Leah Nanako Winkler

Leah Nanako Winkler is a first generation hapa living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a writer of plays, essays and television pilots.  You can learn more about Leah and her work at www.leahwinkler.org.

Updated February 2013

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Maneuvering Margins – Adventures From The Between

It didn’t take long after I moved from a cramped apartment I couldn’t afford on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to a friend’s house in Astoria, a highly cultural yet homely neighborhood in Queens, that I began to notice that my surroundings had become more Japanese. Whether I was buying onigiri and natto at the Family Market (no relation to the eerily similar looking Family Mart—the Japanese konbini franchise) around the corner or dining at the deliciously authentic Lin restaurant (also providing nice sharpening services), being a hapa who grew up with Japanese food and culture suddenly seemed a little more …

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Five Places That Can Make a Hapa Feel at Home in NYC

For the first six years of my life, I was convinced that the United States and Japan were literally on different planets. During fourteen-hour red-eye flights from Narita to Ohio, I envisioned the airplane as a rocket ship, speeding through the silver clouds in the night sky. I was stupidly thrilled by the notion of passing through the orbiting stars of the galaxy while my mother nervously downed multiple Bloody Marys in preparation for a visit with the in-laws who lived on a farm and used terms like “warsh” and “yuens.”

My grandma’s dusty home, filled with animals with bizarre …

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I Am Job

I was fourteen when I got my first job as a cashier at a Japanese convenience store in Lexington, Kentucky. We sold imported goods like Haichu and Pocky at inflated prices and welcomed each customer with a pleasant “irasshai mase!”

Soon after, I made enough connections in the small Japanese community to acquire a waitress position at a local sushi bar. I was fired after three weeks for (a) being a horrible waitress and (b) not being able to understand my boss’s broken English. Every time I asked that she spoke to me in her native language, she …

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I know that the last time I said goodbye to my Grandfather, he told me he loved me very much. But when I look back at that moment, I can only see blurry flashes of memories that never existed.

He opens the shoji, walking towards the genkan of a white space. He smiles, looking chubbier than usual—similar to how he looked before dialysis treatments when he could enjoy the poisons of his choice—like soy sauce and sake.

I don’t know why I can’t see what his frail body really looked like, or how, and if, we were standing. I …

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A Day in a Life of a Not Quite New York Hapa Who Is Told She Looks Like Winnie Cooper From The Wonder Years

  8:15 a.m.

Alarm. Cotton mouth. The side effects of the sertaline (a Zoloft generic because I can’t afford the real thing) are kicking in. Lament Dr. Hoffman for increasing the dosage. I did not sleep well. Eyes still heavy. Press snooze.

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8:30 a.m.

Alarm. Half-dreaming of floating balloons and cranes. See a missed call from my mother. I miss her but she stresses me out. Forget to press snooze.

8:55 a.m.

Sound of a blender. Pretty White Roommate is making a protein shake. I’m going to be late for work again.

9:07 a.m.

Ask if Pretty White …

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