An Immigrant Story Behind the Poetry with Tiffany Kang

[play podcast above]

It was a few hours of mental and physical nourishment. We sat across the jogging path next to Lake Merritt, the historical tidal lagoon, a body of water which served as a metaphor for our physical, immigrant bodies. Tufted ducks wandered around the “Necklace of Lights” as we prepared for our conversation, sitting comfortably on an old park bench. Tiffany Kang, a first-generation Taiwanese-American poet, invited me along the ride through her bustling urban experience as a transplant here in Oakland, California.

The Detroit born, DMV bred, Philly schooled, Oakland newbie, took me on a joyride through the many spaces she occupies.

We explored her “Taiwanese-American Female” identity, the limitations of Black-American allyship, and shared our parents’ immigrant story; we explored the fluctuating ideas of social justice, the uncomfortable irony of the “safe body,” and the power of poetry, Hip Hop and other art mediums. We fully immersed ourselves in our one-on-one dialogue about the sense of home and the ever-evolving definition of life and identity.

Just a day earlier, I was at the Twitter Headquarters in San Francisco to perform a speech on diversity in media. And as we scheduled plans for the interview, we added food to the to-do list–a subconscious way of nourishing the mind, body, and soul. And since we’re in California, we went with Mexican food–a very tasty spot called Gordo Taqueria.

It would be borderline blasphemy if we didn’t, and eating Mexican food also served a symbolic purpose. Mexicans are inextricably linked to the subjective idea of America–and talks of immigration, good and bad, too often involves Mexican immigrants. It was a subtle way of showing solidarity, perhaps unbeknownst to both of us.

We also added a little Hip Hop to our meeting by eating at CREAM (Cookies Rules Everything Around Me), an ice-cream shop in Berkley that serves delicious handcrafted ice-cream sandwiches made with cookies. Their acronym is seemingly a play on the popular Wu Tang Clan song C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me).

It was a few hours of mental and physical nourishment, stories of self-reflection and discovery. It could have lasted longer. Next time, it will. It must.


Content Director at OogeeWoogee. I'm a nomad; I like to engage in cross-cultures experiences---I'm a wanderlust, eating pancakes everywhere I go.

'An Immigrant Story Behind the Poetry with Tiffany Kang' have 3 comments

  1. December 2, 2015 @ 8:02 pm candy

    Im still listening but wanted to comment on the part where she said ‘she grew up in a physical abusive household’ and she said her mom would spanked her, Im not sure if you agreed with her or not, but is spanking the same as physical abuse? I grew up in the Caribbean and physical abuse is VERY different from getting spanked.


    • December 3, 2015 @ 2:34 pm Wilkine Brutus

      Underneath her breath, very subtly, she mentioned how it was more than just spanking. “Physical abuse” is subjective, but that segment was about the irony of the “safe body.”


      • December 17, 2015 @ 12:38 am Tiffany

        Thanks for reading, Candy — and for your thoughtful response.

        To clarify, yes; it was, indeed, much more than spanking. The details of ‘extent’ are irrelevant. The important part is that in her going beyond the norms of effective, well-informed, responsible, love-centered physical discipline, she deeply shaped me — my experiences, worldview, and identity formation through adolescence, young adulthood … and surely, always. While pain is subjective, both physically and emotionally, I remember recognizing every day that many boundaries had been overstepped. For a young child … that, to me, is one of the most defining marks of abuse and trauma.


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