In the Green Room

Sociologist Jennifer Lee

Laughing My Way Through Near-Accidents

Jennifer Lee in Riverside

Sociologist Jennifer Lee studies immigration and race at University of California, Irvine. Before participating in a panel on diversity and democracy, she sat down in the Zócalo green room to talk about fusion food, why she’d choose to go weaponless in a zombie apocalypse, and the secrets she just can’t succeed in keeping


Q:
What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

A:
Just now I laughed, but prior to that I would probably say it was my boyfriend dancing around. He might not want to read that … [Laughs again.]

Q:
You spent last year in New York. What’s the best thing about returning to SoCal?

A:
Surfing. Absolutely surfing. The waves, the beach, seeing dolphins when I’m out there. I missed surfing a lot.

Q:
What’s the most successful fusion dish you’ve eaten?

A:
I went to a terrific Korean—a nouveau Korean—restaurant in New York called Danji, the first Korean restaurant to get a Michelin star. I don’t know if it’s fusion, but I had some kind of raw meat with a raw egg, and it was a kind of Korean/European dish. It was so delicious, and I dream about it today.

Q:
What weapon would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?

A:
I take a course called body combat, so I would go weaponless and use myself—my roundhouse kick.

Q:
How do you react when you’re embarrassed?

A:
I laugh. Like when I almost get into a car accident, I laugh.

Q:
Are you good at keeping secrets?

A:
No.

Q:
Does anyone tell them to you anyway?

A:
Yes—my sister. We try to keep things from our parents, but neither of us is successful.

Q:
What’s your desert island book?

A:
I feel like it says so much about me. That’s really difficult, but I would say if it’s a desert island book, I’m going to have to go with a guilty pleasure and say The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Q:
What’s your go-to karaoke song?

A:
I don’t karaoke, and the world is probably very happy about that. I cannot sing.

Q:
Where did you learn how to swim, and who taught you?

A:
I can’t remember ever not swimming. There was a public pool across the street from where we lived while I was growing up, and my sister and I went every day that it was open and spent the entire day there. It was almost like daycare.

Q:
What’s your hidden talent?

A:
I would say I could probably do about 30 push-ups.