In 2016, I received a spammy text message declaring there were hundreds of beautiful Asian women waiting to meet me. Right away this offer made me laugh. I guess it was supposed to be sexy, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was actually really scary. I mean, hundreds of beautiful Asian women? That’s too many!
The first draft of this story was very different. Though the theme of vengeance was still there, I wrote it in second-person point of view, from the perspective of a man being terrorized by a mob of beautiful Asian women—a “you” observing a “they.” I was getting my MFA at the time, and I submitted the draft to my workshop, where it got a lukewarm response. I remember one of my classmates voiced a concern that the story wasn’t doing enough to disrupt the sameness of the beautiful Asian women. They lacked agency and distinctness. I agreed with her, but didn’t know how to fix it.
I put the story away and forgot about it.
Fast-forward to 2021: We’re one year into the COVID pandemic and anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise. I thought back to that old story and it just clicked. I switched the point of view to first-person plural, direct address—a “we” talking at a “you.” With that change, the piece became more confrontational, more playful, and more political. The women were speaking for themselves, celebrating their collective rage.
I went back and forth on whether to cut the last paragraph. It’s on the nose in a way my writing classes had trained me to avoid. I was emboldened to keep it in part because of the ending to Marilyn Chin’s story “Moon,” another Asian-American revenge tale, in which the narrator breaks the fourth wall to explain the moral of the story and basically threaten the readers: “And you don’t know what I can do. You don’t know what is beneath my doing.” It was also important to me, in a piece that’s on its face very silly, to capture a more serious idea: the sense of false security that comes from believing if you only do X, Y, or Z, you can prevent acts of violence from happening to you. But you can’t. That’s the story’s despairing message, reversed and projected outward.
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.