I thought I could let this go, but I can’t. A few months ago, I was part of a group of Korean American authors who’d gathered for happy hour at a tony
restaurant in downtown Seattle. We’d come to the city from all corners of the country for a literary conference, and we were happy to reunite with one
another, feeling festive after a long day of panels and meetings.
When almost all of us were seated, our (white) waiter stood at the head of the table and addressed us. “So, is this your first time in the United States?”
he asked our group. We burst out laughing. Several of us had already ordered drinks from him, had been exchanging pleasantries with him and telling him
about the conference—speaking in perfect, unaccented English. After all, we’re all novelists and short story writers and poets who have published
books—written in perfect, unaccented English. We assumed our waiter was joking, cleverly mocking the stereotype about all Asians being fresh off the boat.
He couldn’t have been serious. But he kept talking, and it became apparent that he was.