Tag Archives: Chinese Americans

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 14, Helen Zia

14 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate Chinese American journalist, author, activist, and feminist Helen Zia. She was born in 1952 in New Jersey to first generation immigrants from Shanghai. She was a member of Princeton’s first graduating class of women in the 70s. As a student, Zia was among the founders of the Asian American Students Association. She was also a vocal anti-war activist and developed a firm belief in and strong voice for feminism.

After a brief flirtation with medical school, Zia moved to Detroit, where she worked as a construction laborer and autoworker. She began volunteering as a community organizer, during which time she discovered her life’s work as a journalist and writer. She is former Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine. Her articles, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, books and anthologies. Her writing has received numerous journalism awards; her investigation of date rape at the University of Michigan led to campus demonstrations and an overhaul of its policies, while her research on women who join neo-Nazi and white supremacist organizations provoked new thinking on the relationship between race and gender violence in hate crimes.

Zia remained closeted during much of her early career. She came out during a live C-SPAN broadcast in the early 90s. She currently resides in the Bay Area with her wife, Lia Shigemura, whom she married in 2004 and again in 2008. Zia testified for the plaintiffs at the trial on the constitutionality of California Proposition 8. The defense moved to exclude her testimony on grounds that her individual experience was irrelevant, but Judge Vaughn Walker denied the motion. Zia spoke at the trial of discovering she was a lesbian at age six, of being confronted by coworkers about her sexuality in the 1970s, and of feeling great joy upon getting married in 2004. She also discussed how Proposition 8 had degraded her, and had led to her being the subject of gross insults.

For more on this accomplished woman’s life and sharp insights, listen to this wonderful interview with Democracy Now.


Women’s History Month 2012: Maxine Hong Kingston

5 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate a noted author who weaves together feminism, racial identity, and history, Maxine Hong Kingston. She was born in California in 1940 to Chinese immigrants. She was successful in school and attended UC Berkeley where she switched from an initial major in engineering to get a degree in English. After graduation, she taught high school, married, and began her family. She did some writing, which she began to pursue in earnest when the family moved to Hawaii in the late 60s.

Her works draw heavily on her Chinese heritage and feminist themes, liberally blending fiction and non-fiction. Her first major work was The Woman Warrior (1976)(a must read!), a perfect example of her literary strength which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. A companion book, China Men, was published in 1981 and won the National Book Award. Throughout her career she has won numerous other awards including an NEA Writers Award and the National Humanities Medal.

Kingston dedicates her life as well as her craft to social justice. She is a dedicated worker for peace and anti-war activist. She has participated in (and been arrested at) numerous anti-war demonstrations. She also understands the role of poverty in the intersections of oppression:

Hunger also changes the world—when eating can’t be a habit, than neither can seeing.

This amazing woman has dedicated her life to telling stories that merge the personal and the universal. Learn more about her life and work at the Voices From the Gaps project.

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