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“Ham Chơi”: A Poem About the Intersection of Queerness, Refugeedom, and Third Cultural Perspective

By V. Châu

Ham Chơi is the craving for play

a feeling akin to the delight of a child 

around a sprinkler on a hot summer’s day

But Ham Chơi isn’t so simply childlike joy; there is subtext; a steep price.

Ham Chơi is an accusation of pretense;

A desire to put on a show.

Ham Chơi is a question. 

An interrogation asking: “Who do you think you are?”

Ham Chơi reminds you to know your place.

In the American imaginary

to “ham it up” is the tendency towards 

the theatrical and exaggerated

This idiom also alludes to the lard 

used to remove stage makeup

mentioned in the Minstrel song: “The Ham Fat Man.”

Ham Chơi could also be 

mistaken for a Korean person

Who is mistaken for me-

We mistaken for each other

Ham Chơi is the insistence on liberty 

A State of being 

A being which is free. 

V. Châu is a storyteller of the immigrant experience, a self identified Third Culture Kid (TCK), First Generation college graduate, and former Southeast Asian Refugee. They’ve facilitated conversations around the immigrant experience at conferences and community centers, shared their own lived experience at storyslams, participated in racial justice training with grassroot orgs, and dived into advocacy work around anti-deportation on the West Coast. Currently, they are completing their AmeriCorps term at Public Allies Cincinnati where they spotlight Alumni stories and lead workshops at the intersection of professional development and social justice. 

This piece is part of Public Allies’ campaign to highlight voices of LGBTQ+ members, alumni, staff, and partners throughout Pride Month.