Exploring American Identity

As part of Coming Together in Skokie and Niles Township this year, we read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese and in examining the character called Chin-Kee, we asked ourselves some questions: What does it mean to be Chinese? What does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be an immigrant and American, or an American growing up in an immigrant home? Many people experience the phenomenon of dual identities and the challenges of switching seamlessly between them. Let’s celebrate, affirm, and explore what it means to be American and all the things that make you you with a selection of articles, videos, and other resources.


Eight Ways I’ve Been Made to Feel about My Asian Eyes by Robin

Robin, a young Asian American woman, writes vignettes about the ways she’s made to feel about having “Asian” eyes and what that means for her identity.

How Code-Switching Explains the World by Gene Demby

Journalist Gene Demby unpacks the term “code-switch” and how it affects people as they navigate different spaces, audiences, and expectations.


Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, Episode 10: Muslim-ish from Taz Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh

Two women—Bangladeshi American activist/artist Taz Ahmed and Iranian American comedian/writer Zahra Noorbakhsh— talk about the unique challenges of navigating their identities in everyday activities like dating, eating pizza, and encountering media.

Sound and Fury, Episode 13: Gene Luen Yang from Angry Asian Man

Phil Yu, who uses the moniker Angry Asian Man, speaks with author Gene Luen Yang about their mutual love of comic books and how being Asian does (and does not) influence Yang’s work.


If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say from BuzzFeedYellow

This short, snappy video with comedian Jenny Yang explores statements of microaggression toward Asians.


The Hapa Project by Kip Fulbeck

Writer and photographer Kip Fulbeck spent several years traveling in the United States photographing more than 1,200 volunteers who self-identified as hapa (as being of mixed racial heritage with partial Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry). He asked them to answer the question, “What are you?” The results affirm mixed race identities and encourage solidarity and empowerment in the multiracial/ hapa community.

Folk Hero: Remembering Yuri Kochiyama through Grassroots Art from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

Yuri Kochiyama was a civil rights leader who died in 2014. Although she might be familiar to some from the iconic photo taken of her with Malcolm X for a 1965 issue of Life Magazine, she was much more than a footnote in another man’s life. Take a tour of this remarkable woman’s life through this exhibit.

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The Civic Lab at Skokie Public Library offers information and thought-provoking activities to support dialogue and engagement on issues that affect our community.