Plan A: On 2018 and 2019

Plan A founders and contributors share their year on what has been a memorable (for better or for worse) year for the world.

Latest Podcast Celebrity, Adoption, and Power — ft. Yasmin Nair ('Escape From Plan A' Ep. 261)
by Plan A Editors

It’s been a year and a half. Is that “only” a year and a half, or “already” a year and half? Regardless, a lot can be said about 2018, but it definitely hasn’t been boring. Here are some of our founders’ thoughts on the past year!


Plan A is exactly the publication I wish I, my peers, and my role models grew up reading. Plan A is the cultural conversation I wished I was smart enough to have. And Plan A as it stands now is still only the tip of the iceberg; it’s been, after all, a year. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Asian Americans are trending up, right? We weren’t without controversies this year, but with Asian August and the rise of new Asian American platforms like Subtle Asian Traits and East Meets East means maybe we’re finally becoming comfortable with seeing and being around ourselves… and that makes for an optimistic 2019, in my books.


2018, year two in the age of Trump, has been one of increasing pressures. But, much like carbon being honed into diamond, pressure is a driving force for improvement. I leave the year more optimistic than I began it. This is largely because of Plan A. It has grown so much in 2018. Many amazing connections have been made, important articles have been published, and insightful podcasts recorded. The fact we’ve discovered so many like-minded and brilliant people, some of whom’s words can be read in this article, adds to my hope. There is much more to come in 2019 and I can’t wait to take it on and to share it.


The older I get, the more all time feels like summer camp time: passing slowly while it’s lived but a blur in retrospect. 2018 was a long year of growing. There were moments when I felt genuine despair (Kavanaugh, the border, climate change) but also moments of genuine hope (election day). It’s a cliche, but I’m wishing for 2019 to be a year of turning things around.


The year started off with NYT’s article about the alt-right and its Asian fetish. It was a sign that 2018 was when a lot of underground and taboo topics among Asians were going to finally surface. Plan A’s core attitude has been “Fuck the face-saving and head-burying” when it comes to difficult issues and it looks like more and more people are coming on board. It’s been an exhilarating ride and I want to press the gas pedal even more.


All this to say, 2018 has been a strange year for me. A hero turned human and monsters were exposed everywhere. I leave 2018 a little depressed, anxious, angry, and a bit drained. But I also have the newfound privilege of being able to share that with nascent communities of people who also feel the same way. 2018 brought with it a rise in human connections unmediated by traditional power structures revealed to be tainted and corrupt to the core. A Facebook group for Asians now boasts over 1 million diasporic Asians, an unheard of statistic for a group always kept at the edges of more dominant groups. I go into 2019 hopeful for more of that — a messy collective of conversation, argument, and honest wrestling with the topics on our minds, not dictated to us by self-proclaimed or anointed leaders.


I’m pretty sure someone cursed me with “May you live in interesting times” cause that’s exactly how I feel about this last year. 2018 has brought a lot of social and political change that leaves me wondering how 2019 might top 2018 in terms of surprises. A younger me could never have imagined marijuana decriminalization in California, let alone several states. A younger me also never would have believed we could have a more ridiculous president than Dubya. Yet, here we are.

I suspect we’ll see more turbulence before things calm down. Either way, as the world’s pace of change accelerates learning how to adapt and read the tea leaves becomes more important. While we celebrate human ingenuity, that same ingenuity reveals our limitations. The age old struggle between Logic and Emotion continues unabated.

Despite all this, I’m optimistic regarding the development of an Asian-American identity and community. We’ve seen more conversations and open discussion this year than we have in the last 3 years cumulatively. That being said, we’re also re-inventing the wheel when much of the work has already been done. This is part denial, part ignorance, and part hubris. Unfortunately, some lessons you have to learn for yourself.

I encourage all of us to think critically and examine all opinions, including our own. Let’s take our intellectual ships beyond the safety of the harbor and truly challenge established narratives.


If 2017 was the year of Plan A’s inception, 2018 was the year we fortified our coalition. Finding like-minded individuals and chopping it up over our experiences made it very clear that an entire range of conversation existed and thrived, just not on the platforms we were surfing everyday. Frank Chin wrote in 1995 the importance of not “selling your children to monsters”, the idea here being that sacrificing our beliefs and perspectives for a better seat at the table is a fool’s errand. “The schools will teach [us] to feel incapacitated, inept, and morally constipated by the Asian-American identity crisis instead of teaching the stories Asian and American cultures tell their children, while they’re children.” Asian Americans don’t just have stories to tell to and about ourselves; we’re in a unique position both historically and politically to impart radical lessons as well. I look forward to seeing what we can do as a body politic in the years ahead.


One thing I think almost everybody can agree on these days is that things are getting real. It really feels like the world as we know it is on the brink. We are pushing up on the limits of our planet, our society, and above all ourselves. It’s so difficult sometimes to think that Asian Americans — this tiny, insular smattering of humanity — somehow matters in all of this. What are our problems compared to what the world faces? And that’s exactly the point. It’s not our problems that really matter, it’s what we have to contribute. And it’s a lot. 2018 was a great second year for Plan A. I want 2019 to be the time we start to focus more on what we have to offer the world — our talents, efforts, and perspectives. I think it’s time we get past just the issue of being respected, and discover the ways in which we are needed.
Photo of friends eating together
Plan A hanging out in Boston

This year, the Plan A community grew beyond just the core founders as more like-minded people found common cause with us. We’re so glad and honored that they want to be a part of us and some of their thoughts are below:

C.S. Taniguchi

Twitter: @c_taniguchi — (Contributor: East of Human, Less Than Man; Gatekeeping America: White Supremacy Is Our Immigration Policy)

It is intellectually satisfying to put a lot of the problems Asian Americans face into binaries: East vs. West, white vs. not white, 1st gen vs. 2nd gen, Asian women vs. men, shame vs. pride, assimilation vs. resistance, etc. Certain instances will find utility in this, and I don’t think there is an inherent need to steer clear from these dichotomies all together. The question I continuously ask myself and see mirrored throughout Plan A is what place (if any place at all) do I occupy within these binaries when my own identity is often liminal, ambiguous, and seemingly transitory? I can’t answer this for everyone, but for me, it means being very much grounded in the moment. I think that means not only accepting the self I am now, but also striving with every bitter fiber to articulate that reality with as much accuracy as possible. Regardless whether the image I find is flattering or painful, I hope that by the end, there is something coherent to pass down to younger Asian Americans who are just beginning to ask these questions. And for now, I think Plan A is very much this moment.

David A.N.

Twitter: @AN_publisher — (Guest Podcaster: Trying To Make It In Show Business (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 52))

In 2018, when looking for unfiltered conversations about Asian American experiences outside of the political/ideological left-right paradigms, Plan A Magazine took the internet by storm. It has succeeded in both its written and podcast formats in informing, questioning, and debating contemporary pop cultural and taboo subject matters that many Asian Americans might otherwise not bring to the forefront. It has also stood out as the premier space for non-Asians to gain knowledge and perspective from a diverse array of unapologetic voices on Asian American issues. Cheers to 2018 and can’t wait to see what 2019 holds!


Twitter: @discoveryduck — (Guest Writer/Podcaster: My Favorite Asian Male Comics; What We Mean by ‘Internalized Racism’ (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 53); Kim’s Inconvenience — Asian Emotional Labor (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 56); Finding Your Creative Voice — Studio Ghibli’s ‘Whisper of the Heart’ (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 58))

2018 is the year I found my artistic voice, and being a part of Plan A played no small part in that. The experience of being Asian American is the experience of being between worlds, never belonging anywhere, and coming to Plan A was like finally finding home. My hope for the new year is that our work will continue to help our multitude center ourselves and find our voices.

G. Sebastian Young

(Guest Writer: Chinese Sci-Fi Comes of Age in the Xi Era; This Crazy Rich Landmark Means You No Harm)

2018 brought forth much reason for anxiety: the continuing onslaught of carbon emissions, rising sea levels, interminable corrosiveness in the U.S. body politic, international soap operas in the form of the daily news. Yet also transpiring was a shift in the cultural trajectory, nothing tectonic, but tangible and visible enough that I could sense it from the seat of my sofa. How else to explain the presence of a new vanguard of Asian figures in mass culture, from comedians on Netflix to headlining actors on the silver screen? Where my own prior orbit lacked the forum for discussing these new developments in Asian-ness here and abroad, Plan A provided it. In fact, the publication of Plan A marked the creation of a portal of light and discovery for me. In its own centripetal way, the totality of podcasts and articles herein also served to draw together a community of equals and elders in whose company I have by now taken much delight. And so though I may anticipate 2019 with some circumspection, I do so also with plenty of joy, for the ongoing journey tends to be more pleasurable in the good company of others.


(Guest Podcaster: What We Mean by ‘Internalized Racism’ (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 53))

2018 was a year of great personal growth for myself with regards to understanding my Asian-American identity, and a large part of that was driven by taking in and engaging in larger discussions around me. Having spent most of my life trying to avoid the topic of race, I was very new to having these discussions in a nuanced manner. It really helped to have content from Plan A articulate these thoughts and demonstrate how our honest viewpoints are valuable and badly-needed. The year had many landmark moments for Asian America, from great film representation to seeing large swaths of young people congregate together both online and real life. But it’s important not to get too self-congratulatory looking in the rearview mirror. There’s no silver bullet solution to our problems, and there’s plenty more to do with resolving past grievances and being prepared as new issues arise.


Twitter: @OneMillicentCho — (Guest Podcaster: Can ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Soften Plan A’s Heart of Stone? (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 41); Is ‘The Hate U Give’ The New ‘Crash’? (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 49); Trying To Make It In Show Business (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 52))

I have spent much of my adult life essentially trying to avoid the pain and confusion of thinking about how being Asian American affects me, but fortunately, Plan A came into my life this year and helped change that. One thing I’ve learned is that while the process of unpacking one’s identity in terms of race feels urgent and important (because it is), it is also a) gradual; even lifelong, and b) highly personal and individual. It can’t be dictated by family, friends, or colleagues (or Twitter) and needs to be 100% on one’s own terms. Coming to this idea has been freeing and empowering for me, and I owe so much of it to our talks and your friendship. I’ll always be grateful to you guys for welcoming me into the fold! Can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for you.

“Jay” Jayakrishna

Twitter: @LithiumMano — (Guest Podcaster: The Truth About Asian Mental Health (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 54); Gender Controversies in ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 61))

The world kind of collapsed in 2018, Donald Trump decided to tweet that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong-un, the #metoo movement exposed the controversial actions of Aziz Ansari and Jordan Peterson posted his best seller “12 Rules for Life”. Great, now I have to watch Aziz in secret, hope we don’t die from nuclear winter and prepare for more “you’re taking Jordan Peterson out of context” quotes. Great start 2018! But 2018 decided to ease up on the drama by telling me that Rich Brian came out with a more inclusive name AND a new album (he’s killing it with Joji), the Toronto elections pushed back on Canadian racist Faith Goldy and I can share Subtle Curry Trait memes with the family and the friends! Perhaps in 2019 I’ll learn to repress more inconvenient memories such as ICE, Kavanaugh’s appointment or that my province elected a populist right wing government.


Twitter: @_quyenngo — (Guest Podcaster: Can ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Soften Plan A’s Heart of Stone? (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 41); The Immigrant Time Warp — ft. T.K. (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 48), Trying To Make It In Show Business (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 52))

For me, 2018 was a year of recalibration. I, and I think many of us, had to recalibrate in order to organize, to maintain hope, to create, to figure out how I want myself to be and grow amidst our collective political crisis, and within the challenges of my personal life. Recalibration meant going inwards and learning what stability looks like in this season of my life, and becoming more familiar with the reasons why it is so hard to achieve peace whether on a small or large scale. I was profoundly inspired, reached new heights in my perspectives on revolution, and loved more deeply than I ever have. I’m ending the year feeling so, so grateful. Cheers to the new year, especially (in the words of Arundhati Roy) to those who have learned to divorce hope from reason.


(Guest Podcaster: Difficulties in Asian Women-to-Women Dialogues About WMAF (Escape From Plan A, Ep. 36); ‘Searching’ For Representation of Neglected Asian Americans (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 43); Twitter Lunacy — High school cliques, sock puppets, and more! (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 46); Halloween Spooktacular — Real Ghost Stories (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 51); Gender Controversies in ‘Subtle Asian Traits’ (‘Escape From Plan A’ Ep. 61))

After years of searching, I’m thankful that I found Plan A, as it has provided me a platform to speak my mind as an Asian American. Most of all, I’m thankful that it has connected me with other like-minded Asian American, both fellow podcasters and writers as well as readers and listeners of Plan A. I will definitely continue to contribute on the podcast (Escape from Plan A), and hopefully I will contribute to writing articles too (eventually haha). Plan A has made some waves in 2018. I look forward to seeing more of that in 2019 and all the years to come!
Photo of Plan A and friends
Plan A wishing everyone a great 2019!

Like this article by Plan A Editors, Christina Qiu, Filip Guo, Adam Goodman, Oriana Tang, Chris Jesu Lee, Jess Rhee, Jong Kim, Q, Five Alive, C.S. Taniguchi, and G. Sebastian Young?

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Published 5 years ago

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