We recently published Senna Xiang’s powerful “Footnotes on not being your foreigner.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) The body of this story is so powerful on its own, but the footnotes add so much! One of my favorite moments from the footnotes is “Everyone looks exactly like how you would expect them to look.” Such a devastating line! How do you picture the people at this rally?
This line holds quite a few meanings for me. The main meaning I wanted it to take on is that at these rallies, many people have this simultaneous look of hope and anger. Hope because it’s amazing to see so many people gathered for a cause that has afflicted Asian-Americans for decades, but anger because a lot of people participating in the movements are Asian-American teenagers: we know we are American and we want to be afforded the equal treatment that everyone deserves. We know we are entitled to the things that all Americans are entitled to, and the fact that it’s 2021 and we’re still debating it can be frustrating. However, the second meaning I wanted it to take on is a little darker, but it’s unfortunately reality. The relationship between Asian-Americans and social movements for change can be incredibly complicated, which is something that I wanted to touch on in this piece. There’s a divide between what our parents have taught us and what we’ve experienced in the world ourselves. The point of rallies is to get other people to see the message of your movement and to get them to join, but the reality of our world is that we are becoming increasingly divided on issues, and movements like these can end up as echo chambers.
2) I love the use of the bomb motif throughout this piece, especially in the ending — “the explosion I was engineered for,” “but the bomb feels so sweet, so lovely.” Do you think the narrator will ever explode? Or will she always be holding it in?
I’d like to imagine a future where the narrator “defuses,” in a sense. It all depends on how the narrator views herself. The last footnote says otherwise, “One more misstep and we explode. Shrapnel everywhere,” but in truth, we never “explode.” We learn things about our surroundings and we learn things about ourselves. The reality is that not everyone will like you for any number of reasons. In my opinion, why waste energy on exploding when you could harness that energy for yourself?