This episode, we speak with Anthony Christian Ocampo, Ph.D – sociology professor and author of Brown and Gay in LA: The Lives of Immigrant Sons, an homage to second-generation gay men of color. We discuss the delicate art of writing as an academic while making the work accessible to laypeople, and why Anthony puts himself in his work. We also cover talking bad about books, and current renaissance of Filipinx literature.
The Stacks Book Club selection for October is Fairest by Meredith Talusan. We will discuss the book on October 26th with Anthony Christian Ocampo.
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*Due to the nature of advertising placement, these timestamps are not 100% accurate.*
Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to The Stacks, a podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and today I’m speaking with Dr. Anthony Christian Ocampo, sociology professor at Cal State Pomona and author of Brown and Gay in LA. The book is a collection of true stories profiling, second generation immigrant gay men coming of age in Los Angeles, under the weight of tradition, conformity, hetero-normativity and repression. They seek community and chase their own dreams while navigating between old school families and promising new friendships. Anthony and I talk today about his choices to write for all audiences and throw academic pretension to the wind. We also talk about his own life as a gay Filipino American growing up in LA. And of course, we talk about books. Anthony will be back on October 26th for the Stacks book club discussion of Fairest by Meredith Talusan. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the show notes. If you love the show, and want more of it, head to patreon.com/the stacks and join the stacks pack. The stacks is an independent podcast, which means I rely on listeners like you to make the show possible week in and week out. By joining the stacks pack you affirm our mission to uplift great books often books by folks who are underestimated in the publishing world and you earn perks like our monthly virtual book club. Bonus episodes, this past month was with Kiese Laymon and access to our Discord plus a whole lot more. If you’d like to be part of this wonderful bookish community head to patreon.com/the stacks and join. Thank you to our newest member of the stacks pack. Nicole. Hey, good. Thank you so much, Nicole, and thank you to the entire stacks pack. Now it’s time for my conversation with Anthony Christian Ocampo.
All right, everyone. I’m so excited. Today I am joined by Anthony Christian Ocampo, who is a sociologist, professor and author. And I have to throw this out there a member of the Stacks Pack, an OG lover of the stacks pack. I’m so excited that you’re here. Welcome to The Stacks.
Anthony Ocampo 2:06
I’m excited to be here because this podcast is what got me through pandemic, I swear.
Traci Thomas 2:12
Oh, I’m gonna cry already. I know you tweeted at me, like last year being like, just gonna shoot my shot would love to come on the show. And I was like, This is my dream would love for you to come on the show. So I’m glad that like almost a year later, it’s fine. Or maybe that was earlier this year, but it’s finally happening. It is. For people who don’t know you who aren’t familiar with your work at all or anything, can you I should have said Anthony is also the author of the brand new book, brown and gay in LA the lives of immigrant sons, which we will get to but for now, will you just sort of tell folks a little bit about yourself?
Anthony Ocampo 2:49
Yeah, absolutely. I am. Filipino American identify as queer. I’m a los Angeleno. I’m actually like from LA my driver’s license and all my addresses have been Los Angeles about like, I’m not from like Irvine or anything but Los Angeles,
Traci Thomas 3:05
No shots fired.
Anthony Ocampo 3:08
And Northeast LA, I just want to specify I’m from Northeast LA. I’m an only child. So I’m sure that’ll come up at some point. And let’s see, what else can I say I’m a professor of sociology at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. What else? I love dogs. I have a pet.
Traci Thomas 3:29
A pet dog?
Anthony Ocampo 3:30
I have a pet dog.
Traci Thomas 3:31
Versus like you said, you said I love dogs. And they said I have a pet. So I was like, is that a snake? Is it a dog?
Anthony Ocampo 3:37
It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful chocolate cocker spaniel named Schmidt named after Schmidt from New Girl.
Traci Thomas 3:44
Oh my gosh, love Schmidt from New Girl Love his line about mango chutney. Quick Schmidt story. He was at a restaurant with myself and my husband and my god daughter on my birthday one year, and my husband took my daughter to the bathroom and Schmidt was in there and administer sacks got so excited that he just thrust the child into Schmidt’s hands for a photograph and was like, Oh my God, my wife loves you. So they all come out of the bathroom together. And she admits like, Hey, thanks for your thanks for supporting my work or something. And I was like, What the fuck because like, I like him. But Mr. Stacks loves him. And so he basically lied to me and was like, my wife is obsessed with you. So he comes out. He’s like, Thanks for supporting.
Anthony Ocampo 4:27
And I was like, You’re welcome. Oh my gosh, I’m a big fan.
Traci Thomas 4:31
Max Green, I think is his real name. Yes, yes. Anyways, anyway, long story short about Schmidt. Okay. We’re gonna dive into your book Brown and Gay in LA. It’s really fucking good. It’s an academic book, but it’s not written like an academic book, which is the first thing that I want to talk to you in your acknowledgments you think someone for saying like you think someone saying basically, thank you for helping me make the science as beautiful as the writing or the writing is beautiful as the science and I want to No, it’s not a direct quote, but it’s close. I want to know how and why it was important for you to write an academic text in a way that a lay person like me could read and appreciate.
Anthony Ocampo 5:13
Right? So my entree into writing books was because I think a lot of any, like minoritized writers say this, they wanted to write the book they should have been able to read I mean, that’s a, you know, riffing off Toni Morrison’s quote of like, you might see the book you liked, and you know, you should write it. And so that was the reason I wrote my first book, which is about Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, because there weren’t a lot of books that were centered on the Filipino experience, particularly the connections between Mexican Americans and Filipinos, which is what I grew up with in LA. And so why I decided to write it the way I did well, to be honest, that’s not how I was trained in graduate school, you’re trained to write really jargony using big words, and you know, you have to start your sentences like, contrary to what parts as a robot argue, like that kind of stuff, right. And for me, I just, I didn’t want to do that. And part of the reason is, in part because of the campus that I teach Cal Poly Pomona, you know, this is a campus where my students are parents, they’re working full time. They’re balancing multiple things. And so when I first started teaching there, I started to notice that they would respond really excitedly about books and articles that were written in a way that was digestible. And they would kind of like literally not do the reading, when the reading was written in a jargony. Way. And I can relate. And that was me too, in undergrad and grad school. For so yeah. I mean, to be honest, like, I had a rule of thumb in my head where I wanted to write a book that the book, the kind of book, you would find that like Hudson’s at the airport, you could that you could read and over the course of a flight, or I mean, this may be TMI, but I literally wanted folks to be able to, like read the book if they were going to the bathroom, or like waiting for the class. But yeah, I mean, one of the best lessons I learned from my first editor, Jenny DeVos, was that you got to write in a way that gets people to turn the page. And as you know, attention spans are shorter and shorter with each passing day. So that’s why I wanted to do on a deeper level, I couldn’t imagine writing a book that like the community I write about, wouldn’t have been able to read. And so sure, I want to write for that, you know, teenage, teenage, queer kid that’s struggling with sexuality, or, you know, the immigrant parent that doesn’t know how to be a support for for their kids. Because I felt like if I wasn’t doing that, then like, what’s the point of writing the book in the first place?
Traci Thomas 7:47
Yeah. Okay. So, yes, all of that I love but here’s my big question. You are a professor, this is an Academic Press, how much pushback do you get from academia from the powers that be that you’ve written sensibly in academic texts, but it’s written for the regulars like me?
Anthony Ocampo 8:07
Hmm, you would get a lot of pushback, I must say. So, generally, there was a lot of sort of micro level, or was called microaggressions, where I’ve had some professors that I absolutely care about, say things like, Oh, I think your writing is too personal, or you’re inserting too much of yourself in it. And to be honest, it really hurt my feelings, because I cared about their opinions a lot. But to be frank, I think the reason that I was able to write the way I do, it’s totally structural. If I was working at a UC, or if I was at an Ivy League institution, there’s absolutely no way that I think I could have gotten away with writing in a way that’s as accessible as they did, because they’re the merit of your publications. And the tenure process is very much driven by what other professors think of you. And obviously, they’re not going to vibe with someone that cares more about pros. Right? Luckily, I’m at an institution where the tenure system is based on teaching. And so I literally had to create a freedom to write any, any way, any which way I wanted, which I don’t think is very common for a lot of faculty. But shockingly, it has been, it was a scary thing to do when I wrote my first book, and even scary to do for this book, but I feel like people are coming around and be kinda like the books that are more excessively written. Well, so that’s sort of
Traci Thomas 9:31
like the bigger question right like to you? And I guess maybe you’ve sort of answered it already. But to you, how important is it that academics are writing for non academics like how, like, because I think that there’s something to be said that academics should be writing for other academics because that’s like scholarship and teaching and learning and that’s where the debates can happen. But how important is it that what scholars are thinking about and working through is something that the rest of us can access and on Understand and also engage with.
Anthony Ocampo 10:02
Right? You don’t to be honest, I think that everyone has their battle. So I think that there are academics whose fight is to reshape theoretical frameworks and like areas of study and disciplines and methodologies. And that’s, that’s a battle that’s totally worth fighting. I think for me, as someone that went to school, went to schools where I never got to learn about Filipinos, I never got to learn about queer people of color, like in the actual classroom, minus maybe like an ethnic studies class here and there. I just felt like my fight was to make sure that students regardless of training, or any readers, regardless of training, were able to read about themselves. One of the things that I feel really lucky about is I’ll get emails from high school students, I’ll get emails from senior citizens, that’ll write me and say, Hey, I read something you wrote and inspired me to choreograph a dance or to write a play, or to to make a documentary. And I just thought, like, if coming from a community that is very much invisible to the larger public, anything that I get spokes to start creating, that’s going to be my focus for this. But for the brown again, that late book, I have one story that kind of really, really anchors, why I wanted to write the book in an accessible way, which was what Tom was giving a talk at UCLA. And I remember, it wasn’t even about queerness. It was I was just there on campus. And I had a Latino undergrad, who happened upon an article that I wrote about what it means to be gay in an immigrant family. And he came up to me and said, You know, I wasn’t here for your talk. But I wanted to tell you, that I just came out to my mom. And so when I read your articles, one of the first times I was able to read about my experience, I just started bawling when I read the piece, and then I gave it to my mom, who wasn’t necessarily like, okay with me being gay. And then she started crying. And then we sat down to read it together. And we both started crying. And I thought, how gorgeous that like, there was like a young person that could use something I wrote as a script for how to navigate one of the most difficult and potentially traumatizing experiences of their life.
Traci Thomas 12:27
I love that so much. Do you? I wasn’t planning on asking you this. But is there any idea of this book will be translated into Spanish or Tagalog or like anything? Like, do you know, I was just thinking about the parents, you know, like, because some parents might be able to read, like, because this book is about the sons of immigrants. So I’m thinking about like the immigrant parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts and like maybe they don’t read English. Maybe they speak English, but they can’t read it. Like I’m wondering if there’s if you have the interest of having it translated.
Anthony Ocampo 13:04
Oh, I would love to. I’m not fluent in either Spanish or Tagalog. But I don’t
Traci Thomas 13:08
mean you translate. Oh, yeah. I don’t want you personally being like, okay, Anthony, Sanyo figure it out. I just meant, like, is that something that’s like part of your impulses? Well, yeah,
Anthony Ocampo 13:21
I mean, I have big dreams of, first of all, it’s gonna be an audio book, which I think is gonna be great for folks that may not have the time to like sit down with a physical book. That’s coming out in October, thankfully. And so the publishers credit they were like, We want to make sure that the narrator is a queer man of color, like the people that you write about. So that’s amazing. And with Spanish and Tagalog translation, oh my gosh, like, I have always dreamed of my books like showing up in the Philippines or in Mexico, but I feel like I haven’t. The publication date is like literally happening in like five days. But um, yeah, absolutely. I think that if my goal is to target immigrant families, I absolutely have to figure out a way to translate in Spanish or in Tagalog for those that you know, can’t access it any other way.
Traci Thomas 14:08
Yeah, totally. Okay. We did I did we, I did a terrible job of like talking about the book before I dive into my questions, which is something that happens when I’m really excited about a book. So really quickly, can can you actually just tell for 15 minutes into the episode, can you just tell people what Brown and Ghana lay is about?
Anthony Ocampo 14:28
For sure. Brown again, LA is a book that chronicles the coming of age experiences of sons of immigrants living in LA Filipinos Mexican Americans, other other Latin X groups, and basically walks through their you know, over the course of their life, seeing how sexuality but also race and class affect every aspect of their lives from family to neighborhood life to school life to their experiences in the gay scene. So in a nutshell, that’s what a the books about
Traci Thomas 15:00
And you talk to over 60, gay Brown and gay men in LA, or from LA or have been living in LA or currently living in LA, it’s sort of a combination of people whose some parts of their lives were spent in LA, whether they were there for college or their college and on or if they were there growing up and went away to college or whatever. How did you come to your subjects? So I guess this question has, like, 1000 tentacles, because as I was reading, I was like, how did we get this person how to get that person? But I guess the first one is brown and gay and LA, it’s not female, Filipino, and Gan LA. Why did you want to include both Asian and Latin X voices? And did you consider including black voices? Or was that too? Like? How did you decide how small or big to make the pool? I guess?
Anthony Ocampo 15:48
Oh, that’s a good question. To be honest, like, part of what inspires me to write books or to pursue something for a research study is, whenever I encounter people that I don’t feel get third do in whatever space that I’m in. So in sociology, in particular, there’s there’s these broader conversations about immigration and race, where you hardly ever hear about the experiences of folks who are LGBTQ. And then of course, sexuality studies, you can imagine it’s very white. And if you do talk about race, maybe you’ll talk about like, one black person that the researcher interviewed or something. And so, to be honest, like, the the, the subjects of the book very much reflects the social network where I found myself embedded within I was, you know, my 20s was my, the years I was coming out is also the years I was in grad school at UCLA. And so literally, my life would be like, go to class, go to study groups, and then go to a, you know, some gay club at 10 o’clock at night, and like, literally every day. And so it was, in some ways, my desire to like, well, these two worlds that weren’t, you know, in conversation with each other. And also in, you know, I think what folks were going to remember is that when I started this book, I was very much anchored in the discipline of sociology, nowadays, I kind of consider myself more of like a writer, nonfiction writer. But in sociology, there’s very prescribed rules for how to design a study. So it’s often the case that you have to have comparative, you have to compare two groups, because it helps you see the similarities, but also, you can see differences. So in the book, I talk about how like maybe Filipinos and Mexican Americans have similar family experiences, because of the Catholic thing, but because the way they’re treated in schools differently, you know, the strategies they have for surviving, being queer in school can look a little bit different. You know, it’s interesting, you mentioned about, like, including black folks into the study, because throughout the course of, you know, me being in the scene, and just like my, my social circle, there’s obviously black queer people they’re like, and I think like, for me, it was a matter of wanting to. So in my area of sociology, my area of expertise is children of immigrants. And so I think it was focused primarily on that segment of the population. But imagine if I was like in New York, and had access to like Washington Heights, or I see, you know, there were more, for example, like queer sons of Nigerian immigrants or Caribbean immigrants, then that would have been a dope study.
Traci Thomas 18:34
Yeah. Well, that sort of brings me to my next question, which is like, LA, obviously plays a huge part of this book. It’s in the title, it’s the location. How do you think the book changes? If it’s brown and gay in Chicago? Like, do you think that you can write this book in those places? Do you think that there’s something specific about LA or is that just because that’s where you’re from? And that’s where you are?
Anthony Ocampo 18:59
Yeah, I mean, I am a los Angeleno at heart and so yeah, the ways like I am, I am, I am a writer, die. Los Angeleno. And so I just really love writing about, like, I think region is really important. So that’s why it was the anchor there. You know, I’ve spent time in Chicago and New York and in the queer POC scenes there, but I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am not comfortable writing about something right. Unless I feel like I am like, embedded in that community because it feels like I’m like mining or like voyeuristic or something voyeuristic and I don’t want to do that. And to be honest, like, I’ll be up to speak very practically early on in my career when I thought I was gonna be like a research university I had huge ambitions of doing the study comparing experiences in different cities. Like, like a What would it be like to be in the south, for example, which is obviously a super important experience. But on a completely practical level, you know, I wrote this book when I was in my first couple years of being, or I started when I was my first couple years of being a professor and going to the tenure process. And we teach a lot at the Cal State system. And it just, you know, to even do a, like a study in LA, and that was already taxing on me, so. And I’m also a very, like, control freak. I’m not the type of researcher that likes assigning undergrads to do my research for me, is, yeah, I still think it yields the same sort of conversations.
Traci Thomas 20:41
Oh, my God, I have okay. I’m like, looking at my questions right now. And I’m freaking out, because I have so many questions I want to ask you, and I thought, I doubt No, like, we’re gonna run out of time. I’m gonna try to get as many as I can. But we’ll see. I’m nervous.
Anthony Ocampo 20:55
I have no nervous to because I am on this podcast, and it is
Traci Thomas 20:58
don’t be nervous. No, don’t be nervous. Okay. I want to ask one more question that I don’t think really came up in the book. But I’m curious if it came up. And it just like didn’t make it in or it didn’t come up at all. One of the things that I have heard from my black queer friends, and by Brown friends who are not necessarily queer, is about anti blackness in their communities. So I’ve heard about a lot of anti blackness and queer communities and a lot of anti blackness and other brown communities. And I’m wondering, you sort of talk about race later in the book. I mean, not sort of you talk about it a lot in the book. But there’s a part when we get to like white, gay, West Hollywood, where we talk about, like, the racism of like, white, gay men, we’re talking about these nightclubs, whatever. I’m wondering if any of the subjects that you spoke to talked about any, like anti blackness that came up for them, because there are parts where people that you spoke to talked about sort of this internalized homophobia, it comes up in a few different ways about like, being one of the good ones, you know, being a will and not a jack, or whatever, like this kind of thing of like, Mom, don’t worry, I’m not that kind of gay. So I’m wondering if there was any like, you know, racism or racist NISS, racist racism that came up? Intra community that you that you saw or noticed?
Anthony Ocampo 22:28
That’s a good question. You know, there were a number of respondents that dated black men, for example, and there was part of me that wondered whether some of the experience that you see with like, heterosexual dating where like, they’re afraid that the parents would react a certain way to a black partner, I actually thought that would come up. But for the for the men that were dating, for the brown men that were dating black men, or had dated black men. That wasn’t that didn’t, you know, come up as an issue with their families. And I don’t know if it’s, it could be like social desirability. They don’t want they’re fronting their families. Right. Right. Right, right. Because let me just keep it real. I have no shortage of data points where I’ve heard Asian, like non black Latinx, folks, Filipino folks, immigrant parents say things that, you know, right are very obviously anti black, like things like, oh, that place is, you know, it’s a black neighborhood. Like, it’s awful stuff, then. And I think like, one thing that I have noticed, not just in this book, but over the course of interviewing children of immigrants is that whenever that happens in the context of immigrant families and communities, I’m glad that a lot of children of immigrants feel compelled to like, come with their parents or Shame, shame, shame. People that see those sorts of things or, or call them out. I’ve actually I see that more than folks call out. But at the same time, I’m not trying to romanticize people either. So I know, it’s one thing to like, post Black Lives Matter on your Twitter, but then to be completely unaware of who ahmaud arbery or breonna Taylor, or the Black Lives Matter movie, like Sure. I think that people of color, non black people of color, are just as capable as doing the lip service thing, as you know, the abbey having Black Lives Matter flags. And so I do think it is a matter of like perhaps when the interviews happen they have between 20 Actually, no, I can’t even I can’t even say that because they’re already like Black Lives Matter was already in the news. But I do think to your point, if I didn’t ethnography, ethnography, for example, as opposed to interviews, I can imagine that there would be folks for whom there might be hesitations about being a black person because they think you’ll somehow ding ding them and they’re already struggling to gain acceptance from their family is absolutely the case that there were moments where the talks about anti blackness in Mexico anti blackness in the Philippines 100%.
Traci Thomas 25:05
Okay, just because you said it. And I guess this is like a question that I should have asked the beginning. What’s the difference between interviews and ethnography?
Anthony Ocampo 25:14
Oh, yeah, yeah. Interviews is you interviews. This is the big debate in sociology. So
Traci Thomas 25:22
keep it for the layman out here,
Anthony Ocampo 25:25
interviews, you literally show up at a Starbucks or a cafe or someone’s house and you have a rough list of questions and you ask them and people provide their answers, right. ethnography, you’re focused a lot more on people’s behavior. Yeah, you’ve recorded what people say, but you know, if like, if someone says like, I’m willing to date anyone in an interview, and then you follow if you do an ethnography, and you see them at a gay club, and you see that they’re just not giving the time of day to certain. I see people of different races, then that’s the benefit of ethnographies, you can actually match up what people say and what they actually do.
Traci Thomas 26:01
Okay, I’m gonna ask you one more question about the book for now. I think that we’ll talk about the book more when we talk about Fairest, our book club pick for the month, because I think that there’s going to be a lot of crossover. So I have a I have things that I’m holding on to for that. But for now, my last question, which is something that you also just brought up, you started the book, or you started doing the research and interviews for the book in 2012. I believe that you said that you sort of finished it up in 2820 2016. Between 2016 and 2022, a whole lot of shit has happened. Are there any things that if you could go back and extend the study or if you could do an addendum when you’re when your paperback or whatever comes out or your next version, your 10 year anniversary? What are the things that you wish you could have asked about or things that have informed your thinking sense that you would be curious to have in this book from the last six years?
Anthony Ocampo 26:55
For sure. I think, just because of age, right? I think that there’s a lot of questions I didn’t get to about what family formation looks like. Some of the people that I interviewed are starting to like, adopt kids foster kids. And so that’s a whole nother conversation like queer fathering. That’s a that’s a huge thing that I think even like I’m struggling to understand for myself, and so I actually had originally thought that I was going to interview a set of parents, but I just didn’t end up doing that. I thought, maybe save it for the next one. But yeah, but to be honest, one thing I wish I did better. In the last one is I didn’t really dive into how Grindr and gos app like oh into smartphones completely changed the dynamics of how gay life functions in LA.
Traci Thomas 27:43
That’s like an entire book. It is it is. Or it could be I mean, wow, that’s something I didn’t even think about. But of course,
Anthony Ocampo 27:54
can I add one more? Oh, my God has to get to know I mean, I’m not sure. As you get some you have gay friends that are partnered or couple. One issue I really wish I one day I’ll write a whole book on is non monogamy?
Traci Thomas 28:10
Anthony Ocampo 28:12
Because it is it’s, it’s not that common that I run into. And it’s not something they speak about it out loud, necessarily beyond like set of friends. But like, there’s a lot of stuff that happens beyond the two partners that I think is like, super fascinating. And it’s not that like, it’s not a matter of gay men being like, quote, unquote, more promiscuous. But I think like, there’s a lot of polyamorous gay men out there that I think could teach us something about community like communication and ethical, ethical ways of going about a relationship.
Traci Thomas 28:44
Oh my God, that’s another whole book that I would love to read. Okay, so that was last thing, I’m gonna say, I’m gonna say one more really quick thing, you don’t have to respond to this, I just want to say this to the world. One of the things that I loved about this book is that you are a character or a person in the book, you show up, you let us know about your life and your experiences. And you say like, oh, I can relate to what this person said, or like, that wasn’t my experience data. And I think that that’s really powerful when we’re talking about authority. Because you are a professor, you are the authority on the subject. You’ve written the book, and you’re saying these experiences happen to me. So therefore, you’re like lending credence to your subjects. And I just really, really love that, especially because we’re talking about queer people, brown people, sons of immigrants, like we’re talking about people who don’t often get to be the authority. I am sure the academics of the world are like it. This is the law, but for me, oh, my gosh, it was like, it was revolutionary. I just I loved it. So so so so much, so thank you for doing that.
Anthony Ocampo 29:52
Tracy, Can I say one thing about that? Yeah, yeah, you know, I was taught to do that by my very first creative nonfiction. Teacher,
Traci Thomas 30:01
I guess I have one guest who that is
Anthony Ocampo 30:05
he has a layman first writing experience first writing class ever, he was like, Yo, where are you in this book, there’s not enough mention of you and that inserting yourself in that book, it’s gonna matter tremendously. So thank you, Jesse,
Traci Thomas 30:23
a genius. And with that, we’ll take a quick break. And we’ll be right back. Okay, we’re back. You listen to the show. So you’re familiar. This is the Ask the stacks segment someone has written into ask the stacks, the stacks, podcast.com. They’ve asked us a question. We’re gonna recommend books for them. So I picked this one because this person and you have some connection, not personally, but just in your life stories. This comes from Christina. Christina says I used to love reading nonfiction, especially about social justice issues in the US and other countries or biography memoirs about people who have made an impact on an issue. However, since grad school, that’s the connection. When I had to read so much for class, I haven’t been able to pick up nonfiction for fun anymore. I would love some recommendations for books that might be able to spark that interest again, and get me back into the non fiction world. I’m gonna give Christina, three ish recommendations. If you want to give her one, two or three, that’s up to you. Would you like me to go first? Or do you already know what you’re gonna say?
Anthony Ocampo 31:26
Yes, you can go, you can go. Okay,
Traci Thomas 31:29
I’ll go first. And then you can go. So first off, I’m picking a book that I literally just finished yesterday. It’s called Bad city by Paul Pringle. And it’s a he’s an LA Times investigative journalist. And he’s writing about LA and the USC Medical School Diem, like, fucking clusterfuck. That was the man who was giving methamphetamines to young people and prostitutes and drug dealers. And it was a whole shit show and USC, like covered it up, and the times covered it up, and it’s like this crazy story. My next pick is one of my favorite books. It’s breathed by Imani Perry. It is just it’s a letter to her sons. It’s just the most beautiful writing. It’s short and sweet. I’m giving you like a really big range of nonfiction books because the first one is like this thriller kind of nonfiction caper. This Imani Perry is like very memoir, very lush, beautiful. But again, it’s short, so it’ll feel manageable. And then my last one, if you’re just like not feeling nonfiction right now, but you want to get back in is to find some sort of book that’s like on a subject that you love. So I don’t know if you love the office or not, but I do. And I read the oral history of the office called the Office by Andy Green. And it was really, really fun. And so like a book like that, or like maybe a book on bachelor nation, there’s a book called bachelor nation. There’s that oral history of the wire, but I feel like oral history is like a really fun way to get back into nonfiction. So I’m sort of giving you like 20 recommendations and one there, including the one on 911 by Garrett M. Graf, and I’m blanking on the name. Anyways, it’s really good. I can’t think of it. I’m gonna Google it. Anthony Hugo, and I’ll tell everyone what it’s called when I get back.
Anthony Ocampo 33:15
All right, so nonfiction to get you back into reading nonfiction, the number one book, I gotta recommend site Jones how we fight for our lives.
Traci Thomas 33:25
Ah, so, SO FUCKING GOD.
Anthony Ocampo 33:29
That book is I mean, just seeing the title. I’m like, feel like I’m gonna start tearing up because that book is everything. poets who write prose or everything, if you want something that’s like, just something that really got me back to reading, in general. It was a nonfiction book by Ross Gaye called Book of Delights. Oh, yeah, people love that. It’s a gorgeous book. And, you know, I think another one I’ll recommend is a sort of Filipino writer, I think, dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas. Oh, yeah.
Traci Thomas 34:04
I’ve not read that. But I haven’t and I’ve heard it’s fantastic.
Anthony Ocampo 34:07
Yeah. And not memoir e books. I would say one cool book is the book ace by Angela chance by asexuality. Yes,
Traci Thomas 34:15
we did that on the show. Angela was alive. In 2020. I think 2020 or 2021. Love Angela. Okay, I thought of I didn’t think of it. I googled the name. It’s called the only plane in the sky by Garrett Graff, and it’s an oral history of 911. And it’s phenomenal. Okay, now we get to talk about your books. We start here always two books. You love one book you hate.
Anthony Ocampo 34:38
I’ll start with the one I hate. It’s that Mark Madsen asshole book. What’s that title that book? It’s an orange book that you see everywhere on the New York Times.
Traci Thomas 34:47
Oh, yeah. Yeah, no, it’s not the how to not give a fuck book. Is it?
Anthony Ocampo 34:52
Oh, I think that’s the title. Yeah, anyway, and to be honest, and then there’s that like, that quintessential The Bible for like white girls self help?
Traci Thomas 35:03
Yes. Well, yeah. The Jensen’s sheroes book. You’re a badass if you’re a badass is the Jensen cero. And then it’s the subtle art of not giving a fuck because that’s what you’re talking about. Yes. Because Mark Manson. Yeah.
Anthony Ocampo 35:17
I love you some self help books, but any books that like fully forget structure. Anyway, two books I love. Oh, I already said sides book. I really loved crying and each mark was amazing. Oh. And I love to be honest, how the word is passed. And let’s see jocuri Diaz’s ordinary girls,
Traci Thomas 35:45
I haven’t read that. So I read. Okay, I have one. I’ve read one. And I didn’t like one. I did not like crying and each mark. Ah, I couldn’t get into it. I think I’m like the one of five people on the face of the earth. For whatever reason, I was just like, no thing. Like, I just I don’t know, it didn’t do it for me.
Unknown Speaker 36:06
What do you think it was?
Traci Thomas 36:08
I think partially because I’ve lost a parent at around the same age as her and I just like didn’t feel like she got into the stuff that I was like, feeling or like wanting her to get into. But I mean, obviously her experiences were different than mine. I liked how she wrote about food I liked some of it I just like people were really taken with it. And for some reason for me it just didn’t. Didn’t do what I wanted. I might maybe I went in with too much expectation you know, you know for now. Anyways, what’s the last just like, great book you’ve read?
Anthony Ocampo 36:42
YA novel Aristotle and Dante discover secrets universe. I laughed and cried on that one.
Traci Thomas 36:49
Oh, okay. What are you reading right now?
Anthony Ocampo 36:52
I am reading a book by Aaron a service called This is why they hate us. And it’s about a queer kid in Boyle Heights, California.
Traci Thomas 36:59
For say, nonfiction or fiction.
Anthony Ocampo 37:01
Why? It’s a nice fiction.
Traci Thomas 37:04
Okay, got it. Do you read multiple books at once? Or just one thing at a time?
Anthony Ocampo 37:08
Oh my gosh, I am promiscuous. You took a picture of my nightstand it’s like a bunch of books with like, folded over at the page I left off at I am.
Traci Thomas 37:17
I just can’t Oh, you fold the corners.
Anthony Ocampo 37:19
I am. I am a folding corner kind of girl.
Traci Thomas 37:23
Oh my gosh, this episode of the sexes now officially over weekend. We’re talking again. Oh my god, I’m just I’m disgusted. I’m distraught. I can’t handle it. How do you balance reading like, sociology academic you things with reading? Like for pleasure things?
Anthony Ocampo 37:42
Oh my gosh, when you have a PhD in Sociology, you’re so good at skimming sociological books for the main point. And so there’s an absolutely no like digesting sociology texts, and I need to read something because the study, you know, I just kind of read the methods and the findings and get what I need. Got it. And so to be honest, like I I prefer to read like creative writers that talk about race or sexuality to be honest, I think they render it in a way that’s more accurate than say, like a quantitative study. But obviously you got to do both. So yeah, I’m a skimmer when it comes to sociology texts.
Traci Thomas 38:18
Okay, what books are you looking forward to reading? They can either be books that are coming out soon or books that you just like, No, you want to read?
Anthony Ocampo 38:26
Oh my gosh, this is a tough one. I am so bad about writing about culture and music. I want to read that Hanif of jerky book about Tribe Called Quest.
Unknown Speaker 38:38
Okay, he’s a good writer.
Anthony Ocampo 38:42
I know I have this pet project of one to like, write about my like the 90s the lens of music and obviously like canapes book is the model for how to do that.
Traci Thomas 38:53
Totally. Okay, how do you decide what you’re going to read next? Do you have like friends that you trust? Do you read The New York Times Book Review? Do you just go into a bookstore? Like how do you decide what’s what you’re going to pick up?
Anthony Ocampo 39:08
I’m very much inclined to nonfiction just like you. Like it is very much. I am terrible at reading fiction. I’m just not like I’m never compelled to do it. So there’s part of me that’s trying to force myself to do it, but it doesn’t work. But anyway, I’m starting to read a lot of YA that’s been my jam lately. In terms of books, to be honest, I am like I the influence influencers influence so whatever, whatever you say, you’re reading, to be honest, like, I’m not even trying to like blow smoke up your ass like your tastes and guests signal to me that will have similar tastes and books and so I ended up getting a lot of what you love that you do. So I have the thing and a lot
Traci Thomas 39:55
of what I read from my guests, so yeah, definitely even trade Matt, what’s a book? Oh, go ahead.
Anthony Ocampo 40:02
No, no, I just love how you’re like brutally honest about your reactions to books. Because sometimes I feel like oh my gosh, like Tracy said what I was thinking, but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to say about like, certain books.
Traci Thomas 40:14
I my like new goal in life is to get more people to talk more openly about things that they don’t like in books, I truly think that talking bad about books would be good for the book industry. I feel very strongly about this. This is like my new obsession. I think about it constantly, I have to figure out a way to talk about it more publicly, because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. But I just think about like TV and movies, and how much of the discourse online and in person is about things that you don’t like, just as much as it’s about things that you do like, and like when I say I didn’t really like the White Lotus. I don’t think that Mike White is like gonna go home and cry about it. But if I say I didn’t like something in someone’s book, it’s like you’re being mean to authors? No, that’s how we’ve talked about art. So I appreciate that. You appreciate my frankness, because every time I talk bad about a book, everyone on Instagram on follows me, I people send me messages about how I’m being mean. And I’m like, No, this is we need robust discourse around art. I just feel so strongly anyways, you didn’t ask. I’m just venting? Yeah. What’s something What’s a book that you love to recommend to people?
Anthony Ocampo 41:29
Gosh, already since I you, Joan, so be kind of like, overkill. I know. You always recommend heavy. I do. So I’m gonna go with a different a totally different angle. And I’m gonna recommend short story collections. Because this is like my gateway drug into reading fiction. Okay. After parties by the late at the deviances. So Oh, okay. I loved Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho, I totally think these are and of course locked by Brian Washington. So good. Any book where the city is as much a character as the people I like? I’m all about it.
Traci Thomas 42:05
I get a sense of that from your book. Interesting. What’s the last really good book someone recommended to you?
Anthony Ocampo 42:14
By time among the whites? It’s an essay collection? Oh,
Traci Thomas 42:17
yeah, I’ve heard of this. It was really good.
Anthony Ocampo 42:21
It was it’s good. I like it. It’s a very short book. And it’s about finding one that’s been like the only in like all white spaces and has ever felt like you’re going bananas and like, needed a way to make sense of it. That looks pretty darn good.
Traci Thomas 42:35
I like that. Okay. Are you a person who sets reading goals for yourself? So what are they?
Anthony Ocampo 42:43
No, not at all? No. My only reading goal is to read all the books I buy, because I don’t want to be one of those people.
Traci Thomas 42:50
I’m one of those people. How could I can possibly keep up with everything that I want to own? I’m really bad. That’s why I got a little free library because I was like, at least I can pay it forward to someone else. How do you organize your books?
Anthony Ocampo 43:04
sighs Oh, yeah. Wow,
Traci Thomas 43:07
that’s I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that before. Hmm, interesting. I listen, I’m a bicolor person so I think people talk so much shit about by color people that I’m like however you organize sounds fantastic to me. And I have
Anthony Ocampo 43:21
my faves. So this bookshelf this like corner bookshelf over here. All my faves so like all my favorite like Filipino and PLC writers are all over there. And then all the like boring sociology books are over here.
Traci Thomas 43:34
Okay, got it. So you also organize them by things that you want to read and things that you think are boring. Love this for you. What’s your ideal reading setup? Where would you be beverage snack time of day temperature location.
Anthony Ocampo 43:51
I hate the heat. So I need to be in an air conditioned room. wearing a baggy hoodie on not a recliner, but one of those like Ikea chairs. Like it was like he had chairs that are kind of like the back with my feet up. Yeah, I need to do that. And I can’t have any noise. I don’t like reading. there’s background noise or music. None of that. Oh,
Traci Thomas 44:17
okay. And beverages.
Anthony Ocampo 44:21
Tracy Diet Coke.
Traci Thomas 44:23
I obviously we’ve in our personal lives. Can Okay Wait, can I tell you a diet soda story really quick? Yes, I’m really jumping the shark today. We went to Lake Tahoe a few weeks ago and one of the problems with having small children it’s like they have to eat at a certain time. It’s not like adulterous like, Okay, I’m hungry but like I can wait till we get to the house or whatever. We had landed the plane the plane was delayed. It was dinnertime. So we were like where can we go and get some food? So we went to Taco Bell and I was like, Oh my God, all I want after this fight is a Diet Coke. Well, if you go to Taco Bell, which I don’t normally you know that they’re a Pepsi family. What the fuck Hey, I hate Diet Pepsi. So I get this drink. I’m like, so excited. I see that a topsy and then I see Diet Mountain Dew. Let me just tell you, it was the greatest beverage of my life. Oh, I think I’m gonna become one of those fucking weirdos who has cans of Diet Mountain Dew in her house, like, you know, people who have like weird drinks and you’re like, you had to order that online. And it’s like the most bizarre soda ever. Like people who have like diet vanilla Cherry Coke, and I’m like, you have that on hand. That’s gonna be me. But with Diet Mountain Dew, it was so good. It’s the color of a fucking highlighter. It’s insanely sweet and delicious. And it was diet and I I had like three cups of it.
Anthony Ocampo 45:41
Oh my god, I cannot That’s like telling me you have cactus cooler in your fridge.
Traci Thomas 45:45
It was so good. I just want to people open up your hearts to diet. Mountain Dew new drink of champions. Though the next day I immediately found a Diet Coke. That being said, Okay, what’s your favorite bookstore?
Anthony Ocampo 45:59
Oh, gosh, I got a shout out. Belcanto books in Long Beach is the indie bookstore Filipino owned. It’s the only bookstore in America besides Philippine expressions in San Pedro that has like a whole Filipino author section. So there, everyone you can think of Meredith Tucson Matt or T Leigh, Randy Bay. Albert sama ha like and of course, like up like Aaron and try to Kelly like every genre Filipino American Lit, you can find out that story. So Belcanto books, we love you. Of course, I love skylight in Los Angeles. And there’s a used bookstore in Eagle Rock that is really wonderful that has a bunch of books. But yeah, I would say those are my those. Those three are my favorite.
Traci Thomas 46:47
And what’s the last book you purchased? Air in a service.
Anthony Ocampo 46:51
This is why they hate us.
Traci Thomas 46:53
Okay, and what’s the last book that made you laugh? Ah,
Anthony Ocampo 46:57
I can’t do Jesus by Michael Arceneaux.
Traci Thomas 47:00
I love that book. What’s the last book that made you cry?
Anthony Ocampo 47:04
Oh my gosh. Aerosol and Dante is just hey, I never got to like, be a queer kid falling in love. So you know?
Traci Thomas 47:14
What’s the last book that made you angry?
Anthony Ocampo 47:17
I would have to say the how the word is passed. But Clint Smith that shit like it’s super important and enlightening. But oh my god. Like any any. Any book that reminds you what this country’s actually done. Yeah. It should infuriates me.
Traci Thomas 47:33
What about the last book where you felt like you learned a lot.
Anthony Ocampo 47:37
I’m forgetting by Roberto Lovato. It’s craft wise, it’s pretty darn brilliant. Because it’s, he’s Salvadorian. It’s about three points in time. It’s like a heat. It’s a it’s like a braided book. And it’s about his experience. Being a Salvadorian. American and going back to El Salvador. Just the image. Oh, that’s the last book that made me angry. Just the shit that the United States did in El Salvador is just fucking unfuckin real. So
Traci Thomas 48:03
I need to read that. What about a book that you feel proud about having read?
Anthony Ocampo 48:09
There’s a book by Albert Samahang. It’s a memoir family memoir called conception. And I feel proud that I read it because that book is all about the way colonialism affects Filipino American family is like literally to this fucking day. It’s long. It’s intense, history wise, but it welds memoir in it too. But it’s a it’s like, if you need to learn about the Filipino experience in one book, that one would say,
Traci Thomas 48:37
Okay, what about a book that you feel embarrassed about having read?
Anthony Ocampo 48:44
Oh my gosh, there’s a lot of self help books. I’m embarrassed.
Traci Thomas 48:51
That’s fair. Oh,
Anthony Ocampo 48:52
I’m not embarrassed about it. But I think it’s kind of funny. When my first boyfriend dumped me over the phone while I was in the Philippines. Cam I read that book. He’s not he’s what’s the other one is
Traci Thomas 49:05
just not that into you the one before it.
Anthony Ocampo 49:08
It’s called a breakup because it’s broken. It’s the same authors. And it’s the same theme but I I carried that book everywhere because I wanted everyone to know that was heartbroken. But yeah. It’s a little embarrassing in retrospect. I love that.
Traci Thomas 49:28
What’s a book that you wish more people knew about?
Anthony Ocampo 49:32
Oh, the one I picked. So review Fairest buy merits loosen?
Traci Thomas 49:37
Okay, can’t wait. Can’t wait. That’s for book club this month, everyone. So get a copy. I met Meredith at a book event right before COVID. In February 2020. They were like doing like a Viking whatever publisher was doing like a full thing. And Meredith was there and we got to talk for a moment. So that was really cool. So I’m excited to finally read the book. Do you have a favorite book about where you’re from?
Anthony Ocampo 50:00
About Eagle Rock,
Traci Thomas 50:03
or LA more broadly, I mean, whatever you however you interpret that some people interpret that as like the city that they’re from, because there’s a book about it and some people interpret it as like California or like knighted states. I mean, as broad as you want to go narrow.
Anthony Ocampo 50:18
That’s a That’s a great question. I’m gonna answer this in a kind of roundabout way. There’s a, there’s a book by Randy ribeye called patency of nothing. And it’s about a Filipino kid that, you know, goes back to the Philippines was trying to discover his identity and whatever. And so I’m not from the same state as the kid. But to be honest, like that setting of the Filipino family is very familiar to me.
Traci Thomas 50:45
I love that. I want to ask you, because I don’t feel that like Filipino authors are often like spot spotlit are often like, especially when we’re talking about like Asian American authors. I feel like often It’s Korean Japanese authors. Do you feel like that’s changing? Because I feel like you’ve named so many Filipino authors. And so I’m just curious, like, if you’ve noticed a change as someone who that’s obviously like your culture and your people.
Anthony Ocampo 51:11
Oh, for sure. I think like as a college student in the 90s and early 2000s. When it came to Filipino books, we had two books, Carlos Busan, America’s in the heart, which is like in the 50s. And then dog eaters by Jessica hagadol. And that was pretty much it. But I feel like in the past, even just the past, like 510 years, there’s amazing Filipino writers that aren’t just talking about being Filipino. So like Amy mizuko, metaxalone wrote that book world of wonders, she’s a poet, that writes prose. Maratha. To loosen is just one of several to loosen. People like that have written great books, marriage cousin, Grace, Tucson has written a book called the body papers about intergenerational trauma and esteems of sexual assault, which I think are really important to talk about in the context of like, immigrant families, because Filipinos don’t like airing their dirty laundry, that’s a thing. And so I’m glad that like, she’s very honest.
Traci Thomas 52:04
Like that’s like black and brown people in general. Right? Yeah. Or do you think it’s extra special? Do you think it’s extra Filipino thing?
Anthony Ocampo 52:12
I think it’s, I think you’re right. I think it’s like across the board. It’s the case. And I’m liking the cheeky kind of funny humorous books that Filipinos are writing Matt or Tilly wrote this wonderful book called The groom shall keep his name our Girl Yeah, same. And I’m like, low key jealous, but like someone that his age was able to write a book and it just he’s just doing the damn thing when it comes to his writing life.
Traci Thomas 52:37
So have you read a link Castillo’s new book?
Anthony Ocampo 52:41
I have it.
Traci Thomas 52:43
I have it. I started it. But I had to put it down. Actually, I think to read your book. I had to put it down to read something for work. But I’m excited by that book. How to read now. I have really excited about it. Yeah. I’ve never owned a book club about it. Her
Anthony Ocampo 52:57
first book though America is not the heart. What I love about what I love about that, but any book that doesn’t italicized Filipino words and doesn’t translate them that should feels like a gift. So I love Alene for that.
Traci Thomas 53:10
I love when authors don’t italicize words. Even though I am a solo linguist. I only speak English, but I fucking love it. I’m like stick it to the man. Those people like you know that shits not in English. Why does it have to be italicized? The only time I accept it is if the word is a word that is also in the English language, right? Like if it’s like the same word but has a different meaning and another language which like rarely happens, but if it does, then I’m like, Okay, fine italicize it because it might mean something different. But otherwise by No thank you. Okay, what do you feel like is a book that influenced your professional career?
Anthony Ocampo 53:49
Oh, wow. A book Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I read that book. When I was I was at a fork in the road. My career I was really trying to do like the research university thing. And got like, I just didn’t work out. And and then I picked up Bad Feminist when I was on a plane ride for some interview or something. And I was like, wow, you can talk about issues of race and gender and sexuality but like talk about like, use the F word and talk about sex. And he just had a touch of irreverence and I think is I didn’t know you could do that. So she kind of opened my eyes to that. I would say think there’s another book that kind of
Traci Thomas 54:29
Anthony Ocampo 54:31
I my dream she’s she’s a
Traci Thomas 54:34
sociologist. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Anthony Ocampo 54:38
Whenever I get to the point where I want to do essay collection like frail frail, thick is going to be my that’s my number one, like, goals is to try to write a book that is the same vicinity as that.
Traci Thomas 54:51
Wow. I mean, what a girl she’s fantastic. Okay, last one. I stole this from the New York Times. You If you could require the current president of the United States of America to read one book, what would you want it to be?
Anthony Ocampo 55:08
Can I do too?
Traci Thomas 55:10
Yeah, whatever. Okay. The rules here are a loose, very loose.
Anthony Ocampo 55:15
Oh God, South America by Rodney Perry.
Traci Thomas 55:18
Anthony Ocampo 55:19
And another one that kind of gets at the whole like you can’t understand the US unless you understand the South. Shields the Lehman’s heavy.
Traci Thomas 55:26
Yeah. Yeah. Not to put a too fine a point on it. But both of those people blurbed your book, so I’m just saying, oh, phenomenal, phenomenal blurbs phenomenal, Blair.
Anthony Ocampo 55:38
They are. I mean, it’s so cliche, but like that the stuff that they wrote, not even just their books, but like their essays, like just opened up possibilities. I didn’t know it was possible until I read some of some of their writings. And so that’s actually how I found you is because I was obsessively looking for places where they talked about craft and both the money and consumer on your show. And then that’s how I fell into the stacks.
Traci Thomas 56:02
Well, thanks. Thanks, Imani. Thanks key. And thanks, Anthony. We’re done today. People in the world you can get Anthony’s latest book Brown and gay in LA the lives of immigrant sons now wherever books are sold. It is October as you’re listening to this. I’m not exactly sure when the audio book is coming out. But if it’s out we will link to that as long along with everything else we talked about in the show notes. And Anthony will be back on October 26 to talk about Ferris by Meredith Palooza and I’m really excited. It’s a memoir. Meredith is Filipino immigrant albino trans writer, scholar, brilliant thinker memoirist. So we’re gonna get into a lot of juicy stuff for a sociologist and a boring, regular regular like me, so it should get really spicy. I cannot wait. That’s October 26. Anthony, thank you so much for being here.
Anthony Ocampo 57:01
Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Traci Thomas 57:04
And everyone else we will see you in the stacks.
All right, y’all. That does it for us today. Thank you so much to Anthony for being my guest. Don’t forget Anthony will be back on October 26. To help me break down our book club pick Fairest by Meredith Talusan. If you love the show on inside access to it, head to patreon.com/the stacks to join the stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks over you listen to your podcasts. And if you’re listening to Apple podcasts, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from The Stacks, follow us on social media at the stacks pod on Instagram and at the stocks pod underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of the stocks was edited by Christian genius with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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