"This is absolutely essential reading—and you will need to spend some time with I AM NOT A WAR, revisiting passages from its past pages as you continue, taking in its images both written and visual. In this extraordinary time of dismantling the standards against which we measure socio-historical truth, Terazawa’s I AM NOT A WAR rings true."
afternoon I caught
him smiling there, a silent
shrug in his breath clenching, then
releasing a moth,
then sparrow, then clay,
then earthen grays, then
a mushroom cloud igniting.
Instead, let us remember
it through song, he seemed to say through his teeth.
I never wanted to write, but I knew too much—my mother speaking migratory patterns of war, of whiteness, of names, "real" names, the crack of tongues, little things like the right to bear arms when you're the one shooting with only courage equated with volume, that American self-esteem, that right to start a conversation about bodies erased after speaking.
How does a man prepare to meet his dead father-in-law for the first time? On the morning of December 2nd, 1996, my father intends to do his best. He tucks the bottom of his yellow polo shirt into the waistband of his khakis. He combs his hair and adjusts the wristwatch. Leaning toward a mirror above the small wash basin, he will notice that his face appears nervous. He adjusts that, too.
Making this interview, I felt that I needed some control. There were so many questions I wanted to ask you, but I did not know how to start. Should I look at you directly? Should we be more spontaneous or creative with this?
My mother is Vietnamese. Let me start there. She hates that I am a poet, making things that do not make money.
The refugee's suffering only has value if white people want to make her feel better. That is how my mother survived.
What do white people get out of watching women of color in pain?
Too many Asian American women are committing suicide. Do you know why?
I write about silence. I write about the tongue, forked and invisible. I write about race. I write because I have no choice. English locks me in this cage, and sometimes I resent white feminists for speaking about liberation on their terms.
I want to decolonize my voice, but I have nowhere to go.
There is so much anger inside. There is so much anger. I am afraid of what may happen to me if that anger goes away. How can we even look at each other?
In this performance interview with The Fem, Asian American poet Sophia Terazawa exposes what it means to be Yellow and Woman at the same time. Sophia demands another way of speaking about war. She confronts white feminists with her silence, refusing to translate the colonized tongue. Sometimes she cannot even look at you. But she writes. She writes, so she can come closer to you, dear sister.