Yellow Peril
Medium: Tufting, needle punching, and weaving
Year: 2018
34 in x 42 in


Bilirubin: (definition) an orange-yellow pigment formed in the liver by the breakdown of hemoglobin and excreted in bile.

I never knew my skin was yellow or the smell of fish sauce could swell up a lunch room and burst. Before moving to the United States, my best friends and I would pedal through the streets of Hanoi--squatting around a food stall and splitting an order of hot fried cakes. Our mouths were full of steam, fish sauce, garlic, pickled daikon, and spit.

Orange-yellow pigment: natural coloring.

“Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis.” White boys and pretty white girls used to say words in my accented tongue to let me know my place in the world. One day in class, a boy yelled, “Kill all ‘em commies” as we watched the Apocalypse. Now or later, the helicopters would roll in, music blaring, white áo dài drenched in red.

Hemoglobin: a red protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood.

My father hated a folklore that we grew up with. The story goes, a poor farmer carved a wooden fish and hung it over the dinner table so his children could substitute the smell of chopsticks dipped in fish sauce with the taste of crunchy fried skin and greasy innards. Poverty humor was a way to cope.

Bile: a bitter greenish-brown alkaline fluid or anger.

“This, though, is the new American palate,” wrote Ligaya Mishan in her article for the New York Times on November 10, 2017. “Fish sauce like the underbelly of the sea.”



Photography by Kat Slootsky