Mystical Language

You want to make sure the overall vibe meets expectations. The tone cannot be contemporary, because that is not what the audience paid to read. Motherlands and fatherlands should be referenced lyrically as if they are fantasy worlds. Anything that emphasizes that this isn’t a real, living person’s story; it’s an AAPI story—the Perfect AAPI Story.


It’s an easy entry point, so it needs to be a focus. Treat the food as a primary character and the people as secondary characters. Make it abundant and familiar—a table filled with dumplings, pad thai, sushi, and chicken adobo. Korean food is trendy, so throw in some kimchi. Would an actual family prepare this hodgepodge of varied national dishes? No, which is why they’re excluded from the Perfect AAPI Story.

Excessive Sensory Detail

Pertaining to the food, of course. Would a narrator who grew up with this food and considers it simply food (rather than an exotic, interactive museum exhibition) realistically pay this much attention to its smell and taste? In the Perfect AAPI Story, yes.


Where food takes center stage. This story element is pretty rigid. It has to be a family-owned restaurant, and there has to be a child who grows up there. Include one scene in which the child delivers food to a table and another in which the child does their homework behind the counter. The clientele needs to be all white, though, so it can be implied to whom this AAPI family owes their livelihood.

Mother Who Only Cooks and Criticizes
(accent required)

She possesses no interiority, which seems impossible for a human being, but her entire existence proves that people “like her” lack depth in thought and feeling. She goes grocery shopping, she chops things, she steams things, she plates things, then she criticizes her daughter for not being married. End of life!

Father with a Secret
(accent required)

That ties back to the old country, which will be opaquely explained in flashbacks to his childhood. Similar to the mother, he possesses no interiority. He’s distant in the present, and that’s all we need to know about his personality.

(accent required)

Who lives with the family and tells stories of ancient lore and their escape from a war-torn country. They’re small in stature with “wise” eyes and have suffered a lot. One might even say their suffering defines them. Their role is to make the audience cry and think, I can’t relate at all, and for that, I’m grateful.

Misunderstood Child
(accent optional)

Who is criticized by their parents for not behaving “Asian enough.” Their parents no longer see their child as their child but as a barometer for “Asian” behavior. What exactly is this universal “Asian” behavior? Fortunately, you’d be surprised how many people hold tons of preexisting biases, so they’re able to fill in that gap pretty effortlessly.



Because some people might feel uncomfortable and targeted. Not because of anything they’ve ever done or said, but just incidentally. Remember, your story isn’t about celebrating your identity; it’s about allowing a broad audience to celebrate their concept of your identity.