By: Mélange Magazine

The Gram Squad: Kyrzayda Rodriguez

Dominicana Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger Kyrzayda Rodriguez is a 37-year-old full-time mom who quit her job in 2016 to focus on her blog full time.

She has a passion for fashion and fitness and creating beautiful content that showcases her fierce haircut, fit physique and impeccable style.

Her Signature Do: Rodriguez initially chopped off her long locks after a bad breakup– “As a Latina,” she says, “it makes me feel great that I can carry off this look…I’m not afraid to show the world that a Latina can be sexy with short hair.”

Her Faith: I’m a christian who believes in the word of God and Jesus is my savior

Her Daughter: I have a beautiful daughter named Kiandra Pinto, she is half italian and dominican, unlike her mom she does not like dresses as much.

How she got started: “In 2011 I  started working for a small boutique in Clifton, NJ and  became the Stylist/Social Media Developer of the store, I would also model the merchandise which was super cute being that I was their best client. I was not camera friendly but it worked since the sales were increasing. In 2012 I  joined the cast of “Glam Fairy”a reality show that aired on Style Network, I felt this opportunity would open many doors, however the show was not picked by the network for the following season,  my T.V. days were over”

I just want to lay in the sun, and yes with a dress on 🙈 #italy🇮🇹 #vacaymode

A post shared by Kyrzayda Rodriguez ~ (@kyrzayda_) on

“Traveling – It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Anais Nin (Cheers to you baby) #Paris #lotd

A post shared by Kyrzayda Rodriguez ~ (@kyrzayda_) on


Visit her blog here or get lost in her IG @kyrzayda_.

Ramen Noodles Makeover

Instant ramen noodles has always been associated with starving artists, students and young people just staring out on their own because it’s a cheap easy dish but Yutaka, a Japanese food specialty brand, hopes to change that perception.


Ramen is basically a dish of noodles in hot soup broth. Ramen originally came from China to Japan during the end of Edo period in the 1880’s- but there are those that dispute that claim. Noodle shops were popular in both countries in the early 1900s, and the noodles were actually called “Chinese soba” noodles in Japan up until the 1950s.


Instant noodles were invented by Nissin Foods in Japan in 1958 and in 1971, they introduced Cup Noodles, as precooked dried noodles in a foam cup with the flavoring loose in the cup.


Instant noodles isolated on white background


New York’s Momofuku Noodle Bar has been credited by food experts with making authentic handmade ramen popular in the states in 2004.


Yutaka allows you to create restaurant-style ramen recipes at home just like you would make pasta. These traditional Japanese-style  noodles have all natural ingredients (Wheat flour, Buckwheat flour, Water, Salt) no additives or preservatives unlike the instant kind.

They are available various flavors and styles Miso Ramen Noodles with Miso Soup or Tonkotsu Ramen Noodles with Creamy Soya Sauce, and the 9 oz pack is the perfect serving size for two people. The easy to make noodles cook in 5 minutes and you can serve it in a soup stock with toppings such as freshly chopped spring onions, grilled chicken, prawn tempura, fried tofu or any other your toppings that you like and you have a complete meal. Yutaka noodles can be served hot or cold, it’s vegetarian friendly and it’s an ideal and healthy alternative to pasta.

Yutaka products are not widely available in the United States but so visit their site to see which online stores will ship internationally.


Be Color Brave

In 2014, Mellody Hobson, the president of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, a firm that manages nearly $11 billion for its clients, was invited to give a TED talk- a talk that was titled “Color Blind or Color Brave”.

Hobson, who in addition to running Ariel Investments, sits on several boards like Estee Lauder and Starbucks and is the Board Chair for DreamWorks Animation, started the talk by recounting a story about being mistaken for the “help”.
She was helping to organize a lunch at a New York media company for Harold Ford Jr. who was running for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee in 2006 and had arrived at the company.

“We are in our best suits. We look like shiny new pennies. And we get to the receptionist, and we say, “We’re here for the lunch.” She motions for us to follow her. We walk through a series of corridors, and all of a sudden we find ourselves in a stark room, at which point she looks at us and she says, “Where are your uniforms?”
Just as this happens, my friend rushes in. The blood drains from her face. There are literally no words, right? And I look at her, and I say, “Now, don’t you think we need more than one black person in the U.S. Senate?”
Hobson recalls that while the moment caught her off guard, deep down she wasn’t really surprised and acknowledged that conversations about race it like a touching third rail and makes people extremely uncomfortable.

The definition of blind is unable to see because of injury or disease or congenital disease and lacking perception, awareness, or discernment.

The definition of color-blind is the inability to distinguish certain colors, or (rarely in humans) any colors at all and not influenced by racial prejudice.

On the surface being color-blind seems like a good thing to some people, it’s actually counterintuitive, extremely harmful and contributes to racism. It is viewed through a white lens and assumes that everyone has the same experience, which they don’t and it suppresses the narrative and reality of people of color’s experience.

Hobson eloquently said “We cannot afford to be color blind. We have to be color brave.” I don’t want anyone to be color blind; I want them to see race. I want them to invite it into their life. I want it to be a purpose, a calling for them. And, ultimately, what I’m asking them to be is not color blind, but color brave — that you’re willing to have those uncomfortable conversations about race, that you’re willing to bring these differences into your inner circle. And I think that ultimately leads to more tolerance and a better world.”

Race is intrinsically tied to people’s identity, culture, heritage, language, country and sometimes their faith. . Being colorblind invalidates who a person of color is and all of their experiences, it equates their race and color with something negative and unspeakable. A person of color doesn’t have the luxury or privilege of being colorblind. If you can’t discuss an issue how can you solve it. Color blindness is a form of conscious and unconscious bias and those that use color blindness as way to avoid or prove that they are not racist are being disingenuous. While they Viola Davis, Meryl Steep and Rita Moreno are amazing award winning actresses, Viola Davis is unapologetically a black woman and Rita Moreno is unapologetically a Latina, both of them are proud of their heritage. Color blindness dismisses and disrespects her who these women are at their core. Being color brave requires you to acknowledge, address and value their racial and cultural identities and every other person of color. The first step is to be brave and admit that being colorblind is a problem and show courage in the face of discomfort to engage in the conversation.

Gynopedia – A Female Travelers Go-To Reproductive Health Resource

Lani Fried, a San Francisco native, was living in New York City last year and preparing to travel across Asia when she realized she had no idea how to access birth control in the many countries that she was going to visit. She recalled living in Turkey, where she was never able to get a proper STI test and didn’t want to go abroad worrying her gynecological needs-what if she needed a pap smear or got pregnant? That is when Fried had the genius idea to create Gynopedia– a collective grassroots platform that provides a reliable source of information for women to be empowered and make informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health around the world.

Lani Fried


Gynopedia is an online open-source wiki that helps women find reproductive and sexual health services anywhere in the world. The site lets you search for everything from where to the get the morning after pill, a STI test, pads or tampons (yes they are sold but in specific stores), replacing a prescription, safe abortions to finding and LGBTQ friendly ob/gyn. Fried says, “This lack of information has been a constant theme in my life and I assumed that many other women felt the same way. Time and time again, I have needed advice from local people and lacked an online resource. This made me enraged yet wildly inspired and so Gynopedia was born.”

Lani Fried at a store


In addition, the site provides country specific cultural information for female travelers like laws and social stigmas around women’s sexual health as well as translations for certain words and phrases they should know when trying to access treatment or recommendations and costs. “Women may not know which clinics or gynecologists they can trust and where they can feel safe and respected as well as which health options are accessible and affordable. As women, we are often aware of how religion, politics, culture and history can play a role in health care in our home countries. However, we may not be aware of how these factors work in other countries,” Fried says.

Doctor Wearing White Coat Meeting With Female Patient

An avid world traveler, Fried also moved around a lot in the U.S. and she always spent endless hours, time and energy researching the basic and essential information. Being woman in living in America under Trump’s Administration was also an incentive for Fried. By reinstating the 1984 Mexico City policy, the defunded the International NGOs if they offered, provided, or advised on abortion as part of their services. They also planned to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict other women’s rights.  In an interview with the Telegraph, Fried said ‘In this climate, it is crucial that people raise their voices and get involved. There are so many ways to do this, and one of the ways is to contribute information to Gynopedia. When people contribute to Gynopedia, they let people know about the laws and their reproductive rights. They let people know what options are available to them, how they can pay for these resources and who can help them. When women share wisdom and resources, we empower one another to fight for accessibility, affordability and choice.’


Another incentive for Lani was the renewed concern she and many women in her home country have over their reproductive rights since Donald Trump became President of the United States. “The Trump administration is attacking women’s reproductive rights, and it’s attempting to reverse years of hard-fought battles and social progress,” Lani says. “In this climate, it is crucial that people raise their voices and get involved. There are so many ways to do this, and one of the ways is to contribute information to Gynopedia. When people contribute to Gynopedia, they let people know about the laws and their reproductive rights. They let people know what options are available to them, how they can pay for these resources and who can help them. When women share wisdom and resources, we empower one another to fight for accessibility, affordability and choice.”

The website looks a lot like Wikipedia and  information that covers over 80 cities throughout North America, Africa, Asia and South America in English only. The site is self-funded and maintained by Fried and she produced most of the content herself. When she tapped out all of her personal knowledge, experience and resources, she reached out to trusted regional and local women’s organizations, NGOs and online community groups, who are dedicated to promoting and preserving women’s sexual reproductive rights and ending sexual violence to help build out the site’s content.

Like Wikipedia, anyone can upload content and Fried is hoping the site encourages more females to contribute more information and cities to the site. To help recruit more contributors, she’s produced a video and a, as well as a Gynopedia guidelines page to help them get started. “The plan is to just keep extending its reach,” she says. “I want to have a Gynopedia page for as many cities as possible.

As the site grows, Fried has a few challenges to think about and deal with. Keeping the content current and ensuring the quality, accuracy and reliability of the information and building the site into a fully supported platform. Her other challenge is the potential pushback from organizations or governments that don’t agree with the site’s mission, so she’s started to talk to people on to prepare and handle the situation.

It’s crazy to me how you can find a gazillion sites on the top ten things to do or see when you visit a new place, but nothing about critical aspects of every woman’s life,” she says. “I want Gynopedia to change that.” “I’m no health expert or web entrepreneur. And I probably don’t even know what I am doing here”. “But I’m someone who has been uninsured, in need of health care and lost in cities many times — and that’s just me. There are millions of women who have it much worse — cut off from information and progressive health care, isolated from so many resources. “I got fed up with the state of things, so now I feel crazy passionate about this new ‘lil website.”

Fried also believes that the power of information should transcend gender so she also wants the site to help educate men who are searching for advice and information. Safe travels!


20 Reasons Why You Should Care About the 2020 Census

Who Cares About The 2020 U.S. Census?-It’s three years away! Well, we all need to care about the Census because an inaccurate census will have implications that will affect every aspect of American life politically, socially and economically.

The man tasked with executing the 2020 Census, John Thompson, the Director of the United States Census Bureau resigned in May. A successor has not been named for the soon to be vacant July 1st post nor has other key positons within the Census Bureau been filled.

The U.S. Census is a federal responsibility that is driven by the Constitution and it counts every single person residing in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and happens every 10 years. The information collected paints a population portrait of the face of America- determines how America elects its officials, supports its infrastructure and how it takes care of its people. This current Administration is focused on the “un-browning of America” through its wall-building, travel bans, deportations, district rezoning and the defunding of critical social services for our country’s marginalized communities. The funding for these types of services are all based on the information collected by the U.S. Census.


The timing of Thompson’s departure is also critical because, spending and testing is ramped up two to three years before the actual Census. The funding normally covers field testing, running new methods, hiring census takers, publicity and marketing. This current administration and Congress don’t see this as a priority and may dramatically underfund the Census.

“In late April Congress approved only $1.47 billion for the Census Bureau in the 2017 fiscal year, about 10 percent below what the Obama administration had requested,” wrote the Washington Post’s Tara Bahrampour. “And experts say the White House’s proposed budget for 2018, $1.5 billion, falls far below what is needed.”



The 2010 Census represented the most massive participation ever witnessed in our country. Approximately 74 percent of the households returned their census forms by mail and the remaining households were counted by census workers walking neighborhoods throughout the United States.


It directly affects how more than 400 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to local, state and tribal governments, business, non-profits, foundations and planning decision such as emergency preparedness and disaster recovery and where those services are delivered and where to promote economic growth.

In order to be counted the Census has to know who you are and if you are not counted because of the fear associated with these unprecedented and unconstitutional policies –you will be invisible and you won’t exist. This means that undercounting in these marginalized communities will directly disenfranchise them and perpetuates the cycle of disempowerment.


Here are 20 reasons to care about the 2020 U.S. Census

  1. The Census is underfunded. It has historically been conducted via door to door polling and relying on paper forms and an army of census takers and the budget constraints may force the them to scale back and have the information collected online. While it reduces costs- it will more than likely increase the likelihood of undercounting marginalized, low income and minority groups.
  2. The advertising, marketing and outreach for the census takes time, field offices need to be opened and temporary workforce needs to be hired and trained, people – if there is not enough money for either that means people won’t get counted
  3. That’s more than $4 trillion over a 10-year period for things like new roads and schools, and services like job training centers.
  4. Proper testing is needed at least two- three years before hand to avoiding expensive mistakes like the failed 2010 handheld devices that cost millions.


  1. Redrawing of legislative borders
  2. It will affect the Electoral College maps with impacts the votes for the 2024 presidential election
  3. The census determines how the 435 members of the house are allocated and redistributed among the states based on the changeling population numbers
  4. 16 states will be affected and they will either gain or lose a 2020 congressional seat
  5. The stakes are the 2018 mid-terms elections are high because given that most elected state legislatures will have control over redrawing and redistricting of congressional and state legislative maps following the 2020 U.S. Census.
  6. The number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. The Census determines how much funding cities and states review from the federal government. It determines the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts for the 2022 mid-term elections
  7. What questions will and won’t be asked. The current Administration asked that the question of immigration status be asked but it won’t ask about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which was proposed for the first time this year
  8. Arab Americans of Middle Eastern and North African descent (MENA) has never been included (they had to select white or other) may now be included under race
  9. The census bureau is legally required to submit its planned subjects (gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationships and home ownership) for the survey 3 years before it’s conducted, which is 2017
  10. The actual questions must be submitted by march 31st, 2018
  11. All social programs in the US use the census numbers to allocate funding and resources from your schools to public services like firefighters, police, what schools, hospitals, etc are opened and shut down,
  12. The census helps the government enforce federal laws like the violence against women act and the fair housing act and how to allocate resources like housing support, food stamps, WIC- etc
  13. It helps ensure all groups get fair and adequate access to the rights, protection and services they need
  14. Social science researchers, health professionals, educators and others need the census data to meet the needs of their communities and the challenges they face.
  15. Census data shapes how states and regions are represented in congress and where the federal government puts infrastructure and public services
  16. Private business use the numbers to determine who their consumers are, where will they build/provide services- like what neighborhood gets a Walmart or Whole Foods
  17. Undercounting or miscounting would redirect costs and resources and would heavily impact marginalized and underrepresent groups


It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.- Audre Lorde, Poet

The world in which we live is not a homogeneous one – even though there are some people that see it that way and would like to see it stay that way. The reality is that we come in many shades, shapes, sizes and orientations; we speak many different languages; we practice different faiths and we live all over the world. Our best experiences tend to be the ones where we are challenged and have to step outside our comfort zones to learn something new and gain a new perspective.

Welcome to the beta launch of Mélange Magazine. A place to get comfortable yet still be outside your comfort zone and can experience a mix of (culturally) inclusive and diverse content for and about women.

Mélange has been created with the intention of inspiring honest and respectful conversations about cultural and racial identity while celebrating all diversity, multiculturalism and ethnic communities. Our tagline “Get in the Mix” –reflects the real reality of the world in which we live because who we are matters. During a TedX Talk, Mellody Hobson talked about being color blind vs color brave. The concept of being “color-blind” meant that people would learn over time to pretend not to notice race. “In my view, that doesn’t mean there’s fairness,” Hobson said. “Color blindness is very dangerous because it means we’re ignoring the problem. We can’t be color blind, we have to be color brave.” That is why Mélange’s mission is to “Celebrate our Differences and Share our Similarities”. We don’t just want a seat at the table, we want to engaged with not just acknowledged; we want there to be an exchange of dialogue and not be pacified, we want to be empathized with not sympathized with and most of all- we want to be seen as a whole person – you can’t just take or accept the part of us that makes you feel better or politically correct.

So I think it’s time for us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, all of us, if we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America, I think we have to have real conversations about this issue. We cannot afford to be color blind. We have to be color brave. We have to be willing, as teachers and parents and entrepreneurs and scientists, we have to be willing to have proactive conversations about race with honesty and understanding and courage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do, because our businesses and our products and our science, our research, all of that will be better with greater diversity.- Mellody Hobson

So join us and mix things up – celebrate and share with us, explore the site, take our survey, leave your comments and give us your feedback. The conversation is just getting started and we want you to be a part of it.

Kedma Pognon Brown
Chief Cultural Officer & Publisher

63 Books About The Immigrant Experience



America is a blend of many different people, world cultures and ethnicities. In June 2014, Immigrant Heritage Month was created to give people across the United States an opportunity to explore their own heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America.

An individuals’ experience of relocating from one country to another, is a difficult one emotionally, mentally and financially. They have to find ways to make a living, adjust to an unfamiliar culture and often a new language as they struggle to build a new life for themselves and their families.  But for women immigrants they suffer the most from unequal access to information, resources and opportunities. One third of them don’t have High School Diplomas and one fifth of them are their head of households which contributes to them having low earnings and high poverty levels. As a result, the are more affected, burdened and acutely vulnerable by the immigrant experience.

We’ve compiled a list of 80 books that’s a mix of memoirs, fiction and essays that describe the immigrant experience by the women who have lived, navigated and defied it against all odds.



1. Becoming American: Personal Essays by First Generation Immigrant Women By Meri Nana-Ama Danquah


This collection of original essays, the first of its sort, written by first generation women immigrants, offers a glimpse into the process of assimilation.


2. The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands By Margaret Regan


Margaret Regan has reported on the escalating chaos along the Arizona-Mexico border, ground zero for immigration since 2000. Undocumented migrants cross into Arizona in overwhelming numbers, a state whose anti-immigrant laws are the most stringent in the nation. And Arizona has the highest number of migrant deaths. Fourteen-year-old Josseline, a young girl from El Salvador who was left to die alone on the migrant trail, was just one of thousands to perish in its deserts and mountains. Regan tells the stories of the all the people, from migrants, border patrol, No More Death Activists, angry ranchers and vigilantes caught up in this international tragedy.


3. Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour



This is a memoir of the year the author spent in Beirut, the city in which she was born and from which she and her family fled when she was a child. Now a successful journalist and food critic living in New York, she ndoesn’t feel she belongs anywhere. Yearning to capture the feeling she had living in Beirut as a child, she makes a decision to sublet her Manhattan apartment, maintain a long distance relationship with her boyfriend and move into her parents’ apartment in Ras Beirut.


4. The Wind Doesn’t Need A Passport by Tyche Hendricks



Award-winning journalist Tyche Hendricks has explored the U.S.-Mexico borderlands by car and by foot, on horseback, and in the back of a pickup truck. She has shared meals with border residents, listened to their stories, and visited their homes, churches, hospitals, farms, and jails. In this dazzling portrait of one of the least understood and most debated regions in the country, Hendricks introduces us to the ordinary Americans and Mexicans who live there—cowboys and Indians, factory workers and physicians, naturalists and nuns. A new picture of the borderlands emerges, and we find that this region is not the dividing line so often imagined by Americans, but is a common ground alive with the energy of cultural exchange and international commerce, burdened with too-rapid growth and binational conflict, and underlain with a deep sense of history.


  1. To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America by Tara Bahrampour



A compelling and intimate exploration of the complexity of a bicultural immigrant experience, To See and See Again traces three generations of an Iranian (and Iranian-American) family undergoing a century of change–from the author’s grandfather, a feudal lord with two wives; to her father, a freespirited architect who marries an American pop singer; to Bahrampour herself, who grows up balanced precariously between two cultures and comes of age watching them clash on the nightly news.

  1. Behold The Dreamers by IMBOLO MBUE


A story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York as they grapple with marriage, immigration, class, race and the American Dream, just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

  1. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri



Interpreter of Maladies is a book collection of nine short stories about the lives of Indians and Indian Americans who are caught between their roots and the “New World.”


8. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

  1. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka



The Buddha in the Attic, tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. It’s a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.


  1. Olive Witch by Abeer Y Hoque


In the 1970s, Nigeria is flush with oil money, building new universities, and hanging on to old colonial habits. At thirteen, Abeer Hoque, a Bangladeshi girl moves from Nigeria with her family to suburban Pittsburgh and finds herself surrounded by clouded skies and high schoolers who speak in movie quotes and pop culture slang. Finding her place as a young woman in America proves more difficult than she can imagine. Disassociated from her parents, and laid low by academic pressure and spiralling depression, she is committed to a psychiatric ward in Philadelphia. When she moves to Bangladesh on her own, it proves to be yet another beginning for someone who is only just getting used to being an outsider – wherever she is.


11 . Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi’s



A renowned surgeon and failed husband, Kweku Sai dies suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of his death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family from Accra to Lagos to London to New York, he abandoned years before. It’s a portrait of a modern family and an exploration of the importance of where we come from to who we are.


12. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia’s parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy.


13. Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera


Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families; two young women, ripe for love with hopes for the future; and a chance encounter that leads to the terrible heritage they must reckon with for years to come. One tragic moment that defines the fate of these women and their families will haunt their choices for decades to come. In the end, love and longing promise only an uneasy peace.


14. Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion Edited by Piyali Bhattacharya


Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion is Piyali Bhattacharya’s decade-long labor of love to bring together the stories of 27 South Asian American women in one essay collection. The authors’ families hail from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, with Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Muslim backgrounds and examines the multiple facets of daughterhood in South Asian American families.

15. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor


The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.


16.  A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández


A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language and coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home and finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.



17.  Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair) by Rosie Perez



Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez’s never-before-told story of surviving a harrowing childhood and of how she found success both in and out of the Hollywood limelight.


18.  Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina by Raquel Cepeda


 In 2009, when Raquel Cepeda almost lost her estranged father to heart disease, she was terrified she’d never know the truth about her ancestry. Every time she looked in the mirror, Cepeda saw a mystery—a tapestry of races and ethnicities that came together in an ambiguous mix. With time running out, she decided to embark on an archaeological dig of sorts by using the science of ancestral DNA testing to excavate everything she could about her genetic history.

 19.  Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno


In this luminous memoir, Rita Moreno shares her remarkable journey from a young girl with simple beginnings in Puerto Rico  to Hollywood legend—and one of the few performers, and the only Hispanic, to win an Oscar, Grammy, Tony and two Emmys.


20.  Almost A Woman by Esmeralda Santiago


This sequel to the story of Santiago’s childhood (When I Was Puerto Rican) covers her life as an adolescent and young woman when she lived in Brooklyn, New York, with her mother and 10 siblings during the 1960s. Puerto Rican immigrants, the family suffered through periods of poverty exemplified by the author’s trips to the welfare office with Mami, where she translated her mother’s Spanish so that they could obtain benefits. Santiago’s good humor, zest for life and fighting spirit permeate her chronicle and moderate the impact of the hard times she describes.” —


21.  American Chica by Marie Arana


 In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in her mother’s American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken’s neck for dinner. Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this graceful, beautifully realized portrait of a child who “was a north-south collision, a New World fusion            


22. Havana Real: One Woman Fights To Tell The Truth About Cuba Today by Yoani Sánchez


Yoani Sánchez’s been kidnapped and beaten, lives under surveillance, and can only get online—in disguise—at tourist hotspots. She’s a blogger, she’s a Cuban, and she’s a worldwide sensation. She produces a simple diary about what it means to live under the Castro regime: the chronic hunger and the difficulty of shopping; the art of repairing ancient appliances; and the struggles of living under a propaganda machine that pushes deep into public and private life. For these simple acts of truth-telling her life is one of constant threat. But she continues on, refusing to be silenced—a living response to all who have ceased to believe in a future for Cuba.


 23.  Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa


Anzaldua, a Chicana native of Texas, explores in prose and poetry via English and Spanish, the murky, precarious existence of those living on the “borderlands” between cultures and languages and takes on race, gender and colonialism


23. I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience by Lillian Faderman


I Begin My Life All Over records the story of 35 Hmong immigrants to California, tracing their journey from Laos to relocation to a new continent, and a new century. Throughout these first-person narratives, Lillian Faderman provides historical context, and draws rich comparisons between the experience of the Hmong in the 1990s and her mother’s immigration from Eastern European “shtetls” in the 1930s.


24.  Immigrant: A Memoir by Betty Chiang by Betty Chiang


Betty was born in Shanghai in 1928 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1948. Her family and she experienced the China of wealth and privilege prior to war with Japan, civil war and revolution, and Communism. Her father, Zhou Junshi, was a prominent scientist and scholar in China who studied under Albert Einstein in Europe during the early 1900’s. While a student in Europe, her father became friends with Zhe De, the founder of the Red Army. In 1949, while Betty was attending college in Kentucky, her father died in China as a political prisoner, and Betty had to start a new life as an immigrant in the U.S.


25. Undocumented in L.A.: An Immigrant’s Story  by Dianne Walta Hart


A woman in her late thirties named Yamileth obtains a passport, leaves her home, and makes a daring, dangerous trip from war-torn Nicaragua through Central America to the United States to join her family. Her daily experiences mirror the hopes and frustrations of women and men who must confront new cultural, economic, and political environments. Author Dianne Walta Hart’s long and close relationship with Yamileth allows her to present Yamileth’s cultural struggles and personal development in poignant narrative and passages in Yamileth’s own words and show the reader the opposition and difficulties undocumented immigrants face in a nation that at first beckons them with freedom, then rejects them with unwelcoming borders and restrictive laws.


 26. Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas


Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family, who grapples with American English, American traditions and American culture and identity..

 27. Rosa:The Life of an Italian Immigrant byMarie Hall Ets


This is the life story of Rosa Cavalleri, an Italian woman who came to the United States in 1884, one of the peak years in the nineteenth-century wave of immigration. A vivid, richly detailed account, the narrative traces Rosa’s life in an Italian peasant village and later in Chicago. Marie Hall Ets, a social worker and friend of Rosa’s at the Chicago Commons settlement house during the years following World War I, meticulously wrote down her lively stories to create this book.


28. On Gold Mountain by Lisa See


Lisa See chronicles the one-hundred-year-odyssey of her Chinese-American family, a history that encompasses racism, romance, secret marriages, entrepreneurial genius, and much more, as two distinctly different cultures meet in a new world.

 29. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe


A powerful and moving account of four young women from Mexico who have lived most of their lives in the United States and attend the same high school. Two of them have legal documentation and two do not. This is a vivid coming-of-age story about girlhood, friendship, and, most of all, identity — what it means to fake an identity, steal an identity, or inherit an identity from one’s parents and country. No matter what one’s opinions are about immigration, Just Like Us offers fascinating insight into one of our most complicated social issues today. The girls, their families, those who welcome them, and those who object to their presence all must grapple with the same deep dilemma: Who is an American? Who gets to live in America? And what happens when we don’t agree?


 30. Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Trevino Hart


Barefoot Heart is a vividly told autobiographical account of the life of a child growing up in a family of migrant farm workers. Elva Trevino Hart was born in south Texas to Mexican immigrants and spent her childhood moving back and forth between Texas and Minnesota, eventually leaving that world to earn a master’s degree in computer science/engineering.

 31. . My Name Is Iran: A Memoir by Iran Davar Ardalan


Drawing on her remarkable personal history, NPR producer Davar Ardalan brings us the lives of three generations of women and their ordeals with love, rejection, and revolution.


32. My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive by Julissa Arce


Julissa Arce climbed the corporate ladder-a rare Hispanic woman in a sea of suits and ties. In 2005, against all odds, she landed one of the most coveted jobs as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, to becoming a Vice President, complete with a high six-figure salary and all of the perks that come with living the Goldman Sachs life. What none of her colleagues knew is that she wasn’t just a young woman who broke through ceilings in a cutthroat male-dominated field: she was also an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. In MY (UNDERGROUND) AMERICAN DREAM, Arce opens up about the true price of pursuing the American Dream.


33. In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero


Diane Guerrero is the star of Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin presents her personal story of the real plight of undocumented immigrants in this country. She just fourteen years old on the day her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life for herself and a successful acting career, without the support system of her family. This is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman’s extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country.


34. This Is Not a Love Story: A Memoir by Judy Brown


Judy Brown, The third of six children recounts growing up Hassidic in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1980s and ’90s. capturing the voice of her younger self, growing up in the closed world of her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community marked by piety, prejudice, and superstition and her loving family roiled by the mystifying, often terrifying, affliction of her younger brother, Nachum


35. The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan


An elegant tapestry of East and West, peppered with food and ceremony, four women who have remained close decades, shared treasured recipes, honored customs, and the challenges of women shaped by ancient ways yet living modern lives. They are the Hindi-Bindi Club, a nickname given by their American daughters to the mothers who left India to start anew—daughters now grown and facing struggles of their own as they question whether they have the courage of the Hindi-Bindi Club, to hold on to their dreams—or to create new ones.


36. Russian Tattoo: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova


In A Mountain of Crumbs Elena Gorokhova describes coming of age behind the Iron Curtain and leaving her mother and her Motherland for a new life in the United States and learns that the journey of an immigrant is filled with everyday mistakes, small humiliations, and a loss of dignity and cultural disorientation. With the simultaneous birth of her daughter and the arrival of her Soviet mother, who comes to the US to help care for her granddaughter and stays for twenty-four years, it becomes the story of a unique balancing act and a family struggle.


37. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Homegoing chronicles the members that make up the family tree of the descendants of half sisters Effia and Esi. One side of the family ends up in the United States through the Atlantic Slave Trade, while one remains in Ghana. Gyasi makes use of pivotal moments in history such as the Harlem Renaissance and places her characters in them.


38. Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall


During the Great Depression and World War II, a Barbadian family living in Brooklyn is forced to contend with wrenching poverty and unjust racism.


39. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan


Two generations of Chinese-American women struggle against maintaining footholds in tradition and new cultural protocols. In the end, though, everything relates back to the importance of family connections.


40. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid


Lucy leaves the West Indies for the United States to escape her mother and her island past and takes up a job as an au pair for a wealthy white family. But that comes with its own set of challenges which inevitably forces her to confront her angst and the issues that remain from her life back home.


41. How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez:


Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia – arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind while dealing with the cultural and class transitions from privileged Dominicans to New York Hispanic immigrants.


42. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia


With twisting chronology and raw openness, Cristina Garcia explores several generations of Cubans and Cuban-Americans during some of the most volatile moments of the country’s history.


43. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Dandicat


Starting at age 12 and moving up to adulthood, Haitian immigrant Sophie Caco faces plenty of hurdles regarding her race, gender and language after moving to New York.


44. Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdulla


Not only does the main character lose her husband in the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, she must subsequently contend with raising a handicapped child solo and Americans behaving in a hostile manner because of her Pakistani heritage.


45. How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak


Anya is a Polish immigrant in LA at odds with her heritage but not quite ready to embrace an American self either. What she really wants is to be Russian — though mostly so she can get into the glamorous-from-far-away Twin Palms, the Russian nightclub in her neighborhood. Clever and sometimes sad, Waclawiak’s book turns the traditional immigrant novel on its head.



46. My Antonia by Willa Cather


We tend not to think of immigrant novels as taking place on the Nebraskan plain, but Cather’s story of American does that. Ántonia Shimerda, the daughter of a Bohemian immigrant, is a strong and willful woman trying to overcome not only her modest birth but her gender in this new strange country.


47. My New American Life by Francine Prose


A 26-year-old Albanian woman named Lula, at the tail-end of her visa, takes a job looking after a disaffected teenage boy in New Jersey. Life is cushy for a while, but that heritage of hers soon comes around, asking her to do it dangerous favors. Darkly comic and bittersweet, Prose paints a shrewd portrait of immigrant life post-9/11.


48. Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta


The classic tale of a Nigerian woman who overcomes strict tribal domination only to encounter the hardships of immigration. In the late 1960’s, Adah, a spirited and resourceful woman manages to move her family to London. Seeking an independent life for herself and her children she encounters racism and hard truths about being a new citizen.


49. Looking Both Ways: An Egyptian-American Journey by Pauline Kaldas


Looking Both Ways is a collection of interlinked essays that explores family, language, politics, identity, and culture, often with a touch of humor. These essays move across time and space, beginning in Egypt and crossing the ocean to follow the author s travels and the challenges of adapting to American culture and creating a family in her new world. Together, these essays create the impression of a memoir as they weave together to reflect the larger narrative of immigration, while offering a unique vision into the Arab American immigrant experience.


50. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende


 Allende fled to Venezuela in 1973 after the coup that brought down Salvador Allende, the socialist leader and her father’s cousin. She moved to California in the late 1980s. Drawing on the circumstances of her own exile, Allende used her debut novel to tell a multigenerational saga that takes place in an unnamed country very much like Chile. We see the destruction of democracy and the rise of a cruel dictator who tries to eliminate all opposition. “I wanted to show that life goes in a circle, events are intertwined, and that history repeats itself, there is no beginning and no end,” Allende said about her sprawling, magic-realist narrative.

 51. In the Country by Mia Alvar


In these nine globe-trotting tales, Mia Alvar gives voice to the women and men of the Philippines and its diaspora. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s stories explore the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home—and marks the arrival of a formidable new voice in literature.


52. The Cooked Seed by Anchee Min


An immigrant story that takes Min from the shocking deprivations of her homeland to the sudden bounty of the promised land of America, without language, money, or a clear path. It is a hard and lonely road. She teaches herself English by watching Sesame Street, keeps herself afloat working five jobs at once, lives in unheated rooms, suffers rape, collapses from exhaustion, marries poorly and divorces.But she also gives birth to her daughter, Lauryann, who will inspire her and finally root her in her new country. Min’s eventual successes-her writing career, a daughter at Stanford, a second husband she loves-are remarkable, but it is her struggle throughout toward genuine selfhood that elevates this dramatic, classic immigrant story to something powerfully universal.



53. Alex: My Life From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel by Alek Wek


Born to a middle-class family in the Sudan, Wek found her life suddenly inverted when civil war broke out among outlaw militias, the Muslim-dominated government, and southern rebels. The conflict not only killed two million people, it created an entire community of refugees, including Wek’s family—many of whom fled to London. Here is Wek’s incredible, daring story of rising from refugee to international supermodel.


54. The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven


Amparo Guerrero and Beverley Obejas, both grew up in Manila, capital of the Philippines and they both end up in 1990’s Oakland through very different channels. Amparo leaves Manila in banishment from her affluent family and Beverly flees her home country as a mail-order bride, hoping to rise above her family’s legacy of impoverishment. For both women, they are connected and unified by loyalty to family and their Filipino culture as decades of family secrets come to light in the wake of violent tragedy, the effects of which cross countries and generations.


55. The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates


Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1936, the Schwarts immigrate to a small town in upstate New York. Here the father—a former high school teacher—is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. When local prejudice and the family’s own emotional frailty give rise to an unthinkable tragedy, the gravedigger’s daughter, Rebecca heads out into America..


56. Comfort Woman by Nora Okja Keller



Comfort Woman is the story of Akiko, a Korean refugee of World War II, and Beccah, her daughter by an American missionary. The two women are living on the edge of society—and sanity—in Honolulu, plagued by Akiko’s periodic encounters with the spirits of the dead, and by Beccah’s struggles to reclaim her mother from her past. Slowly and painfully Akiko reveals her tragic story and the horrifying years she was forced to serve as a “comfort woman” to Japanese soldiers. As Beccah uncovers these truths, she discovers her own strength and the secret of the powers she herself possessed—the precious gifts her mother has given her.


57. The Funeral Party by Ludmila Ulitskaya


In a sweltering New York City apartment , a group of Russian émigrés gathers round the deathbed of an artist named Alik, a charismatic character beloved by them all, especially the women who take turns nursing him as he fades from this world. Their reminiscences of the dying man and of their lives in Russia are punctuated by debates and squabbles and what is happening across the world in their long-lost Moscow.


58. The Modern Voice of an Irish Immigrant by Imelda Cummins-DeMelkon


The Modern Voice of an Irish Immigrant is author Imelda Cummins-DeMelkon’s fascinating account of her experience growing up in Ireland as one of twelve children, and the struggle for autonomy and independence that led to her choice of immigration to the United States. The author speaks honestly of the conflicts she experienced as a child and the overzealous paternal control that dominated her young life. The reader follows the author’s journey as it weaves between her experiences in both countries. Ultimately, The Modern Voice of an Irish Immigrant shows us that through a deep commitment to personal growth, one can indeed emerge whole and able to enjoy a full and complete life.



59. The Italian Immigrants’ Daughter by Gina Mossa Molino & Suzanna Rosa Molino


The Italian Immigrants’ Daughter offers an authentic peek of first- and second-generation Italian life, as described by mother and daughter.The daughter of Italian immigrants from Sardinia, Italy, Gina Mossa Molino was plucked from the familiarity of American life at the age of 12 and shipped to Sardinia with her siblings and mother. In a ‘reverse emigration’ story, Gina shares detailed anecdotes of growing up in the 1930-40s in Brooklyn and the poor Italian village of Luras, Sardinia, under the watch of a strict Italian mother bravely raising three children alone, and lovingly guided by uncles and aunts. Gina’s daughter and coauthor, Suzanna Rosa Molino passionate about her Sardinian heritage, shares memories of growing up as the granddaughter of Nonna Antonica, a significant influence in Suzanna’s life. Today.

 60. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghost by Maxine Hong Kingston


First published in 1976, The Woman Warrior has become a classic in its innovative portrayal of multiple and intersecting identities—immigrant, female, Chinese, American.  As a girl, Kingston lives in two confounding worlds: the California to which her parents have immigrated and the China of her mother’s “talk stories.” The fierce and wily women warriors of her mother’s tales clash jarringly with the harsh reality of female oppression out of which they come. Kingston’s sense of self emerges in the mystifying gaps in these stories, which she learns to fill with stories of her own. A warrior of words, she forges fractured myths and memories into an incandescent whole, achieving a new understanding of her family’s past and her own present.


61. Beloved Strangers: A Memoir by Maria Chaudhuri


One of Maria Chaudhuri’s early memories growing up in Dhaka was planning to run away with her friend Nadia. Home was not an especially unhappy place, but in Maria’s family, joy was ephemeral. From Dhaka to Jersey City, Beloved Strangers is a candid and moving account of growing up and a meditation on why people leave their homes and why they sometimes find it difficult to return. This unforgettable memoir will resonate with anyone carving out a place for herself in the world, straddling two cultures while trying to find a place to belong.


62. Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir by Elizabeth Nunez



Nunez ponders the cultural, racial, familial, social, and personal experiences that led to what she ultimately understands was a deeply loving union between her parents

Through her thoughtful and articulate writing, Nunez offers a valuable perspective on the racism that she experienced, even in America, and the damage the Catholic Church does to women who follow the ‘no artificial birth control’ rule. Recommended for memoir enthusiasts and readers interested in Caribbean literature.


63. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang


In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is Kao Kalia Yang’s tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.

On Being a Chinese-American Woman

I wasn’t born in America.

According to the French, my smile spreads from ear to ear, and that marks me as American. According to the Chinese — well, they don’t vocalize it, but the eyes glued to me while I’m walking down the street in most parts of China tell me I’m not one of them.

In a class recently, I introduced myself to a Chinese boy. I’d noticed him in other classes but rarely saw him engage with anyone, so I thought I’d get to know him and make him feel more comfortable. Out of nowhere, he said: “You’re the worst type of Chinese person.”

Stunned, I didn’t understand how the conversation had deviated from small talk about his experience in New York to such a personal slight.

“Did you just call me the worst type of Chinese person?”


“Why?” I still couldn’t reconcile where this came from.

“Because you were born in China but raised in America.”

Flabbergasted, I couldn’t believe someone whom I’d recognized as sharing a common heritage had just otherized me.

“I identify as Chinese-American. My Chinese background, though I recognize I’m distanced from it and I’ll never truly understand it the way you do, means a lot to me. I’m aware that I’m very Americanized, but my identity is still Chinese because that’s how I am perceived on the exterior and that’s how I perceive myself. Most of my family is still in China. I cannot change my circumstances, go back in time and choose to be raised in China. For you to call me the worst type of Chinese person makes you the worst type of person.”

He replied: “But my friends would all say you’re the worst type of Chinese person.”

“That’s very closed-minded of them,” I said, before class started.

At the break, my classmates who had heard the exchange each approached me to tell me how they couldn’t believe what they’d walked into. They asked why I handled it so nicely, and why I felt I needed to explain my identity. It was because I felt empathy for his outsider status in our classroom and I felt that there was no need to react defensively to what I recognized as his ignorance, because that would have shown that I cared. Truthfully, the comment hurt me and I struggled to understand its meaning by consulting Chinese friends and family. Maybe I was more American at this point than I was Chinese, but does this discredit and erase the period of my life before I lived in America, before I became a citizen?

This wasn’t the first time I’d felt discriminated against. Although I went to elementary school with mostly Asian children, my middle and high school lacked significant diversity. I often felt I had to de-racialize myself to fit in, and at times found myself rejecting friendships with other Asian students because that would make me more Asian (and therefore more marginalized) by association. This all happened unconsciously; I was a child who lacked an objective understanding of the shame I felt for being different. I often found myself not studying in order to counteract stereotypes that because I was Asian, I was a nerd. I stopped going to Chinese school and put up a fight practicing piano every evening — things I wish I had continued — because I felt that they would further alienate me (I didn’t need to be further alienated, I was already marked as an alien on my green card before my citizenship!). Unfortunately, my rejection of education was against my parents’ values; like many Chinese immigrants, they relied on education as the main mode of upward mobility. My reaction towards discrimination and my desire to assimilate were costly and left me confused, isolated and filled with shame and guilt. I grew up learning how to deflect jokes about math, rice and tiny eyes — or at least how to avoid seeming bothered by them.

As I grew older and began to date, I came to realize my status as a fetish. Men who were interested in me often admitted to having “yellow fever,” or dismissed their interest in Asian women as a phase that every man goes through in his life. When I met one of my ex-boyfriends’ parents, his mom told him, “I get it, you want something exotic right now.” When I became disgusted by not being seen as anything more than my race, I began dating only men who hadn’t previously dated many Asian women, because I felt that at the very least I could be assured that they were interested in me as a person and not a type. But these experiences left me just as disheartened, as men would staunchly deny that they had “an Asian thing” and one recently even peeled my eyelid back and asked me, “Why won’t it open?” If I was liked for being Asian, or if I was liked despite being Asian, my race was always at the forefront of the decision. Even when I walk on the street, men will catcall me and say, “Are you from China looking for a husband?” or use the awful and cliché “me love you long time.”

I’ve found that being Asian has also influenced my professional opportunities. My past jobs often hinged on positive biases towards Asians; I found myself in tech positions when I personally thought I was under-qualified. I also experienced the negative biases: I was assumed to be meek and agreeable. Asian jokes were constantly made to my face, and work that wasn’t mine would constantly get delegated to me. I wasn’t allowed to get worked up — otherwise I would be seen as sensitive, and my already disqualified voice would be dismissed even more. I’ve watched Asian coworkers laugh at the discriminatory jokes and make fun of their own race in order to get along better with the team. I was left constantly wondering why it was that Asian jokes were OK, but if “Asian” were substituted with any other race, they wouldn’t be. Even though it seems that the Asian race is often associated with the “model minority” label, and we are often grouped in with Caucasians, these theoretically positive associations rely on a veneer that ignores the raw and lived experience. There is still an invisibility; there is not much Asian representation in the media — especially not representations that shatter stereotypes. Only those that reinforce them.

My own confusion about my identity also led to my straddling two different beauty ideals. In China, pale skin, dark hair and a face that looks as feminine and doll-like as possible are prized. Eyes are either taped or operated on to create a double lid, and giant “big eye” contacts are worn to enlarge the pupils. Essentially, the goal is to erase natural features in favor of a Caucasian and cartoonish ideal. In America, the Asian beauty ideal is more tan and masculine, focusing on sharp, elevated cheekbones while preserving certain “ethnic” features such as a mono-lid. Other times, features seen in airbrushed advertisements of Asians are completely Caucasian save for a few reductive details like almond-shaped eyes and yellow-toned skin.

All these ideals have made it hard for me to know which to adhere to. To make matters even more confusing, I was born with thick, wavy hair, double eyelids, and pale skin with more bluish undertones than yellow — which no one else in my family has. I’ve been told that I look slightly European. Naturally, I don’t fit into either American or Chinese ideals exactly, which further confounds my identity.

So who am I?

As a Chinese-American woman, there are very few stereotypical roles I can occupy. I’m not a tiger mom, a dragon lady, or a submissive china doll. I’m an excellent driver and I’m absolutely terrible at math — in fact I got a 1 on my AP Calculus exam in high school, and nearly had to retake my Behavioral Stats class in undergrad. I’m not a traitor to my heritage, and I’m not OK with being dismissed, otherized, or sexualized because of my race. Today I am ashamed, not of being Asian, but more of the fact that I once abided by the pressure to reject my heritage in order to assimilate. I can still speak Mandarin and understand it, but I admittedly feel a schism intuitively, because I cannot write or read Chinese. I want to be vocal about my experience in order to encourage others to do the same. The experience is one that needs to be collectively shared so that future generations will one day feel empowered and thus embrace their culture. See me for me — not what I appear to be, not what I represent, and not what I should be.


Saturday Night Live’s 10 Women of Color

SNL had been under fire for years for not being diverse and in in 2014 the voices got louder when Kenan Thompson, who usually tasked with playing black female characters, told /react-text react-text: 213 TV Guide /react-text react-text: 214 that the lack of women of color on the show was due to a lack of qualified candidates. He said: “It’s just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.” The backlash against him was swift and it intensified the spotlight on SNL’s diversity issue. The stats are no better for other women of color. SNL hired it first Latina in 2016, it’ first Muslim American in 2009- to date no Asian or Native American woman has been hired to the cast.

SNL even tried to poke fun at the issue by having Kerry Washington play both Michelle Obama and Oprah in the same skit.  While Washington exited the stage to change, a voiceover and scrolling text read: “The producers at SNL would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter, we agree that this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.” The skit ended with a cameo from Al Sharpton, saying: “What have we learned from this skit? As usual, nothing.”

On May 20, 2017, at the end of Saturday Night Live’s (SNL) Season 43, Sasheer Zamata, left the show after 4 Seasons. As much fanfare that was created around her hiring, there was no fanfare or official goodbye when Zamata quietly exited stage right for the last time.

Wow. What a fantastic end to a fantastic season, thanks SNL ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Sasheer Zamata (@thesheertruth) on

With Zamata’s exit, there are only 2 women of color left on the show. Here’s a look at the 10 women of color who have been part of Saturday Night Live during it’s 41 year history:

1. Sasheer Zapata
Featured & Repertory Player
2013- 2017

Sasheer Zamata was destined for stardom- her parents named after the alien flower-like crystal called the Sahsheer from the Star Trek episode. She was a founding member of the University of Virginia’s long-form improv comedy troupe, Amuse Bouche, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She recently talked about this experience at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn–“This is probably a lower-stakes thing, but in college there was only one improv team when I was starting, and it was a bunch of white dudes—which is fine, they’re funny. But it was just one note and I didn’t think that was ok—like that was the only comedy we could absorb at the time. And also I didn’t make the team, so I was like, alright! [laughs] I’ll start my own group.

“I started my own group with one of my close friends, who’s still doing comedy and I felt like we just had a wildly different voice because we had more women, we had more people of color and the group still exists at the school—and it opened up another opportunity for more people to create and do stuff. Out of that group came a sketch group, and then out of that came a political humor column, and it begat more things.”

Zamata has been a regular at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City and her on-screen credits include MTV’s series Hey Girl, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and Inside Amy Schumer sketches for and she also voices the character Sally in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Zombie mode.

Zapata was hired in December 2013 and officially joined the cast in January 2014 during its 39th season, when SNL was being publicly criticized for not being ethnically diverse. Zamata became the first black female cast member hired in 7 years since Maya Rudolph left in 2007.

Zamata described the pressure of her very public audition process to Vanity Fair. “It was weird to have a very public audition in that way. No one else gets that. There’s no other kind of mass call for cast members. I was in the press for just auditioning. I’m getting all these texts and e-mails that are like, ‘Good luck!’—which is so nice and wonderful that I got so much support, but also so stressful. It’s historically a secret, and now it’s a very public thing. It was a very weird way to go through that.”

Zamata debuted on SNL as a featured player in the January 18, 2014 episode. She was promoted to repertory player in the first episode of Season 41. Some of her recurring characters include Janelle, a teenage girl who hosts a Youtube channel called How 2 Dance with Janelle but is unaware of how her developing sexuality is coming off to viewers, and Keeley, a contestant on an African-American centric version of Jeopardy! called Black Jeopardy!.  She was also known for her celebrity impressions Michelle ObamaRihannaNicki MinajTyra Banks, and Beyoncé. She quietly left the SNL this year.

It’s not all fun and games for Zamata. She is a celebrity ambassador to the American Civil Liberties Union where she works with the Women’s Rights Project, which seeks to break down gender biases and “ensure equal economic opportunities, educational equity, and an end to gender-based violence” with a particular focus on women of color.  Zamata has openly talked about her experiences with discrimination and colorism and how she’s been stigmatized for her darker skin tone, she hopes to turn her experiences into a message of self-acceptance and body positivity for women in all shades.


2. Leslie Jones
2013- Present



3. LaKendra Tookes
2014 – Present

LaKendra Tookes was hired as a writer in December 2013, along with Leslie Jones. Tookes, a comedian and actress was former news reporter who had performed at the iO West Theater in LA. She’s appeared on the shows Red Oaks and Friends of the People. While Tookes has not appeared on-screen like Jones has, there have been many cast members who started out as writer and went on to join the cast.


4. Melissa Villasenor
2016 – PresentLaKendra Tookes
2014 – Present

5. Nasim Pedrod
Featured & Repertory Cast Member
2009 – 2015

in 2009, Nasim Pedrod became SNL’s first female Middle Eastern featured cast member. Born in Tehran, Iran, Pedrod immigrated to the US in 1984 with her family. She graduated from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, where she was a cast member of the UCLA Spring Sing Company. She performed her one-woman show, Me, Myself & Iran at the Sunday Company at The Groundlings, ImprovOlympics and the Upright Citizens Brigade. She received a LA Weekly Best Comedic Performance of the Year Award for her lead role in the spoof, After School Special.

Pedrod has made television appearances on Gilmore Girls, The Winner, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and she had a recurring role on ER as Nurse Suri.

 Pedrod was promoted to a repertory player in 2011 and left the show in 2014 to work on the show Mulaney , which was cancelled in March 2015.

She has joined the second season of  TBS’ ensemble comedy, People of Earth  as Special Agent Alex Foster, “a smart, dedicated FBI investigator getting a second chance after recently being disgraced.”

Comedy also runs in the family, her sister is Nina Pedrod, is known as a writer and producer for shows New Girl and 30 Rock.

6. Noelle Wells
Era: 1985-1986LaKendra Tookes
2014 – Present

Actress Noel Wells arrives at the “Forev” premiere during the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on June 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/WireImage)

7. Maya Rudolph
Era: 1985-1986LaKendra Tookes
2014 – Present

Maya Khabira Rudolph[1] (born July 27, 1972) is an American actress, comedian, and singer. After becoming a member of The Groundlings improv troupe in the late 1990s, Rudolph joined the NBC television series Saturday Night Live, on which she was a cast member from 2000 to 2007. She then ventured into film, appearing in 50 First Dates(2004) and A Prairie Home Companion (2006).

Since leaving Saturday Night Live, Rudolph has appeared in Grown Ups (2010), Bridesmaids (2011), Grown Ups 2(2013) and Sisters (2015). She has also lent her voice to the animated films Shrek the Third (2007) and Big Hero 6(2014). In addition to her film appearances, Rudolph also starred as Ava Alexander on the NBC sitcom Up All Nightfrom 2011 to 2012, and co-hosted her own variety show Maya & Marty.

udolph was born in Gainesville, Florida, the daughter of soul singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton and composer, songwriter, and producer Richard Rudolph. Her father is an Ashkenazi Jew, and her mother was African-American.[2][3][4] Her paternal grandfather was Sidney Rudolph, a philanthropist who once owned all of the Wendy’s and Rudy’s restaurants in Miami-Dade County, Florida.[5] Her great-grandfather was Lithuanian; he was born in Vilnius, changed his surname from “Rudashevsky” to “Rudolph”, and was one of the founding members of Congregation Beth Shalom, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[6]

Rudolph’s parents moved to Los Angeles, California when she and her brother Marc were very young, and they grew up primarily in the Westwood neighborhood.[7] Near the end of the song “Lovin’ You“, Riperton can be heard singing “Maya” over and over again. Riperton incorporated this into her performance of the song on The Midnight Special.[8] Riperton died on July 12, 1979, at age 31, from breast cancer.[7] Rudolph’s godmother was R&B singer Teena Marie.[9] In 1990, Rudolph graduated from Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California, where she became friendly with fellow students Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black,[10] and continued her education at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography from Porter College.[11]

Saturday Night Live[edit]

In May 2000, Rudolph joined the cast of Saturday Night Live as a featured player for the final three episodes of the 1999–2000 season, after a stint as a member of The Groundlings improv troupe, where she met future Saturday Night Live cast member Will Forte.[7] Rudolph’s musical talents were frequently employed on Saturday Night Live. She sang as Beyoncé Knowles in the Prince Show sketches, as the “Space Creature” in the Gays in Space sketches, except for the one on the season 31 episode hosted by Peter Sarsgaard, because it aired around the time Rudolph was on maternity leave. Friend Will Forte substituted for her during that episode. Her ability to change her looks and her command of many accents also led to her playing an unusually wide range of ethnicities on the show, often with only a change of wigs. As “Nooni Schoener,” Rudolph, along with Fred Armisen, created a couple from an unspecified Scandinavian country, who have unplaceable accents and bewilderingly foreign manners. Rudolph was also able to play male characters such as Scott JoplinJustin Guarini, and Mario Vazquez.

Her final episode as a cast member was on November 3, 2007, with host Brian Williams and musical guest Feist, the last episode before the writers’ strike. She returned on October 25, 2008, in a featured guest appearance as Michelle Obama and sang a duet with Kenan Thompson about Amy Poehler‘s newborn. She then also appeared in the 2008 Christmas episode, where she reprised her role in the sketch Bronx Beat, with Amy Poehler. She also appeared in two sketches in the 2008–09 season finale with Will Ferrell. She appeared in a Weekend Update Thursday sketch during the fall 2009–10 season as Oprah Winfrey speaking on behalf of Chicago‘s bid for the 2016 Olympics. She also appeared on the show in May 2010 to perform in skits including “The Manuel Ortiz Show” with Betty White. She returned to Saturday Night Live for the season 36 premiere, hosted by Amy Poehler, performing the “Bronx Beat” sketch and that same season for episode 700, hosted by Tina Fey.[12] On February 18, 2012 she returned to Saturday Night Live as a host for the first time and reprised her roles in sketches such as “Bronx Beat”. She once again returned to SNL on December 19, 2015 for the Christmas episode hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to reprise her role in the “Bronx Beat” sketch.[13] She appeared once more on the 41st season finale (hosted by Fred Armisen) as Dilma Rousseff on Weekend Update.


Rudolph’s characters on the show have included “Attorney Glenda Goodwin” and “Megan” from the “Wake Up, Wakefield!” sketches. Rudolph has done a number of celebrity impressions on Saturday Night Live during her tenure, including Amanda ByramAnanda LewisBarbra StreisandBern Nadette Stanis (as Thelma Evanson Good Times), BeyoncéCharoChristina AguileraCondoleezza RiceDarcel WynneDiana RossDilma RousseffDonatella VersaceDonna FargoEmily RobisonFredricka WhitfieldFreeGayle KingGriselda BlancoHalle BerryIvanka TrumpJa’net Du Bois (as Willona Woods on Good Times), Jennifer LopezJoyce “Fenderella” IrbyJustin GuariniKara SaunLa Toya JacksonLisa KudrowLisa LingLiza MinnelliLucy LiuLynda LopezMacy GrayMario VasquezMary RoachMaya AngelouMelinda DoolittleMelissa StarkMichelle ObamaMýaNelly FurtadoOmarosaOprah WinfreyParis HiltonPatti LaBellePhylicia Rashad(as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show), RocsiScott JoplinTeresa HeinzTerra PatrickTina TurnerTyra BanksValerie SimpsonVanessa Hudgens (as Gabriella Montez from High School Musical 3), Wanda Sykes and Whitney Houston.

Recurring characters

  • Appreciante
  • Beertje Van Beers
  • Britanica of Gemini’s Twin
  • Casey
  • Charli Coffee
  • Cocktail Waitress
  • Donatella Versace
  • Glenda Goodwin
  • Jackie
  • Jodi Deitz (one of the co-hosts of “Bronx Beat”)
  • Leilani Burke
  • Megan (one of the co-hosts of “Wake Up, Wakefield!”)
  • Mrs. Denmont
  • Nuni Schoener
  • Patti Sylviac
  • Rebecca
  • Space Creature

Television and film[edit]

In addition to her work on Saturday Night Live, Rudolph has appeared on other television shows, including the CBS medical drama series City of Angels and Chicago Hope. She had small parts in Chuck & BuckGattacaAs Good as It GetsDuplex and Duets; she was also a music supervisor for Duets. Her first prominent film role came in 2006 with A Prairie Home Companion. Earlier, she had costarred with Luke Wilson in the 2005 Mike Judge sci-fi comedy Idiocracy, although that film was shelved until September 2006 and then only given a limited release. She also guest-starred as Rapunzel in the DreamWorks animated film Shrek the Third. She guest-starred as Julia in The Simpsons episode “The Homer of Seville“. Rudolph guest-starred as character Athena Scooberman in NBC’s Kath & Kim, and starred in the film Away We Go with The Office star John Krasinski. In 2010, she appeared in Grown Ups starring Adam Sandler, where she played the wife of Chris Rock‘s character. In 2011, she appeared in Bridesmaids with Saturday Night Live colleague Kristen Wiig, and in 2013 she played a supporting role in The Way, Way Back as the girlfriend of Sam Rockwell‘s character. She co-starred in the NBC sitcom Up All Night, with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett. Rudolph’s self-titled variety show television pilot aired on May 19, 2014,[14] but the show did not go beyond that. It was later announced that she would star in an NBC variety series Maya & Marty with Martin Short,[15] which debuted on May 31, 2016.


Prior to joining Saturday Night Live, Rudolph was backing singer (1995–99)[1] and briefly a keyboardist in the band The Rentals, with whom she toured for a short time.[7] She also appears in the music videos of the songs “Waiting” and “Please Let That Be You”. She sang backing vocals for “Barcelona” and “My Head Is in the Sun,” both from the album Seven More Minutes. In 2004, she recorded a track with The Rentals frontman Matt Sharp, including a cover of Tegan and Sara‘s “Not Tonight.” Rudolph also performed “Together In Pooping” and “Little Roundworm” with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (Robert Smigel) on his album Come Poop With Me. She is in a Prince cover band called Princess with her friend Gretchen Lieberum.[16]

8. Ellen Cleghorne
Repertory Cast Member

Ellen Cleghorne at arrivals for Saturday Night Live SNL 40th Anniversary, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY February 15, 2015. Photo By: Derek Storm/Everett Collection

Ellen Cleghorne, a native of Red Hook, Brooklyn was the 2nd black female cast member cast on SNL. She was on the show for four seasons from 1991-1995. Her most popular sketches on the show was Queen Shaniqua, an Afrocentric critic, who appeared on the  and Zoraida, an in-your-face NBC page and she performed impressions of Alfre Woodward, Dr Dre, Debbie Allen, Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, Whoopi Goldberg and many more.

The Hunter College graduate, got her feet wet in several New York city comedy clubs and she appeared on Def Comedy Jam and In Living Color, which is where she got discovered by SNL producers.

Cleghorne left In 1995,  to star as single mother Ellen Carlson on Cleghorne!, a sitcom that aired for one season on The WB network, and starred former SNL alumnus Garrett Morris. She had off and on appearances on Nickelodeon’s TV show The Adventures of Pete and Pete and had cameos in films Armageddon, Coyote Ugly, Little Nicky, and Old School. She also made a brief appearance in SNL alum Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups 2 in 2013.

After she left the show in 1995, she disappeared from the spotlight. She enrolled at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she worked to complete her Ph.D in Performance Studies.

In 2015, Cleghorne returned to 30 Rock for the show’s 40th Anniversary Special. When asked how she felt being on that soundstage again, she said, “When you leave the liminal stages, you move on but you remember that everything is in preparation for something else,”


9. Danita Vance
Repertory Cast Member
1985 – 1986

Danita Vance, was an actress and performance artist and she was hired as the first black female repertory player on SNL in 1985. Her year on the show was uneventful and was let go within the year.

Vance, appeared in  “The Colored Museum” and “Spunk” at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

died on Sunday at the home of her grandfather, Clarence M. Edwards, in Markham, Ill. She was 35 and lived in Brooklyn.

But it was through her association with George C. Wolfe, the playwright and director who is now the producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival, that Ms. Vance was best known to theatergoers. In “Spunk,” Mr. Wolfe’s 1990 adaptation of stories by Zora Neale Hurston, she demonstrated “exceptional range in playing a trio of women who are in turn worn to the bone, full of sass and aglow with innocence,” wrote Frank Rich in The New York Times. Ms. Vance received an Obie Award for her performance.

The Chicago native attended the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London and performed with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago. In 1981,  she moved to New York in where she found success on Off-Broadway with her 1985 revue “Danitra Vance and the Mell-o White Boys”. The show centered around an assortment of funny characters that Vance created, which included a ghetto Shakespearean actress, a feminist stripper and a genteel “lesbian recruiter.”

Vance was diagnosed with breast cancer  in 1990 and she used her experience in a performance piece called “The Radical Girl’s Guide to Radical Mastectomy.” She died August 21, 1994, she was 35 years old.


10. Yvonne Hudson
Featured Cast Member

Yvonne Hudson, was born July 9, 1954 and she was SNL’s first black female featured player during the 1980-1981 season. She joined the cast as a featured player in the show’s 1980-1981 season. She appeared in numerous uncredited roles times in background roles during the first five seasons of the show. She didn’t get her credited for her roles until she was hired in 1980. She was a featured player for only a year and after she was left go 1981, she continued performing uncredited appearances until 1984. Her role on SNL never led to any prominent parts and she ultimately disappeared from the film and television world.