by Mia Nakaji Monnier
BWR 48.2 Nonfiction Contest Winner
I watch the sky to see if I can pinpoint the moment when one thing turns into another. The sun sets out of view. The sky turns blue again, deepening like shades of indigo-dyed fabric, soaked progressively longer. I watch because I don’t want to miss any of it, the most beautiful and fleeting bit of day.
I watch myself in the mirror with a similar attention—not to find beauty but to see where one thing turns into another. When do I look Asian and when do I look white? Unlike watching the sky, it feels unhealthy. I want to apologize to my face in the mirror for putting it through these trials, which are not only painful but, worse, basic. My husband, who is also mixed-race, says I’m regressing. “Go look at the Kip Fulbeck book or something,” he says, when I ask, “Am I a weirdly white-looking hapa?” I don’t like to ask it, but I know I can ask him. I know his answer won’t be to study my features and give me an empirical answer, as if one exists.
Mia Nakaji Monnier is a writer in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in BuzzFeed, Shondaland, The Washington Post, and the book This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection by Jen Hewett (Roost Books, 2021). She is a 2021 Idyllwild Arts Nonfiction Fellow and Tin House alum.