There Are Hundreds of Beautiful Asian Women… by Tessa Yang
The prescient satire of Tessa Yang’s “There Are Hundreds of Beautiful Asian Women Waiting to Meet You” cuts through the contemporary morass of anti-Asian violence and misogyny, using both horror and humor to turn subjugation on its head. Yang’s use of the first-person plural allows the stereotype of the “beautiful Asian woman” to clap back at centuries of silencing, both in the literal world and within the world of literature. As Yang writes in her author’s note: “The women were speaking for themselves, celebrating their collective rage.” The collective voice, as described in Gayle Brandeis’s essay #WeToo, makes room for stories that subvert the familiar narrative: “Some of us come to the choral voice because we know heroes aren’t always singular, know that the idea of the individual hero…has led to so many silenced stories.” Here, Yang’s narrative illustrates the impossible position of being objectified: “Her profound beauty, like profound ugliness, endowed her with the contradictory superpowers of hypervisibility and invisibility, which might’ve been handy if she had any control over picking one or the other.” Squeezed into an impossibly small box, the hundreds of beautiful Asian women in this piece are waiting to meet you. Depending on who you are, you might want to join them…or you might want to run. —CRAFT
Later, you’ll claim there were warnings. Unusual bird calls. That double rainbow you snapped for Instagram. A knowing gleam in the eyes of the hibachi waitress. To make sense of a thing is to make it your own, and from the very beginning, you’ll long to possess us, even as we’re toppling bridges and slashing through power lines. This is Phase One. Nothing will be spared. Grid by grid your homes and factories, schools and offices, plunge into a darkness unbroken by the modem’s friendly flicker or the comforting spill of a streetlamp outside.
Once upon a time, these were our places too.
Once upon a time, a beautiful Asian woman was walking down the street on her way to her school or factory or office. Where? Does it matter? Topeka. Cincinnati. LA. A small town in the desert you’ve never heard of. Her profound beauty, like profound ugliness, endowed her with the contradictory superpowers of hypervisibility and invisibility, which might’ve been handy if she had any control over picking one or the other. As it was, the conditions under which she was spotlighted or erased remained unpredictable, and she often had the duped, bitter feeling of being forced into a game whose rules she did not understand.
Rounding the corner, the beautiful Asian woman was joined by a second beautiful Asian woman, her face streaked with beautiful tears (she’d been fired from her job for being too beautiful). They walked in tandem for a block or so, saying nothing, quietly absorbing one another’s strength.
A third beautiful Asian woman showed up, her dead father’s wristwatch flopping around the beautiful spindle of her wrist.
Then a fourth and a fifth—a little too tall and a little too short, respectively, which only served to magnify their unspeakable beauty.
Numbers six, eight, eleven, nineteen. A silent and radiant parade. Their growing power was a ball of purple fire ricocheting between them, at once shearing off their edges and making each individual more distinct. Without warning they began to shout and cackle—as if possessed by devils, a grim witness described for the five o’clock news.
Another interpretation might be that we simply sounded happy.
A beautiful Asian woman is ripping up railroad tracks in Alabama. A beautiful Asian woman has chased the children off a jungle gym in Central Park. A team of beautiful Asian women has freed all the cows from the world’s third-largest slaughterhouse, using their purple fire to blast through the holding pens.
All around the country, beautiful Asian women have mastered the art of flight. We soar through the sky in gigantic flocks that blot out the sun, knocking down bell towers and forcing emergency landings of dozens of flights.
Birds like beautiful Asian women, crows especially. Our flocks become bigger and darker as our winged brethren expand our ranks. Some of us are inspired to grow feathers. “Caw, caw!” we sing, perched atop silos and water towers where we’re the first to see the sun rise.
There are efforts to stop us. You know what efforts we mean. You’ve heard the stuttering gunfire, the whine and boom of bombs. All ineffectual, such a waste: We just cocoon ourselves in purple fire until the noisy little people have gone away.
Every once in a while, someone tries talking to us. That’s sweet! We appreciate the effort. It’s just that we have a hard time hearing your tinny voices way down there, a harder time trusting what we do make out. You should try learning the language of the crows, a blunt tongue with no vocabulary for false promises.
Winter arrives. We do not hibernate. Hibernation is for suckers. The beautiful Asian women of Vermont develop an appetite for snowplows. It’s the metal blade-y part they can’t get enough of. The snow piles in the streets, the fluffy cake-like layers topped with a frozen glaze that you crack through, cursing, up to your shoulders in snow, on your way to unbury your car. By spring, most of you have resigned yourselves to your new reality: the months-long campaigns of devastation ebbing into reprieves during which you wearily rebuild so that, like the gleeful toddler tempted by a tower of impeccably stacked blocks, we can smash it all again.
Still, the lingering urge to taxonomize, to cage through language a thing that will not be contained by any other means.
What do you call a group of beautiful Asian women intent on the gradual destruction of American society?
Keep bickering. It’ll distract you from Phase Two: beautiful Asian women alighting on blacktop and shrinking down to dust-mite size, slipping through cracks around your windows and doors. Once inside, we re-form, and by then it’s too late. We are on you, fangs and feathers and purple flames. Though from a distance our flocks are shapeless storm clouds, up close you’re stunned by our variety—smooth, wrinkled, flabby, bright-eyed and slack-jawed, heads bald and veiny or lush with oily hair—and by the final, harrowing realization that some of us, most of us, are not so beautiful after all.
But surely we wouldn’t be so cruel as to attack indiscriminately! Surely, if you are kind to the birds, if you give up red meat, if you speak at the right volume, if you hold open doors, if you tiptoe through life with eyes downcast and lips sealed shut, if you smile at babies, if you dress nicely but not too nicely…. Yes, you want to believe in motive, in reason, in preventative measures, and in so doing you grant us our greatest power yet: You’ll never see us coming. You’ll always think you’re safe.
TESSA YANG is the author of the short story collection The Runaway Restaurant (7.13 Books, 2022). Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Cincinnati Review, Joyland, Foglifter, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Hartwick College where she is at work on a novel. Find her on Twitter @ThePtessadactyl.
Featured image by Laurynas Mereckas, courtesy of Unsplash.