What do you love about yourself?
I think the thing I love about myself is the thing that I also dislike about myself, which is, I’m reflective. So I try to think a lot about my own feelings and thoughts.
What’s your pet peeve?
Periods and commas outside quotation marks.
What intimidates you?
I would say people who are naturally very extroverted. My sister’s that way so my sister plays a really big role in my life. We are opposites but also competitive so everything she is I kind of wish I were. And I think it might work the other way around too.
Is she your older sister?
Yes, two years older.
Would you say that you’re not naturally extroverted?
No, I’m not at all. I’m totally an introvert. So it is kind of surprising that a teacher doesn’t have to be extroverted to teach.
If you were on a deserted island, what BSGE teacher would you want with you, and why?
I think it would have to be Mr. Lakhaney because he makes me laugh more than any other teacher here. And that’s saying a lot, since your teachers are actually pretty hilarious, they just don’t show it to you.
Whom do you admire?
I admire my father a great deal. I think he has a really strong sense of ethics that he puts into practice even when it’s not in his interest. He’s certainly not perfect and that’s one of the things I could always count on. That no matter what the situation was I knew he would always do, he will always do, the right thing.
What does he do?
He’s a doctor. He’s a gastroenterologist [a doctor that treats problems with the digestive system]. So, like I said, I’m not sure he has the best bedside manner or that he’s the most polite person in the world in terms of delivering the information to the patient but he’s a very good person. I think that’s had an effect on me.
What do you waste your time doing?
Oh this is kind of embarrassing. So, I’m a huge dog lover and there’s this website called “The Daily Puppy,” have you ever heard of it? [Laughs] So you post pictures of puppies everyday and I love dogs. My husband calls it puppy porn. That’s probably what I waste most of my time doing, looking at pictures of puppies and sort of “oooing” and “ahhing” at them.
Do you have a puppy?
I don’t. We’re actually in the process of trying to buy a new apartment so we can get a dog.
What do you love thinking about?
Oh, I have such a disappointing answer. I love thinking about, well it’s tie actually, I love thinking about literature, particularly the text that I’m writing about or teaching, and I actually really love thinking about my students. I think about them all the time. I talk about them all the time, with other people. I think students are so interesting and complicated and I like to try to figure them out. They’re like literary texts actually. Really complex.
Why do you like literature so much?
I think the idea of trying to come up with as elegant and convincing an interpretation as possible yet within a set of fairly strict rules, meaning the text, is a challenge that I really enjoy. I think it’s kind of similar to basketball, because there are rules and you try to put together the most elegant plays within those rules, and I think interpreting literature is a very similar exercise.
Do you like to write as much as you like to read?
I used to write a lot but I think when I got to college I met so many talented writers that I realized that if my strength was more in analyzing literature, that’s what I should stick with. But writing is very important to me and in college I ran the literary magazine so it’s still important but I don’t have a lot of time to do it anymore.
Which stereotypical high school categories would you fit into?
Oh. I was the most bizarre hybrid. Okay, so on the one hand yes, I was the Asian female nerd, no question, not going to lie about that. I did very well in school but I also got in trouble a lot. I won’t say exactly what happened but I was certainly not a good girl. Let’s just say when the colleges asked you if you’ve ever been suspended from high school, on the application they ask you that, I did have to check yes. But that’s all I’m saying.
What is something you can’t live without?
Public radio, actually [Laughs].
When I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything else. We weren’t allowed to turn the radio dial up to any of the pop music. So I absolutely hated it but it was background noise all the time. And definitely in some of the toughest periods in my life listening to public radio, listening to people think about things, or talking about things about which I have no awareness or understanding was a nice release. It helps you get away from yourself and try to remember that there are other things going on in the world, beyond your own personal drama. It’s a nice escape, the people are real and they’re flawed but they’re interesting. I’ve probably spent a lot of time listening to public radio.
You are a nerd.
[Laughs] I know.
If you weren’t a teacher what would you be?
If I could do my life over again—I’m going to interpret your question that way—I think I would have gone into the sciences, actually. My sister is a scientist and so my teenage thinking was, “well I’m going to be whatever my sister is not so I’m going to be an English person or a humanities person,” but I think in the end, when I think about what class I really loved and what still really captures my interest it would be something in the area of Biology.
What is one life experience that taught you a lot?
I think it would have to be teaching at San Quentin State Prison. It taught me a lot about what’s worth while in life. I think while I really enjoyed interpreting literature, which is what I was doing when I was at Berkely, doing my PhD, [which was] very rewarding and wonderful [but] there’s what you enjoy and what’s worthwhile. And I think I learned from teaching at San Quentin that what’s worthwhile to the world as a whole, not just to me, is, for me, the right decision. So there are days, like in the winter, when I’m walking to work and the sun isn’t even out yet, and I’m the only person walking in Union Square, that I feel so lucky that I have such a wonderful job. I work with such wonderful people and I actually really love my students and I feel that’s [an understanding] I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t taught at San Quentin State Prison. I realized that serving other people is actually the most satisfying thing you can do.
Would you rather lick the cafeteria floor right after fourth period or stick your hand in the second floor girl room’s toilet, but a random one and you’re blind folded? People have a problem with flushing in this school so…
Oh is that right? I think I would rather stick my hand in the toilet, and here’s why: you’re not ingesting anything in that way and I could just soak my hands in Purell for a couple hours and then I’d feel okay. But the idea…no, no ingestion of anything.
Where do you feel at home?
That’s a good question.
It was inspired by your English class.
I feel at home… I live in a loft and so our bedroom is sort of raised and you have to climb some stairs to get up there but you can still see Broadway from the huge windows in the loft area. And when I’m up there in the bed and—I go to bed much earlier than my husband does so I make him tuck me in [laughs] because, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together—so when we’re up there and we’re sort of talking about our days, that’s when I really feel at home, and I’m about to go to sleep. It’s a great feeling