By Hana Visaya
Advertising Project Manager
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
-- George R. R. Martin, "A Dance with Dragons"
As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2019 closes, we at ThinkLA DIG would like to challenge you to read about our community and support Asian/Pacific writers throughout the remainder of the year and beyond. We’ve compiled a list of ten books to get you started.
As marketers and advertisers, we are storytellers. And as we focus in more on telling diverse stories thoughtfully, there is a risk in delivering them in ways that simply do not land. Perhaps they lack authenticity to the group we claim to represent. Worse, you end up with offensive PR nightmares. Even worse, you don’t even try. We need to do the work and introduce even more diverse narratives into our work as marketers.
To really underline the inclusion in diversity and inclusion initiatives, involve the community. And if you aren’t personally part of a community, be a true ally by appreciating rather than appropriating. We need our allies, and we need them to dig deeper into our histories, our stories, our truths. And that often means doing uncomfortable, hard work.
That means doing your research and being empathetic. It means consuming media and reading stories that will help you visualize what a specific community or individual might see and experience in this world – figuratively walking in someone else’s shoes.
From business books to fiction, non-fiction to poetry, we present 10 recommendations to get you started (or continue) your Asian Pacific story journey. Whether you prefer audio books, your tablet, or you simply want the experience a good, old-fashioned page turning, we hope you learn something. Without further ado and in no specific order:
• "Asian American Dreams" by Helen Zia is a deep dive into twentieth-century, Asian American United States History. This work helps fill in gaps of our own histories within this country. It’s a great anthropological view of immigrant stories and Asian American identities as shaped by our unique histories, cultures, and struggles with racism.
Zia is a journalist and daughter of Chinese immigrants. She captures diverse stories of politics, Asian American activism, and tension between Asian groups and other minority groups. Zia centers this discourse around the Japanese internment camps during World War II. She even takes care to explore other intersections of identity, from issues of same-sex marriage and the refugee experience to adopted Asian Americans and mixed-race folks.
• "Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians" by Jane Hyun helps members of the community navigate the corporate ladder and reach beyond middle management. When our cultural values and upbringing do not always sync up with the corporate politics and unspoken rules of western business culture, Hyun offers insight.
• "Thousand Star Hotel" by Bao Phi is a powerful collection of poetry by a Minnesota-based, Vietnamese American poet and author who has been a performance poet since 1991. This is his second printed collection of poems, which does not shy away from the rawness of racism, the immigrant refugee identity, and the life of the Asian American urban poor. You can also check out his first children’s book, A Different Pond.
• "The Undisputed Greatest Writer of All Time" by Beau Sia is another fantastic collection of poetry, brought to you by a Tony Award-winning and seasoned slam poet. This book showcases work that spans nearly a decade of real-life learnings, revealing the beauty of creative growth and vulnerability. Sia was born to Chinese immigrants from the Philippines and raised in Oklahoma City. He frequently uses his voice to challenge Asian American stereotypes.
• "Interpreter of Maladies" is the Pulitzer Prize-winning work of Jhumpa Lahiri (she also authored The Namesake.) Lahiri has a true gift for capturing the Indian American immigrant experience through this collection of stories. She paints pictures of that unique and painfully beautiful world immigrants live in that is not quite the motherland and not 100% American either. Lahiri’s writings will make you feel powerful emotions.
• "Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan, and the two companion books in the series (China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems) hardly need an introduction after the success of the movie last year but check it out if you need a fun vacation read. The Chinese socialites of Singapore come to life with over-the-top drama set on this breathtaking island. Your mouth will water at the richness of the food described in the famed hawker markets. And you will see this opulent world through character Rachel Chu’s Asian American eyes.
• "Hawaii One Summer" is written by award-winning author, Maxine Hong Kingston, author of Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, and China Men. Kingston is a Stockton, California-born (1940), first-generation Chinese American, who also lived in the Bay Area and Hawaii, where her grandfathers worked on plantations upon first immigrating to America. Her stories are a unique blend of autobiography, fantasy and folklore: personal and honest in its’ reflection on post-WWII racism. Hawaii One Summer is a collection of 12 prose selections released in 1987.
• "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini is set in Afghanistan against a heartbreaking timeline that spans thirty years. Like many Asian stories, love and family features prominently. This unlikely tale of friendship between boys of different caste and privilege, during the end of the Afghan monarchy, and the legacy of their fathers’ influence is an emotional ride. The political, religious and ethnic tensions and the beauty of human connection despite it is inspiring and memorable.
• "Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama" by Diane C. Fujino is the first biography about 1960s activist Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American activist, who championed human rights after her own family’s experience of the Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbor. Kochiyama met Malcom X in New York, where she lived after the war in the 1960s, and she got heavily involved defending the rights of Black Americans, as well as Asian Americans, Puerto Rico and political prisoners. She brought diverse communities together, particularly the African American and Asian American communities. She dedicated her life to social justice, defying so many stereotypes and gender, as well as racial norms, especially for her time.
• "We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation" by Jeff Chang (writer and journalist who brought you the sociopolitical history of hip hop in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop) is a series of essays exploring more contemporary manifestations of racism such as #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite as well as this greater idea of diversity. He also explains the century-long history of redlining, racial separation in housing, and offers his cultural critique of resegregation in our present day, arguing that undoing its’ effects is the key to cultural and racial equity.