Self-Articulation and Solidarity: Asian Americans Writing the South

Essays and poems by Shamala Gallagher, Kimberly Alidio, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Sarah Gambito, Tiana Nobile, and Ching-In Chen

Lauren Iida, “Love and Other Obscurities” (2017)


Sprawled as we were across this complicated territory, this land steeped in violence and love which we understood and didn’t—those of us living in the South talked to each other on video chat, waiting for one another’s faces to appear in small boxes on our screens. We were hungry to know particulars of each other’s lives. What does the street you live on look like? Who’s there in your neighborhood, and how do those people interact with each other? Do you have Asian American there, POC community there, queer community there? Who do you understand yourself to be now that you live there? read more


We were brown and immigrant. We drove a Volkswagen and sang songs in the hymnals of white people. We loved these songs. And god was pinned to the underside of my skirt like a blood orchid. read more


I pick up cigarettes from the convenience store down the street and joke with the Black man behind the food counter and the South Asian man at the cash register. Outside, the clouds sprawl above, a huge canopy. Lorine Niedecker writes that all the elements of a place make up our bones and fill our lungs. I can talk to you about what it means to be Asian American on the Blackland Prairie ecosystem. It means: I want to defend the sky. read more


When we finally were able to fly back to Miami, we found people were kinder, sharing overcrowded coffee shop internet bandwidth, deferring politely to one another at intersections with downed lights instead of trying to cut through a line wrapped twice around the gas station, as if we finally, briefly, understood that both fear and loss are great equalizers reminding us we were merely human. Light shone more persistently through trees made unfamiliar by the devastation to their branches. read more


One day, a neighbor comes by. Hey, does K still own this house? he asks, looking at us. Later, I ask C if we look like a queer couple, or some lesbians, friends or family? Do we look like we belong together, a gender-ambiguous Asian American and a white trans woman sharing an old house? Yes, we say. He points to a slouching tree ominously encroaching on our car–looks like it’s gonna fall. We thank him and he goes down the street again. read more


Slivers of a burnt-world morning. / The South is wild-green & historic / & on the street it blurs. read more


Because I’ve never had a good enough answer for where I’ve been, where I’m going.

Because belonging is subjective, and I will find my way out of the mud.

I stay for the bayou. I stay for the river. read more


For more art by Lauren Iida, visit