APA Heritage Month 2020 an Asian Studies librarian's reading list

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I have periodically been asked by concerned colleagues if I know how Asian populations at the university are faring. While coming from a well-meaning place, it is a loaded question that touches upon complex histories of identity formations within and outside of the US as well as data/information I don't have access to. To answer, I, too, would like to know how Asian and Asian Pacific Americans are doing on college campuses right now. I can start by sharing a bit of how things have been for me.

Since moving to Florida, I have been pleasantly surprised by the visibility of Asian students on campus. I always stop to pick up a brochure or participate in an activity when I see Asian American students leading political actions or cultural events. I enjoy the chance to connect with Asian international graduate students at the reference desk and commiserate with some of the more mundane woes of navigating American cultural terrains (I wish hot water dispensers were more of a thing here, too!). When developing the library's Asian collection, I hope it reflects also the multilayered history of their presence, of APA presence, here in the US.

Being minoritized comes with a degree of alienation. This is observable in the different emotional impact current events and news can have on specific demographics. For instance, while Hong Kong’s long struggle to maintain promised autonomy and the outbreak of a new virus in Wuhan were both international news, I experienced them -- as someone with personal and professional ties to Asia -- as daily grief and heartache. As mounting anxieties over COVID-19 have led to an increase in anti-Asian violence, I've found myself bracing for confrontation each time I leave home. For many marginalized people, holding this tension between hypervisibility and invisibility/erasure is a constant even in the most "normal" of times.

With stay-at-home orders, I have been filling evenings with virtual panels and talks hosted by writers, educators, and organizers living across all axes of oppression. In a time of confusion, such spaces have fostered much needed collective understandings of the present, helping many confront the inhumane abandonment of those most affected by the pandemic -- Black and Indigenous communities -- and prescribing ways to refuse this newest chapter of normalized death by breaking from inaction and learning to care for one another. When I feel helpless and overwhelmed, I consume internet memes and cartoons like anyone else; but, when I can, it also helps to study the ways we are connected, how ancestors and elders navigated crises before us.

It is in this spirit that I offer this APA Heritage Month reading list for the days to come. I hope we choose to take care of one another. I hope we don't give up on thinking and dreaming up more abundant ways to be.

Casey Lee, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Librarian

Part I: Global Asia

What historical contingencies shape relationships between Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Asian Americans? How are identity and politics of difference (i.e. race, gender, and class) constructed and understood outside of the US mainland? Eight provocative reads that tell stories of Asia and the Pacific Islands in the context of imperialism and environmental destruction as well as transnational flows of creativity and commerce.

all book cover images from publisher and bookseller sites

The Intimacies of Four Continents by Lisa Lowe (Duke, 2015)

Dalit Studies edited by Ramnarayan S. Rawat & K. Satyanarayana (Duke, 2016)

Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes by Lisa Yoneyama (Duke, 2016)

The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire edited by Christopher P. Hanscom & Dennis Washburn (Hawaii, 2016)

Possessing Polynesians: the Science of Settler Colonial Whiteness in Hawai'i and Oceania by Maile Renee Arvin (Duke, 2019)

The Making of Japanese Settler Colonialism: Malthusianism and Trans-Pacific Migration, 1868-1961 by Sidney Xu Lu (Cambridge, 2019)

Decolonizing Extinction: the Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation by Juno Salazar Parreñas (Duke, 2018)

The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Princeton, 2015)

Part II: APA Histories

For too long, "APA" as an umbrella term has been over-represented by the stories and images of East Asian people, usually coastal, often with wealth. These eight books + special webjournal issue unpack the multiplicities, conflict, and nuance subsumed by “APA” by highlighting settler-indigenous dichotomies, regional specificity, and interracial/inter-ethnic interactions.

all book cover images from publisher and bookseller sites

Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South edited by Khyati Y. Joshi and Jigna Desai (Illinois, 2013)

Against Citizenship: the Violence of the Normative by Amy L. Brandzel (Illinois, 2016)

Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism by Iyko Day (Duke, 2016)

Porous Borders: Multiracial Migrations and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands by Julian Lim (UNC, 2017)

Detours: a Decolonial Guide to Hawai'i edited by Hōkūlani K. Aikau & Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez (Duke, 2019)

Na Wahine Koa: Hawaiian Women for Sovereignty and Demilitarization edited by Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua (Hawaii, 2018)

Legitimizing Empire: Filipino American and U.S. Puerto Rican Cultural Critique by Faye Caronan (Illinois, 2015)

Death Beyond Disavowal: the Impossible Politics of Difference by Grace Kyungwon Hong (Minnesota, 2015)

Feminist and Queer Afro-Asian Formations edited by Vanita Reddy & Anantha Sudhakar (Special issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online 14.3, 2018)

Part III: Poetry, Memoirs, and Fiction

nine books celebrating APA truths via #ownvoices worldbuilding, storytelling, and lyricism

all book cover images from publisher and bookseller sites
Created By
Casey Lee


Created with an image by Milada Vigerova - "Ginkgo leaf"