New Year dumplings, made with sadness and anger
About the days leading up to the New Year & the days after.
This essay was initially going to be sent only to paid subscribers (I hope you don’t mind that I’m making it free). I almost didn’t publish it at all. But, I’ve learned that sharing through writing can be therapeutic not just to me, but to those who may not have in-community resources or friends to share the pain with collectively.
Content warnings for racism, racist attacks, anti-Asian rhetoric, mass shootings.
The New Year is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Eve is when the celebrations begin and it is usually overloaded with food. I put an upside-down “fu” on my front door, pushing aside the worry that it could be ripped down in an act of hate. This is a worry I’ve had for the last three years. But this year is the Year of the Rabbit, my year, and I want it to be a great year.
On Friday, I woke up late and with anticipation. I had taken the day off to celebrate the new year and used the time to shop for the pork and chives dumpling filling I wanted to make. I have a standing rule that I don’t cook or wash dishes on Fridays, so along with a dinner order, I added a lamb and pork shabu shabu kit for New Year’s Eve. While not the same as hotpot, the restaurant was one of the few that offered raw kits.
On Saturday, I had a Thai massage that my boyfriend had booked for me and afterwards, we went grocery shopping for the remaining filling ingredients. I live by what some term the “second Chinatown.” There’s a stretch of Clement St. where it is very, Very Asian. There are several wet markets, bakeries that sell lightly sweetened goods, a number of dim sum places, a walkup where you can buy freshly made buns, several grocery stores where labels aren’t in English, a Chinese homeopathic medicine store—you get the idea. We went home, I made the dumpling filling, and we ate the hotpot. All was well.
On Sunday, I woke up happy. I kissed Zoey on the head and wished her a happy new year. Then I logged onto Twitter and read the news and felt this combination of ice and heat wash over and fill my body. There’s a superstition that the way you spend New Year’s Day is the way your year is going to go. I don’t quite subscribe to that belief because it’s so much pressure; I let myself feel the feelings and started what was supposed to be a joyful day in tears, in bed.
I no longer wanted to make the dumplings, but I was determined, defiant, angry. I found myself sitting at the coffee table, slowly rolling the dough out. It was my first time in years making dumpling dough and this batch was not as forgiving in its elasticity as previous ones. The filling that sat overnight and generated more liquid than desired was also not that forgiving. As I made the pinch to start the seal, a small hole appeared in the dough; I had rolled them too thin on the edges.
And then filling liquid started trickling out. Despite attempts at removing some filling, pressing on dough to patchwork the hole, and sprinkling flour all over to slow the liquid, nothing worked. This repeated a dozen times over. Why couldn’t something be easy on this day?
On a day that was supposed to be filled with joy and love and excitement for the new year, I instead was sad, on the verge of tears, angry. But mostly too sad to be angry.
In August, one block from me, someone was walking behind an Asian woman. He turned around, visually confirmed the woman’s race, and immediately began pummeling her with his fists. Witnesses say that “a second after he caught a glimpse of the victim's face, the attack was initiated.”A cafe employee intervened and was able to stop the attack.
The man went on and repeated this attack on another Asian woman a block away from the first attack. I only learned about these attacks because a witness had posted about them on Nextdoor. The only coverage I saw was from a local news source.
It took me several days to be able to walk that block again. It’s halfway between the grocery store and me.
In Indiana less than two weeks ago, as an Asian college student was waiting for bus doors to open, someone began stabbing her in the head from behind. She survived. According to the affidavit, the attacker “made a statement that it would be one less person to blow up our county.”
On Monday, I was heading into a Zoom that was held for community space about Monterey Park when I saw the news of the Half Moon Bay shootings. The town is less than an hour’s drive away from me. They didn’t give out the specific hospital name that the victims were at because “somebody called one of those hospitals to say something along the lines of 'they want to go and finish the job,’” according to the sheriff.
I was starting to feel a sense of dread. Would we not only be told to go back to our home country but also—collectively, as a behemoth of a racial group made up of significantly different ethnicities—be accused of being mass murderers?
Today, I had an essay to write for paid subscribers. I feel like I say this every week, but I’m tired. I photographed the now-frozen dumplings I had made, paying attention to the shadows they created, crisp from the bright sun. At first glance, the dumplings look the same and the shadows even more so. But some have tears in the skin, some have patches, one can't even stand itself up.
I live in a city that is one-third Asian. Until now, I have never ever lived in a neighborhood where I could see Asian faces everywhere the moment I walk out the door. But then again, Monterey Park is 65% Asian; the feeling of security is fleeting.
This week, like any other week, is a week to push through. I won’t lie, it’s been more difficult than in other weeks. But I still have articles to write, interviews to conduct, meetings to attend, all whilst dealing with shit like the Wall Street Journal’s opinion headline of “Are There ‘Too Many Asians’?”
Quote from a Nextdoor post
It was changed online but lives on in print.