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Gang Girls

By Angela Tung

Memoir

I was 20 and still a virgin the summer I met the gang girls.

Karen was Chinese and from Queens. Yumiko was Japanese, beautiful, and cursed like a Brooklyn dockworker. They both smoked.

My first day, Yumiko hollered at her boyfriend Pip, who was Filipino and also worked in shipping: “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!”

Pip jumped ten feet, and we all laughed, but still Yumiko said, when my boss came by, “I think I scared her.”

“You didn’t,” I said. Yumiko didn’t answer.

The truth was she and Karen did scare me, but not in the way that they thought. While I knew they could kick my ass from here to the Cloisters, I was more scared of what they thought of me, the suburban Asian girl with a voice like a newscaster’s.

I’d just finished my sophomore year, and was living by myself on campus. I needed alone time, lots of it, away from roommates, fighting friends, and nitpicking parents. In the evenings I’d run on our gym’s track, then have some sad semblance of a dinner concocted from the local market’s salad bar, toast, cream cheese, and canned sardines. TV-less, I’d write in my journal, filling page after page with daily minutiae, and I’d read the books we got at work.

My internship was in editorial. Everyone else in editorial was white. While Karen and Yumiko answered phones and click clacked through inventory on their green screen computers, we read dozens of books – or book jackets at least – and wrote pithy blurbs to go into little catalogs that went out to snobby bibliophiles once a quarter. When the World Wide Web came around a couple of years later, our little operation would be rendered obsolete.

Till then we worked on the same floor as the fancy schmancy New York Review of Books. Its one-armed editor was our editor too; the son of the poet Adrienne Rich was on its staff. Spotting him was almost like spotting a celebrity.

“Do you even speak Chinese?” Pip asked me.

I wasn’t afraid of Pip. “Yes,” I said.

“You don’t sound like you do.”

“How should I sound, Pip?”

He shrugged.

I was two when we moved from Oakland to Queens. We lived in Queens for exactly one year before making our escape to the suburbs of New Jersey. Now that I was going to college in Manhattan, I wondered how I’d have turned out if we had stayed in the city. I might have gone to Stuyvesant or Brooklyn Tech. I might be tougher and less shy.

Or I might be completely sheltered, like my classmates from Chinatown who stayed on campus all week and went home every weekend, who had never been to the American Museum of Natural History or the Met.

“Never?” I squeaked. I’d been to each at least four or five times, between class trips and sojourns with my father.

They shrugged. School for them was about getting straight A’s and passing the Regents. Their dads were too busy working 24/7 to take them anywhere.

Karen and Yumiko weren’t in college although they graduated from Stuy, one of the city’s top magnet schools. Straight A’s weren’t their thing. Cutting class was, and dating Chinese gang members. The Ghost Shadows, the Flying Dragons. They recognized half the guys in the mug shots of a Chinatown history book I brought in. They knew someone who knew someone who knew the Uncle Seven, the Canal Street Godfather.

The boys in my high school played lacrosse. They wore pink sweaters thrown over their shoulders and loafers without socks. The girls were grade grubbers or cheerleaders. Some were grade grubbers and cheerleaders. One group of goody-two shoe Chinese girls who all ended up at Cornell had been dubbed “the Chinese mafia,” though they probably would have shat twice and died being anywhere near the likes of Karen and Yumiko.

* * *

The first time I heard the term “banana” was freshman year. I saw a flyer for a rap session: “Bananas: A White Man’s Best Friend?” I had no idea what a “banana” was or how it could be anyone’s friend, but it was hosted by a club called the Asian Women’s Coalition, which sounded pretty cool to me.

The room was packed. Apparently being a banana, or not, was a big deal. People argued about what it meant to be Asian – not just Asian, Asian American. What if you didn’t speak the language? What if you preferred dating white guys? What if you had a Texan accent like the Korean guy sprawled across the radiator? What about assimilation? Gentrification? Wasn’t this a melting pot? No, a mosaic!

I still didn’t know what a banana was.

Finally, someone asked: “I’m sorry but what is a banana exactly?”

The woman running the show snorted. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Someone else answered, thankfully: “Yellow on the outside, white on the inside.”

Ooooh.

Was I a banana then? In junior high I did wish I were white, but now I didn’t. Was I residual banana? Was that a thing? Would I lose points in the game of early ’90s Political Correctness? What would I get if I won?

* * *

There were girls like Yumiko and Karen at my college too, I realized. Like my friend Rosana who once when I playfully punched her on the shoulder, stiffened like she was trying her hardest not to knock my block off. Who hit the deck whenever she heard a car backfiring. Who told me, “I’d have beat you up every day in high school,” after seeing a photo of me with long straight hair, pearls, and a Laura Ashley dress.

Like her friend Mei who was 80 pounds soaking wet but still threatened to pummel my roommate Judy for always staring at her dyed blonde hair.

“You have to stop, Judy,” I told her.

“I can’t help it!” she cried. “What Asian has blonde hair?”

The kind who can kick your ass.

* * *

The more I got to know the gang girls, the less they scared me.

Like me, Karen was learning Mandarin. We discussed characters, drawing them in the air or on our hands. Yumiko spoke Japanese fluently, and her voice would go all soft and flowy when she talked on the phone with her mom. But while I felt I understood them better, I knew they still didn’t get me.

“Okay, Angela, I have to know,” said Yumiko one day out of the blue. “Do you only date white guys?”

I hadn’t dated any guys by then. Had never even been kissed. I’d been on two (disastrous) dates, both in college. At the end of the first one, the guy left me at two in the morning to walk the two blocks home by myself. The other was a literal blind date with a blind guy, who I wanted to like because he was a musician and poet, but in the end couldn’t get past his girth, the way his eyes rolled in opposite directions, and his long pale fingers that were always moving – on his beard, over the platter of Ethiopian food, across the table reaching for my hand.

I thought of mentioning my crush Bernard, an engineering student. Like me, he was an American-born Chinese from the ‘burbs – Long Island in his case – and till college had had mostly white friends. I called him all the time although my mother warned me not to be too eager. What I didn’t know was that summer he was courting a girl from Taiwan, a girl who always wore dresses, and never swore, and covered her eyes during violent or sexy scenes in movies. What I didn’t know was that to Bernard, I might as well have been another guy.

“Race doesn’t matter to me,” I said.

Yumiko exhaled streams of smoke through her delicate nostrils. I knew she didn’t believe me.

The truth was Bernard was the first Chinese guy I liked. Till then my crushes were Jewish, Italian, and plain white. To me, Asian guys were like my brothers, my cousins, kids I’d known since diapers.

Till Bernard of course.

* * *

I grew to like the smell of cigarette smoke. I filched one of Karen’s and tried smoking it in my room. I watched myself in the mirror. I liked how the cigarette looked in my hand, but plumes kept rolling uncontrollably out of my nose.

I kept calling Bernard. I kept writing in my journal. I wrote about something that happened that was so upsetting, I ripped the paper with my pen. I can’t even remember what it was. One of those random racist things from some guy on the street.

I told Bernard how I tore the paper getting so mad.

“That’s. . .scary,” he said.

We were on the phone. “What’s scary?” I asked. “What happened?”

“No,” he said. “That you got so mad.”

I snorted. “Didn’t you throw a glass against the wall once because you were mad?”

“Yeah, but I’m a guy.”

I twirled the phone cord. I should have said something – to Bernard, to the guy on the street. The gang girls would have. Karen, Yumiko, Rosana, Mei. They’d have flipped the bird at least. They’d have composed a cacophony of curses; they’d have thrown something, called up an old boyfriend just sprung from jail.

“You should get out more,” I said. Then I laughed. It was a joke, see? Maybe you’ll still like me. “So what else did you do today?”

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Angela Tung A long-time New Yorker, ANGELA TUNG is a writer in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in CNN Living, The Frisky, Dark Sky Magazine, Matador Life, The New York Press and elsewhere. Her Young Adult novel, Song of the Stranger, was published by Roxbury Park Books.

Her latest book, Black Fish: Memoir of a Bad Luck Girl, chronicles the failed marriage between a Chinese woman and Korean man, both American-born but still bound by old world traditions. Black Fish was short-listed for Graywolf Press' 2010 Nonfiction Prize.

In addition, she's a writer/editor at Wordnik.com, an online word source, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. Visit her at angelatung.com.

60 Responses to “Gang Girls”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    You tell a great story, Angela. Your pieces are like a layer cake – filled with meaning and subtlety.
    x Z

  2. Angela Tung says:

    thanks zara! you’re the sweetest.

    (mmmm, cake!)

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Oh angela,

    I was glad when you explained “banana, ” because I didn’t know what it was either. I was afraid I would get to the end of the story and you wouldn’t tell us!

    This is now my officially favorite saying: “they probably would have shat twice and died.” I just have to figure out where to fit a sentence like that into a conversation. This is not as easy as it might sound to you, since you were already able to do it.

    YOU HAD A BLIND DATE WITH A BLIND GUY? I’m sorry, but I just can’t get past that one and the description of his wandering eyes and hands without choking!

    You ask too much of your young self, to act as you would now, then. We were all idiots and unable to make a good come-back comment to something rude at that age. Why should you be any different?

    • angela says:

      haha, yeah that blind date with the blind guy. i felt so shallow being repulsed by him – beauty’s only skin deep and all that – but i just couldn’t help it. his hands actually grossed me out more than his eyes did. they were long and delicate and very very pale, and then when his fingers touched mine after having combed through both his beard and the platter of Ethiopian food all night – blech! i hid my hands in my lap after that, and watched his crawl around the table looking for them.

      i hope i’d come back with a good comeback now! sometimes i still don’t come up with one until, like, a day later.

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Actually, my best come-backs don’t get worked out in my brain till the middle of the night, hours after they would have been zingers!

  5. Simon Smithson says:

    I’m fascinated by the idea of how people would have turned out if you picked them up as children and dropped them in different environments; how we’re shaped by the people around us. It’s a question of nature vs nurture, and I often wonder how deep a change can go after a certain amount of time – for instance, meeting the gang girls after being one Angela for so long, and how they changed you, to whatever degree, into a different Angela.

    If it helps, a Transylvanian friend of mine exclusively dates Asian girls. It cuts both ways.

    Also: I’ll be in SF in three days. Let’s hang out!

    • angela says:

      a Transylvanian who exclusively dates Asian girls. i don’t think i’ve heard of that combo before!

      those gang girls did change me, i think. i didn’t realize that their voices, and maybe the one i was striving towards, became the voice of this kick-ass Asian woman character i created. i thought her voice came to me out of nowhere, and it was only as i was writing “Gang Girls” that i realized she came from Karen and Yumiko.

      we should totally hang out when you get here!

    • Gloria says:

      You’ll be in San Francisco in three days??!!! You have a Transylvanian friend???!!

  6. Gloria says:

    Man, Bernard sounds awful. No judgment about you at all, and I’ll assume that Bernie grew up into a kind and nonjudgmental man, but what a tool. It struck me as I was getting to the end of this how much pressure you must have dealt with (and still do?) to be girly – both because of gender role expectations and because of cultural expectations. And look at you! You’re all tough and shit. I get it, too, of course. I come from the southwest, very near Texas. Talk about clearly defined gender roles. I worked at a tattoo shop in El Paso once and dated one of the artists. I said, off the cuff, one day that I was going to buy a Harley and my boyfriend could ride bitch, and I swear to god every man in the room grew to his full height and I actually feared for my safety for a few minutes. It was obvious that I’d overstepped my bounds. Also, growing up I can’t tell you how many times some older entrenched-in-the-stereotype southern lifer told me that I was “too big for my britches.” What the fuck does that even mean?!

    I’d never heard the term banana. How ridiculously clever. I’d say I’m a pomegranate – smooth and impenetrable on the outside, and sweet inside once you can get past all of the hard seeds that everywhere and that get stuck in your teeth. 😀

    • Gloria says:

      http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/too+big+for+your+britches.html

      Idiom: Too big for your britches

      If someone is too big for their britches, they are conceited and have an exaggerated sense of their own importance.

      1835 D. CROCKETT Tour to North 152 “When a man gets too big for his breeches, I say Good-bye.”

      1879 [see BOOT n.3 1c]. 1893 H. MAXWELL Life of W. H. Smith I. ii. 57 “Sometimes a young man, ‘too big for his boots’, would..sniff at being put in charge of a railway bookstall.”

      1905 H. G. WELLS Kipps III. ii. S1 He’s getting too big for ‘is britches. 1929 W. FAULKNER Sound & Fury 270 You’re getting a little too big for your pants.”

      Answerbag http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/995617#ixzz13Ku92Cxm

      • angela says:

        gloria, you’re the etymology queen!

        “bernard” eventually showed his true colors. towards the end of our friendship, i found out he had lied to me about several things (and he didn’t even remember his lie!). we had a falling out several years ago so i haven’t been in direct contact with him for some time, but i’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s become an arrogant dick, always bragging and whatnot.

        i was always surprised when anyone implied i wasn’t feminine or girly enough. in my family that wasn’t an issue. while my mother wished i wore dresses more often, she was the boss of the family, so i never felt funny being loud or argumentative. in fact, i’d always been told by relatives i was too shy and timid.

        i love the pomengranate analogy! i think of myself as butterscotch candy – hard on the outside, sweet within. 😉

  7. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Banana. This is news.
    I remember being called a honkey for the first time in San Francisco when I was 14. I had no idea what it meant. A couple Texan chicks had to hip me to it.
    This is really vivid and fun to read, Angela. I loved it.
    Where are you from in Jersey?!

    • Gloria says:

      What does honkey mean? I mean, what’s the etymology of it?

      Luckily, we have the interwebz!

      http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/756/whats-the-origin-of-honky

      Honky comes from bohunk and hunky, derogatory terms for Bohemian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants that came into use around the turn of the century. According to Robert Hendrickson, author of the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, black workers in Chicago meat-packing plants picked up the term from white workers and began applying it indiscriminately to all Caucasians. Probably thought they all looked alike.

      Another probable etymon for honky, cited by David Dalby in his “African Element in American English” (to be found in my Rappin’ and Stylin’ Out: Communication in Urban Black America) is the Wolof term honq, “red, pink,” a term frequently used in to describe white men in African languages. –Tom Kochman, professor of communication, University of Illinois at Chicago

      • angela says:

        gloria, i didn’t know that re: honkey! i never would have thought it was related to bohunk and hunky.

        • Gloria says:

          I’m preternaturally interested in the origin of all things offensive. Seriously – I think understanding the roots of the things we find offensive removes their power – like naming Voldemort. (That’s a Harry Potter reference, in case you don’t know. :) ) It’s important to me. And usually the root of any offensive slur is super old timey and no longer relevant, which totally disempowers it.

        • angela says:

          i LOVE the Voldemort reference and the idea of disempowering a word by using it.

          have you finished the series yet? if not, i’ll say no more.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        language is fascinating. for every invention, there’s an insult.

    • angela says:

      thanks lisa!

      a variation of “banana” is “Twinkie,” which i think David mentions below. in Cantonese i’ve heard “juk sing,” or “empty bamboo shoot.” i don’t know what it is in Mandarin actually!

      i grew up in Freehold, NJ, home of Bruce, but we moved to the incredibly preppy Princeton area when i was 15.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        What I’m about to say is going to sound horrid, but I like the Cantonese better. “Empty bamboo shoot” is more meaningful than “empty calories.” But now I’m bashing Americans for being full of fluff, which is another unfair stereotype.

        I know Freehold! And Princeton. I’m a Jersey girl too, from Park Ridge to Jersey City :)

  8. I always love your posts, Angela.

    I never heard the word “banana” used this way, although my K-American friends always referred to themselves as “Twinkies,” although I believe that has gained somewhat of a negative connotation in recent years. I’m not sure. Banana sounds better, anyway.

    I love that you went on a blind blind date. That’s awesome. I always thought blind people deliberately avoided blind dates because… well…

    It has always been fascinating to me to learn about Asian American identity, because as a white Scottish guy I have nothing really to compare that with.

    Also, blonde hair is exceptionally popular in Japan and Korea right now… although usually it comes out an odd orangey colour.

    • angela says:

      i think either banana or Twinkie have negative connotations depending on who says it. if Asian Americans refer to themselves that way, it’s just poking fun at themselves. but said judgmentally by others – like the gang girls thought of me, i’m sure – is quite another thing. just like with anything, i suppose.

      have you heard of “eggs”? whites who believe that deep down they’re really asian and are WAY into asian culture.

      uck, i don’t get the dyed blond Asian hair thing! you’re so right it just comes out this weird orange color. i see it a lot around here in SF too with the international students.

      • Ha! I wondered whether there was a white-on-the-outside equivalent. Eggs! Ha! I’ve heard the word “orientalist” used disparagingly – basically someone who’s into manga and Asian girls.

        • angela says:

          i’ve used “fetishist” quite a bit myself, describing a (usually) white guy who has an Asian fetish, which to me isn’t just a white guy dating an Asian woman, but someone primarily into the cultural trappings and who sees that woman as an embodiment of those trappings.

          it was easy to weed these guys out in online dating since they’d email me, “ni hao?” or “konnichiwa?” when clearly my profile was written in fluent English.

      • Haha, I know (of) “eggs” but I’ve never heard that term before. I like it.

        Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Asian “blondes” either. I respect the effort, but if it comes out a silly orange then it’s really not a success.

  9. Irene Zion says:

    I just remembered, angela,

    When I first read the description of your piece, I thought “banana” referred to the shape of your butt. I have to say I did some picturing in my head of what a butt shaped like a banana would look like, but I was unsuccessful.

  10. Angela, love this. Your description of your blind blind date is so well-done it makes *me* feel repulsed and then feel guilty for feeling repulsed. Really enjoyed reading about Karen and Yumiko as well. I don’t know why but I’d always had friends who were tough girls, and they always fascinated me. Maybe I just had that “anyone can be my friend” kind of openness about me or something because I certainly wasn’t tough nor troublesome myself. And Bernard! Ugh.

    • angela says:

      thanks cynthia!

      glad the repulsion and guilt of my blind blind date came through. i can still see that guy’s face, not to mention his eyes and fingers!

      yeah, bernard. i was suckered in by his sense of humor.

  11. Erika Rae says:

    I’m such a fan of your writing. It’s so clear and straight and laced with humor. Beautifully told. I could see this in book form some day.

    Heung jiu! It was one of the first words I learned in Cantonese in HK. And yes, in the derogatory sense, there – taught to me by Chinese students at the university. Funny, that.

    • angela says:

      thanks erika!

      i didn’t know the Cantonese translated “banana” directly like that. i’ve heard “juk sing” before, “empty bamboo shoot.”

  12. Matt says:

    First off, to hell with Bernard. What a back-asswards sexist moron. Only way he could be more of a stereotype would be if he went after a girl with bound feet.

    Lovely story, Angela. As the others have mentioned, the bit about the blind blind date made me guffaw.

    I’d heard the term “banana” before, as my undergraduate school (UC Riverside) has about a 60% Asian student population, but I don’t think it’s quite as pervasive as “Oreo” or “apple.” I think there’s even a Hispanic equivalent, but I can’t remember it.

    What I find interesting here is the idea of these gang girls, acting so rough and tough with their confrontational facades, forming community bonds in such a mixed ethnic group. They might all be of Asian decent, yes, but many of their countries of origin have not traditionally gotten along with each other terribly well, nevermind the current altercations that are appearing in the news. It’s a nice thing, especially in a gang environment, to see interaction based on commonalities than the fallback position of difference.

    Except for Bernard, of course. Fuck him!

    • angela says:

      matt, even at the time i couldn’t believe Bernard felt that way – that he was actually uncomfortable with my cursing and whatnot. in fact, i cursed more just to shock him. i thought i could make him mend his ways.

      i never heard “apple” before, but that makes sense. the hispanic equivalent – coconut?

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=coconut

      seems to cover a variety of brown/white combos.

      i also found the mixed ethnic-ness of the gang girls fascinating. there was actually another woman who was Korean, but she was the manager and while friendly kept her distance a bit. she was definitely a toughie though. so yeah, there was a Chinese, a Korean, a Japanese, and a Filipino, all in one department. i was so fascinated by them, i wrote a whole novel based on that idea of a multiethnic society.

      complete with foul-mouthed tough girls of course.

  13. jmblaine says:

    I met a girl named
    Lin in college
    and she seemed very fun
    & interested but eventually
    I found out her group
    was giving her too much grief
    for hanging out with me.
    I bet they called her
    banana.
    Dang.

  14. I can’t stand chocolate, except white, which I love, even though it’s basically sweet lard. Shut up, it’s confectionery, not ethnicity. Anyway, my girlfriend brought back a pack of white TimTams from Australia; white chocolate outside, white crunchy biscuit inside. Hello! It’s me, in rectilinear snack form!

    Although the metaphor stumbles at “crunchy biscuit”. Not really the same as “cracker”.

  15. “They wore pink sweaters thrown over their shoulders and loafers without socks.”

    So there are people whiter than me!

  16. I just love your posts, Angela. Such evocative scenes rendered so beautifully…

  17. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I’m a little afraid of Bernard because of his fear of your–and probably any other woman’s–anger. Also that he threw things and excused it because he’s a guy.

    I related to the section where you wondered what you would’ve been like if your family had stayed in the city and you went to a different school. When I was in high school, I had a chance to apply to a new gifted students’ academy but didn’t. I figured I wouldn’t get in. Sometimes I wonder what I might have been like if I’d gone there. But I guess I didn’t turn out so bad. :)

    Another wonderful piece, Angela. Thanks!

    • Angela Tung says:

      bernard was such a loser. still is, from what i hear.

      as a little kid, i had the chance to be in some commercial. my parents refused, wanting me have a normal childhood. as an unhappy teen, i was so mad at my parents for refusing. i could have been a star by then, hobnobbing with River Phoenix and Ralph Macchio! in reality, i probably would have cried and gone home.

      thanks so much for reading, ronlyn!

  18. Judy Prince says:

    “Was I residual banana?”

    HOOOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!! angela, I joined your party late, haven’t read the preceding comments, will do so anon.

    Let it suffice to say that your making me HOOOOOT as well as get continuous tears in my eyes allows you to be my banana girlfriend of the month, possibly 2 months.

    I’ve had oreos, you understand, but never a banana.

    So now I’m doing the white thing of transferring all my understandings of oreos over to bananas. It’ll need time to process, fer sher.

    What fruit or cookie would you call me? Maybe a wedding cake? Yeah. I like that.

    Just letting you know that being an oreo or a banana or a wedding cake is not the same in each instance, though sharing some experiences and reactions in common. The devil’s in the differences, possibly. But——most essential——everybody thinks of themselves as some kind of fruit or cookie-ish thing (and sometimes far more rotten things). Lots of them eventually grow into (or are shocked into) being just what they feel most like being……and it’s an astonishingly relaxing, freeing, joyful, hopeful, always changing yet staying the same, excursion.

    Love,

    Your wedding cake

    • angela says:

      thanks judy! i’d be happy to be your banana girlfriend.

      a wedding cake sounds like a great thing to be – tall, multilayered, and sweet! :)

      i’ve totally grown into what some people would consider a banana. i embrace my inner banana.

      • Judy Prince says:

        ” i embrace my inner banana.”

        HA! You’ve got it exactly, angela.

        Your not-so-tall, but multi-layered and sweet Wedding Cake.

  19. Don Mitchell says:

    I too thought that “banana” was going to refer to shape. Then I thought, maybe “easily peeled out of its covering,” and that was wrong too.

    Love those racial color terms. In my intro class I used to hold up a yellow pad and say, “Yellow! Know any Asian kids who look like this?” Then I’d hold up a white sheet of paper, “White! If I saw somebody with skin like that coming towards me, I’d run away.” Skin-color terms aren’t going away but it would be best if they did.

    Tough Asian girls. Yeah. This is good, Angela — not just because it’s good, but because it reminds me of my young multicultural/multiethnic days in Hawai’i.

    What I remember is that the Japanese girls had the widest range, from scary seriously bad-ass (and didn’t care who knew it) to the nice girl grinds you describe. We other kids were never sure just how bad the bad Japanese girls were until, and this is not a nice story, one of my friends from Band was gang-raped by some Japanese students. She was a sweet quiet thing who played the flute and studied a lot and I liked her. It happened on a weekend, the news got out of course and she was spectacularly brave and came to school on Monday and somehow behaved normally. After the boys were arrested (because she told, and they had been counting on their other victims not to tell, from shame) the baddest badass Japanese girl also announced that the same gang had tried it on her, but she had broken a beer bottle and challenged them to step up and be cut. None did. However, she didn’t tell on them, and my friend did. I think my friend was braver, although at the time we were all impressed with the broken-bottle wielder, standing off 8 or 9 boys.

    Finally, as for crossing ethnic boundaries, I invited another friend — just a friend — to the senior prom. She was a Filipina and my mother was OK with it, but her mother wasn’t. She didn’t want her daughter going out with a white kid. She came with me anyway, but had to keep it a secret from her mom — dressing elsewhere, etc.

    Nice ending, too. Very nice.

    • angela says:

      wow, Don, that story – both moving and disturbing. i can totally picture both girls, sort of two sides of the same coin: the sweet good girl and the tough beer bottle-wielding girl. but like you said, who was truly the brave one?

      you know what’s funny about skin color? i never thought of myself as having much melanin. i’m quite pale compared to other Asians. my ex, who’s Korean, was darker than i am. but compared to my current BF who’s mostly Scotch and Dutch, i look positively dark next.

      that’s a whole other barrel of ethnicity – shadism within a culture.

  20. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    While there are tons of lines I loved in this, the one I am going to try to work into at least weekly use is “probably would have shat twice and died”. Also loved the whole “the kind who can kick your ass” exchange.

    The whole race thing is interesting (in an absurd “someday, we’ll look back on this and feel retarded” way). My parents were both white, but were a scandalous coupling. After all, he was Italian and she Irish! You just don’t do such things! Stick to your own! One of my uncles even affectionately referred to us as “the little half-breed bastards”. I guess that makes me an “angel food cake” – pretty much white everywhere but enough differences in shade for someone who cares about such things to notice.

    Keep tearing pages, Angela. And posting these great stories.

    • angela says:

      thanks, Anon!

      that’s really interesting about your parents’ “mixed” marriage. i was married to a Korean guy, which to Asians, especially Chinese and Koreans, is definitely mixed, while to non-Asians may not seem that way. and i actually think there was more culture clash in that case than with my white boyfriend now.

  21. Jessica Blau says:

    Great story Angela. The banana thing is funny. Race stories are always interesting to me, how people divide themselves and how other people divide them, as well. Do you know what Karen and Yumiko are up to now?

    • angela says:

      jessica, i wish i knew what those guys are up to! even after working with them for over year, i never got their last names. or if i did, i’ve long forgotten them. i even googled “yumiko, pip” but got nothing back.

      i wouldn’t be surprised if they were all married with kids by now. deep down, they were pretty traditional, despite their tough veneer.

  22. Marni Grossman says:

    I’m playing catch-up now and I’m so glad I got to this!

  23. […] Gang Girls by  ANGELA TUNG […]

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