Meet Michael Hisamoto, a 5th generation Japanese American studying Theater.
Quite possibly one of the most articulate people I have ever met when it comes to graciously but earnestly talking about the difficulties of the Asian American experience, talking with Michael helped me put into words a lot of my own experiences, expanding my vocabulary to better communicate the Asian American story. One such ‘vocabulary word’ I added to my own story was the idea of “homesickness”. Michael excellently articulates the ideas of “homesickness”, being stuck between cultures and longing for a sense of place and home that you’re not sure you’ll ever find. Another phrase he introduced me to was the phenomena of “replaceability “, questioning if people really see him and know him beyond projected stereotypes that come with being an Asian American in academics, career, and even his personal life.
Right before meeting with Michael we found out his most recent project a full length entitled, “Someone Who Isn’t Me”, was accepted for residency at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. His play calls into question: racism within Japanese and Asian American culture – how Asian Americans view African American problems, the intersection of race and drug addiction, as well as autism and how marijuana legalization could serve the autistic community.
Michael writes much in the same way that I blog, that Ami acts, and my friend Steph from the previous interview is studying education to become a teacher. “There is no magnum opus for the Asian American community. There’s all these great plays like Eugene O’Neils,’Long Beach Journey Into the Night’ and Tennessee Williams, ‘A Street Car Named Desire’, these amazing works of art that deal with realism and naturalism with real human beings that are primarily white dealing with universal problems. I wanted to create a story that could serve as an Asian American version of that.”
The conversation about needing to see more Asian American representation in media is a hot topic these days. Last semester I had the chance to attend seminar on Asian Americans in the news industry meeting three figures in broadcast journalism, reporting, and producing who shared all sorts of statistics about representation and the support they have found within the news and media community. What I had never considered though was the connection between the lack of Asian American representation in the media and and how the lack of portrayed and existence of equal opportunity connected with mental health in the Asian American community. Currently, Asian American Women have the highest rate of suicidal thoughts, and that’s really important because there’s non equal pursuit of hapiness. There’s not equal opportunity unless people stand up and fight for equal representation. In Michael’s opinion (and mine as well), if Asian Americans band together and stand up for things like media representation things can change such as mental health for Asians.
This interview with Michael drives home why Ami and I are so invested in the “Story Project”, these are not just stories we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel less alone or to get a pat on a back but these are productive conversations that need to be told so concrete changes can be made to combat the real crippling affects of ignorance, racism, mental health, addictions, and other stigmas.
As Michael puts it, “A lot of Asian Americans overlook the real cost to society that their apathy causes. I think for one, if media representation is increased for Asian Americans and all people of color there’s a lot studies shown revolving around the proximity principle. The more you are exposed to something the more attractive it becomes and the more normal it becomes. If we were to bring up representations of Asian Americans to what it should be around 15-20% then not only would Asian Americans do better in employment, your pay would go up, your interactions with other colleagues, relationships between other ethnicities, everything would improve if people would get behind the cause to stand up behind Asian Americans.”
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