Asian stars are rising — Latest TV breakthroughs look like the real deal

Once relegated to playing houseboys, prostitutes and extras on “M*A*S*H,” Asian-American actors are now appearing on prime-time television not as exoticized versions of reality, but as real people. Sandra Oh, superb in “Sideways,” is a star in the new medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” which has kicked “Boston Legal” to the curb and taken the prime slot after “Desperate Housewives” on Sunday nights at ABC. Or turn on ABC’s other hit drama, “Lost,” and you’ll notice not one, but two Asian regulars. Korean-American actors Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim (no relation to each other — or me) portray a married Korean couple stranded on the creepy island with a crew of folks including a pregnant woman, an Iraqi hottie, a fat dude, an African-American father and his son, a dog and a hobbit (or at least a guy who played a hobbit in “Lord of the Rings”).

Cho ‘Notorious’ for unstereotypical laughs

Over the past few years, Margaret Cho has grown comfortable with herself–a funny, whip-smart comic who doesn’t fit any of the glorified stereotypes of what an Asian American woman should be. She doesn’t play the violin. She doesn’t figure skate. She’s not good at math. She never wanted to be an anchorwoman. And if she knows how to make sushi or give a good back rub, she’s not telling.

Margaret Cho: “I’m the One That I Want”

In her one-woman show “I’m the One That I Want,” Margaret Cho recalls how getting her own sitcom in the mid-1990s signified acceptance to her–for the first time in her life. What she didn’t realize then was that acceptance came with a price.

Beyond Asian stereotypes

“Chink-a-Chink-a Chinaman sitting on a fence; Trying to make a dollar out of 59 cents.” My parents were mortified when their 5-year-old daughter came home from school singing this chant. My friends and I had learned to jump rope to this song from older kids who thought it would be fun to teach a bunch of kindergartners a thing or two. At the time, I had about as much concept of what a “Chink” was as I did the actual value of 59 cents. But I was too young to see past my parents’ forced smiles.

“A Cab Called Reliable” by Patti Kim

Patti Kim shows the eloquent anguish of an abandoned child in her debut novel, A Cab Called Reliable (St. Martin’s, 156 pp., $18.95 . Her story is told through the eyes of 9-year-old Ahn Joo Cho, a Korean immigrant whose life changes forever when she sees her mother and little brother drive off in a cab. Without her. The last thing she remembers seeing is the word “reliable” on the car door.

Jehsah (제사)

December 19, 1997

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Jehsah (제사)

I was almost 5 years old when my family moved from Seoul, South Korea, to Chicago. Language barrier aside, I couldn’t figure out why some of my new pals were so excited about the arrival of an old man they didn’t know, who would slide down chimneys that some of them didn’t have, to drop off presents under decorated trees in their living rooms. Couldn’t this Santa person just use the door like everyone else?

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