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The Yellow Room

The Yellow Room


The Beloved

Lee Xiong

The Coat

The coat was rough, and if I slept on the wrong side that night, the fabric of the coat would chafed my skin. I memorized the muddy yellow and burnt orange sequence of the needlework, and as a kid, I would imagine, this must be how a million suns look like if they interlocked their arms together at the end of a long summer day. The zipper was broken, but that didn’t matter, however, my hair would get stuck in the zipper from time to time. The coat smelled like cooking oil and garlic on most days. Some days it smelled like the faded rain and wet earth. On those days, it was because I would take the coat with me and pretend to read on the porch, but instead of reading, I spent countless hours daydreaming into the rain about things I cannot even recall. On occasions when the coat was cleaned, it would smell like a weird flowery smell. I never liked that smell because it reminded me of Mrs. Fischer’s hair. She had red hair, and her face was red on most days too.  

The coat was warm, the inner lining of the coat was a light cream color, the color of vanilla ice cream if it was left out too long. There were holes in the inner lining of the coat, mostly because maybe I rip things in my sleep? The holes didn’t bother me much, they were fun. From time to time, I would hide things in there to discover it later. This coat symbolizes the boredom of a young girl but also served a very practical purpose. When I was young I refuse to sleep with a blanket, instead, I would cover myself with this large coat. Similar to how kids often have a favorite blanket, I had a large coat. Thinking back to the attachment I had with this coat, I believe it was more than just boredom and practicality. This coat belonged to my mother. When we moved to America, my mother was a stay-at-home mom for the first couple of years, and then it was as if I never saw her. My dad told me she spends most of her time with White people. I remember asking him what I must do to become a White person? If he knew the answer, he never told me. So every night, I would go to bed with this coat as a blanket, and in many ways, this coat replaced my mother. And one day, without noticing I let go of that coat.

I sat down and did this free write (the coat) after reading a combination of the readings I will share below.  Introducing Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis, Cynthia Dewi Oka (2016) added a quote by bell hooks:

“For those who dominate and oppress us benefit most when we have nothing to give our own, when they have so taken from us our dignity, our humanness that we have nothing left, no “homeplace” where we can recover ourselves.” (p. 45).

She then goes on to add:

“The revolutionary struggle against a colonial, racist, hetero-patriarchal capitalism which has for centuries separated us; arranged us in structured oppositions to each other; reduced our bodies to raw resources for abuse, exploitation and manipulation; and, in the words of Frantz Fanon, occupied our breathing, is today the struggle for a world - no, many worlds - where we might exist and thrive as each other’s beloved.  
It is the struggle not only for a social universe that is meaningful and just, but lives that are inherently precious.  
It is the struggle against our elimination, our disappearance from each other.“ (p. 45).

I will also include the poem She is Radical written by Tara Villalba and Lola Mondragon (2016) as they talked about how their mothers were everything but also invisible.  

Since my anthology is about reimagining Hmong womanhood, I have been thinking a lot about mothering and loving and how these two things can help reimagine Hmong womanhood.  I have been thinking about what happens when a mother can no longer give to their own and what/how they can hold onto to being each other’s beloved.  Similar to Villalba and Mondragon, I grew up seeing my mother’s faults easily, I denied my mother on many occasions, I must have made her so sad and invisible.  I treated her how White people treated her.  I had a “White” Mother growing up, but I was my mother’s “White” daughter.  I am well educated, and my mother can barely hold a pencil.  

My mother didn’t give me much growing up, but it was also because I didn’t take from her.  What she had seemed to be owned by someone else, who, I still do not know.  Even the concept of giving had changed from when I was a child to now.  The concept of giving is so capitalist, or so we think because nothing is free.  I perceive my mother’s giving as a contract - - the life I live has made me suspicious of the woman who gave me life.  Life, she gave me life so therefore maybe we will always be each other’s beloved no matter what happens.  The act of being “beloved” is so radical because it’s so transformational - it is like literally giving life.  After all, as Villalba and Mondragon explained, “I realized I learned to survive because I saw her survive.” (Villalba & Mondragon, 2016, p. 68).  Of course, I could not write this without the help of Lauren Adams. We sat hours in a dingy computer lab thinking through the love of our parents.  As this is my last post, I would love to express how grateful it has been to learn from amazing women of color - both from our literature and from class! 

Original post:

Gumbs, A. P., Martens, C., & Williams, M. (2016). Revolutionary mothering: Love on the front lines. Canada: Between the Lines

Something Old and Ancient

Lee Xiong

My mother tells me that there are three phases of a woman’s life.  Her voice carries like a whisper amongst the buzzing wind as she turns back to tending to her garden.  I thought she was not going to say more but then I realize, she was thinking.  The silence lingers, and I wait, not sure if I should stay.  I can tell she was thinking very carefully about what she was going to say next and if I wasn’t such a deviant young girl, I would have left, knowing it’s disrespectful to contemplate her claim.  Somehow she knew I was going to say something, so she continues, “a woman’s life consists of being a daughter, being a wife, and being a mother”.  She tells me this because she thought I should know - from this moment on, she does not have a roadmap to help me.  I was leaving for college in two weeks. I will be leaving the boundaries of my family for the first time, and it was not to become someone else’s daughter or to take on the role as a wife, and certainly not to be a mother.  I never forget how the sun felt that day.  The sun was hanging low against the pastel hues of reddish-grey and dancing specks of blue.  I thought about how somewhere in the past, my mother stood under the same sky at the age of seventeen. She was probably still married to her first husband and expecting her second child, all the while fleeing the wrath and remnants of the Vietnam War.  I thought about how maybe me leaving, being the first daughter to leave the house under unconventional circumstances, this was somehow scarier than her life at seventeen.  It’s weird to think that my mother somehow saw me courageous in my decision to go to college but yet the same courage is reflected in her at the age of seventeen. And somehow in the displacement of time and space, we are more alike in our uncertainty of the future then we are different in our places in life.  

I thought about this when I went I confronted displacement.  In Trinh (1989) explanation of “infinite play of empty mirrors”, she says “here reality is not reconstituted, it is put into pieces so as to allow another world to rebuild (keep on unbuilding and rebuilding) itself with its debris” (p.  22-23).  So, when I say I went to confront displacement, it did not exist in a space or a place, it took turning around to embrace a familiar shadow.  This shadow, stretching itself throughout generations, it is something old and ancient.  It knew my mother, and it knew my mother’s mother and her mother’s mother.  Piecing things together is nothing new in women knowledge for the women in my family.  In this culture, we share generational displacement.  Hence, rebuilding with debris is both lonely and beautiful because it has remnants of what once was and never to be again, and traces of new and transformative possibilities.  

And in the attempt to rebuild from the debris, I have discovered something that should have never been mine but have always belonged to me.  My hands have not only adopted the visual traditions of my mother but now, I have also stolen the skills of the White man.  Trinh (1989) explains “Learned women have often been described in terms one might use in describing a thief.  Being able to read and write, a learned woman robs man of his creativity. “ (p.  19).  So, as I left home at seventeen, I took the next four years to steal something that was not mine, but I would argue always belonged to me.  I challenged the composition of Michelangelo’s fresco on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, painted the frivolous colors of life in the high courts of French Baroque art, traveled to meet the gothic architecture of Medieval Europe, and held the same brushes as Monet, the painter of light.  After all of this, only to learn, you see, that being an artist at the very core is about feeling/seeing/understanding the world.  

Feeling the world, belongs to me, I couldn’t have stolen it?  Yet, many patrons who have met me has been confused that I am a woman. They ask who I try to imitate.  They question why I dabble at the boy’s table.  They challenge, why so bold and unforgiving with your colors.  Because as Trinh said, this is writing through the body.  I have learned through the eyes of my oppressors but my body remembers the traditions of my mother.  And back and forth, like something existing in an echo chamber, I search to piece together which part of me comes from my mother, which part of me comes from my great-grandmother, and which part of me is the reflection of the White man.  Entangling, fighting, fusing, sometimes I am surprised by what becomes of it.

Stealing works like an insidious bargain, especially in this society where things and people have prices and ownership.  I remember my mom saying, even a tree rooted to the earth can be given away at the request of man’s will.  But from whom does he steal from?  I say he doesn’t steal because you can’t steal something that belongs to everyone.  I say he bars people from it.  Thinking to Cecelia Capture whose story broke my heart this week, I am confronted with the question of whether dislocation is being empty of something or being removed/barred from what makes us whole.  Not knowing how to answer this train of thought, I offer a different story.  This reminds me of planting new seedlings with my mother.  She always spaces the seedlings apart even though I explained to her that according to math, she could work less and grow more if she fills the gaps between the seedlings with more seedlings.  She explained to me that overcrowding actually makes the plant weak and room is needed for this particular plant to grow.  I suppose some of us feel the need to fill the empty spaces in between and some of us prefer the space as it is for new and transformative possibilities.  

Original post:


Trinh, T. M. (1989). Woman, native, other: Writing postcoloniality and feminism. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Hale, J. C. (1987). The jailing of cecelia capture. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

What should I call this?

Lee Xiong

I Call this Perhaps.  

Perhaps -  used to express uncertainty or possibility (from Google - perhaps, the very definition of perhaps).

I find it both ironic and intriguing that Walker starts out Saving the Life that is Your Own: The Importance of Models in the Artist’s Life with a story about Vincent Van Gogh.  Van Gogh is a Dutch painter known for his brilliance as much as he is known for his madness.  I say madness because his most famous works were painted during his time living in a mental asylum and the stories of his life as odd as it is disturbing.  When I think of Van Gogh, I think about how so much of his work comes from pain, confusion, and rejection.  I think about his use of yellow to imitate emotions - lemon cadmium yellow used for moments of clarity and Indian yellow stain for moments of madness.  But I also think about how his compositions, line work, and the complexity of his angles draws (stolen) from the great masters of Japanese printmaking.  Or how unknown to many, his success after death is almost singularly credited by his widowed wife who seemed to have pulled him out from thin air.  

So I wonder why Walker use Van Gogh to explain the lack of models? Van Gogh was not short of models.  One of his best friends was Gauguin, an artist well-respected in the community of artist and Van Gogh himself ran within the same community.  Perhaps she picked him because, like many others, she too was intrigued by his troubled life?  Or maybe it is because his craft comes from painting the world as he wants to see it.  It is no doubt Van Gogh perceived the world very differently.  Perhaps this is similar to how Toni Morrison writes “the kind of books she wants to read” (Walker, 1983, p. 8). 

Amidst reminiscing about Van Gogh and the early days of my artist life, art makes me think about legitimacy and lots and lots of pictures of Jesus.  So much of what we know about Western art would not be possible without the appropriation of other cultures.  Take for example Picasso and his well-known, over 42 million dollars paintings ripped from appropriations of African sculptures.  Does it take someone like Picasso to legitimize art and to turn African images into art versus decoration? As for the image of Jesus, throughout history, the image has been used to evoke fear, hope, salvation, service, and colonialism, among many other understanding.  So you are probably thinking about why I am so obsessed with all of this? This all ties to Walker’s (1983) concept of “the life we save is our own” (p. 14).  The idea of “saving” still does not sit well with me.  Because when I think about saving, all I can think about is all the paintings of Jesus and the cuts to my body and tongue from years of colonialism, all past, present, and future.  A friend (Lauren Adams who is also in this class) suggests, perhaps we need to find an example of “saving” that predates or is not tainted by colonialism.  In this instance, I feel like I lack a model.  I lack models on how to save, give homage, give credit, and cite.  In class, we talked about vertical versus linear power and the power of bringing someone to life on paper - but for the purpose of saving them and us, is this still not colonizing? Then I think about how the very act of writing this, THIS, still feels wrong to me because it is not the tongue of my mother but the tongue of my colonizer.  So, I look to Lorde (2015) to question, can the master’s tool dismantle the master’s house?

Perhaps I cannot look past the binary because I have never saved anyone? I am afraid to save people because I do not want to steal their pain.  Though I find solidarity with other women of color’s oppression, it is hard to claim their pain as mine because perhaps I do not know what my pain really is? I have never really sat down to talk about pain, it is taboo in my culture.  Perhaps I have been taught my pain is invisible because women of color do not include me? Do I want their legitimacy, do I NEED it? Perhaps I should use this class to find myself in other women of color and make a home for other women of color within me.  Perhaps this is the act of becoming.  Perhaps maybe I can use this class to practice my voice as it has become.  Perhaps this is practice.  

I Call this Hate.  

Hate - intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury (Merriam-Webster, 2017).  

“How much was hate for Corregidora and how much was love.“ (Jones, 1975, p. 131)

In one line, Jones changed the way I perceived the whole story of Corregidora. The line was neither a question or a statement.  If anything, the line brought clarity and conviction to the complicated relationship between Corregidora (and her embodied memories of her mother, grand mama, and great-grant mama) and the men in her lives.  Although the story starts out with Ursa getting rid of Mutt from her life, he follows her like a lingering ghost.  In her dreams, in her memories.  He owned her, like how Corregidora owned her mother, grand mama, great-grand mama, and her.  I believe they tell stories of hate not only to write their pain into history but as a way to preserve the memory of Corregidora.  Call me cynical or lacking foresight, but I believe maybe the hate for Corregidora also included a longing for love.  Because in the end, Ursa still hated Mutt, but without batting an eyelash, she returned to him.  I wonder if this is a bigger reflection on how oppression makes us sick but without it, we cannot tell our stories.  

Original post:


Walker, A. (1983). In search of our mothers’ gardens: Womanist prose. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Jones, G. (1975). corregidora. New York, NY: Random House.

Lorde, A. (2015). The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. In C. Moraga & G. Anzaldúa (Eds.), This bridge called my back: Writings by radical women of color (p. 94-97). Albany, NY: State University of New York.  

Merriam-Webster (2017). Hate. Retrieved from