Interview with The Mag at RTRFM: Monique Fan

In October last year, our Creative Director, Monique, had a chance to chat to The Mag at RTRFM about what THE ABC ISSUE is, what we hope to achieve through it, and her thoughts on Asian representation. Below is a transcript of the interview, originally broadcast on radio.

For many people, growing up between two cultures is a challenge. Australia is a multicultural nation inhabited by many different cultures but how do people from other cultures cope away from their own societies? A new online collective named THE ABC ISSUE run by Emmelyn and Monique, aims at addressing the cultural dissonance experienced by many young Asians living in between two cultures, East and West.

What does ‘ABC’ in THE ABC ISSUE stand for?

ABC stands for Asians Between Cultures. The concept behind the collective is to share the stories, moments and experiences of Asians caught between cultures and to celebrate the lives, work and achievements of these people.

Why did you feel the need to start this? What was the niche and what did you see?

We feel that Asians raised in, or currently living in, a western society have an interesting perspective. Currently there isn’t a global platform for them to share their stories and raise issues related to their identity growing up in between cultures. The collective aims to celebrate these experiences and give non-Asian individuals a glimpse into the life of how they’ve grown up.

Do you have any examples of these dissonances that might help us understand?

Yes, I’d love to share a Story from one of our contributors. Read the Story here.

It’s a really interesting conundrum! Did you find a lot of people with the same kind of gear grinding in order for you to create this collective?

We definitely encountered a few circumstances in our own experiences where we found ourselves in this ‘between cultures’ concept. It’s not about choosing one or the other, it’s about embracing the both. The nature of these people is that they are able to take the beauty and the best of both worlds, the best of the eastern culture and the best of the western culture, and combine it together to create a culture that is somewhat like a ‘culture 2.0’ the new and improved.

You guys don’t write the Stories, you ask for contributions from people like the story you shared earlier?

Our focus is to gather the stories of everyday humans. What we really want to highlight are the blessings that come from growing up in a western society. We think it’s really easy for us to fixate on the negative experiences that we may have had but there’s actually so much beauty and grace that come with growing up in a western society.

What are some of the blessings that you are already grateful for?

Growing up, I’ve definitely been influenced by strong eastern values and traditions. There are a lot of great things that we can learn from the western culture, and adapt it into our own. It’s generally quite difficult for Asian parents to say ‘I love you’ or show any sign of affection - it’s just part of our culture. I find that Western families are able to do this quite openly - and I think that we can introduce this simple love language in our family. To tell our parents that we love them, and thank them for being such awesome parents - this is something that is not common in eastern families.

You’re making me weep here, I’m getting all emotional. So it’s really about being a support network for the bad stuff and pointing out all the good stuff?

We want to empower these Asian individuals to not only be proud of their cultural heritage and upbringing but also embrace the western culture, and learn how to effectively assimilate into the western culture to make use of the best of both worlds.

What are some of the difficulties that they tend to face?

There are a few different aspects such as career and relationships. There’s a concept called the bamboo ceiling, a term coined by American executive coach Jane Hyun, which is basically like the glass ceiling for females. There’s a certain impediment due to a combination of individual, cultural and organisational factors that stop Asians from further career progression.

Or perhaps in the relational sense, there may be lingering self doubt around whether your partner or other half has to be a certain race for you to fully understand each other. These are just some of the topics or themes that people don’t really think about it and tend to suppress. We’re all beautiful and we want to remind them of their beauty.

That’s a wonderful support network. How do movies like Crazy Rich Asians impact you? How do you feel seeing it and do you get feedback from other people seeing it?

I was actually quite surprised when I went to watch the movie - I was shocked to see that the majority of people in the cinema were non Asian! I thought it was super refreshing and awesome that although it was a full on screen Asian cast, all my non Asian friends were enjoying it with me! For THE ABC ISSUE, the movie encourages us and shows us that it can be done. Asians don’t necessarily have to been seen as the nerdy kid who studies, or whatever stereotype that come with being Asian - it essentially break through some of those barriers. It all comes back to the concept of common grace, we’re all exactly equal regardless of our race, culture or gender. We wanted to create this community for this sense of belonging - not only for Asians, but for the awareness of non Asians as well, so that we can all better support each other.

How can people get in touch with THE ABC ISSUE, if they want to contribute or read about it and a get a little perspective on parts of our culture that we might not ordinarily think about?

We are connected on all forms of social media, you can also visit our website and visit our contribute page. Emmelyn and I are always up for a chat - so feel free to get in touch with us as well. We’re calling all Asians Between Cultures - if you want to share your story, now is your opportunity! We created this platform for you. Get in touch with us and we look forward to hearing from you!


About the contributor

A genuine conversationalist and aspiring gnocchi connoisseur Monique can usually be found educating herself and those around her on the whereabouts of the latest bakeries, noodle-house or matcha cafe. When she's not thinking about one of her crazy ideas or unintentionally creating tasks to delegate to her future self, she turns her focus to singing.