Kip Fulbeck, a UCSB professor and award-winning author, will read tonight at 7 in the MultiCultural Center from his book Paper Bullets, a novel based loosely on his own life.
The book is based on a young Asian American man who deals with issues related to Hapa identity. Fulbeck considers himself to be of Hapa identity, which is slang for someone of mixed racial heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry.
“Paper Bullets is essentially a love story. It deals with being Hapa and how men are trained to act in this country, especially towards each other and women. It is a fictional autobiography of a character that is sometimes me and sometimes not,” he said. “It deals with Asian American politics, dating and media. It also deals with a lot of touchy subjects that a lot of people don’t want to think about, issues that I don’t even want to think about sometimes.
“Fulbeck, whose presentation is a part of Asian American Culture Week, became known for his views on multiracial issues when his 1991 film “Banana Split,” which received several awards, aired on PBS. For the past nine years, Fulbeck has taught at UCSB as an associate professor in the art studio and Asian American Studies departments. He said he likes teaching college students pop culture, which he makes reference to in his book.
“If you understand pop culture, you’ll pick up a lot of stuff,” he said.
Fulbeck said he also likes teaching a class in a way that makes students want to attend.
“Teaching is live; it’s where magic happens. I learn so much from students. I set up a situation and watch this machine work on its own. I want to set up an atmosphere where people feel safe. We go there because we want to,” he said. “I also like to let students know that they have an effect on how I teach. It’s fun to take advantage of my love for pop culture – I love this stuff.”
Sitting in lecture everyday, Fulbeck believes, is really only one small part of the college experience. He said he tries to provide a different and challenging mode of teaching for his students.
“My work is really edgy. I don’t do the traditional academic role. I model it after how I would’ve wanted my professors to be when I was an undergraduate. My presence on campus is sometimes viewed as good, sometimes not,” he said. “Teaching these classes [the way I do] is very emotionally draining.”
Fulbeck said there are a lot of problems with teaching both at the UC and in America today.
“Teaching is not such a desirable occupation anymore,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s tremendously hard work, with little pay and little reward. I’m committed to changing that.
“Fulbeck’s Hapa identity is something he feels is unique, but at the same time, he said, not as unique as many people like to think because there are many other people in the world with a similar multiracial identity.
“Identity of any kind is a conscious, ongoing process. You never achieve closure to it. [Hapa identity] is really not that different than anyone finding their identity as a woman, student, or American. Finding it is about dealing with a country that doesn’t accept that the majority of the population is multiracial,” he said. “Multiracial people deal with it all the time, but they maybe never think about it. People may say that you have the best of both worlds, but really when they compartmentalize you this way they are finding the simplest way to do things. You can’t do that. It’s being lazy.
“Through his research, Fulbeck has discovered five basic stereotypes of Asian men portrayed in the media: Kung Fu master, drug lord gangster, wise old man, idiot clown and cook. He said that it is easier for audiences to get into television shows and movies if they can stereotype the characters.
“Generally, Asian men are desexualized, nerdy and good at math, while Asian females are hyper-sexualized,” he said.
Fulbeck said he has spoken to many different crowds over the years and found that his performances evoke a lot of different responses in the audience.
“People feel like they know me after I perform. That’s great, but it’s not always real stuff,” he said. “It’s really rewarding when my presence on stage reaches someone. Sometimes I might push someone’s buttons because I’m pretty controversial. Some people react to the surface level of the book, but they should take a step back and figure out why I am writing this.”