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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Home

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About Asian/Pacific Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Like most commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. In 1977 Reps. Frank Horton of New York introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Neither of these resolutions passed, so in June 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007. This resolution proposed that the President should “proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” This joint resolution was passed by the House and then the Senate and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978 to become Public Law 95-419 (PDF, 158kb). This law amended the original language of the bill and directed the President to issue a proclamation for the “7 day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress passed Public Law 101-283 (PDF, 166kb) which expanded the observance to a month for 1990. Then in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 (PDF, 285kb) which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

-from https://asianpacificheritage.gov/about/

 

Featured Books by and about Asian/Pacific Americans

America Is in the Heart

by Carola Bulosan

First published in 1943, this classic memoir by well-known Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West.

Bite Hard

by Justin Chin

With scathing humour, brutal honesty, and unflinching detail, award winning spoken word/performance artist Just Chin chews through society's limitations and sterotypes of race, desire, and loss through his own life experiences. His work has appeared in DISSIDENT SONG, MEN ON MEN 5, and EROS IN BOYSTOWN

Dogeaters

by Jessica Hagedorn

Finalist for the National Book Award and a 2015 Wall Street Journal Book Club selection: An intense portrait of the Philippines in the late 1950s. Dogeaters follows a diverse set of characters through Manila, each exemplifying the country's sharp distinctions between social classes. Celebrated novelist and playwright Jessica Hagedorn effortlessly shifts from the capital's elite to the poorest of the poor. From the country's president and first lady to an idealist reformer, from actors and radio DJs to prostitutes, seemingly unrelated lives become intertwined. 

Go Home!

Edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

New, emerging, and established Asian diasporic writers touch on the personal and political dimensions of home in the 21st century. Both urgent and meditative, this literary anthology showcases fiction, memoir, and poetry from a diverse array of voices, including Alexander Chee on scarred bodies, Kimiko Hahn on gustatory memory, and Amitava Kumar on the art of writing immigrant narratives.

Inside Out and Back Again

by Thanhha Lai

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Inside Out and Back Again is a #1 New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author's childhood experience as a refugee--fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama--this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child's-eye view of family and immigration. Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope--toward America. This moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it "enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny." An author's note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà's story. This paperback edition also includes an interview with the author, an activity you can do with your family, tips on writing poetry, and discussion questions.

Little Anodynes

by John Pineda

The third collection by the prize-winning Asian American poet Jon Pineda, Little Anodynes is a sequence of lyrical, personal narratives that continue Pineda's exploration of his biracial identity, the haunting loss of his sister, and the joys--and fears--of fatherhood. With its title inspired by Emily Dickinson, Little Anodynes offers its poems as "respites," as breaks in the reader's life that serve as opportunities for discovery and healing. Pineda deftly uses shortened lines and natural pauses to create momentum, which allows the poems to play out in a manner evocative of fine cinema, as if someone had left a projector running and these narratives were flickering and blending endlessly in an experience shared by the viewer, the storyteller, and the story itself.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds

by Ocean Vuong

One of the most celebrated poetry books of the year: The New Yorker, The Best Books of Poetry of 2016 New York Times, Critics Pick Boston Globe, Best Books listing NPR, Best Books listing Miami Herald, Best LGBTQ Books San Francisco Chronicle, Top 100 Books of the Year Library Journal, Best Books of 2016 Michiko Kakutani inThe New York Times writes: "The poems in Mr. Vuong''s new collection,Night Sky With Exit Wounds...possess a tensile precision reminiscent of Emily Dickinson''s work, combined with a Gerard Manley Hopkins-like appreciation for the sound and rhythms of words. Mr. Vuong can create startling images (a black piano in a field, a wedding-cake couple preserved under glass, a shepherd stepping out of a Caravaggio painting) and make the silences and elisions in his verse speak as potently as his words...There is a powerful emotional undertow to these poems that springs from Mr. Vuong''s sincerity and candor, and from his ability to capture specific moments in time with both photographic clarity and a sense of the evanescence of all earthly things." "Reading Vuong is like watching a fish move: he manages the varied currents of English with muscled intuition. His poems are by turns graceful and wonderstruck. His lines are both long and short, his pose narrative and lyric, his diction formal and insouciant. From the outside, Vuong has fashioned a poetry of inclusion."--The New Yorker "The language is painfully, exquisitely exact, the scenes haunting and indelible.... Highly recommended."--Library Journal, starred review "Night Sky with Exit Wounds establishes Vuong as a fierce new talent to be reckoned with...This book is a masterpiece that captures, with elegance, the raw sorrows and joys of human existence."--Buzzfeed''s "Most Exciting New Books of 2016" "This original, sprightly wordsmith of tumbling pulsing phrases pushes poetry to a new level...A stunning introduction to a young poet who writes with both assurance and vulnerability. Visceral, tender and lyrical, fleet and agile, these poems unflinchingly face the legacies of violence and cultural displacement but they also assume a position of wonder before the world."--2016 Whiting Award citation "Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the kind of book that soon becomes worn with love. You will want to crease every page to come back to it, to underline every other line because each word resonates with power."--LitHub "Vuong''s powerful voice explores passion, violence, history, identity--all with a tremendous humanity."--Slate "In his impressive debut collection, Vuong writes beauty into--and culls from--individual, familial, and historical traumas. Vuong exists as both observer and observed throughout the book as he explores deeply personal themes such as poverty, depression, queer sexuality, domestic abuse, and the various forms of violence inflicted on his family during the Vietnam War. Poems float and strike in equal measure as the poet strives to transform pain into clarity."--Publishers Weekly Torso of Air Suppose you do change your life. & the body is more than a portion of night--sealed with bruises. Suppose you woke & found your shadow replaced by a black wolf. The boy, beautiful & gone. So you take the knife to the wall instead. You carve & carve until a coin of light appears & you get to look in, at last, on happiness. The eye staring back from the other side-- waiting. Born in Saigon, Vietnam,Ocean Vuongattended Brooklyn College. He is the author of two chapbooks as well as a full-length collection,Night Sky with Exit Wounds. A Ruth Lilly Fellow and winner of the Whiting Award, Ocean Vuong lives in New York City.

Seam

by Tarfia Faizullah

The poems in this captivating collection weave beauty with violence, the personal with the historic as they recount the harrowing experiences of the two hundred thousand female victims of rape and torture at the hands of the Pakistani army during the 1971 Liberation War. As the child of Bangladeshi immigrants, the poet in turn explores her own losses, as well as the complexities of bearing witness to the atrocities these war heroines endured. Throughout the volume, the narrator endeavors to bridge generational and cultural gaps even as the victims recount the horror of grief and personal loss. As we read, we discover the profound yet fragile seam that unites the fields, rivers, and prisons of the 1971 war with the poet's modern-day hotel, or the tragic death of a loved one with the holocaust of a nation. Moving from West Texas to Dubai, from Virginia to remote villages in Bangladesh and back again, the narrator calls on the legacies of Willa Cather, César Vallejo, Tomas Tranströmer, and Paul Celan to give voice to the voiceless. Fierce yet loving, devastating and magical at once, Seam is a testament to the lingering potency of memory and the bravery of a nation's victims. Winner, Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, 2014 Winner, Binghamton University Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, 2015 Winner, Drake University Emerging Writers Award, 2015

Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays

by Young Jean Lee

"Have you ever noticed how most Asian Americans are slightly brain- damaged from having grown up with Asian parents?" begins the Korean American protagonist of Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, the singular work by Young Jean Lee. This is the first collection by the downtown writer-director, whose explorations of stereotypes of race, gender, and religion are unflinching--and seat-squirming funny. This volume includes the following plays: Songs of the Dragon Flying to Heaven "Scathingly mischievous...Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven is a provocateur's funny, guns-blazing take on the utter banality of ethnic stereotypes and other cross-cultural outrages. In its slyly eccentric way, it's an evening of enlightenment." -Peter Marks, Washington Post "Part performance art, part comic sketches, fights, dance, song and 'reverse Bible study,' and at times strangely serious, Dragons is a bracingly funny...always provocative equal-opportunity offender." -Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Gate "Miss Lee has a talent for evocative and sometimes grotesque imagery, and on the attack she is at the height of her powers." -New York Times Church "I will happily worship in the house of Young Jean Lee." -David Cote, TimeOut New York "A thoroughly entertaining, uplifting, inescapable piece of art...So thought provoking, it's only appropriate to give thanks and praise." -Helen Shaw, The New York Sun Pullman, WA "[Lee's] new work has the deadpan simplicity of the plays of Richard Maxwell and the awkward, secretly suffering angst of a teenage diarist working through an identity crisis.... It is an honest [work] that takes itself seriously, and that is refreshing." -Jason Zinoman, New York Times The Appeal "The Appeal is the happiest literary desecration since Amy Freed's The Bard of Avon, in which Shakespeare declared, 'I have great thought-like things within my head.'" -Jeremy McCarter, The New York Sun Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals "Lee is a queen of unease; chuckles never come unaccompanied by squirms." -Village Voice Yaggoo "A rising star of the downtown theatre scene." -New York Times Young Jean Lee has written and directed shows in New York with Young Jean Lee's Theater Company and toured her work to over twenty cities around the world. Her plays include Straight White Men, We're Gonna Die, Untitled Feminist Show, The Shipment, Lear and Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven. Awards include two Obies, the Festival Prize of the Zuercher Theater Spektakel, a Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Doris Duke Artist Award.

Thousand Star Hotel

by Bao Phi

Thousand Star Hotel confronts the silence around racism, police brutality, and the invisibility of the Asian American urban poor. From "with thanks to Sahra Nguyen for the refugee style slogan": They give the kids candy to bet. My daughter loses the first four rounds, she's a quiet wire as they take her candy away, piece by piece. When she finally wins, I ask if she wants to play again. No! she shouts, grabbing her candy, I want to go home! True refugee style: take everything you got and run with it. Bao Phi is a National Poetry Slam finalist.

To Be the Poet

by Maxine Hong Kingston

"I have almost finished my longbook," Maxine Hong Kingston declares. "Let my life as Poet begin...I won't be a workhorse anymore; I'll be a skylark." To Be the Poet is Kingston's manifesto, the avowal and declaration of a writer who has devoted a good part of her sixty years to writing prose, and who, over the course of this spirited and inspiring book, works out what the rest of her life will be, in poetry. Taking readers along with her, this celebrated writer gathers advice from her gifted contemporaries and from sages, critics, and writers whom she takes as ancestors. She consults her past, her conscience, her time--and puts together a volume at once irreverent and deeply serious, playful and practical, partaking of poetry throughout as it pursues the meaning, the possibility, and the power of the life of the poet. A manual on inviting poetry, on conjuring the elusive muse, To Be the Poet is also a harvest of poems, from charms recollected out of childhood to bursts of eloquence, wonder, and waggish wit along the way to discovering what it is to be a poet.

When My Name Was Keoko

by Linda Sue Park

Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, live in Korea with their parents. Because Korea is under Japanese occupation, the children study Japanese and speak it at school. Their own language, their flag, the folktales Uncle tells them--even their names--are all part of the Korean culture that is now forbidden. When World War II comes to Korea, Sun-hee is surprised that the Japanese expect their Korean subjects to fight on their side. But the greatest shock of all comes when Tae-yul enlists in the Japanese army in an attempt to protect Uncle, who is suspected of aiding the Korean resistance. Sun-hee stays behind, entrusted with the life-and-death secrets of a family at war.

 


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