I recently screened a film, After Life, by one of my favorite directors, Hirokazu Koreeda. The question the film asks of its recently dearly departed characters (as per its title, it is about the afterlife) is this:

If you had to choose one memory to carry with you for eternity, what would it be?

Wow, I thought. That’s a heavy question. I mean I can’t even imagine how I would pick my…

And then I had it, my forever memory. Just like that. A day later, I revisited my decision to see if I’d been too hasty, but it wasn’t…


Note: Back in October 2019 — you know, those sweet days of Before Time — I did something that I of course took for granted. I stumbled upon an interesting tidbit of information, I got in my car, and I explored the said tidbit in person. Without hand sanitizers, social distancing, or masks. Now that the world has begun to open back up (fingers crossed, knock on wood, that it keeps on opening), here’s to hoping we’ll all be able to do something like this again without a second thought in the very near future — and beyond.

What got…


Photo Illustration: Save As / Medium; Source: Getty Images

How a racial taunt is like an echo, calling back the moments of racial trauma that you’ve tried to forget

I’m walking out of Kronborg Castle, my mind overrun with what I just saw and heard for the last two hours: six hundred years of Danish history topped by a heart-pounding climb up the tower, 145 steps leading to a magnificent view of Helsingør to the west and the hazy Swedish coastline to the east. Shakespeare set Hamlet here, calling the town by its Anglicized equivalent, Elsinore.

I cross the moat and follow the pebbly path to the wide cobblestone walkway when a gaggle of schoolchildren approach me in their colorful windbreakers and backpack straps. …


How playing a violent video game brought me peace

If you’d rather listen to this essay, you can do so here:

This may sound strange, but I enjoy the idea of playing video games more than actually playing them. It’s been this way since the beginning, when I saw a coin-operated Ms. Pac-Man in the arcade of my youth. Shiny bright pixels, multicolored ghosts, wakka wakka wakka — I placed many quarters on the lip of the machine’s marquee, claiming my turn at the red joystick.

I really sucked at this game.

Except, when it was my turn, I was terrible. The maximum I could ever clear was three boards, and that was after…


The last time I drove my eighty-year-old mother to her neighborhood Costco was February 27, 2020. There it is, in my Quicken ledger, $221.16, of which $109.99 was my mom’s purchases.

She stood by a pallet load of red seedless grapes, sliding the clear rectangular containers around, as if trying to solve a puzzle. I suppose she was, her eyes squinted in concentration, to find the freshest one with the healthiest green vines.

Then she shifted over to the cardboard boxes of bananas, excavating through the yellow masses in search for the holy grail: ten in a bunch. Sometimes this…


It’s ten to ten, Monday morning. I’m upstairs in my home office, staring at the monitor when my phone vibrates, a text.

I rise from my chair and ask myself — why am I not down there already? What’s wrong with me?

I walk down the hallway and reach the top of the staircase. With every descending step, I know I’m coming closer to the end of this particular journey.

My wife Dawn is sitting with our German Shepherd dog of fourteen years and eight months and nineteen days in the mudroom, waiting for our vet to come to our…

Sung J. Woo

Novelist (Skin Deep, Love Love, Everything Asian), essayist (New York Times, Vox), occasional traveler. www.sungjwoo.com

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