Author: Jian Huang

Photo Illustration

Manifest Destiny

I wore a pink satin dress with a bow that tied in the back. My dad wore a white short-sleeved button down shirt. His mother taught him to always wear a collared shirt when going out in public. It was 1989. It must have been summer. I sat on my dad’s left arm. It was easy to carry a four-year old who weighed so little. With his right arm, he waved at someone just out of the frame. He wore a look of pleasant surprise; I had just kissed him goodbye on the cheeks. “Even back then you knew more than your age,” he told me one day at lunch. He’s 78 now and living in affordable senior housing in Chinatown. He lost his sight 13 years ago, but the image of this picture is seared into his memory. I look at this photograph as an adult and wonder what made my dad say goodbye to his whole life that day at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. “I am going to America,” he said in …

Photo Illustration

Fairy Tales

A white bandage covered my dad’s eyes as we sat in the ophthalmologist’s office. “Your father is legally blind, Miss Huang. We need some more tests, but it looks like he had a seizure in his sleep that caused the loss of eyesight.” I was 18 years old and just a few weeks out of high school graduation when I heard these words. There were questions: “Did you notice anything different about him these past few days? How long has he been complaining about nausea? When did it start?” “What did he say?” my dad asked me in our native Shanghainese, a dialect of Chinese. He only ever spoke enough English to get by at his motel job, but never had the opportunity to learn more. My mother on the other hand didn’t speak any, so by default I was the family’s representative. I struggled with how to translate the word “seizure.” I translated the diagnosis as a malfunction of the brain. The word “lost” I translated into “disappeared” so to clear up any ambiguities …

Story Illustration

Made in the U.S.A.

During the summer of 1997, Timothy McVeigh was tried on television for killing people in Oklahoma. The English stood along the streets outside Westminster Abbey to bid farewell to Princess Diana. And in Los Angeles, our closest thing to Sears – the Woolworth’s on Broadway and 8th — closed its doors after years of declining business. But I knew only a little of that in my small corner of the world on 23rd and Los Angeles streets. I was consumed with having to enroll in summer school and retake sixth grade Algebra. I told Mr. Alexanian, my Algebra teacher at John Adams Middle School, that I was gravely concerned about having to walk home at 2 pm each day. That was before the B and C tracks kids got out of class, which meant my chances of getting bullied by the other summer school A track girls leaving with me increased. This also meant nobody would be able to call the cops should I get hurt. I would be left bleeding in an alley somewhere …