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Elevating Asian American Pacific Islander Voices

Brightview Diversity

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the unique histories of this very diverse group of people. The term Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) encompasses a vast number of countries, cultures, and religions. There is no singular AAPI experience, and we can all benefit from learning more about the joys and struggles this community has and continues to face. Here are a few suggestions if you want to add AAPI voices to your bookshelf or streaming queue.

Books

  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar
    Synopsis: For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise—to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies—and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India. Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely—an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor—has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.  meghamajumdar.com
  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
    Synopsis: Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these "minor feelings" occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you're told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they're dissonant—and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her. – randomhousebooks.com
  • Eat a Bowl of Tea by Louis Chu
    Synopsis: At the close of the Second World War, racist immigration laws trapped enclaves of old men in Chinatowns across the United States, preventing their wives or families from joining them. They took refuge from loneliness in the repartee and rivalries exchanged over games of mahjong in the backrooms of barbershops or at the local tong. These bachelors found hope in the nascent marriages and future children who would someday grow roots in American soil, made possible at last by the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943. Louis Chu tells the story of a newlywed couple that inherits the burden of this tightly bonded community's expectations. Returning soldier Ben Loy travels to China to marry Mei Oi, a beautiful, intelligent woman who then emigrates to New York. After their honeymoon, Ben Loy becomes impotent, and his inability to father a child frustrates both Mei Oi and the Chinatown bachelors. This discontent boils over when Mei Oi has an affair and the community learns of Ben Loy's humiliation.  uwapress.uw.edu

TV & Film

  • Asian Americans, available on PBS
    Synopsis: Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided, while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate and personal lives, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played in shaping the nation's story.  pbs.org
  • Tigertail, available on Netflix
    Synopsis: A man reflects on the lost love of his youth and his long-ago journey from Taiwan to America as he begins to reconnect with his estranged daughter.  netflix.com
  • Never Have I Ever, available on Netflix
    Synopsis: After a traumatic year, an Indian-American teen just wants to spruce up her social status — but friends, family and feelings won’t make it easy on her.  netflix.com
  • Meet the Patels, available on Amazon Prime
    Synopsis: Meet the Patels is a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams ... and his parents. Filmed by Ravi's sister in what started as a family vacation video, this hilarious and heartbreaking film reveals how love is a family affair.  meetthepatelsfilm.com
  • Gook, available on Amazon Prime
    Synopsis: In a predominantly African-American community in L.A., two Korean-American brothers run a shoe store where they strike up a unique and unlikely friendship with a young African-American girl, Kamilla. As one brother dreams of becoming a recording artist and the other struggles to keep the store afloat, racial tensions build to a breaking point in L.A. as the infamous L.A. riots break out.  amazon.com/Gook

Podcasts

  • Self Evident: Asian America's Stories
    Synopsis: What pieces of ourselves are we forever bound to lose? Where do we find joy during an identity crisis? How do we connect our past to our future? There are over 22 million Asian Americans in the U.S., whose voices are needed to explore these vital questions of our time. Self Evident is where we tell Asian America's stories to help you do that, with the people closest to you. Each episode presents an in-depth audio documentary or radically open conversations from Asian American communities — across generations, cultures, and class. – selfevidentshow.com
  • Asian Enough
    Synopsis: From the Los Angeles Times, Asian Enough is a podcast about being Asian American -- the joys, the complications and everything in between. In each episode, hosts Jen Yamato, Johana Bhuiyan, Tracy Brown and Suhauna Hussain of the Times invite special guests to share personal stories and unpack identity on their own terms. They explore the vast diaspora across cultures, backgrounds and generations, and try to expand the ways in which being Asian American is defined." – link.chtbl.com/AsianEnough
  • Modern Minorities 
    Synopsis: Sharon Lee Thony and Raman Sehgal are two Modern Minorities - Asian-American industry pros making it in NY - even though they never became the doctors their parents wanted them to be. Each week, they are joined by fellow Modern Minorities of all stripes - entrepreneurs, corporates, athletes, reporters, politicians, entertainers, and more - to uncover how our different cultural backgrounds shape how we uniquely experience the world. Modern Minorities is a collection of conversations about work and life through the lens of race and gender. It is a show where we talk about "the thing" that everyone is thinking about, but nobody is actually talking about. – modmypod.com

Other Resources

  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
    May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America's history and are instrumental in its future success. – asianpacificheritage.gov 
  • Asian American Writers' Workshop 
    The Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW) is devoted to creating, publishing, developing and disseminating creative writing by Asian Americans, and to providing an alternative literary arts space at the intersection of migration, race, and social justice. Since our founding in 1991, we have been dedicated to the belief that Asian American stories deserve to be told. At a time when migrants, women, people of color, Muslims, and LGBTQ people are specifically targeted, we offer a new countercultural public space in which to imagine a more just future. – aaww.org
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice 
    Since 1991, Asian Americans Advancing Justice has fought for Asian Americans in the national conversations that determine policies that shape our lives. Our mission is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. – advancingjustice-aajc.org  
  • Gold House
    Gold House is the premier nonprofit collective of Asian founders, creative voices, and leaders dedicated to unifying the world's largest populace–Asians and Pacific Islanders–to enable more authentic multicultural representation and societal equity. – goldhouse.org

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