What To Read: Winnie Kong is amplifying Asian American voices

This week, we interviewed Winnie Kong, a writer and student who writes Politically Invisible Asians, a newsletter about Asian American voices and perspectives. This interview has been lightly edited.

What’s your Substack about in one sentence?

Politically Invisible Asians is a biweekly newsletter amplifying Asian American voices.

What motivated you to start a newsletter that shares the diversity of the Asian American experience?

During my first semester of college, I took an identity politics course. Halfway through the semester, one of my friends pointed out to me that I was the only Asian American in the class. To be quite honest, I didn’t even realize it, and that primarily stems from my privilege – of always having existed in spaces where I can find others who look like me. Anyway, I started feeling uncomfortable speaking in class; it was as if my words carried the weight of representing my entire community.

Thanks to the support of Juice Media, I founded Politically Invisible Asians in January 2021. Inspired by the lack of Asian American representation in popular culture and politics, I wanted my community to have a safe space where they can decolonize their minds. More importantly, however, I wanted to make my freshman self proud. What I was afraid to say in the classroom, I am now making a promise to speak about unapologetically. 

Your topics range from mental health to fusion food to yellow fever. How does your team decide what to cover?

Our writers have complete freedom over what topics they want to cover! The only requirement is writing a piece that will challenge the monolithic view of Asian Americans. This often comes in the form of introducing our often forgotten history and unraveling our multifaceted experiences. 

I initially started this newsletter as a personal passion project to revitalize my love for writing. As the journey progressed, I realized that if I truly wanted to encapsulate the Asian American experience, I needed to bring on a diverse collective of Gen Z Asian American voices. After all, I am by no means a representative for Asian Americans as a whole; my opinions are not to be regarded as speaking on behalf of my entire community. 

Has this process and your community changed how you see your identity as an Asian American?

Definitely. I’ve gained a lot more confidence throughout this entire process. The last time I wrote something for enjoyment was in high school. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Over the years, I’ve forgotten just how healing writing can be – especially in my recent piece addressing the Atlanta spa shootings.

It’s like a dream come true to be able to lead a team of like-minded Asian Americans. I would say that vulnerability is the unique selling point of our publication, and it’s been an honor for me to read everyone’s stories. I really do believe that writing is the key to liberating our souls, and I am always unlearning and relearning to create a more inclusive Asian America. 

By the way, we are recruiting Staff Writers and Social Media Strategists for Summer 2021. If you are interested or know someone who would appreciate this opportunity, here is the link to the application.

Who in the Asian American community inspires you?

Hands down, Maxine Hong Kingston. 

I was 16, and I had an epiphany that classic literature and white men often go hand in hand. I remember spending most of my education reading novels written by “The Greats,” and never found the representation I so desperately craved within the characters in their novels.

In an Asian American literature class, I was introduced to Maxine Hong Kingston and her novel The Woman Warrior. I had always thought that I needed my writing to mirror “The Greats” in order to be considered a competent writer. However, Kingston changed my limited perspective by showcasing her raw feelings throughout her novel, allowing me to realize that the most important aspect of writing is to use my words genuinely. By relating to her experiences in her memoir, I found the courage to speak out against the injustices facing my community. In her novel, I found my voice.

Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?

Huge shoutout to my coworker-turned-bestie Jordyn Paul-Slater’s Substack, Incoming! She is a Black Gen Z woman writing all about the internet, and she even founded the podcast Social Media Breakdown using Substack’s audio feature. I’m constantly in awe of everything she does, so please check her out!

Subscribe to Winnie’s newsletter, Politically Invisible Asians, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.