orphans & outcasts

Good-Bye Tom Nakao

The Seattle Times
December 20, 1998
By Alex Tizon

A not-so-famous person is lying in a hospital bed saying his last goodbyes. His name is Tom Nakao. He is 46, now a trembling branch of a man in the final stage of cancer. Unless you are a gang-banger, runaway or dropout; black or brown; poor or foreign-born; unless you are considered incorrigible, deviant or dangerous, the kind of person most of us would just as soon avoid, you probably don’t know him. These are Nakao’s people.

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Orphans Of History

The Seattle Times
March 12, 1996
By Alex Tizon

Blia Xiong, a small, soft-spoken woman with a radiant face, says she’s been writing a letter in her head for years that goes something like this:

Dear American People, Continue reading

Homegirl Speaks

The Seattle Times
February 18, 1996
By Alex Tizon

It wasn’t fun anymore being a homeboy’s woman. Bitch, actually; that’s what she was called. Six months of running scared on the streets with a ragtag group of drug-dealing macho buzzheads with pistols. Six months of nightly cocaine-crazed, drum-thumping revelry with no rest, no escape and no end in sight. Six months of abuse. She had at various times been beaten, used as a street dealer and threatened with a gun by the man who was supposed to be her lover and protector. Shannon had had it.

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“If I Only Had A Camel”: Somali Refugees Struggle To Adapt

The Seattle Times
July 23, 1995
By Alex Tizon

The man on the corner was talking about camels. His family owned 300 of them once. His name is Abdikarim Husen. He is 50 years old, tall and thoughtful, with thick bifocals on a strong, noble face. He was talking about survival, and, naturally for him, the discussion led to camels. Camels are highly esteemed in Somalia, his native country, because of their usefulness: You can ride one for days without water, haul with it, and if necessary, eat it. Eating is not to be taken for granted, not in a place where, only recently, a half-million people died of famine. “If there is disaster, and you have a camel,” said Husen in a voice deep with conviction, “you will survive.”

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The Vanishing Tribe

The Seattle Times
February 27, 1994
By Alex Tizon

In Felix Castro’s one-room apartment, calendars have collected on the walls in layers: poster calendars, planning calendars, girlie calendars, business calendars; stapled, taped and nailed. Where do the years go? One day, he’s a young man sailing to America with big dreams, the next he is 85 years old, living alone on $552 a month, and marking time.

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Going Astray: Children Of Refugees Wander Into Dangerous Territory

The Seattle Times
February 8, 1994
By Alex Tizon

“My boys call me K-Bone. The K stands for Khmer, you know. Khmer-Bone, K-Bone. Or just K. I used to run with SAG (South Asian Gang), they’re Bloods, you know. My mother, she don’t like me running with the boys. Me and her don’t get along. My father, he died in Cambodia. How old was I, I don’t remember. But my mother, she won’t let me do nothin’. Like if I want an earring, she won’t let me. She gets mad, and I say, `Hey it’s my ear, why can’t I do whatever I want with my ear?’ She wishes I was back in Cambodia. She says I turned bad here.”

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Double Sentence: Women Prisoners And Their Babies

The Seattle Times
December 2, 1990
By Alex Tizon

The days, at least, were full of distractions: sewing classes, soaps, guards who didn’t mind sharing a juicy bit of gossip. There were always the inmates who talked endlessly of their plans once they walked, green slip in hand, past those razor-wire fences into the wild world. Inmate Lori Williams listened to pass the time, to forget. She dreaded the nights. They were cold. Empty. Much too quiet. Especially in the maximum-security unit for violent offenders. Once asleep, she dreamed the same dream over and over again.

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Sleeping With One Eye Open: Kickin’ It With The Black Gangster Disciples

The Seattle Times
October 22, 1989
By Alex Tizon

Every night, almost without fail, Sampson slowly drops to his knees beside his bed and prays: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as in heaven. Thank you, God, for protectin’ me and my homeys from the Crips and Bloods — especially the Crips, Lord. They be trying to take over the city. Please protect us tomorrow. And forgive me for what I done and what I will do. Amen.”

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