Guest Blogger: Cherry Cheva
Besides the fact that it is seriously funny, one of the things I like best about Cherry Cheva’s She’s So Money is that it’s about a girl who just happens to be Asian-American. Maya is a high school senior, a waitress at her family’s restaurant, a tutor, the co-mastermind of a cheating ring, and, oh yeah, Thai-American. It’s part of Maya’s identity, not the defining characteristic of her or the story. Race and ethnicity are almost never mentioned specifically (the only time I recall it discussed explicitly is the brief cell phone conversation between Maya and her mother after Maya lies about being in the library after school—”She says there are no Asians in the library right now.” “There are always Asians in a school library; that’s where most of us live.”) and racism is not an issue. I was curious as to how this came about, so thanks to Cherry Cheva for guest blogging and answering my question.
WHAT’S UP PARTY PEOPLE!!!!!!!
I had no idea how to start this off so I just randomly decided to do it that way. Thanks to Trisha and The YA YA YAs for inviting me to guest blog! They wanted to know how and why, in my recently-released novel “She’s So Money,” I wrote about an Asian character without making a big deal about ethnicity. And the answer is: uh, it just happened.
Okay, that’s a little glib, but seriously, that’s pretty much the best way to describe how I went about tackling (or not tackling) the race issue: it never occurred to me to make a big deal of the main character being Thai, because the book wasn’t about that—it wasn’t a race story, it was an opposites-attract story, an “I love you/I hate you” story, a story about two people bitching at each other all the time even though you just know they totally want to make out. Basically, you could’ve taken the story and switched the races all around, and it would’ve shaken out almost exactly the same way. Do I think racism and racial stereotypes are important topics worthy of being written about? Absolutely. Was “She’s So Money” the place to do it? Not so much. Maya’s race, in the context of the story, is a small thing next to the very huge fact that she’s got to make a whole bunch of money fast. That’s her pressing problem, not the fact that she’s Asian. Hell, I’m the only Asian chick in the writers’ room at “Family Guy” but that’s not the problem there, either—the problem is trying to come up with new jokes every day, or a story that hasn’t already been done to death, or a less offensive but equally funny alternative when the Fox standards department inevitably shoots something down. “She’s So Money” just wasn’t meant to be about problems stemming from ethnicity, just like it wasn’t about Cheez Whiz or carnivorous plants or aliens who really like hats, so none of those topics got hit up very hard (or at all, in the case of the last three, if I’m remembering correctly).
Now, I guess I could have written a book with a huge emphasis on race and addressed the topic in a serious manner instead of the throwaway jokey manner that I did it in, but first of all, yeesh, what a downer (there’s a reason I’m a comedy writer) and more importantly, I think it’s possible to use humor to acknowledge that racial differences and stereotypes exist, while at the same time not necessarily hitting anybody over the head with it. We do this all the time on “Family Guy.” Likewise, “She’s So Money” was never meant to be a super-serious textbook read, so if important issues were addressed, they got churned through the joke filter first.
You know what, though? This is pretty much the first time I’ve even thought about all this stuff. Ultimately, I wrote what I wrote because that’s what I felt like writing-there’s no real backstory, it wasn’t brain surgery or rocket science, I was just doing what I felt like doing, in the way that came most naturally to me. So I guess yeah, it really did just happen.
THANKS, PARTY PEOPLE! Can you tell I couldn’t figure out a way to end this either? 🙂