Open City takes the real-time pulse of metropolitan Asian America as it’s being lived on the streets of New York right now. We tell the stories of the Asian and immigrant neighborhoods that comprise one million New Yorkers and 13 percent of the city, but that rarely find their way into the mainstream media.
Through our Neighborhoods Fellowship and Muslim Communities Fellowship program for nonfiction writers and journalists, Open City nurtures emerging writers who document New York City’s vibrant immigrant communities.
In the introduction to the Fall 2011 issue of the Asian American Literary Review, coeditor Rajini Srikanth writes of how quickly we can forget our communities’ milestone moments of political...
Former Open City fellow E. Tammy Kim answers ten questions about her writing life
How an imprisoned immigrant is fighting to empower the wrongfully incarcerated
Former Open City Fellow Astha Rajvanshi answers 10 questions about her writing life
Remember that time I asked for your opinion on my hijab? Oh right, never happened.
Does the decades-old NYC tradition of community patrolling keep city streets safer?
Today we are celebrating the nine emerging writers who will receive fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in 2021.
A Muslim Hospital Chaplain Struggles with Faith Amid the Pandemic
Mosques and Muslim organizations rise to the challenge of fulfilling their Islamic duty of service and charity.
With mosques closing their doors, where do worshippers go to pray, be with friends, and seek solace?
5 writers named to 9-month fellowship to write about NYC’s Muslim American and Asian American communities.
This is what happens when writers go food-hunting while learning about a Brooklyn neighborhood
What does home look like
for Asian Americans in New York City?
How art teacher Cecile Chong has connected generations, continents and patterns of migration in her work
The deadline for submission has been extended to July 15, 2019. Both the Neighborhoods Fellowship and the Muslim Communities Fellowship start on September 6, 2019.
Women workers and organizers remember staging the massive 1982 Garment Strike in Chinatown
Gender-based violence and gender inequality remain pervasive in both personal and public spheres.
The shutdown countdown may be over, but it has bombarded us with some Trump buzzwords.
6 writers begin a 6-month fellowship writing about NYC’s Muslim American and Asian American communities.
Men are standing side by side with women in the struggle
to stop domestic violence and toxic masculinity.
How arts and tech can preserve intergenerational neighborhood stories and fight back against gentrification.
Indo-Caribbean women bring to light an issue that used to be confined behind closed doors.
Seeking a panacea from life’s turmoils, immigrants flock to an unassuming Sufi in Brooklyn.
Is the lack of agency in the movie’s characters a reflection of centuries of colonialism? A Fil Am writer explores.
How lying down, getting up and marching on Madison Av is a metaphor for the fight vs. tyranny in the Philippines.
The deadline for submission has been extended to July 23, 2018. Both the Neighborhoods Fellowship and the Muslim Communities Fellowship start on September 18, 2018.
They served their sentences and have rejoined society.
But are convicted immigrants not good enough to stay?
When home is a place you’ve never been, can you visit it through objects?
7 writers begin a 6-month fellowship writing about NYC’s Muslim American and Asian American communities.
With bombings in their own country and threat of travel ban and revocation of their TPS, how do Yemenis in the U.S. cope?
Negotiating a new identity in a new country amid sisterhood and community.
Arab mothers and grandmothers in Bay Ridge discover that in a new country, there are new ways to care for their families, their community, and themselves
Arab mothers and grandmothers in Bay Ridge speak out and fight back.
An 11-year-old boy was forced to grow up fast when occupying Israeli soldiers seized his tiny Palestinian village.
Do you want to know your future? Do you want to know when is a good time to move to a new house or to shift to a new career? These ladies may have the answers.
For Chung Hwa regulars and Flushing residents, the closing of the 30-year old bookshop meant the demise of a community resource center.
Carrying songs across oceans, these musicians create home and community in New York City.
Where to go if you want to check out traditional Chinese cultural and art scene? Here’s a short list of performing and exhibit spaces in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
From sufism to reggae, from construction work to driving taxis, it has been a colorful ride for one of the co-founders of a taxi drivers union in New York.
The Chinese New Year, the Lantern, Mooncake and the Qingming Festivals explained, and where to go if you are hankering for food associated with these celebrations.
Padmini Naidu, also known as the Blasted Brown Blogger on Tumblr and co-host of the ALTBrown podcast, talks about growing up brown and goth metal head in Hollis.
For the women who dance together at a Chinatown park, every gesture brings them closer together and every step leads them away from the dangers of depression.
Unwanted in their mothers’ country, unwelcome in their fathers’ homeland, Filipino Amerasians are still in search of a home.
As Pearl River Mart prepares to close its doors, why the store’s godchild doesn’t want it to be “saved”
Allow yourself to be messy. Don’t try to fight writer’s block. These, and some other writing tips from author Eric Tang.
Ali Najmi, the contender to represent one of the largest South Asian enclaves in NYC, talks about Glen Oaks, the Sikh gurdwaras, and taxi drivers.
How Asian small business owners are negotiating community and commerce in Baltimore
A novelist recalls her childhood steeped in Chinese radio plays heard on the Singapore airwaves.
Khmer record and film collector Nate Hun is part of a growing movement quietly reconstructing Cambodia’s tumultuous past.
N’jaila Rhee is many things…
Roti is everyday food in Punjabi homes. At the gurdwara, it takes on a new name and becomes a symbol of service.
A mysterious black poster sends one Columbia University student down a transnational college application rabbit hole.
Munaweera’s debut novel depicts the psychic, political and sexual spaces between Sri Lanka and Los Angeles.
Time traveling with a drink find in Chinatown
Diwali is celebrated in various ways by South Asian peoples. The Sikh celebration adds politics to the mix.
Red Guard founder Alex Hing talks 1960s radicalism, sympathizing with North Korea and that infamous punch.
Queens temples break from Western architecture and remake old buildings into new spaces for divine encounters
Long before domestic workers organizer Ai-jen Poo won a “genius grant,” we spoke to her about her radical ideas on remaking women’s work
Worker-owned cooperatives gain immigrant women more than income. They give them a cure for the “tensions” that harm their physical and mental health.
Urbanist Tarry Hum’s new book on Sunset Park looks at the economic, cultural and land use shifts in the waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood.
I said I missed Asia. His elderly friend beckoned to me and showed me his smartphone–a video of a dance performance in China. Little girls singing shrilly. “If you miss it,” he beamed, “Just watch YouTube.”
My grandmother spent many long years cleaning toilets, washing bedsheets, and mopping floors doing the best she could to navigate a country knowing her then-undocumented status and her lack of language skills put her at a severe disadvantage.
They tasted like a vanilla pudding—sweet and light. I’d long wondered if these berries were safe to eat, but Chin seemed to be nibbling without worry…
I quickly learn this view has cost this business a lot. Irina remembers all the people who left after hurricane Sandy struck in the fall of 2012. “They lost so much, their homes…and then with the businesses closed, they had no work to stay for.”
A Queens couple tries to put down roots in their own community and discovers the unwritten discriminatory rules of real estate.
We journeyed over two-hundred miles to play indoor volleyball in sweat-inducing temperatures. That draining, exhausting heat is as much a part of the game as are the unique rules of 9-man volleyball.
“Our samosas are different because we use fresh vegetables and olive oil,” says Saleha Parveen…“We use long bean, cauliflower, cabbage, potato and carrot. Most restaurants just use old oil and potatoes.”
I remember the medicine wafting through the apartment–a distinct scent, a heavy, earthy, musky odor that smelled like bark, dirt and dampened roots. The minute the pot would go on, I would retreat to my room where I paced back and forth, in anticipation of a stand-off with my mother.
Finntown in the 1920s and 30s was a bit like a leftist fantasy mixed with a touch of “Portlandia”…
Parkway itself will lose its luster, its sense of magic ascendance. And I will begin my struggle to understand this twin heritage—luminous freedom and oppressive grievance.
Each of us has a moment, a shiny soap bubble of memory that contains our past and predicts our future.
The applications have been streaming in for our next round of Open City fellows. If you’re an emerging Asian American writer, consider applying and help spread the word about this wonderful opportunity…
I often tagged along with my grandparents down the aisles of Chinese supermarkets. While Grandma stuck to purchasing standard items like Saltines or milk to add to her morning coffee, Grandpa knew the secrets of the dried, preserved goods and vegetables tucked away into the stores’ dusty corners.
When poet and First Lady Chirlane McCray (aka “FLONYC”) chose spoken word artist Ramya Ramana to perform at her husband’s inauguration, it took the ceremony—and Ramya’s poetry—to a whole new level.
…Hispanics and Asians are living in neighborhoods together nearly three times as much as they did ten years ago. But how integrated they truly are is a matter of debate…
When I’m on the train, I draw a lot. I have absolutely no time for meditation. But when I’m painting, that’s…my meditation.”
Council District 38, which includes the heavily Asian and Latino Sunset Park, is a testing ground to see whether an experiment in direct democracy can meet its lofty goals…
No showering, no going outside, no drinking cold water–for an entire month. Many women in mainland China observe these rules as part of a traditional health care practice following childbirth.
I know that you’ve had some tough times the past few years. People have called to ban you, to oust you from the kitchen…
The gate, the window guards (all seven of them), the railings leading up to the door, the door itself — all bright stainless steel, and sparkling even on this cloudy day.
“When times are good, people might go for the Absolut, when they’re bad it’s Smirnoff or Georgi,” says Anil, who runs 1-2-3 Liquors on Jamaica Avenue…
The drummers were dressed in black and white tunics with colorful sashes and played traditional instruments…
It’s Sunday morning and there’s a debate underway at the Richmond Hill Flea Market in Queens. At issue: a pair of bejeweled, costume earrings made of faux diamonds and rubies.
In 2012, over half a million stop and frisks took place citywide. Half of these involved persons of color—young men like Nilesh, who are constantly on the lookout for patrolling officers.
…there was one piece of equipment that made it all possible: a SONY tape player that kept them in operation as if they were 24-hour newsroom. The machine would play ten cassettes one after the other.
“…the union guys were really worried. They were literally pissing in their pants…15 minutes later, it seemed like 15,000 women came out of the woodwork. Literally. From the buildings in Soho. They just couldn’t believe it.”
“We had tried Thanksgiving food at work and at church…a little bland…Then we just kept doing it each year and we got better each year, we learned how to cook more things- cranberry and marshmallow, ham, biscuits, and we made other stuff too, that’s not American food.”
…incoming donations were piled up two and three boxes deep on the sidewalk.
“The typhoon really hit me hard,” she said. “I live in New York, but I’m still Filipino.”
A set of wind chimes hangs on a thin board, a short-wave radio emits bursts of Morse code, thin sheets of metal rustle on a crate.
“You really can’t get weird on a dehydrated noodle. You really can’t get weird on a canned sardine. Snacks, yeah you can get a little weird.”
We set up a table with hot cider to stave off the chill, and little by little, over the course of three hours, 20 participants came by to strut their stuff…
“We are not known to the mainstream disabled communities. We’ve been here for 20 years.”
“Manhattan gets everything. No more, no more…Our next mayor is going to be from Brooklyn no matter who wins.”
“Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken.”
–MFK Fisher, “How to Cook a Wolf”
As pure Tibetans, they seem to have a more direct connection to whatever their cause is…But in my case, I would be there thinking, I don’t have the genuine drive in a way. I was supporting the cause, but at the same time, I saw myself differently.
The shorter woman said, “You have such a good insang??!” The other pressed, “But you do go to church, don’t you?”
One Saturday afternoon in Sunset Park, I was sitting on the cement rim of a drained wading pool, watching elderly Chinese couples foxtrot to staticky melodies playing from a beat-up cassette player.
When working with the 12 to 19 year old set, she goes by two simple rules: 1.) Don’t disrespect them and 2.) Stand your ground.
We both remembered the fashion house’s Van Gogh jacket with its exquisite hand-embroidered jewel toned flowers, but it was Mary, who, without a heartbeat, recalled the year, telling the archivist to pull from the 1988 collection.
Suran Song turned a laundromat in Jackson Heights into a space for private reflection. Now she’s inviting her neighborhood to practice yoga in her living room.
“We need a new superhero that will not depend on the tropes of past heroes,” says Anand who copyrighted Laserman in 1985 at the age of 12.
The clinking coins were saved for two reasons – to feed the neighborhood parking meters and to pay for kiddie rides outside the supermarket where my family shopped.
In the same way that K-Town serves as a rough rendition of Seoul, these plastic replicas dutifully represent their edible counterparts.
Afrika Bambaataa recently crowned Lasker the “Indian Bambaataa” for his efforts spreading hip-hop in India.
It’s like wearing a swagger on your face. If you’ve got a mustache, you’re someone to be taken seriously.
Lynne Sachs talks about her film on immigrant experiences in Chinatown shift-bed houses.
“81 Bowery is their home and their only choice for a place to live.”
There are 42,000 cab drivers in New York City–and 82% of them are immigrants. Many from them from white collars jobs back in their home country.
Writer Katie Salisbury goes on a quest to Mission Chinese to check out the monster success of Asian hipster cuisine.
Kyla Cheung talks to Ashok Rajamani about his uniquely humor-filled memoir recovering from an aneurysm at the age of 25.
There are lists of some slave uprisings in the late 1600s. There were gallows next to Beaver Pond.
A river of dark, red fluids frothed and pooled over drains. Men in green T-shirts scrubbed the floor with brooms as wave after wave of water washed away the sacrificial blood.
Carolyn Sun explores the journey of how kimchi has found its place in America at the tables of Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
Sahar Muradi and Zohra Saed are two Afghan American poets. This is a lyrical conversation between Sahar, who returned to retrace footsteps in Afghanistan and Zohra, who remained ensconced in longing for mythic cities of her birth.
Part one of a two-part series on local Asian-American engagement in electoral politics in New York City.
The Basement Bhangra deejay revisits the neighborhood of a legendary Hollis nightclub that flourished in the 90s.
The costs of ‘hecho en China.’
From Abu Dhabi to the East Coast, a temporary resident negotiates the urban spaces that built him.
In conversation with solitude.
Sisters Deanna Fei and Jessica Fei capture the many faces of Flushing: a home, a place of transit, a new territory.
Formed in Iran—and influenced by Joy Division—the indie band had to high-tail out of the Islamic Republic for fear of reprisals. Why the band wound up in Brooklyn.
After the family saw this photo, ‘they couldn’t sleep.’
Remaining unnoticed is not a new thing for Staten Island.
An illustrated dispatch.
From Libya to Liberty Avenue, Hess was making a killing.
Wah-Ming Chang talks to the author about reading, writing, and Hari Kunzru’s voice.
In Jersey City’s India Square, the Hindu holiday is tempered and celebrated privately.
“My strength is writing about Chinese people and dirtbags, and Chinese dirtbags.”
“Romney is very hostile.”
Community organizers distributed supplies and canvassed buildings for two days before FEMA showed up to offer aid.
A photo essay.
New York will survive Sandy, but so will the city’s persistent inequalities and environmental precarity.
For outer borough residents and the linguistically isolated, the future is less clear.
If the grocery store is going to be saved, it will need to happen now.
Meet Carmine Morales, the Lower East Side’s last everyman.
Amrit Singh, Vijay Iyer, and Ashok Kondabolu on how to eat (and dip!)
A handful of books provide vivid details on the rap that grew out of Queens.
In a way, Curtis Jackson is a link to the era of black American immigration to South Jamaica, the violence that befell those who came, and the strange marriage of drugs and music that followed. He may be the last.
He-e-e-e-ey sexy lungi!
The best French-pressed coffee in town is brewed in Elmhurst. No, really.
This Sunset Park eatery is known for dishing up the best dumplings in New York City. So why is its owner, Mr. Chen, barely breaking even?
“What makes it halal is the meat.”
It’s the second largest park in New York City, and it hosts the U.S. Open. But when the world isn’t watching, what lies beneath the park’s borders—and what does it say about Queens?
How the retail behemoth’s bid to establish its footing downtown is raising questions about the future of Chinatown and the city as a whole.
Back in 1830, Richmond Hill was a farm.
Viral vid ‘Gangnam Style’ critiques Korea’s extreme inequality.
For their health and yours, restaurant workers demand paid sick days.
John Clang’s “Beijing New York” is a product of some good old-fashioned cut and paste.
A defender of traditional Korean arts refuses to give up.
“In the Pakistan I grew up in, women prayed at home. Mosques were the kingdom of men.”
If vacation represents the absence of stress and consequential decision making, then isn’t an overmanaged tour just the thing?
The creator of Crack Pie shares her fave outer borough eats.
“We’re offering a valuable public cervix.”
A compendium of responses from video store clerks in Jackson Heights.
The scarlet tonic is often portrayed as the city’s modern-day moonshine. The reality? It barely counts as booze.
A photo essay.
In her new memoir, the famed documentarian writes about coping with grief after losing her husband of 30 years.
The internet’s foremost comic book emcee joins MC Lars and Math The Band at The Knit.
How I mourned the loss of #17.
It was art, not bombs.
Which is exactly why he got arrested.
It all started with Beijing rock band The Fly—a cross between the Sex Pistols and Nirvana, but, you know, in Mandarin.
Flushing DREAMers on Obama’s deferred action announcement and dropping the I-word.
It’s not the destination, but the bus stop.
Perhaps the air conditioner was broken. Perhaps there was no air conditioner.
Fluffy, sugary, and animal-free.
“I found myself squeezing Serena’s bare knee.”
“Get Cash in a Flash.”
A photo essay.
Fill your plate with South Indian vegetarian specialties, like dosai layered with chili and coriander chutney and served with a mash of seasoned potatoes.
“There’s nobody left in Chinatown, is there?”
Gathering fragments of a changing neighborhood.
The newest fashion craze in Queens.
“It’s warfare against Chinese companies.”
I checked out a space on Catherine and Madison, thinking that a Chinatown address would at least appease my dad.