E8: Writing About Race, Family, & Food (with Amy Lam)

On this episode, we explore food from a slightly different angle. We talked with Amy Lam, associate editor at BITCH Magazine and co-founder of the group "Portland Creatives of Color" — which is the reason why we met and started this podcast in the first place. Amy talked to us about her relationship with food, and how the gendered expectations she was raised with shaped the way she sees cooking. From there, all three of us share what it means to be writers and children of immigrants at the same time. 

Produced by Alan Montecillo. Music by AF the Naysayer and Blue Dot Sessions.

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[theme music]

ZAHIR Hello, and welcome to Racist Sandwich, the podcast about food, race, class, and gender. I'm your co-host, Zahir Janmohamed.

ALAN And I'm Alan Montecillo, filling in for Soleil Ho.

ZAHIR Today, we have a very special and a little bit different episode for you from our usual. We're interviewing Amy Lam, who's an associate editor at Bitch Media. Amy's actually about to head out from Portland. She's lived here for, I think, 10 years or something like that, and she's moving to Oxford, Mississippi to start her MFA in Fiction as a Fellow there. So, this episode today examines food and race and writing.

ALAN It's a little bit different, as you mentioned Zahir, from what we usually do. So far, we've been interviewing people who work explicitly with food. But I think with this conversation, I think you start off by talking about food, and she starts off by talking about her relationship with food and then connecting it to writing.

ZAHIR Amy started a group in Portland, or I should say cofounded, called the Portland Creatives of Color, which was started last Fall. And it's because of that group that Soleil and I met, my co-host, and also Alan and I met as well, too. I think there's something like 400 people of color on that group. And it's been a really incredible place to meet people, to share work. So, it's been a really wonderful place.

ALAN Yeah, Amy's been really instrumental in building community for people of color in Portland and to make people feel like they're seen and heard and that they could belong in this city too. I think the thing about that group too that I think a lot of people might not recognize is that it's not just, as you mentioned, it's been a space for creative collaboration, but it's also a place for people sometimes to just post like, "Hey, I was on the bus, and this terrible, this racist thing happened to me. I feel alone in this city." I think especially for new arrivals, it's been a place for people to be seen. So, I think it's really hard to overstate how big of a role Amy has played to just make life in this city better for people of color.

ZAHIR Yeah, absolutely.

ALAN So, we really enjoyed having her on.

ZAHIR Thank you so much, and enjoy the episode.

AMY So, well, my parents are ethnically Chinese, but they're refugees from the Vietnam war. They immigrated here as refugees in 1978. That's the gist of their story as far as I know, because you know, I feel like oftentimes, especially with refugee immigrants, it's really hard for them to share their stories.

SOLEIL We don't talk about it.

AMY Yeah, it's too much trauma. It's too traumatic. I mean, the most that I know is that they're from South Vietnam. And the way I know that is because about 10 years ago, we actually went back for the first time, my parents did and with myself and my brothers. And so, I know that they're from South Vietnam 'cause we went into South Vietnam. But before that, I really didn't have a geographic location of where they're from. I couldn't even picture where they lived except for very bare descriptions of my dad having to hide in holes and things when he heard bombs dropping.

I think that for children of refugees in particular, we get stories, origin stories, of our parents by piecemeal. It just kind of trickles out little by little. So, I actually don't know that much about where my parents came from or that much about who they were before they arrived here.

ZAHIR If you were to ask them a question, how would they respond? Like, if you said, "Tell us a little bit about your childhood or how you left, how you were forced out," would they answer the question, or they just kind of evade it?

AMY It's like partially evasion and partial very short, one-word, monosyllabic answers, you know? Kind of like, "We lived in a small house." Or, "We got on this boat." It wasn't like a dramatic retelling of a story.

One of the shows I really love on public television is Antiques Roadshow. Antiques Roadshow came through Oregon a few years ago, and I actually entered the lottery online to get tickets. And I got tickets to go, and I was so excited. My partner and I went. I was like, "Well, what am I gonna bring?" 'Cause I don't have heirlooms or anything that I can bring to be like, "This is from my family from this generation" to explain where we're from. I ended up bringing a vintage purse that I really loved or something. But it's one of those things where you arrive here in America, and you might try to give your children something of who you are. But there was nothing tangible that they can give me. So, I watch a show like Antiques Roadshow, pining for these histories and these stories behind objects, but I wasn't given that. So, it's one of those things where not only was I not given a tangible thing, I wasn't even given a story about where we're from.

SOLEIL Yeah! Actually, the main thing that we've taken, the main knowledge that I have from my grandparents and my family are recipes. That's kind of how I relate to them. 'Cause I also don't speak Vietnamese, and so, the main way I relate to them is my grandmother will make something, and she'll be like, "Is that good?" And I said, "Yeah!" And that's our conversation every time I visit!

So, yeah. I mean, do you find that to be similar, that sort of relationship between cooking and understanding your family?

AMY It's hard because I think that for my family in particular, because we're ethnically Chinese and yet they came from Vietnam, it's like I think for my parents in particular, they have this weird colonial or imperial pride about being Chinese.

SOLEIL Mmhmm, mmhmm.

AMY Yet, the first time they've ever been to China was when we took a trip eight years ago or something, right? And so, how Chinese can you be if you've never been to China? That's a thing that I always struggle with. We were raised "Chinese," but it wasn't until I lived in China before they even ever visited, that I realized wow, we're not that Chinese! And then, I remember a few years before that, I had read a memoir by the writer's name is Alex Pham. I believe the title was called Mandala and Catfish or Catfish and Mandala. It's about him taking a bike tour through Vietnam, and it wasn't until I read that book--I was like in my mid-20s--that I realized that catfish soup is a Vietnamese dish. Because growing up, that's the dish my mom cooked. Like you said, having conversations with your elders, that's the dish my mom cooked to tell me that she cared about me.

ZAHIR Mmhmm.

AMY Whenever I would visit home, after I left home for school and everything, she always, without fault, always made me catfish soup. And that's the way she told me she loved me. It wasn't until I read this book that I realized oh, this food that my mom uses to tell me that she loves me is a Vietnamese dish. It's not even a Chinese dish.

So, how does that inform me about who we are then? 'Cause we're communicating through this dish that she grew up cooking, but yet, they were trying to give me this vague pride about being Chinese? And it got to the point where, in my mid-20s, I just very plainly asked my father: I was like, "So, dad, you were born in Vietnam. Mom was born in Vietnam. Both your parents were born in Vietnam. Mom's mom was born in Vietnam. So, aren't we Vietnamese?"

He got really angry at me. He was like legit upset with me because he was like, "No, we're Chinese." Kind of like a how dare you ask us that. I think that also speaks to internalized racism in Vietnam; the Chinese think they're better than the Vietnamese. But it also speaks to, I think, this confusion about who we are.

So, in our family, we eat a mix of Chinese and Vietnamese food, and I didn't know that. I thought it was all Chinese food. There's also this gender thing about cooking and food that really fucked me up as a kid because I'm the oldest of three, and I have two younger brothers. And my dad really wanted and needed me to be in the kitchen with my mom, cooking with her. She's the type of woman who, after most of us finished elementary school, she wanted to work outside of the home. She was working really hard inside the home, but then she was like, "Well, you guys are all done. You don't need me to babysit you," to an extent. And so, she got a job working in Chinese fast food restaurants, being a server. She was the one that would scoop your food into the Styrofoam container.

SOLEIL Oh, damn.

AMY Yeah. So, she did that for so long to the point now she manages three to four, five, I don't know, Hawaiian bar-b-que joints now.

ZAHIR In Los Angeles, really?

AMY In Southern California. She can barely type an email, but she's in charge of four to five fast food Hawaiian bar-b-que joints. She worked her way up, but she still cooks for my dad in the morning. She makes sure he has a lunch to take to work. And then, she comes home, and she makes-- And she also, in the morning, she makes sure to cook dinner so that when he comes home from work, he has dinner. You know, she's doing three shifts up to now even. She's nearing retirement age, but this is how hard she's working.

So, I think it's been deeply engrained into her work ethic that her life is centered around food and cooking. And I think that my father in particular--'cause my mom didn't really pressure me to do this, but my father did--where he was just like, "How come you can't cook? You need to cook like your mom." Even though they were impressing upon me that I needed to go to school and get a good education and get a good job, but yet also, fulfill this gender role of being their good daughter and then in the future, being somebody's good wife.

I have a very vivid memory of one day I'm trying to do homework, and they would badger me to do my homework. But my dad was so upset with me that he made me go into the kitchen and watch my mom cook. I was so upset. I'm almost getting emotional talking about it now! But just having to stand there and watch my mom work the wok and this expectation that I was supposed to juggle both things. He literally pulled me from doing homework to watch my mom cook stir fried string beans or something. It was nothing, this was not the same expectation my younger brothers had to face.

So, it was this weird balance of what do you want from me as your first-born and as your daughter? I think my dad, like you're saying, Soleil, there's this weird balance of how do we find who we are here, in our new country, but then also have our children maintain these traditions?

SOLEIL Right. It's almost like he was expecting you to become this superwoman like your mom.

AMY Yeah.

SOLEIL Your mom's obviously like holy cow! i could not do that.

AMY Yeah, I mean, she legitimately has three shifts, and she's also the one who's cleaning the house; my dad doesn't clean the house.

SOLEIL Mm, mmhmm.

AMY So, I think that for me, one of the weirdest things for me was how to navigate like, wait. You want me to do well in school and have a good job, but you also want me to spend time cooking? 'Cause I could see that my mom spent a lot of time cooking. It wasn't a thing that she just whipped up. It was like a all-day affair. She had to prep the meat, marinate it. And she tried to teach this to me: You use this Lee Kum Kee sauce for this kind of meat, and you slice this meat this way. And then you put in this bowl, and then you put the Saran wrap over it, and you put it in the fridge in the morning. Then, by the time it's the afternoon, it's ready to be cooked. And then, you put the rice in the rice-cooking bowl. You put your hand in, and then you measure the water by how far up it goes on your hand. You know, all these things that she taught me, but my brothers were not expected to know this.

So, I knew that it was a very laborious thing and that it wasn't an easy thing. But then, they also knew that school was really hard. It was so hard that I think for a lot of immigrant children, there comes a point where your parents can't help you with your homework anymore. My parents stopped helping me with my homework when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. So, it was hard. They couldn't help me, but yet, there's also this expectation that I was able to juggle both.

It got to the point where I really disliked cooking, and I think it has a lot to do with my history, where my father was trying to impose this on me, to have me fulfill this very narrow gender role about who was I supposed to be. And it has a lot to do with being a good daughter and then turning into being somebody's really good wife. And that you should know how to cook really well.

SOLEIL Yeah, do you know the phrase "stereotype threat?"


ZAHIR I don't either.

SOLEIL It's this sociological phrase. They did this study where students who--they had a mixed group of students--and before they did this test, the proctor would express sentiments like, "Students of this group are probably gonna be bad at this test." And then the other study, the proctor didn't say anything. So, in the first group, the students who were stereotyped did worse and felt OK about doing worse. Whereas in the other group, all the students did as well as they normally did. It's sort of this concept to express how when we feel stereotyped, we either-- It's anxiety about conforming to the stereotype, and it causes us to become disinterested in that thing. So, I totally feel you on that, on expressing your disinterest, saying that cooking is boring and how that kind of stems from not wanting to conform, not wanting to conform to what your family or what your father expected of you, right? 'Cause to do so, to actually embrace cooking, would be to prove him right. I get that.

AMY So, then how do you navigate it? Because you're a chef now.

SOLEIL [laughs]

AMY You professionalized it.

SOLEIL Right! But the stereotype of a chef is a man, you know? Your mom doesn't get paid for doing the cooking she does at home. The funny thing for me is my stereotype or my stereotype threat thing is mathematics and physics and science.


SOLEIL I was really good at it for a while, and then I just stopped. I went to an Asian science high school, and that was the thing that we were all supposed to be good at. And I just reverted into writing 'cause I just couldn't handle that. Actually, my mom, she would cook a lot for us also. And she never made the same meal twice, which is really interesting to me, and that's really cool. And she was still really intellectually interested in cooking. She had all these cookbooks by Tom Colicchio and Thomas Keller and all these big-name chefs in the house. And so, I became interested because she had those books and because she was interested in it out of her own volition. I think that's the difference here is that I'm sure you're mom's passionate about her work and managing and making sure everything's going right. And for my mom, it was sort of just she was interested in flavors and in exploring all these different cuisines and all these fine-dining type things.

AMY I'm glad you mentioned that because I think that there's, in my brain in particular, there's this binary that I think about in the food world or cooking. So, there's this notion of exploring flavors and origins and everything through cookbooks and following recipes or stories about recipes. And then, there's also this very colloquial way that we understand food, through passing down recipes, through word of mouth; there's nothing written down. My mom doesn't do recipes at all. I've never seen her reference a cookbook or a piece of paper or anything. So, the way I was raised in the Western schools, we prioritize or we celebrate this notion of follow the cookbook. The cookbook's telling you the good recipes.

My mom's performing this type of labor that's lower class or more working class or more immigrant-y, where she's just like, "This is just how we do it. I don't know how to tell you. I literally can't even tell you the name of this vegetable in English, So, how am I supposed to know what to get at the store?" Maybe that's also--I'm therapizing myself--but why I try to distant myself from it. Because I didn't wanna be that. And I think that in my family, there was this understanding that women are supposed to intuitively know how to cook. That's why you don't need cookbooks. That seems like a very working class, immigrant labor thing that I didn't wanna practice or associate myself with. But maybe that was, like you're saying, I had this gender role imposed upon me, and I just--

SOLEIL A sort of defense mechanism, right?

AMY Right, yeah.


AMY Even though I love and respect my mom, and I love and respect her work, but it wasn't something that I wanted to do for myself. And I think I wanted to have that own agency even as a child.

SOLEIL I wanna hear from Zahir, actually, also. Who taught you to cook? 'Cause you're a lovely cook.

ZAHIR Oh [chuckles]. I don't know if I'm a lovely cook.

SOLEIL [chuckles]

ZAHIR You know, I guess my mom taught me. My mom taught me how to cook. But it's so similar to what you're saying too, Amy, that my mom doesn't have these recipes written down. My family's Indian from Tanzania, and she just kind of knows. But it's really interesting though, because when she started writing down the recipes and started like, now she emails me, I think she then starts realizing how complex her food is.


ZAHIR 'Cause my mom does these things that are just like, my mom has this thing she calls her bomb sauce. She's like, "Oh, it's just simple. Just add this bomb sauce."

AMY and SOLEIL [laugh]

ZAHIR It's so many ingredients! And the one thing what's really how I know my mom likes my partner, Claire, is when my mom emailed Claire the recipes, she gave her the full recipes.

AMY and SOLEIL [laugh]

ZAHIR As opposed to previous women I've dated, my mom gives like an abbreviated-- "What does that woman know? I'm gonna give her abbreviated version!"

And I love sharing my mom's recipes. Sometimes I've been lucky to meet some chefs, and they're like, "Wow, this is really complex." I tell it to my mom, and mom says, "Really?" But for me, I definitely do see those gendered roles where my mom was the one doing all the cooking and the cleaning. And so, that's something I still sort of struggle with. When I was living in India, you go to families where, you know, my friend's wife was pregnant, and she's making us hot chapatis. And she was pregnant. And I really enjoy speaking to his wife. I'm like, "Don't worry about it. I'll bring--" I used to say, "I'm gonna bring chapatis or naan." That way, his wife doesn't-- And she still would do that. So, I really sort of wrestle with that, and I don't really know what to say or what to do. It's kind of a weird thing. And in my relationship, my partner cooks 'cause she's a better cook than me. I do all the cleaning. But it's kind of this weird thing. So, I still wrestle with it a lot. I have a lot of friends who are also like that too. They have this aversion to cooking because-- I think that's one thing that's been so amazing about this process is seeing how people relate to food in different ways. I was really struck by your descriptions as well too, because you have such a beautiful way of describing your mom's hands in the rice and stuff like that. And so, I'm wondering, I know you're a writer, and you're about to start this great MFA program. Have you always had this writerly impulse the way you describe things in such beautiful ways?

AMY I guess [laughs]?

ZAHIR For example, OK, when I was growing up, my mom was like, "Oh, boys. What do boys know about cooking?" So, I was kind of off on the side. I got to really observe my mom, and I think I just learned a lot from just watching her. Maybe not about cooking, but just looking at the colors and the textures and her hands. One thing I really miss is the sound of my mom's bangles on the kitchen counters and stuff like that. So, I picked up these sounds, and I think now that I'm writing, I think a lot about those things. For you, how did that experience for you shape you as a writer?

AMY I'm really glad you brought that up because I think that--and I don't know if this is tied to being children of immigrants, and maybe children of immigrants that are not following the sort of narrow path that our parents want us to go through. Because there are prescribed paths that if you were to be a good child of immigrants, you would become a doctor, become a lawyer or whatever, get an MBA, make a billion dollars. But I think that for those of us who, at a young age knew that we're probably not gonna do that, it's not that we become ostracized. But we kind of pull ourselves away a little because then we become--I know that for me, and it sounds like for you too, Zahir--that you become more like an observer of where you are. 'Cause you're trying to be like, I'm going to observe how my family is, how my family reacts or sits in this larger white world.

So then, you really become an observer because you're watching how people behave so that you can see where you fit in or how you don't wanna fit in. I think that could be why I have vivid visual memories. Because I watched a lot. Even though I also inserted myself and was talking a lot [laughing] 'cause I'm also really talky. But I think that there was also a part of me that was like, I'm trying to understand--even as a child--I'm trying to understand what's going on. Wait. My family looks like this, but every family on TV does not look like me. Without question, there are no families on TV that look like me. So, just trying to figure out where we were.

And then also, children pick up things. I was also recognizing that my parents didn't know what was going on to an extent. They knew enough to raise us, but they were also navigating a whole new world. So, I wonder if that's something that influence us as writers, all of us. We have to take in all these different senses because nothing is given to us. We have to, as really young people, understand more than we need to. I don't know if you all experienced this, but little things like having to call the utility companies for your parents 'cause they don't speak English good enough, right? I remember being six and calling the phone company and saying our phone bill's wrong. You know what I mean? So, when you're that young, and you're having to do that, you're becoming way more aware of real-life adult shit than you need to. And I think that rewires your brain to an extent. It's like, you're worried about money as an elementary school student. I feel like I had a great childhood for what I had, but there are moments where I feel like wow, this is not like a very normal childhood story for growing up in America.

I wonder if that does influence us to be more observant and to take in things more. Because they're so markedly different than what we saw on television or what we saw our classmates do if we went to a school with lots of students that didn't look like us. I felt like it made me more observant.

ZAHIR Is that the same experience with you, Soleil? Did it make you more observant?

SOLEIL Well, OK. So, I was thinking while you were talking, and I think language is huge for us, right? There's a point at which-- 'Cause Vietnamese was my first language. I was raised by my grandparents for a while. When I started to learn English, mainly from Looney Tunes--

ZAHIR and AMY [laugh]

SOLEIL --I started to lose it. I had this distinct memory of being picked up from 1st grade, when I had really started to lose my Vietnamese, and I wanted to tell my grandfather all about my day, but I couldn't. 'Cause I realized--I remember this like a lightning strike--I was like, he's not gonna understand what I say. And so, yeah. I don't know. Just it makes you more observant of words and meaning all of the ocean that separates us if we don't use the right words or don't know how to use the right words.

ZAHIR Do you sometimes feel like you're between languages? So, I grew up speaking English; it's my first language. And I speak a bit of some South Asian languages. But at the same time, I also feel like I'm often told, "Oh, your English is so good," especially in super white Portland. But also, in the sense of, I also feel like the way my parents communicate is there are gaps when I speak with them. Because I've gotten more conversant and comfortable with my own voice. But I also wonder if, in doing that, I find myself more distant to them, especially as I start writing now. I found my writing voice, I feel like, or I'm still finding it. But that's sort of made it harder to communicate with my parents. And it's interesting, 'cause I would think that as I get older, it'd be easier. I guess I'm more comfortable now with the gaps in our communication. How about you? What's your experience been like in terms of communicating with your parents?

AMY It feels heartbreaking, to be completely frank, because there's so many complex things that, as an adult, you want to be able to share with your parents or communicate with them, but I just don't have the words. So, I end up really flatly distilling things to the simplest forms, you know? I'm an editor at a feminist media organization. You have no idea how difficult that is to explain to my parents. To first explain what an editor is, and then explain what a feminist is or what feminism is, and then to explain what my job is on a day-to-day basis. I could say that to a vast majority of English speakers, theoretically, in America, and they would understand what my job is or where I'm working. But it's so hard just to communicate what my day-to-day, how I get paid job is to my own parents.

And then, I think that there's another part about being a writer in a language that your parents don't speak, is that you're crafting these stories that are a part of you, that you wanna share with other people, [voice starts quivering] but your own parents are unable to read them. That fucks me up so bad 'cause I know I've written about my own parents, and to think that they can't even read this piece of work that I've poured so much of myself in, that I created. I think that gulf is, I think for storytellers who aren't writing in their native language or their parents' language, I think that's one of the most heartbreaking parts. You've created this piece of art that you can't share on a very base level with your parents. And you know that they came here so that theoretically you could do that. This isn't what my parents wanted for me. My parents wanted for me to really just get like an office admin job and just chill out and get health insurance for the rest of my life and not have to struggle and worry. But I decided no, I would rather tell stories and not get paid very much!

So, I think it's just one of those really heartbreaking things that I know you came here so that I could pursue something like this, but you can't even read what I'm writing. I think that's one of the hardest parts about being a writer as a child of immigrants, where your parents don't, cannot, or are unable to read what you're writing.

SOLEIL Yeah, such a cruel irony, isn't it? Yeah.

ZAHIR I often hear from my parents that when they read my stuff, they can't really recognize me. My mom always says, "Oh, you're so funny at the dinner table, Zahir. But why aren't you funny in your articles?" I like to believe that my writing is who I am as a person, but my mom always says, "I've known you nine months longer than anyone else in this world." And yet, she reads my stuff and can't really recognize me. I feel like the more I've started writing, the more we've grown distant from each other. And that really makes me sad. I mean, I talk to my mom all the time, particularly every day, but the writing has made me more distant. That's a really weird thing 'cause I spend so much time writing and finding my voice, and my parents to be like, "Who is this? Where did that person go that we raised?" That's a weird thing, especially when writing gets celebrated by others. As a writer, is that a moment you still want, like your mom or dad to say, "Amy, look. I read this piece, this short story. Bam. It's awesome. It's there." Do you still want that? Do you look for that?

AMY [sighs] I think that, like I've described to you, my history with my family is that I haven't followed this path that they've wanted me to go towards. So, there's this part of me that, I think in my late teens to now, obviously, it continues to be this way, but I'm unable to be my full self around them. I can't be who I truly am. And I think that being a writer is part of that. When I'm around them, I can tell that I'm censoring myself. I'm not saying what I really wanna say 'cause I just want them to be happy that they're seeing me when I'm visiting. So, I don't know if it's possible for me to be my full self with my folks even though I desperately want to be. Because being my full self to my parents might be somebody who they don't approve of completely, and the writing might be part of it.

A lot of my stories are some scandalous shit. There's a lot of fucking in them [laughs]. There's unapologetic, random stuff that I don't think my parents want me to be talking about or writing about. So, do I want them to read that? I don't know. Do I want them to be like, "I get you after reading this story about sex work!" You know?

ZAHIR Yeah, totally.

AMY It's a hard thing, I think, as a writer to try to figure out, especially when I think we come from cultures that are so family-centered.

ZAHIR How about for you, Soleil? With your writing, with your mom or your sister?

SOLEIL [sighs] Man, so, I guess I've gotten-- I mean, I've had a bit of a mini-career as a writer, and every time, no matter what anyone says or how they praise me or engage with the work, it all feels really hollow, you know? 'Cause it always feels like I am stepping further and further away from my family who they're very supportive, but they just don't read my work. They just don't know. They're not in that world; they're not in the literary world. They don't know what the literary world is. So, it just doesn't seem like my place, and I think there's always a part of me that wishes I could just somehow reconcile the two. But I don't know how.

AMY Isn't it more tough because we're also writing about our families?

SOLEIL Yes [laughs]!

ZAHIR Yeah, totally. And I write non-fiction. I know you write fiction and non-fiction too for your magazine work. But partly, I guess my parents sometimes they read my stuff, and they think, "Were you not happy as a child?" And I was. I had an amazing childhood. Of course, I experienced a lot of racism and stuff like that, but I was really happy as a child. And they read my stuff, and they think-- Now, they're getting older, and I think God forbid, if something were to happen to them, I don't want them to feel like, "So, we failed him." That's a tough thing. I think also, just being a writer, I feel like a failure. So much about writing is about failing: failing with drafts, failing with my bank balance, failing with so many things!


ZAHIR You know what I mean? Failing with rejections. We know failing is just part of writing, right? But feeling that failure from your parents, 'cause it's like, you went to a good college. You could've maximized your potential by-- I used to work in Congress. It's like, why couldn't you have just stayed doing that? Why are you writing now?

SOLEIL You know, the question I dread the most from my family is, "Why are you so ungrateful?"



[mellow music]

ZAHIR When I met you, Amy, I feel like here, more so than any other city I've lived in in America, when I meet a person of color who's a writer, who's so dynamic like you, I can remember when I met you, I told my partner, "I'm gonna fight to be friends with her. I'm gonna fight. I'm gonna make sure!" And I feel like...so, I don't really know where this is going, this question.

SOLEIL and AMY [laugh]

SOLEIL You just love Amy. It's OK.

ZAHIR Yeah, I do. This is gonna be a ten-part interview. You're not leaving for Mississippi.

SOLEIL and AMY [laugh]

ZAHIR You've really created such amazing spaces here for us. I mean, really. You've been here for 11 years. It's incredible. We're all so indebted to you. There's no question at the end of this.

SOLEIL and AMY [laugh]

ZAHIR I'm just gushing.

SOLEIL This is like a speech at a wedding. I can't handle this right now.

ZAHIR It's too much. Anyways.

SOLEIL OK, anyway Amy, we love you. And thank you for talking with us.

AMY Well, thanks for having me on your show. I love this show.

ALAN Thank you for listening to Racist Sandwich. If you like the show, please tell your friends about it. If you have any feedback for us, as always, we'd love to hear what you think of the show. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter @RaceandFood. Or email us at racistsandwichpodcast@gmail.com.

ZAHIR Our show is recorded at KBOO Community Radio in SE Portland and produced by Alan Montecilllo.

ALAN Jen Tam designed our logo, and our music comes from AF THE NAYSAYER and Blue.Sessions.

ZAHIR We're having our second meetup at Abbey Creek Winery in North Plains, Oregon. That's about a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland, so we will be carpooling. That's on the 21st of August at 1:00 pm. Everyone is welcome. We hope to see you there. It'll be great wine tasting, and there will be a potluck. So, bring your friends, bring some food, and that's the 21st.

ALAN Yeah, and of course, Abbey Creek is the winery of Bertony Faustin who is Oregon's first Black winemaker and our first guest.

ZAHIR In two weeks, we'll be bringing you an episode about the food economy in Portland with the Portland Kitchen and some professors from Portland State University.

Thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you in two weeks.

Transcribed by Storyminders