New Voices: “The Reflecting Pool” by Karina Cheah

July 10, 2023

Karina Cheah’s essay, “The Reflecting Pool,” set against the backdrop of a concert performance of Come From Away on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the 20th anniversary of September 11, explores what it means to be Asian-American in the nation’s capital, incorporating a history of the capital’s conception and design, as well as Cheah’s own history growing up in and around the city.


The Lincoln Memorial is recognizable, even from the side. My mind fills in the columns, the imposing statue of his seated figure as I cross Constitution Avenue to Henry Bacon Street. Most of the evening crowd around me flows in the same direction—toward the National Mall, where the memorial stands. As I jaywalk across Henry Bacon Street, I glimpse the crush of people already around the Reflecting Pool, faces turned expectantly to the stage in front of the Lincoln’s steps. I wonder, as I always do, how many of them are Asian—if any of the faces that will surround me will look like mine. I always expect to be one brown face among many white ones, but perhaps today, when I sit down, it will be different.

It’s September 10, 2021. Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, is presenting a free, one-night-only concert performance of the musical Come From Away on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in full view of the 2,030-foot Reflecting Pool that stretches in front of it. The musical follows the stories of the townspeople of Gander, Newfoundland (Canada) and some of the 7,000 “plane people” whose flights were diverted when the Twin Towers collapsed and American airspace closed on September 11, 2001. I’d seen the show in the Schoenfeld Theatre amidst the gritty, glamorous skyscrapers of New York City, but I’d take any opportunity to see it again. Especially for free. The prospect of hearing Come From Away’s Celtic-inspired, folk rock tunes outdoors is especially exciting; it’ll liven up the stiff, humid DC air. If only I didn’t have to trek all the way downtown—on the Metro, an hour’s journey from my house—to see it.

As a local, I should have known to come earlier. A free event commemorating the anniversary of September 11, in the nation’s capital, and after work hours was sure to draw a crowd. Especially, I realize, because the Lincoln Memorial is only a few blocks from where many of the people in this crowd spent their day working. Still, I’d thought arriving a half-hour early would be enough time to find a good vantage point—not right next to the Reflecting Pool, necessarily, but close enough that I would still be able to see the stage. The grass between the pool and the National Mall’s white gravel path are already crammed with people in camp chairs and picnic blankets. I will have to find a place on the path’s other side.

For a moment, I’m indignant—how could this many other people have had the same idea as me, to spend their Friday night here? How early did they have to get here for such good spots? But these thoughts quickly fizzle away. Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2017, and I’m always complaining about how rising ticket prices make Broadway shows increasingly inaccessible. People could, and should, flock out en masse for a free performance, especially on this night, in this city, in this allegedly great nation.

Pierre L’Enfant, appointed in 1791 by George Washington to design the “Federal City,” centered his city plan around Capitol Hill, designing the streets around it to radiate from America’s primary house of power.[i] The Capitol still sits in the heart of DC, at one end of what is now the National Mall. The mall’s westernmost end used to be the Washington Monument until the Lincoln Memorial was built—either behind or in front of it, depending on where you’re standing.

When you picture Washington, DC, these are the places you imagine: sweeping shots of the US Capitol rotunda, the Washington Monument’s obelisk, the Lincoln Memorial’s neoclassical temple with his grand marble statue inside. They have appeared in countless familiar films—Forrest Gump, Independence Day, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Sometimes, the Jefferson Memorial, the Tidal Basin, and the cherry blossoms—which bloom earlier and earlier each year—or the Francis Scott Key Bridge squeeze into the mental montage. It’s the glossy downtown backdrop for DC’s numerous high-functioning political executives and legislators: the members of our federal government, supposedly working hard to represent their constituencies.

Gravel crunches under my sneakers when I reach the path and start scanning the grass on my left for a spot to sit. The ground slopes gently up, which would be helpful for stage-viewing purposes were it not for the leafy trees on the path’s other side. Faces look out, past me, heads turning and shifting as they try to find the best viewing angle from their perches. When I glance over my shoulder, the stage and its sound and lighting riggings obscure the Lincoln’s façade. There are two huge screens on the stage’s either side—thankfully, or else I wouldn’t be able to watch the show at all—displaying the blue and yellow Come From Away logo, and excitement swoops through my stomach.

Come From Away tells of how the inhabitants of Gander and surrounding towns opened their doors to 7,000 strangers for five days to feed, clothe, and house them before American airspace reopened. Many of its characters are based on real-life people—Beverley Bass, first female American Airlines flight captain; Kevin and Kevin, whose relationship crumbles from the strain of being far from their different homes; and Nick and Diane, who meet for the first time in Gander and later marry. In many ways, it’s not about 9/11 at all, but about human kindness and the serendipitous bonds we form with people. It’s funny and heartwarming and unexpected—and one of very few reasons I would choose to go and stay downtown for a few hours. I tend to avoid this area on the best of ordinary days; even without commuter traffic, downtown is the last place I want to be on an American holiday.

To me, downtown DC is not the glossy backdrop for high-functioning political executives and legislators. It means K Street, where all the lobbyists work; it’s the White House and the Capitol and countless government buildings overflowing with politicians and their social-climbing interns. All of these people irritate me, with their façades of goodwill. Especially the lobbyists, whose job is to influence legislators. I spent a day in a lobbying firm on K Street, when I was considering pursuing politics as a career, and that was enough to put me off. There is a fundamental dishonesty about politicians and lobbyists. They want you to like and agree with them, to believe in them so you will vote for them, and they will say whatever it takes to make this happen.

Downtown means the worst kind of maze, where the streets masquerade as a grid. This grid begins logically, like New York’s—letters and numbers intersecting—but there’s no discernible pattern to which streets are one-way, and some streets even change direction on either side of an intersection. Diagonal streets, named for the fifty states, interrupt the grid—Pennsylvania Avenue, for instance, stretches a mile from the Capitol to the White House—and force roundabouts like Dupont or Logan Circle into existence. To top it off, there are traffic lights installed in these roundabouts, thereby defeating their purpose.

My DC is bigger than downtown, even shows flashes of personality. My high school campus sits on the Tregaron Estate, on the block between Macomb Street and Klingle Road. In the summers, my friend Liz and I make multiple outings to frequent different bubble tea places in Georgetown—BeauTea, Gong cha, Kung Fu Tea—and we linger there to soak up as much air-conditioning as possible. A few of my family’s takeout staples—Seoulspice, Satay Club, and Pizza Boli’s—are on Wisconsin Avenue, closer to our home in Bethesda.

I call DC a planned disaster and slander its design, but I am proud of having learned to drive through it, and I love knowing how to navigate the area. It’s full of deceptions; it’s more than the glass offices and government buildings and terrible streets.

Perhaps I am a deceiver, too: with my friends, I feel Asian-American, but with my family in Thailand and Malaysia, I just feel American.

I step over the low chain between the gravel path and the grass, still looking for a seat. I wonder if any of these people came here from K Street or the Department of Justice or the Capitol or wherever else, and if any of them will be seeing the show for the first time. I wonder how many of them are like me—grown versions of their theater-kid selves, who didn’t come from work but flocked from out of town to see a free version of one of their favorite productions.

Most of DC’s working population is from outside the city. I tell people I am from DC, because it’s recognizable from all those films, but my childhood home is in the Maryland suburb of Bethesda. My parents and all of my friends’ parents moved to the area at different junctures for work, as ambassadors or business executives or World Bank/International Monetary Fund staff. Most government officials and Congresspeople are from elsewhere—other states—because they, too, are ostensibly here to work. In this way, DC runs as Pierre L’Enfant envisioned it: as the nation’s big working city, a revolving door of employees. Even my parents, after over twenty years of living in DC, will probably leave the city when my sister Kanitta and I can live on our own. Kanitta and I have already made moves to leave—she went to Colorado for her undergrad, and I will soon go to Norwich, England for my master’s—and we’ve both said we don’t see ourselves returning. We are creative types, writers and visual artists; neither of us are following the political career paths often charted in this city, and if our parents do not stay, what tethers to this place will remain?

I realize I’ve wandered up the sloping ground, further from the path, and I turn to survey what my view would be if I sat down. The stage and its two mounted screens are visible, but I feel like if I sit up here, I’ll mostly be watching the trees. This production of Come From Away is a concert version, pared down from the original staging, so there will be no sets and limited dance numbers. All of the dialogue and music will be preserved, which is where most of the fun is; even though I’d like to, I don’t need to see who’s speaking and singing.

My eyes pick out a free spot in the grass, back toward the chain and the white gravel path. I beeline for it before someone else can claim it, surprised no one already has. I have a blanket in my tote bag, but I still hope the grass isn’t damp; I’d worn white jeans despite planning to sit on the ground. I realize that I could have brought a chair. I walked by the camp chairs in their bags on my way out of the house.

On my right, close to the low chain fence, is a mother with her baby, her head turning anxiously; she is clearly waiting for someone, or several people. As I start to spread my blanket next to her, she says, “I’m so sorry—I’m saving this space.”

“That’s all right, no worries,” I say, scooting back a few steps and spreading out my blanket so that she’s in front of me. Heat creeps into my cheeks—I should have guessed such a prime space was being saved, but it had still seemed worth trying for.

When a man I presume is her partner returns a few minutes later, he says, “They’re still not here?” and she shakes her head.

“I haven’t heard from them,” she says.

I want to ask her to move the stroller that’s obstructing the left side of my view, but her shoulders are still tight and her head still turns even when her partner takes charge of the baby, so I try to let my irritation go. I can see just fine. It occurs to me that this young mother was probably more embarrassed than I was, having to save this perfect patch of grass for a group that hasn’t turned up. I could get up and look for another spot, I suppose, but now that I’m here it seems easier to stay put.

Beyond the trees and the stage, the Lincoln Memorial still dominates my view, so large I can almost forget it’s there. If I tilt my head to the left, I have a clearer view of the screen on the right between those two trees across the path. I’d be able to see better if I’d brought one of my chairs, but then I’d be that asshole with a chair in the midst of all these people seated on the ground.

The woman’s partner moves the stroller, freeing my view of the screen on the left. Between both screens and the visible sliver of stage, I should be able to put the whole show together. In front of me, across the path, faces fill the space between the low chain fence and the edge of the Reflecting Pool, all turned to the stage.

I text my mom. There’s so many white people here.

Three minutes later: Maybe that is usual for concerts on the mall.

Historically, DC’s population has been majority Black[ii]—which, through a certain prism, makes the city one sustained gentrification project. Most of DC’s white population moved to the suburbs at the end of World War II, but increased rent and rising property taxes have pushed white, and then Black, working-class families into the suburbs, “[exposing] the city’s fault lines along income, class, and race.”[iii] My family is not working-class, but we do live in a suburb; we are part of this gentrification, too.

When I imagine DC, I picture a sea of white faces in the National Mall, in the streets around the Capitol and the White House. If that was part of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for the “Federal City,” he has succeeded to such an extent that I, having grown up here, don’t even see myself in it. Or perhaps that’s largely because I don’t come downtown that often, because there is little dedicated space for creatives, because I don’t believe I will stay.

The Canadian ambassador to the US addresses the crowd before the show starts, and I feel a wave of relief. Come From Away is set in Canada, after all, and I did not want to hear from anyone American.

For many Americans, it’s hard to talk about 9/11 without discussing what came after—the war in Iraq, the nationwide spike in discrimination against Muslims, and the lingering hostility toward non-white people. When Come From Away reminds us it’s about 9/11, it’s not afraid to confront the racism that day stoked, beginning already in the five days that followed. Ali, a master chef for an international hotel chain, already feels the shifting uneasiness around him when people hear him speaking Arabic, both over the phone and in prayer. Before leaving Gander, security staff pull him aside at the airport and put him through the most thorough strip search Captain Beverley Bass has ever seen. She seeks him out afterward, telling him, “I am so sorry that happened.”

In Ali’s arc, he makes friends with Beulah, who runs Gander Academy—the elementary school, which housed about 700 of the plane people. He offers, several times, to help the overstretched cooking crew, and he and Beulah develop a funny rapport over a recipe for fish with cheese. But those wrinkles in his story crop up, reminding us, When we faced a once-unimaginable tragedy, this is what we did to each other.

It’s not that I don’t care about 9/11; it’s that I have a complicated view of its aftermath. Part of this is because I’m not old enough to remember what the world was like before it happened. In my cognizant memory, I have always lived in the reality of long security lines and locked cockpit doors and intense American nationalism. And I have always been uncomfortable with this nationalism, with being asked to participate in something that was not made for me. I associate it with white men on podiums, with the unjustified war in Iraq, with being asked to stand and defend a country that has so rarely defended people like me.

I tell myself I can pick and choose which parts of America I carry. My passport, my belief in free speech and the right to protest, my attachment to the spelling and grammar rules of American English, my passion for burgers and macaroni and cheese. It is a point of pride that I never learned the Pledge of Allegiance, and that I never will. I went to one of DC’s international K-12 schools, where we didn’t have to stand and recite the Pledge every morning, where we learned to build the countries of our heritage into our identities. When I started undergrad at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York—the smallest town I’ve ever lived in—I had to unlearn the introduction I’d perfected. People wanted to know what state I was from, not, I was born and raised in the US, but my mom is from Thailand and my dad is from Malaysia. Now I tell people, I’m from Maryland, just outside Washington, DC.

This city I call home drafted and passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882[iv] and the Immigration Act of 1917,[v] authorized the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and originated the terms “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu” in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This city would eventually go on to overturn these acts and formally apologize for the internment, but it could not undo the hurt it has inflicted on the complex, tangled consciousness of East and Southeast Asians in America, where our individual heritages and traumas come to mean so little in how we are viewed and treated. Korean-American author Cathy Park Hong writes, “Whatever power struggle your nation had with other [Asian] nations—most of it the fallout of Western imperialism and the Cold War—is steamrolled flat by Americans who don’t know the difference.”[vi] These are the parts I carry but cannot choose—the burden of representation, the scars of being systemically and systematically othered, the politics I have learned to care about that have seeped under my skin.

I decide to take my shoes off. I’m going to be here for at least a couple of hours, so I might as well make myself comfortable. I leave them in the grass next to my blanket, lean my tote bag holding my water bottle and wallet against them, and adjust my position to sit cross-legged, wishing slightly that I hadn’t worn jeans. In early September, it’s technically still warm enough for shorts—and certainly still humid enough to feel hot—but I run cold, and the sun will go down during the performance.

The camera pans to some of the people in tonight’s audience whose stories inspired Come From Away. One of the Kevins appears onscreen in a red and black checked flannel, and Nick and Diane wave from their seats. My voice joins the cheer that swells in the air; something about seeing the real-life counterparts of the characters I’m so attached to brings them that much closer. These are the stories of real people, who knew a pre-9/11 reality that I do not.

My phone buzzes. Mama. A lot of people?

Super packed, I answer, before putting my phone on “Do Not Disturb.”

I suppose the sea of faces I first imagine when I picture DC is more international than I think it is. Not every white face, after all, is the kind of American white that reminds me of the men on the podiums. My closest K-12 friends are from Greece, France, Serbia, Canada, Russia; those who were born here have varying degrees of American accent, and they see themselves as international. The city brims with diplomats; local residents often refer to Massachusetts Avenue as “Embassy Row.” Flags catch in the breeze from the wakes generated by commuting cars: Sudan, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Japan, Turkey. On the same street, the Islamic Center of Washington, DC, flies dozens of flags, all for countries with practicing Muslims.

I glance at the crowd that spreads along and beyond the Reflecting Pool. Perhaps where I’ve placed myself is just where most of the white faces happen to be. The pool is over a thousand feet long, and I couldn’t have walked past more than a third of it before settling in.

Three musical numbers and two dialogue scenes into the show, the friends of the couple in front of me climb over the low chain, prompting a whispered flurry of What took you so long? and I’m so sorry as they clamber over the chain to occupy the saved space in the grass.

I tune them out for the Celtic-inspired folk rock onstage. It’s easy to click back in; I have every word memorized. The plane people are narrating what happened in the twenty-eight hours they were on their respective jets—flight attendants opened the plane doors, played three movies, and distributed the complimentary liquor. Nick asks Diane if he can sit next to her—a group of drunk people at the back of the plane are singing, and he needs to get some work done—and everyone, including me, cheers and claps for their first meeting, our applause echoing off the Lincoln Memorial’s columns. I wonder how far the sound carries beyond them.

A petite Asian woman is playing Diane. My gaze always finds her on the sliver of stage visible from my spot in the grass. As the cameras switch angles, I see the other brown and Black faces onstage, and there’s always a wave of relief. In the Come From Away logo, a globe replaces the “O” in From.

DC is a microcosm for a specific kind of America, dynamic and political and international but also radical and elite and frustrating. Those who work here represent the views of the people who voted them in, which makes it so the country, not the city, passed those immigration acts. Yet somewhere in the middle, Asians—and East Asians, particularly—were shoehorned into the role of the “model minority” around the time of the Civil Rights Movement. In this role, in trying to measure up to the standard of whiteness, Asians’ success in America became the means of undermining Black civil rights and promoting capitalism. “There’s no discrimination, they assured us,” Hong writes, “as long as you’re compliant and hardworking.”[vii] On a smaller scale, the model minority myth plays on those “fault lines” within DC: It has contributed to gentrification, to anti-Blackness, to driving the working class out of this city as we try desperately to stand as tall as the white success standard we are expected to meet. And then, Hong points out, “Isn’t that how whiteness recruits us? Whether it’s through retribution or indebtedness, who are we when we become better than them in a system that destroyed us?”[viii]

My knees are stiff. I’ve been sitting cross-legged since I got here. My right kneecap cracks when I stretch my legs and shift my weight back, resting my hands on the ground behind me. I catch an ant crawling on my sneaker, and I reach for it and shake the ant back into the grass. I’m impressed at the baby in front of me; I don’t think it’s made a peep since I sat down. It seems to be asleep, content to let Come From Away’s music swirl around it. One of the Kevins recalls an old hymn that was stuck in his head when he woke up, even though he hasn’t been to church in years. Multiple prayers of different religions and languages follow, cultures and melodies overlapping as the plane people seek their solace.

I have learned I will always be unequivocally Asian-American, even as this country and its people continue to ask me to choose a side. Do I feel more Thai, or more Malaysian?

Why does it matter?

Author Jenny Chang writes of being asked whether she feels more Chinese or American, as in more fifty-fifty or sixty-forty. “Justifying the existence of my characters does not interest me as a project,” she says. “Justifying my own existence interests me even less. […] Identifying these insistent requests for explanations and refusing to engage with the ones that are more about the questioner’s need to preserve their own world view is a big step toward centering your own story.”[ix]

I often find it hard to turn off the questioner’s voice, to shut out this self-justification I have become accustomed to. Chang points out that one of America’s great paradoxes is that everyone wants to be an outsider,[x] and for those who are often on the receiving end of outsider treatment, it is easy to internalize it, to ostracize yourself. I always tense up when I hand my passport to a border agent at Dulles International Airport, even though we can both see that the cover of the little navy booklet says United States of America. I have never been questioned at the border, but each time I am crossing back into the country, I wonder if today will be the day.

The radical thing to do, in fact, is to not give a shit. To walk up to the counter with the audacity of a white American and unapologetically hand the border agent my passport. To know that my existence, and my right to be in the United States, is fact.

I shift to the left to get a better view of my favorite scene. Gander’s residents usher the plane people into the Legion, where everyone has too many drinks and the fiddler from the Come From Away band gets to step into the spotlight and join the fun. The Gander residents hold a ceremony to make some of the plane people honorary Newfoundlanders. It involves wearing yellow rain hats, learning a thirty-verse song, and kissing a freshly-caught cod. Diane says she’ll kiss the fish if Nick does, finds that she can’t, and kisses Nick instead. As everyone in the Legion whoops, so do I, my voice rising with those around the Reflecting Pool. Everyone is a Newfoundlander, indelibly tied to this province in Canada.

I am Thai and Malaysian and American, whether I like it or not—bound to this supposed land of great opportunity, to which I owe so much, even though I don’t always like it. Cathy Park Hong says that indebtedness and gratitude are not the same. That she is indebted, and also ungrateful, to this country.[xi]

I am indebted, certainly, to this city. It gave me my best friends from childhood and high school, my primary and secondary education, my home of twenty-two years. Access to horses— riding is the only sport in which I will ever consistently partake—which gave me my first job. It taught me to get around by myself, first on public transport and later in a car. It’s home to my favorite ice hockey team, the Washington Capitals; nothing matched the elation of standing with Kanitta on Constitution Avenue in June 2018, wearing bright red Caps shirts, watching our team carry the Stanley Cup down the street, my street, our street. It fueled my belief in the right to protest—my first demonstrations were the Women’s March on Washington and the March for Science in 2017—and my constant need to stay connected to American politics. DC, in all its glory of unnavigable streets, incomparable brunches, and excessively humid summers, is etched into my bones.

Beverley Bass has the biggest solo in a mostly ensemble show. “Me and the Sky” always gets a huge reception. I’ve listened to it a hundred times, but today, when she tells us she is the first female American Airlines captain in history, I have to swallow an ache in my throat as I add my voice to the cheers that ripple through the air. It’s darker now, the sun setting behind the Lincoln Memorial, and the screens and lights around the stage are getting brighter and brighter.

I can’t decide whether I am wholly ungrateful to DC. I am absolutely, and more than a little; I don’t think any person of color of my generation is one hundred percent grateful to the United States of America. But the question persists: Would I be who I am without it?

I swat away a few persistent gnats, and they dissolve into the air. The resolution to Come From Away tumbles by after “Me and the Sky.” American airspace reopens and the plane people fly back to their respective cities: Beverley Bass and Diane to Dallas, Nick to London, and the Kevins to Los Angeles. Everyone, including the townspeople of Gander, muse over how different things have become in a matter of days—that their worlds, and the world as a whole, have changed. Around the Lincoln and the Reflecting Pool, everyone goes still. Perhaps they are remembering how their worlds changed, too.

Ten years later, the plane people return to Gander, celebrating the lifelong friendships they forged in those strange five days. Kevin, now separated from Kevin, explains that every year on September 11, he closes his office and gives every employee $100 to do good deeds for strangers; Nick and Diane are married, which gets an enormous ovation; and Beverley Bass brought her whole family into the cockpit for her final retirement flight back to Gander. The line about Newfoundland being the only place in the world outside the United States that shares the steel from the World Trade Center always cuts straight through me; my right hand flies to my heart as I tip my head back. The sun has fully set now, the sky that soft grey between evening and night.

My favorite line from Come From Away is in the finale: “Because we come from everywhere, / We all come from away.”[xii] This line, I think, encapsulates why Come From Away is my kind of September 11 story: it’s a reminder that it affected everyone, not only Americans, and that it had different effects on different Americans. It was smart to put on the commemorative performance in this city. Even in the smallness of my own world, my parents and my friends and the players on my favorite hockey team are all come from aways, finding ways to make DC our own.

I stand with everyone else as Come From Away’s band steps forward to play the closing number and the fiddle takes center stage. We clap to the beat as the cast breaks into a dance, hands waving in the air, and I grin as I see the actress who played Diane jumping up and down, spinning in her excitement. She did it. Everyone did.

When the applause stops—long after the music has ended—I roll my blanket up and stuff it into my tote bag. Stretch my legs a little before stepping back into my sneakers and squeezing past the group in front of me as the mother starts to settle the baby into the stroller. Gravel crunches under my feet as I step into over the low chain and into the crowd on the path that’s beginning to flow away from the Reflecting Pool, around the Lincoln Memorial and back into the city. I take my time on the path as the departing people mill around me, wondering if I can get a picture of the stage, but the lights will be too bright, the contrast too high in the darkness of the sky.

The Lincoln is dark now, draped by the shadow of the stage in front of it, but I can still make out those tall Greek columns. Bodies move around me—white, Black, Asian, it doesn’t matter when I am still in Newfoundland, in Gander with all of the plane people, when all of us have just soaked in this musical, together, in the same space. My footsteps speed up as I look both ways and step into Henry Bacon Street, the fiddle still singing in my ears.



[i] Kenneth R. Fletcher, “A Brief History of Pierre L’Enfant and Washington, D.C.,” Smithsonian Magazine, April 30, 2008,

[ii] Carol Morello and Dan Keating, “Number of Black D.C. Residents Plummets as Majority Status Slips Away,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2011,

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] The first and only major federal law that explicitly banned immigration of a specific nationality. It prevented Chinese workers—“skilled,” “unskilled,” and “employed in mining”—from entering the United States. (Yuning Wu, “Chinese Exclusion Act,” Britannica, n.d.

[v] The 1917 Immigration Act expanded the restrictions imposed by the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning immigration from British India, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East. (Robert Longley, “US Immigration Act of 1917,” ThoughtCo, February 16, 2021.

[vi] Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (New York: One World, 2020), 23.

[vii] Hong, Minor Feelings, 22.

[viii] Hong, Minor Feelings, 183.

[ix] Jenny Chang, “How to Center Your Own Story,” The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America (New York: Back Bay Books, 2019), 311.

ix] Chang, “How to Center Your Own Story,” 306.

[xi] Hong, Minor Feelings, 186.

[xi] Joel Hatch and Come From Away Company, “Finale,” track 22 on Come From Away (Original Broadway Cast Recording), Molly Records LLC, 2017.


All rights to the lyrics of Come From Away are reserved to Molly Records LLC, under exclusive license to The Musical Company LLC.

Chang, Jenny. “How to Center Your Own Story.” In The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America. New York: Back Bay Books, 2019.

“Come From Away” Original Broadway Cast. Come From Away (Original Broadway Cast Recording). Molly Records LLC, 2017.

Fletcher, Kenneth R. “A Brief History of Pierre L’Enfant and Washington, D.C.” Smithsonian Magazine, April 30, 2008.

Hong, Cathy Park. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning. New York: One World, 2020.

Longley, Robert. “US Immigration Act of 1917.” ThoughtCo, February 16, 2021.

Morello, Carol, and Dan Keating. “Number of Black D.C. Residents Plummets as Majority Status Slips Away.” The Washington Post, March 24, 2011.

Wu, Yuning. “Chinese Exclusion Act.” Britannica, n.d.

Karina Cheah grew up in Bethesda, Maryland (USA) in a multicultural Southeast Asian household. She has published a short story collection, This Side of the Veil (New Degree Press), and her work appears in Creative Non-Fiction (Egg Box Publishing) and New Writing ( In her work, she explores intersections—between people and place, between culture and identity, and within the self—and is especially interested in how we learn to exist in the spaces these intersections create.


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

Follow Us On Social

Masters Review, 2024 © All Rights Reserved