while I told her not to cry because I’ll be back tomorrow from America.My mind does not understand that immigrating to a new country is not the same as walking down the street. My heart will forget her until almost a decade later, but my hands still feel the wet sorrow on her face as my fingers try to wipe her tears. My hands remember promises with my Ba Ngoai, how our pinkies connected as we swore in a secret code that only the two of us understood. My ears hear the sound of her voice even thousands of miles away, but my mouth cannot translate the words my heart wants to say into Vietnamese. My hands remember how soft and worn out my father’s fingers feel when he gives me small boxes of advice as apologetic gifts for being too much of a boy in a different country while I was growing into a woman. My heart associates his face with disappointment, but my hands always pack into what he gave me when I travel to new destinations. My hands are muscle memory and my greatest fear is that I will one day look at them as blanks.That I will not be able to trace my mother’s face. Not be able to point to my reflection when it stares back at me. Not be able to feel the accomplishments I have gathered in this life. My cousins work hunched back at nail salons all day to make the hands of privileged others beautiful. I wonder how they do not lose their identity even when the acetone slowly singes away their fingerprints. I wonder if it is because identity and memory transcend the physical parts of our body. I wonder until my head spins, but my spine is still straightened. My spine is steel straight with the answers to the questions I never knew to ask and my palms meet in prayer,having faith that this time, will be the last time my mind forgets again.
American Alien by Jenna Bao
I am an alien My eyes, my skin color, my being Jump out like a wilting wisteria in the midst of A perfumed garden of pruned, perfect, and pretty pansies I know I do not belong in this sea of porcelain I grow like the thin, wispy fractures on a glass window Little by little, then all at onceI learn that children are beautiful angels Their words are silver bullets piercing through my pounding heart Spreading misery and misfortune Each stare and each remark pushes me off the ledge Sending me down a black hole of self-loathing We are taught to be honest as children And I was the most honest of them all Lying to myself about who I was and who I needed to be Thousands of years of history enclosed in the Pandora’s Box of my mother tongue Become as useless to me as gum wrappers on bustling streets Generations of rich, vivid culture become daggers Arming the clash of my internal struggle Warm, steaming dumplings bathed in brothy, light soup drown me Bright, soft cloth depicting images of old stories with silk stitchings Suffocate me through the skin I no longer recognized I despise that country because those around me despise it A communist, conservative, cult of creatures All so foreign to my adopted American attitude The sun sleeps as I walk into the theater I see them People with my eyes, my skin color, my being On the big screen and loved by all This connection was the key Saving me from my lifelong inner battle I am a golden, glistening sandcastle washed away by the beating, gray waves Yearning to be rebuilt I learn to love this foreign country that owns me I celebrate each holiday I learn about the battles of my ancestors and the struggles of my kin I pull my culture out like an old sweater In the depths of a dark, musty closet Wearing it proudly for all to see This group of people like me are my brothers and sisters Born in America but always connected to our mother country Thousands of years of history that flow within me Like the cold, crisp water in a quiet, clear creek| It is all mine It is all me I am an alien that belongs
These thoughts that haunt my life, never escaping The memories I dread but never forget Things I will never be able to say Responsibilities holding me back from making a change Trapped in this narrow mindset I fail to change This oppressive world that has stopped my limits Music and books are my only way to escape
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.