Susan Hsu – Musician, Writer, and Policy Analyst

Arlington, VA

I especially enjoy coming across independent artists who do or make art for the sake of creating something or just expressing themselves… doesn’t matter how ‘big’ or ‘successful’ it is.

hsu.susan1Who are you?

I am a musician, writer, and policy analyst in international trade. I have a really awesome family, friends and twin sister, Emily! When it comes to being Taiwanese, people might know us most because of a YouTube video that went unexpectedly viral… we filmed it last summer to help raise funds for Taiwan’s relief efforts after Typhoon Morakot.

What do you do?

I sing & play violin/guitar in a band called Exit Clov, as well as another project with my twin sister Emily called The Sounds of Domestic Living (SODL). We’re actually in the process of recording an album of Taiwanese songs to be released under SODL. Along with our Exit Clov bandmates, we run a small-scale indie collective and record label called the Nervous People Collective. I used to be a journalist, but I still keep a blog called Mousybabe (mousybabe.com) with film and music reviews and other random absurd things I come across. During the day, I work as a policy analyst in international trade. And lastly, my family recently started our own little craft business in memory of our dad’s artwork (imoM.etsy.com).

If you ask me what I do with my life, I guess it’s just one big hobby! I also love collecting records, going to shows, reading books, learning about music history, art, politics, culture and religion. I especially enjoy coming across independent artists who do or make art for the sake of creating something or just expressing themselves… doesn’t matter how ‘big’ or ‘successful’ it is.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

There are many distinctive things about Taiwanese culture, but I think I’m especially proud when it comes to how we are raised to respect and treat people, especially friends and loved ones. Taiwanese people are such kind and giving people – there’s a strong emphasis on being thoughtful, humble, selfless, self-effacing, self-sacrificing or however you want to put it. I think the knee-jerk reaction from a western perspective is that this is a sign of weakness because you’re not immediately asserting your individuality. But to me it’s a virtue. It doesn’t mean you automatically submit to what others seek. It’s actually about the opposite – it’s standing up to the culture of taking before first giving, it’s about being courageous enough NOT to open your mouth before you know what the shot is, and taking the time to first learn the difference between true wisdom and brash thoughtless egoism. Of course you risk being taken advantage of by others at times, but in the end it’s an attempt to change the culture around you by example and as a reflection of the strength of your character. I think these values are completely in tune with how a lot of the most benevolent and amazing people changed the world – i.e. Mother Teresa, Jesus, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So I’m proud and grateful to have been instilled with the very Taiwanese virtue of placing the needs of loved ones before the self.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

I can’t wait to see more Taiwanese Americans expand into fields and activities where you don’t see them as much now.

Any additional information you would like to share?

mousybabe.com
exitclov.com
imoM.etsy.com
nervouspeoplecollective.com

Typhoon Morakot video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72M9-kyVxsc

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