Phil Yu takes his anger out on KoreAm editor Kai Ma.
In the decade that I’ve been involved with the Asian American community, I’ve learned that there are many reasons people do this type of work. Usually, it’s inspired by an incredible urge to stimulate some sort of change. It supplies a sense of purpose, along with community and friends. Others accidentally fall into it, or do it very well. And some days, even for the most dedicated, it’s simply just a job.
But this month’s issue, more so than any other since becoming editor of this magazine, reminded me of the true spirit of Asian American advocacy. Many longstanding writers, activists and creatives came together to make it happen: writer/editor Jeff Yang, whose A. Magazine: Inside Asian America—the pioneering former monthly that I used to pore over in college—unequivocally influenced me to pursue a career in ethnic press, despite its meager pay and murky future (thanks Jeff!); photographer Shane Sato, whom I met at the esteemed Center for Asian American Media film festival in San Francisco; Arin Yoon, whose photos of former Korean sex slaves during WWII reminded me of my own visit to these now-elderly women living near Seoul; and, of course, Phil Yu, whose Angry Asian Man weblog, a few months shy of its 10-year anniversary, draws tens of thousands of readers each day. Special thanks to his wife, Joanna Lee of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, who persuaded her camera-shy spouse to grace our November cover.
In this month’s cover story “Mad Man,” Phil and Jeff, arguably two of our community’s most influential cultural critics, have a conversation about the steady rise of what is now a crucial, frequently updated site on everything Asian American. In the interview, which details Phil’s path as a blogger and activist, I am reminded of all the marquee events that have helped define our wired pan-Asian generation: the budding of ethnic studies, the 90s apex for Asian American print, the spoken word and indie film spike, and of course, soon after, the return of the written word with the birth of the blog.
I don’t remember when I discovered Phil’s blog, but a few years ago I realized I was visiting it every morning, sometimes several times a day. I was grateful for the oft-updated news-oriented site, and also bewildered by its persistent relevance and speed. We, at KoreAm, have long wondered what Phil’s secret is. “Does he just sit around and google ‘Asian’ all day?” one editor once wondered out loud. Yes, this magazine relies on Phil to tell us what’s going on. It’s actually, at times, quite maddening.
So how does he do it?
Click here to read about how a Philly-born, Northwestern-schooled Bruce Lee zealot went from blogging anonymously to creating Asian America’s influential site. Turns out, he does do it alone. And no, he’s not really an angry man. But take it from me, this isn’t a guy you want to piss off.
—Kai Ma, Editor-in-Chief