Miho: Hi Francis! Or FKIGS or Frankie Kiggles because I know you love your aliases…. I remember the first time you put your name in my phone; you told me you like to put your name in as something different in everyone’s phone.
Francis: It was Frankie Kiggles.
M: Okay. So, let’s start out by you telling me where you’re from and what you call home, whether that’s a tangible place or an idea.
F: I was born and grew up in New York City, but my family also has a house in Southern California where my grandparents lived before they passed. We still own the house, and, when I was younger, every single break we would go to that house. Now, every time we go, it’s full of our memories, and I love Palos Verdes—where it is. It’s along the beach, so I love surfing, swimming, and I actually did junior lifeguards one summer. But more about my family…. I have three older siblings; I’m the youngest of four. My mom is Italian and French, from California, and my dad is Japanese, from Osaka. He moved to Tokyo after college. Where I call my home… I would say both my home in New York City and in Southern California. In terms of people, definitely my parents and my siblings feel like home to me with a few close friends from middle and high school.
M: So, did you go to elementary, middle, and high school in New York?
F: I went to elementary school in New York City, and then I found myself at boarding school in Delaware which was totally different. People usually ask me how I even ended up there. To which I answer, one of my favorite teachers from middle school went to St. Andrews in Middletown, Delaware. Just through the process of applying to schools, getting in to some and not getting into others, I ended up really feeling like I belonged at this school, and it was the right decision.
M: Did your older siblings also go to boarding schools?
F: Yeah. My oldest sister went to junior boarding school at Fay… it’s pretty notorious I feel like. Then, she went to Westover. Actually, her boarding school experience inclined my parents not to want to send either of my brothers, or me, to boarding school. But then, one of my brothers ended up going to St. Paul’s in New Hampshire, and I ended up in Delaware.
M: Was the boarding school community very different from what you were used to in New York? What was the racial demographic of both institutions? Did you have many Asian American friends?
F: When I was growing up, it was a predominantly white community. Also, at boarding school, it was predominantly white. That being said, we did have a significant population of international Asian students, which was something I hadn’t really experienced before, and I definitely formed some close friendships with internationals from Korea or China. Also, there were international students who were residing in America. That was something new that I appreciated. I actually ran cross country with a lot of those guys.
M: Did the fact that you are mixed race and from the U.S. play into any of the dynamics of your relationships with the international Asian community at your school, implying that they might be wealthier or coming from homogenous communities in Asia rather than a predominantly white New York?
F: I was definitely more comfortable in spaces like my boarding school which were predominantly white and taught in English. But I think that that was just a norm for me versus the international students who might have felt foreign. I think I was able to serve as an example and place of comfort; I was someone who looked similar, while feeling okay in these spaces.
M: Given that you tied the fact that classes were taught in English with communities and spaces that are predominantly white, do you think you associate these two things with your idea of Americanism? Is your image of what an American is, what an American school system is, and what an American student tied to your experience in these English and white dominated spaces of your background?
F: I would say so. I think that there are many different kinds of schools in America, but I’ve spent my entire education in private schools, which has definitely had an effect on how I perceive a dominant type of education in America. That being said, I went to the preschool Lycée Français, which was taught in French. I guess that strays a little bit from my other experiences in English-spoken classrooms.
M: When you were little, did you ever wish there were more kids who looked like you at school or around you in community? Did you ever feel like you looked or were different?
F: Yeah, I mean it definitely caused me to feel different. Every class in my middle school was about forty students. Out of that, only a few kids were Asian. And just as middle schoolers are, my race was commented on and joked about in different ways and in different capacities.
M: Do you have any specific memories of these instances?
F: Yeah! I don’t think any of the comments were… well, actually, I guess I’m not sure of their intention.
M: Oh, middle schoolers.
F: Exactly. I feel like, at that age, people don’t understand the capacity of what they mean. Like I remember one of my classmates asking me if I was sleepwalking, which was an associative comment with my race or the fact that I looked Asian. I don’t think I even understood at the time what that comment means or where it comes from. That being said, there were just a lot of comments like that from people in my middle school.
M: Did that ever push you to want to fit in a certain middle school crowd over others?
F: I mean, I think I’m very grateful for my experience at my middle school. I made a couple of friends that are some of my closest to this very day. Before I even realized I looked different. One of them is Indian and one of them is Russian, but I think those relationships developed quite naturally. Later, when I realized I had differences, even then I don’t think it played too much of a role in who I made friends with. I’ve always felt pretty proud of my Asian heritage.
M: Was your ethnicity or your race something your parents ever talked to you about? Or something in common conversation with them or your siblings?
F: I think that physical characteristics of being mixed is really interesting and was a prominent conversation in my family. For example, we would be sitting at the dinner table when my siblings and I were younger, and my mom and dad would point at one of us and say, “That’s your father’s nose,” and then another with, “That’s your mom’s Italian nose.” But maybe that is just a regular dinner conversation to be like...
M: Like “you look like this parent and you look like…”
F: Yeah! But maybe it just meant more to me given that my mom and my dad do look very different and are of different races. So, that was a recurring conversation that I think allowed me to think a little more about how I looked and where that came from.
M: How did you parents meet?
F: My mom was working in New York City for a bank. Both my parents were in finance… actually, all my entire family works in finance. And then my dad was working for a Japanese company, and they transferred him to New York City. They met through work. And then my dad was asked to move back to Japan by his company, but he decided to quit his job and join some other company in New York.
M: Are you very close to your dad’s family in Japan, or have you ever met them?
F: Actually, not at all. My dad has had a relatively fraught relationship with his past. He was born in 1948, so right off the back of World War II. In a lot of ways, his memories of Japan and his upbringing are unpleasant. I think he just doesn’t want to think about them or talk about them at all. What my family and what I personally know about my dad’s past in Japan is very fragmented and has been pieced together by little stories. That being said, the little snippets are very interesting to me. Like, he was born and grew up in a Shinto temple because his uncle was a monk. I think that’s something I can hold on to and be proud of in my Japanese heritage. I just have these few different, concrete ties and pieces of knowledge about my dad’s past in Japan.
M: Have you ever been there before?
F: I went with my family around 2010 or 2011.
M: So, a pretty long time ago. Do you have any memories of being there or how you felt being there as a mixed person? Or just going back and being able to visit your heritage?
F: I was definitely completely foreign… and I still am foreign to Japanese culture, but I remember feeling like I somehow belonged because it was my dad’s home at some point in his life. Walking into stores where my dad could navigate this culture quite seamlessly made me feel like I had some sense of belonging. Otherwise, I remember my family visited the hot springs. I remember, where we were staying, there was this mystical garden… and then I remember losing one of my baby teeth.
M: Wait… in the hot spring!? Like 10 years later some man finds thi—
F: No, hahaha, I just remember being in a room there and one of my baby teeth falling out. For some reason, that was a distinct memory
M: Did the tooth fairy come?
F: I actually think so… I think I got like a few thousand yen or something
M: Did you have many aspects of Japanese culture in your household while growing up in New York?
F: Yes, actually! I feel like they were actually the little ways in which my family and household maintained Japanese tradition and it’s how I have strong ties to my heritage: taking off my shoes when walking in the house, our shadow boxes filled with kimono-wearing figurines, or whenever we sit down and finish for dinner, we bless the food with the Japanese sayings “Itadakimasu” and “Gochisousama.” Those were very small, but also very powerful, ways the household was not just your average Upper East Side, New York apartment. There was a little more character and little more culture to it.
M: What generation is your mom?
F: I’m not fully sure. Her father, to my best understanding, emigrated from Canada when he was about three, so I guess he’s French Canadian. Then her mother is Italian, which is where I get my middle name, deFrancis, making my name Francis deFrancis.
M: Was that on purpo—well, I guess it had to be on purpose because that’s your name. Your parents named you.
F: Yeah, I know. My great uncle was named Frank deFrancis
M: Is that also your brother's middle name?
F: Yeah, so my brother's name is Paul Francis deFrancis.
F: When I visited him, I captioned a photo just like Paul deFrancis and Francis deFrancis. When I was at Princeton, people would ask, “So, is your brother’s name actually Francis deFrancis?” because Paul's is also that. It was a funny moment.
M: But yours isn't Francis Francis deFrancis.
F: No, it’s Francis Albert deFrancis.
M: Yeah, gotcha. I asked that question about your mom's generational history because I was curious about how far attached or how far removed she is from her culture of being French-Italian and if any aspects of that culture was integrated in your house the same way that your father’s Japanese heritage was.
F: Yeah, it's a lot less potent. My mom mostly identifies with being from California and being European-American, but she knows how to cook Italian food. I think Italian food is something that my family eats a lot, so I would say that that's probably one of the ties that we have to her ancestry.
M: Could you talk a little more about your experience being at boarding school, your transition coming to Yale, and how you chose to come to this school?
F: Yeah, I mean by virtue of being seven years younger than my eldest sister, I was thinking about college pretty early.
M: How early?
F: I distinctly remember getting a bad grade in fifth grade and like crying about it and being like, “I'm not going to get into a good college,” and then my teacher being like, “You need to relax.” It’s because my sister was going through the college process and that was something that felt very real to me.
M: Were academics and grades a big part of your family?
F: Yeah. There was this dynamic that I had with each of my parents in association with my grades and my academic performance. My dad was very much like “get an A or an A- and if you get a B+ that's bad.” My mom also wanted us to do well, she would tell us, “I want you to work hard and get good grades,” but she also very much cared about and valued our mental health and making sure that we were balanced…. Balance was most important to how my siblings and I were raised. I think that is definitely something that still sticks with me to today. But yeah… I would say that there was that kind of dichotomy in approach to the point where, when I would get a report card with a B+ on it, I would just think, my dad is going to be disappointed. Whereas, to myself, I had worked my ass off for even that B+.
M: Do you think that limited your relationship with your father or made you feel as though you couldn't share some things with him? Or was that strictly to academics?
F: I think it was more strictly academics. Definitely, the ways that I could feel proximate to my dad and feel like I had a relationship with my dad were in very specific facets. When I was younger, it was actually very much golf. My siblings and I learned golf from a very young age, and that was something that my dad did and still does have a passion for.
M: That's funny. I’m just imagining baby Francis teeing off.
F: I was crushing the game. I was actually thinking about, when I was like around nine or 10, moving to California and pursuing golf as a professional career.
M: Oh my God, that's wild. [laughs]
F: Yeah, it was crazy. Thank God I did not do that.… Yeah, but that was definitely the most potent way in which I felt like I could relate to my dad. And even to this day when I'm free and it's nice weather my dad and I will go play golf. But recently actually I think, as music has become like a more serious part of my life, I've been able to actually relate with him through music because he was a very, very passionate musician when he was younger in college.
M: What did he do?
F: He was one of those self-taught drummers and guitarists and he played the saxophone and a bunch of different instruments. I always was inspired by that, and now we're able to have that new layer and aspect of our relationship.
M: When you were younger, did you have a lot of musical influence in your life, or was this something that came later?
F: Music was very important for my siblings and me to learn from both of my mom and dad. The way that manifested was that I learned Suzuki violin when I was three or four years old. I hated violin, but I'm very grateful for learning because it really trained my ear and it got me to think about pitches and hear pitches accurately. My brothers and I actually performed in the Metropolitan Opera when we were really little.
M: How did that happen?
F: I think, for me, it was very much through nepotism, through my brothers having done it. I'm not really sure what the original connection was. That was pretty crazy.
M: I’m seeing the dream of the family band… but in a very classical sense.
F: The most prominent role I had was as “Trouble” in Madame Butterfly. Which, I think in a lot of ways, blatantly made me think about Japanese culture and its connection with American culture and America.
M: Could you talk a little bit more about those thoughts?
F: Yeah, and not necessarily American culture, but kind of just Western…
M: Like Orientalism and how the West views the East?
F: Right, right. I think it was a lot of… I mean a plot line of “Madame Butterfly” is: basically there's this Japanese woman. It’s the early twentieth century, and an American officer comes to Japan. They fall in love and have a child. Then he leaves, intending it to be a temporary leave, and then he comes back with an American woman. He asks the Japanese woman if he can take the son…. Actually, I don't even know if he asks, but he says I'm going to take our son. I was the son, I was that figure. I think that when I first heard that plot line, I was just very confused.
M: How old were you?
F: I was like six years old. I was very, very young.
M: Do you remember it?
F: Actually, I do remember. I remember one specific moment at the… at the very end before the Japanese woman commits suicide right after she gives the son over to her lover. There was this one moment where the son and the mother meet in the center of the stage, we're both kneeling, and she's singing this beautiful aria before she commits suicide. I remember, distinctly, she covered my ears because of how loudly opera singers have to sing. She wanted to make sure that she didn't… traumatize me, so I remember distinctly she would cover my ears while she was like singing her last aria. That was something that stuck with me.
M: That's so cool. How did you end up getting that role?
F: It definitely wasn't… like, I don't think that it was a racial thing, or I don't think it was because I was an Asian boy…
M: Or even better, a half Asian boy. A half Japanese boy.
F: Honestly, like the perfect role, but the reason why I don't totally think race was involved is because I was the understudy to a black girl who played the role. So, I totally feel like that did not come into play. She would wear a wig to play the boy.
M: When you were little, when you were watching that happen: reading the plot and understanding your role the best as I can six-year-old, you said that it was kind of unnerving. The plot line of like the American soldier coming in, leaving, trying to take the child…. As a six-year-old, did you ever spend time thinking about that or talking about that with your parents?
F: I don't think so. I wouldn't even say that it was unnerving to me. I think I was just confused. I was just like “why is this like the logical progression of this plot?”
M: Do you think race played a big role in that confusion or was it more just man leaves woman, man comes back, man takes child? Was there any racial aspect involved in your thinking?
F: I don't even know. I don't think that like the racial aspect or the gender aspect really came into my six-year-old consciousness. It was like two people have a child, one person leaves and comes back, asks for the child, the other person gives the child. It was just like, “That's so weird.” But now that I look back, it's like, okay, you have these roles of gender and race. Just so many different layers and factors that go into understanding why the plot progresses in the way that it does.
M: Yeah, definitely. So, that was a little bit of the beginning to your career and interest in music. Can you can talk about the development of that interest and how that changed throughout middle school, throughout high school, and through coming to Yale?
F: Yeah, in middle school, I was basically in choirs throughout, and that was something very important to me. I was also learning how to play the piano.
M: Was that in school?
F: Yeah, in high school, I sang in the choir and in our a cappella group.
M: Did your a cappella group have a name?
F: So, we lived on Noxontown Pond. That's the pond that our school owned, so we were called The Noxontones.
M: That’s such an a cappella name!
F: Yeah, and then I'm in an a cappella group now, called Doox. Overall, being in choirs and being in opera are experiences that I will always be appreciative of, but that being said, choral music and opera music, they're very European expressions of art and music. I guess I wish that I had more of an exposure and had grown up with other expressions of music… from Asia or from Africa or just from so many other places that I feel are often neglected, especially when you're from a place like New York City.
M: Or even just in the U.S. At least with me, it really bothers me that, even in diverse schools, everything is just based around a Eurocentric ideal, not solely music. You look at something like philosophy; there's like philosophy and then there's Eastern philosophy, African philosophy, and everything is a tokened sect of this main version of whatever this thing is, and that main version is always centered on like European culture.
F: Yeah, exactly.
M: So that's like something in general. Also, do you know about, like, Japanese jazz? There's a huge jazz culture in Japan.
F: Yeah, I mean my dad loves jazz. Yeah, I'm sure that he's killer out there.
M: There are a ton of cool Japanese jazz bars in New York.
F: We should totally go to one.
M: I’m down, let’s do it. So, do you think, as time has gone on and now that you're more of your own person, you've done any exploration in other kinds of music?
F: I definitely want to. I think traveling with Doox to different countries and singing with other singing groups has been probably my first real exposure to other kinds of expressions of music which I think has been great. I definitely want to challenge myself to step out of what has felt very normal and very natural and really explore other kinds of music like Japanese jazz.
M: How did you get into a cappella at Yale? Did it just seem like the normal path, coming from an a cappella group in high school, or did you want to try something new, or did you like have any internal battles with that?
F: Yeah, I definitely didn't think that music was going to be a big part of my life going into college.
M: Why is that?
F: Just because my family is very goal-oriented in a specific way where having really stable financial security is important. I guess following that rule specifically is something that is just very perpetrated in my family, and music definitely doesn't, in most ways, fill that role. So, it was kind of like, “Okay, I'm going to college, and this is like where the real shit happens.” So it really wasn’t in my field of vision. When I decided to go to Yale, that was when I was like, “Okay, maybe I'll join an a cappella group because it’s such a big thing here.” I felt like that could be a big part of my Yale experience and, since joining Doox, it has just become much more important to me. It's become much more than just a creative outlet. It's become a big part of my life.
M: Is that something you want to pursue at all after college?
F: I could totally envision music being present and maybe even being the focus of my life, but I don't know in what like capacity that would be. I don't think I would be a singer or performer.
M: How did you end up choosing to come to Yale?
F: Since a pretty young age, as I said, I had been thinking about college ever since I was little. My parents told me that I should go to one of these schools… and they listed five. It was like five schools.
M: What were they?
F: They were like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Wharton. My brother went to Wharton. Yeah, so it was just like, that's kind of whack.
M: When did they tell you that, when you were choosing schools or when you were applying?
F: Well, I think it started from when my siblings were applying.
M: Where did your siblings end up going to school?
F: My sister ended up going to Edinburgh in Scotland, and that was like an incredible experience for her because she was able to travel so much. That was something that was and still is a very important part of her life. Just being exposed to different cultures and having different experiences and going to random places where people just have a very different outlook and perspective from people in America specifically. My brother, my eldest brother, went to Wharton. My other brother is currently a senior at Princeton.
M: What kind of pressure did you feel growing up, as the last Kigawa?
F: I felt a lot of pressure. I think I felt pressure especially from the middle school to high school transition because both my brothers went to this one school that was pretty hard to get into. They're actually a good number of Yale students who went there. It's called Regis.
M: Is it a boarding school?
F: It's a Jesuit all-boys school in New York City. It's very niche. So, in middle school, I applied to this one school that both my brothers went to, and I didn't get in. And that was a pretty crushing moment for me because throughout middle school, I had always been compared to my brothers. It was like, okay. I have been constantly compared to my brothers. They've done this. I tried to do it. I didn't get it. I'm not as good as them, and then I stayed for a ninth grade at my middle school, and I'm so glad that I did it. It was an incredible experience. And then one of my brothers actually transferred to St. Paul’s.
M: Is that also a private school, or is it a boarding school?
F: Also a private school. A private boarding school in New Hampshire. And then I applied to that school, and I also didn't get into that school after my brother had transferred. So, I think I was dealing with a lot of feeling overshadowed by my brothers. Then I applied late to St. Andrew’s and I got in. I thought to myself, “Okay, that's what I want to do. I want to go someplace where they want me and they find value in me.” That could not have been a better move or better decision for me because I was really able to grow into my own person and pursue my own path irrespectively and independently from my siblings. And so, when college came around, like yes, I was definitely thinking about going to Yale. Yale was my first choice. I applied early. But also after having gone through that experience from middle school to high school, it wasn't like, “Okay, if I don't get into Princeton or Wharton, I'm not as good as my brothers,” because I had worked into myself fully enough to not really feel like I had to compare myself to them.
M: How did your parents deal with that whole situation of you trying to go to Regis and trying to go to St. Paul's?
F: I think my dad stayed pretty uninvolved. I think he was probably disappointed that I didn't get in to Regis and then probably disappointed that I didn't get in to St. Paul's. My dad has rarely been a source of support or comfort throughout my life, so when I ultimately went to St. Andrews, he was probably just like “cool.” My mom was trying to be as supportive for me as she could. I mean, it's hard. Like if you try to put yourself in the situation that I was in, no one can tell you, “It's fine, sweetie. You're just as good as your brothers,” right? But having those results… I was a kid. You have to deal with that yourself. And I think that I did.
M: Can you talk a little bit about what you study and why you study that? What did you expect to study when you first came here and how did that plan diverge?
F: Yeah, so throughout my academic career, I was very focused on classics, but I didn't really want to major in Classics. I'm very grateful for having studied Latin and Greek and ancient history because, I mean, in a lot of ways, it was most instrumental in the way that I learn now: being very methodical and thoughtful. But I didn't want to major in Classics. I didn't want to become a professor. I came in thinking “I want to double major to Econ and Psych,” which, very quickly, I realized that neither of those things were what I wanted to do. Then last semester, my freshman spring, I decided to take a stats class and a computer science class. It was really, really tough. It was really difficult. But I was like, “I really want to get good at this.” Especially at Yale, I had this sense that I needed to do something that I was already good at because if I start new in a certain field of study, there are going to be people who are my age who have been doing this their entire lives, and I just can't measure up to them or to compare to them. And I think that was an insecurity that I had throughout my first year. But when I decided to take these kind of technical classes, I was like, “I'm going to get good at this. This is something that I'm going to show myself that I can work really hard at and then get on the same level as all these other people.” Since starting in January, I've basically coded most of every day, for most days, for the better part of a year. I've decided to major in Computer Science. It's really difficult, but I find it really fulfilling and, more than anything, I showed myself and proved to myself that no matter how hard something is and no matter how good other people are at it, I can still get on that level.
M: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s definitely something that's kind of connected back to being the youngest sibling and having that mentality.
F: Yeah, like the sense of feeling that if I persevere, I will get to where I need to go.
M: And you're proving yourself for yourself. That's all you need.
F: Yeah, exactly. And since feeling like I've gotten proficient at coding, every other part of my life where I want to reach a goal or attain a goal, there is not even a question of being able to do it if I put in the time and effort to do it. That has been very true with singing. With really anything. It's like, it's going to happen if I just keep on doing it and working at it.
M: Are there any other extracurriculars that you take part in at Yale?
F: The only other thing is that I'm involved in a fraternity. I wouldn't even consider it an extracurricular. It's just more of a social group.
M: Is there a reason why you joined? What like pushed you to seek that out, whether it was for that specific fraternity or for those kinds of spaces in entirety?
F: So, I didn't rush any other fraternities. The reason why Sig Ep [Sigma Epsilon] was specifically compelling to me was that a lot of the people that I had met my first semester here, that I wasn't necessarily very close but were involved in cool stuff, were also trying to join this group. I thought that it would just be a great opportunity to really share that space with people who I would get closer to, people who I respected, and people who I was inspired by in some capacities. I just thought it would be like a great group to get to know these people in while meeting new people along the way.
M: When you came to Yale, you probably checked off that you're Asian… because that's what people do. Were you at all connected with a peer liaison from the Asian American Cultural Center and were you ever connected with that community at large or the system of cultural houses at all?
F: I think I got an email from the AACC. I think I got a welcome basket from the AACC. You currently have a water bottle that says the AACC, huh?
M: That's because I lost all my other water bottles, and this was in the back of my closet. I was just like, Well, this is what it’s going to be.
F: I think that I was originally kind of annoyed with the PL system… or I don't even know if I had a PL… I probably did.
M: Yeah, it was Peter for Davenport.
F: So, I was just kind of annoyed that I was reached out to by the ACCC, that they were presumptuous of what I needed.
M: What do you think they were claiming that you needed?
F: I don't know. I think that it just seemed that they thought that just because I am part Asian that I need an Asian support system. A support system that is… for like… I don't know. It just seemed to me like, “Why would I be participating in this if I didn't even sign up for it?”
M: Yeah, I think the point of reaching out to students is so they can feel like the space is already theirs.
F: Yeah, which is fine, and I'm not resentful towards the AACC. I had stronger thoughts about this when I first encountered it. Now, it has just fallen to the wayside. I think that a lot of Asian students’ experiences at Yale are not similar to mine, and to feel like I need the same resources to the same extent is a little bit disingenuous, and I think that it's just not really very true to me. Like, I've been to the AACC before; it's a nice building. The people seem nice, but it just never has been a space that I can call my home. It has just not been like that.
M: Do you think you feel that way because you feel like that space doesn't belong to you as a mixed-race person? Do you feel comfortable in that space?
F: I think that being mixed has definitely made me take into account race more, but definitely doesn't make me feel like I necessarily belong to any specific space. I definitely don't feel uncomfortable in the AACC. Maybe if the Asian people that I spend time with naturally were more involved in the AACC, I would totally feel like that space would resonate with me, and I would feel great about it. But very few of my friends are involved in that space. I guess that just reaffirms how I perceive that space, which is just that it's not mine.
M: I see what you’re saying, and, at least in my experience, being mixed and going in to these spaces that were created for people of color by giving them resources to help navigate predominantly white spaces almost seems delegitimizing and wrong. I’m personally trying to get over that insecurity, but knowing I have white passing privilege and not having to deal with the same problems—or to the fullest extent—as other Asian Americans can make me feel like that resource feel doesn't belong to me.
F: Yeah, I think most of the things that you, I feel the same way about, yeah.
M: Yeah, so a club has been initiated called Asian-ish. It’s a club for mixed-race Asians and Asian Americans. Have you been to this club or is it something you have wanted to get involved in? Do you feel like you would belong in a space like this over a space like the AACC?
F: That's a great question, Miho!
M: Why, thank you so much, Francis!
F: Actually, I first heard of this this organization from you! It seems cool! In high school, I started a multiracial affinity group. It was bomb! Everybody wanted to be in it, but only mixed people could be in it, so I was totally for it.
M: Well, you started a mixed-race club at high school, so you obviously knew some mixed people. Were those people primarily second-generation?
F: It was definitely people who were like me, which resonated well with me. But I would probably say yeah, most of them are probably second generation or something like that.
M: You were talking about how, coming to Yale, you’ve had a lot of experience in classics and Latin, you've done a lot of exploration in comp sci, and, when talking about music, you wish you had more exposure to music from other cultures while growing up. Have you found like a void in your academia when it comes to learning about other cultures, about Japanese people, or Asian Americans as a whole?
F: Yeah, I mean on the one hand I feel like there has been that void. And on the other hand, at least in this moment in my life right now, like the right right now, I don't really have that much of an incentive or intrinsic motivation to immerse myself in learning about East Asian history or immersing myself in stuff that I just haven't been exposed to it all. I would hope that changes in the near future. For right now, I'm just trying to become better and better at computer science. And, I think, as a result of that, everything else falls to the wayside.
M: Yeah, of course. But it also sounds like you're having these kinds of conversations because, a lot of the time, learning doesn’t take place in the classroom. Like, you talk to your friend Zev about these kinds of topics.
F: Yeah, he knows literally everything about Asian history.
M: How did you guys meet?
F: We met through a mutual friend before we came to Yale. And yeah, we just got lunch a few weeks before we got to Yale. Then we just clicked once we got here and, throughout all of last year actually, I learned so much just through conversations with him and the different spaces that we would encounter and navigate together. That facilitated a lot of learning for me. Like, Zev is very much connected with these underground networks of Asian immigrants and refugees in New York City, and when I would go back home, we would hang out in these parts of Queens or like different boroughs. And I’d be like, “Holy shit, I've lived here my entire life, but I've only been having this like one specific and very narrow perspective of what New York is on the Upper East Side or just like Manhattan itself. Most exposure was probably like going to Chinatown or something like that. And I think that those were definitely experiences that I really appreciate and really valued. I think they helped to grow my understanding of what it means to be living in New York, and I do want to have more of those experiences.
M: Have you ever been to the Korean baths in Queens?
F: Haha, no.
M: We should go. They’re so fun.
F: Have you been? When?!
M: Well, my parents are from New York. My brother was born, and I have a lot of family there. So we go there for all the holidays. Now I have grown cousins who are young professionals living in Queens and Brooklyn. One of my cousins just moved to San Diego, but she was going to law school in Queens so I would go with her a lot.
F: That's super cool. Where was your brother born?
M: He was born on the Upper West Side. My parents lived around 93rd and Broadway.
F: What? I didn’t know that! You never told me that! Did you ever live there?
M: No, they moved to Atlanta when my mom was pregnant with me. So I was born in Atlanta, and my brother was basically raised there.
F: That’s so cool.
M: Well, before we conclude, is there anything else you want to add?
F: I've thought a lot about my race and my racial identity, but something I think is really cool about this project is that I can totally just be navigating my life without having to always be conscious and aware of my racial identity.