Matt Ortile on His Early Education in the Model Minority Myth
In Conversation with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review Podcast
This week on The Maris Review, Matt Ortile joins Maris Kreizman to discuss his book, The Groom Will Keep His Name: And Other Vows I’ve Made about Race, Resistance, and Romance, out now from Bold Type Books.
On earning his place in this country:
Maris Kreizman: One of the things you’re very clear about in your author bio and in the first page of your book is exactly how to pronounce your last name.
Matt Ortile: Thank you for saying it correctly here on the podcast. I’ve had a very long journey with my name. Coming to the United States, it’s not something folks have found easy to pronounce… As an Asian American immigrant kid, I didn’t want to talk back. The instinct was to just let it happen, not cause a fuss. Because you are already here as a permanent alien, or as a resident alien. You’re here on papers that could easily be taken away. It was an early education in the model minority myth that I had to be silent but also excellent in order to prove my worth to earn my place in this country.
On how Americana informs his style:
Matt Ortile: So much of my style is informed by Americana—my penchant for suits and tailoring, the really put-together aesthetic. It’s great when people respond well to it, I think I look good in it. But at the same time that taste level was really cultivated by an aspiration to whiteness as a kid. That’s how I would try to keep up with my white classmates, with my wealthier classmates. I grew up in the era where it was double popping your Hollister polos. I worked at Abercrombie Kids (I wasn’t a white male model so I didn’t work at Abercrombie & Fitch) because I was good with parents. My eloquence was valued in that way, rather than my visual aesthetic. I’m a skinny brown boy, I wasn’t Marky Mark.
Matt Ortile is the managing editor of Catapult. His writing has been published by BuzzFeed, Into, Self, and Out, among others. He lives in Brooklyn.