7 Best Books About Asian American Identity Update 05/2022

Books About Asian American Identity

The first big group of people from China came to the US in the 1850s. Andrew Hsiao, a senior editor at Verso Books, says that “Asian American” is a term that came about in the 1970s. As he continues, he says that “the generation of young activists who came up with the pan-Asian political identity “Asian American” in the late ’60s and ’70s are what we now call the “Asian American” movement.” In another way, Christine Bacareza Balance, an associate professor of Asian American studies and performing arts at Cornell University, says that before the term “Asian American” was a census category or a marketing term, “they were real people who were trying to understand themselves as a kind of pan-ethnic coalition.”

Yale University professor Lisa Lowe says that anyone who wants to better understand the term “Asian American” should look at the “historical and ongoing relationship of U.S. wars and military occupation in the countries from which many Asian migrants, immigrants, and refugees come.” As she says, “the recent murders of Asian women in Atlanta bring anti-Asian violence to the attention of the public, but it also reveals many other forms of violence that go unnoticed every day.” According to Lowe, these include the “concentration of Asian immigrant women in service work, who are often more likely to be in danger, harassed, COVID, or other types of harm.” All of these things are linked to the “history of war that prompted their migration.” So, Lowe sums up what we learned from talking to 13 people about the best books on Asian American identity: “There are many ways to think about how we think about Asian Americans today.”

To help anyone who wants to learn more about the subject, we’ve put together a list of 15 books that experts recommend. Most of the books on our reading lists have been recommended by at least two other people. List: (No one was allowed to recommend their own book, but there are a few written by our experts that were only recommended once by other people.) Hsiao, Balance, Lowe, Tammy Kim, erin Khuê Ninh, Tanzila Ahmed, Shawn Wong, Jafreen Uddin, and Jafreen Uddin are some of our experts. They are all experts in their fields. They are all experts in their fields. They are all experts in their fields. They are all experts in their fields. They are all experts in their fields. They are all experts in their fields.

“Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People” by Helen Zia

“Asian American Dreams The Emergence of an American People” by Helen Zia

They say that Helen Zia’s Asian American Dreams is a good place to start for people who haven’t read it. The book, which was published in 2000, is both a memoir and a history of the Asian American political experience. It talks about important events, like the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin and the Los Angeles riots, and how activism played a role in the development of the concept of Asian Americanness. By talking about her own politicalization and “grounding it in working-class issues,” Zia ties these stories together, Balance says. She also talks about the role the LGBTQ community and people in organizing and activism played in the movement. agrees with Kim: Because it was written by a queer woman journalist, what she likes about the book is that it puts labor issues at the heart of East, Southeast, and South Asian American life. Ninh says the book is a good way to learn about the Asian American movement.

“The Gangster We Are All Looking For” by Le Thi Diem Thúy

In addition to Palumbo-Liu, Hsu, and Lowe, three of our experts said that Le Thi Diem Thy’s novel about Vietnamese refugees was a good choice for people who like fiction. It’s about a young girl who moves to San Diego with her father and four “uncles.” She says it’s both a family story and a story about the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Palumbo-Liu says it’s one of the most moving and personal stories about how Vietnamese refugees fled to the United States. As a result, Hsu says the story is “an absolute masterpiece that shows how the pains of our pasts don’t go away,” making it “the best book I’ve ever read.” Following a tragedy, Palumbo-Liu says, “We learn a lot from this book about how families can be put back together and rebuilt.”

“Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees” by Yen Le Espiritu

According to Lowe, Yen Le Espiritu’s 2014 book is “a riveting study that looks at how the Vietnam War was important to the formation of Vietnamese identity, and it also looks at the politics of war memory and the ways in which people commemorate and remember the war.” This book can help us understand how refugees’ experiences in U.S. wars in Southeast Asia help “diversify who we think of as part of the Asian American community,” Balance says. This is a “very heterogeneous” community, she says.

“Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian American Writers” by Frank Chin, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, Shawn Wong

“Aiiieeeee An Anthology of Asian American Writers” by Frank Chin, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, Shawn Wong

There is an anthology called Aiieeeee!, which includes stories written by Asian American authors. It was put together by editors Frank Chin, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusoo Inada, and Shawn Wong. When you talk about Asian American fiction, you can’t talk about the genre without talking about this anthology, which includes stories by Asian American authors (whose name you might recognize from the list of experts we consulted for this story). As a whole, anthologies and other collections of works are important to the Asian American movement, but Hsiao tells us that the first one of its kind, Aaaah!, was published in 1974 and was a “key book” that brought back forgotten texts and authors. Some of those writers, like Carlos Bulosan, John Okada, and Hisaye Yamamoto, wrote works that are on this list. This is why. They were written when “the authors weren’t focusing on Asian American identity in the same way that we might,” but they are still important because they made us see that “we Asians in the United States had shared histories of oppression and resistance,” says Hsiao. “As a Chinese American like me, I was able to read about and identify with a Japanese American’s story, which is the essence of Asian American identity,” says the author.

“Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction” by Jessica Hagedorn

Jessica Hagedorn, a Filipino playwright, writer, poet, and multimedia performance artist, edited this 1993 anthology of contemporary Asian American fiction. Balance and Hsiao say it balances out the “too-male, too East Asian cast” of Aiiieeeee! There are short stories and excerpts from writers like Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kagawa, Meena Alexander, Fae Myenne Ng in the anthology. He loves it because of the “breadth and variety” of works in it. In Balance’s words, the anthology came out at a time when “people were starting to realize that there is a thing called Asian American literature.” It also helped push that idea and bring a lot of new writers into the scene, he says. There is a second book in the series called Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World if you like the first one.

“No-No Boy” by John Okada

“No-No Boy” by John Okada

“No-No Boy” by John Okada was written in 1957, reissued in 1976, and made into a movie. During World War II, Japanese American Ichiro Yamada spent two years in an internment camp and two more years in prison for refusing to serve in the U.S. military. In Okada’s only book, “No-No Boy,” he talks about how Yamada reintegrated into his Seattle community after that time. Several of our experts, like Wong and Balance, talked about it. They said that it was an important book that influenced many Asian American writers who came after Okada. Balance says that the book is multifaceted, and it talks about things like mental health and “the politics in some Asian American communities about allegiance and loyalty to this country that interned them.” It also “shows a different kind of Asian American man,” she says.

“America Is in the Heart: A Personal History” by Carlos Bulosan

Carlo Bulosan, a Filipino writer, wrote an autobiographical novel in 1946. It was also excerpted in a popular Filipino magazine. Another time, Palumbo-Liu told us that the story starts in the Philippines and moves to the United States at a very important time for people who are Asian American. Over the course of the book’s 327 pages, the author talks about a lot of different things, like the relationship between the Philippines and America, the diasporic Filipino community, the role of migrant labor, the beginnings of socialist and communist organizing in the fields, and Bulosan’s acquisition of a literary education and his writings as an essayist and journalist and novelist. If you study Asian American studies, Ninh says this and No-No Boy are two of the most popular books to read. He says that John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath is often read and taught next to American Is in the Heart.

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