Every Monday, we send subscribers and gift recipients of immigrant mental health and storytelling newsletter Foreign Bodies stories we recently inhaled and adored. This is also a chance to do some housekeeping and give shout-outs and all that jazz. Roundups are usually written by Fiza and edited by Farah. Today’s issue is public to mark a return announcement.
First things first
A little housekeeping
Happy October, Foreign Bodies readers! It’s good to be back.
I want to give a massive thank-you to FB copyeditor Farah for holding down the fort for the past month during my brief hiatus. It was so fun to be on the other side of things—and I loved reading Farah’s picks. When I initially decided to take that break for surgery and recovery, I had no plans to pass the reins to anyone in my absence. Then Farah generously offered to help, and it felt like a no-brainer. I’m feeling so warm and fuzzy just thinking about her kindness (and talent!) and hope to collaborate much more in the future.
During my time away, I’ve had some major life changes. My most recent surgery has helped nearly eradicate a portion of my chronic spine pain and I’m overwhelmed just thinking about these new physical possibilities—namely being able to simply sit at this desk and write for hours. I’ve also just moved into my first house and am trying to ease my way through all the unpacking as my body recovers. Again, I’m feeling overwhelmed and curious about what’s to come—for Foreign Bodies, for my other writing and painting projects, everything! I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.
A musical start to your Mondays 🎧
One international song to groove to, cry to, drive to and share
This week, I’m featuring Sinn Sisamouth, who is lovingly remembered as “golden voice” or the “Elvis of Cambodia.” According to this New York Times profile, the singer-songwriter was renowned for his smooth voice and evocative lyrics about love and the Cambodian landscape—and for more than two decades between the 1950s and 70s, he was a fixture on radio shows and in nightclubs in Cambodia and beyond. Sisamouth disappeared as the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, a time when the work of artists and intellectuals was brutally repressed. The Khmer Rouge left 1.7 million people dead due to overwork, starvation or execution. Though the circumstances of his death are unclear, family members are certain he is no longer alive, according to the Times. Many of Sisamouth’s recordings live on—and they continue to influence Cambodian culture.
Resource(s) of the week
Something helpful and interesting and cool (*storytelling opportunity)
Eldest Immigrant Daughter: A new Catapult Magazine column on what it means to be the eldest daughter of immigrants told through dark humor, the exploration of meme culture and more from Ruth Madievsky. I know I’ll be following closely, probably nodding my head along…
Make the Road New York: the largest progressive grassroots immigrant-led organization in New York state offering an array of education, health and legal services
*YES! Magazine is open for submissions for its Personal Journeys Issue. Editors are looking for “pitches and leads for reported stories, essays, and analyses that will explore personal approaches to activism, and simply, ways of being engaged in what is going on in our communities.” I’ve worked with YES! before and had a great experience. Happy to answer specific questions! Deadline to submit for the upcoming issue is Oct. 22. Send pitches directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal stories I’m loving
What if Disability Rights Were for Everyone? (Ari Ne’eman, New York Times Opinion): “Increasingly, activists are struggling with a simple question: How do you go about representing a constituency that doesn’t know you exist?” An excellent op-ed on the role of identity politics in disability policy. Read here.
Forgetting My First Language (Jenny Liao, The New Yorker): “My first language, Cantonese, is the only one I share with my parents, and, as it slips from my memory, I also lose my ability to communicate with them,” Liao writes in this beautiful personal essay on first language attrition (the process of forgetting a first language) and growing up as a child of Chinese immigrants in New York. “My parents encouraged me to excel in English class because they believed it to be the key to success in America, even if they never learned the language. English would aid in my performance across all subjects in school because that was the language my teachers taught in. But, most important, my parents believed that a mastery of English would promise a good, stable job in the future. This missing piece in my parents’ lives would propel me forward for the rest of mine.” Read here.
Lamentation for Songbirds (Lindsey Trout Hughes, The Rumpus): “To parent a child on a suffering earth means learning that sometimes there will be connections, sometimes there will be answers. And sometimes, there will not—no sense of why an awful thing has occurred or what to do about it.” Oof, this beautiful essay on parenting through grief is gutting and will stay with me for a long, long time. TW: references to suicide. Read here.
Manifest (Cynthia Dewi Oka): “The migrant feminist will not show you all her faces./The migrant feminist thinks in generations; in this sense, death is necessarily a comma.” Read the full poem from Indonesian American poet Cynthia Dewi Oka here. | Also read: ‘Like a witch in my house’: NJ poet explores dualities of being an immigrant in America (Courier-Post)
My Stutter (Joseph Ferguson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution): “Being fluent always felt like catching the wind in your hands.” My former AJC colleague Joseph Ferguson recently published this must-read essay about his stutter, which he says is “as much a part of me as my left arm.” I’m so proud to say I know him. Read here.
I’m an emergency medicine physician and a DACA recipient. Without immigration reform, thousands of people like me face uncertain futures (Denisse Rojas Marquez, Association of American Medical Colleges): “Being undocumented in the United States means that you could die from a treatable health condition, even with world-class medicine only a block away,” writes Marquez, who decided to go to medical school primarily to help immigrant and underserved communities. But without legislation that allows DACA recipients like her to stay in the country permanently, Marquez’s ability to continue caring for the underserved in the U.S. is in peril. Read here.
In the news
Relevant news coverage that doesn’t really fall under our larger mission to de-stigmatize through personal storytelling, but is still essential reading for anyone who wants to stay up-to-date on immigrant and refugee mental health as well as general mental health news.
Many Indian Families Express Care Through ‘Bullying,’ Creating Patterns of Abuse (Devrupa Rakshit, The Swaddle): In this reported feature, Rakshit explores how bullying in Indian families is often masked as “love” and “care” but maintains lasting mental and emotional consequences on children through adulthood. “People become so habituated to being told ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ that they experience ‘decision paralysis’ when they have to make choices on their own, says psychotherapist Zohra Master, an associate fellow, and supervisor from the Albert Ellis Institute. The bullying that society constantly packaged as ‘looking out’ can render one dependent on others.” Read here.
US immigration policies toward Haitians have long been racist, advocates say (Harmeet Kaur, CNN): When it comes to recent public outcry against the Biden administration’s treatment of Haitian migrants, experts and advocates say they’re not surprised, reports Kaur. “When Black asylum seekers or Black immigrants are confronted by state power, whether it be the local police on the streets or (federal agents) ... they're confronted in a violent manner on different levels than what we see happening with migrants that are not Black,” said Nana Gyamfi, executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Read here.
‘We Have to Survive’: Meet NYC Immigrant Women Fighting for Their Communities During the Pandemic (Tanvi Misra, The City): “Immigrant women, including those from working-class backgrounds, have faced particular hardship during the pandemic,” reports Misra. In this feature, she highlights the mutual support networks led by immigrant women that have stepped up in the absence of comprehensive government safety nets. Read here.
New research 📑
Immigration and improvements in American life expectancy (Arun S. Hendi and Jessica Y. Ho, SSM Population Health): This new study by University of Southern California and Princeton University researchers estimates that immigration adds 1.4-1.5 years to U.S. life expectancy at birth. “Demographers knew that immigrants lived longer. The main question that we set out to answer was, ‘How much is this really contributing to national life expectancy trends?’” lead author Arun Hendi said in a media release. “Our results show that they're making an outsized contribution to national life expectancy.” Download here.
One sorta unrelated story on my mind
Simone Biles Chose Herself (Camonghne Felix, The Cut): “If I still had my air awareness, and I just was having a bad day, I would have continued. But it was more than that.” Been thinking about this stunning profile on the inimitable Simone Biles since it published last month. A must-read. Read here.
Books and collections I’m currently reading (plus reader-recommended works!)
Currently reading: Nothing! All of my books are still packed in boxes. But it’s rainy over here…and autumn…so I’m definitely itching for a read-a-thon and hot tea.
Reader rec from Hamsa S.: Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So, who died last December at age 28. This is a highly anticipated debut snapshot of the lives of queer and immigrant communities—namely Cambodian Americans—in California. So’s stories “seamlessly transition between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth.” (Harper Collins)
Remember, we always have tons of wonderful stories and resources available at foreignbodies.net.
Love to see it
Shout-outs, thank-yous and more
*immediately queues up*
This has been on my mind, too. If your event planning no longer features virtual options for the disabled or chronically ill, you’re showing yourselves.
I can’t get enough of Gabe’s tweets.
For anyone with the means, please donate to the IRC in Atlanta as they gear up to meet the needs of arriving Afghans.
Leaving you with a photo of my girl in her new bed.
That’s it for now.
Did you absolutely hate this? Open to criticism and suggestions. See ya later!
Special thanks to our Foreign Bodies Sustaining Members Kris B., Hannah B., Safurah B., Alex C., Alma C., Rebecca C., Rodrigo C., Esmé D., Katie H., Katya S., Jack L., Liz S., Puja S., Roz T., Diane W., Samantha W., Alan Y. and my mama. If you’re a sustaining member but not listed here, just shoot me an email!