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
What’s the last thing that made you laugh?
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.]
You spent last year in New York. What’s the best thing about returning to SoCal?
Surfing. Absolutely surfing. The waves, the beach, seeing dolphins when I’m out there. I missed surfing a lot.
What’s the most successful fusion dish you’ve eaten?
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.
What weapon would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?
I take a course called body combat, so I would go weaponless and use myself—my roundhouse kick.
How do you react when you’re embarrassed?
I laugh. Like when I almost get into a car accident, I laugh.
Are you good at keeping secrets?
Does anyone tell them to you anyway?
Yes—my sister. We try to keep things from our parents, but neither of us is successful.
What’s your desert island book?
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.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I don’t karaoke, and the world is probably very happy about that. I cannot sing.
Where did you learn how to swim, and who taught you?
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.
What’s your hidden talent?
I would say I could probably do about 30 push-ups.