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A Literary Guide to Combat Anti-Asian Racism in America

By Allyson Coan

Anti-Asian terrorism and discrimination are on the rise in the United States. Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 3,800 of anti-Asian hate incidents between March 2020 and February 2021. This figure does not include the recent murders in Atlanta of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon C. Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong A. Yue. I want to use this opportunity to promote a booklist compiled by Jae-Yeon Yoo and Stefani Kuo that was published in the summer of 2020. Yoo and Kuo "compiled this list as a way to better understand the deep roots of Asian American discrimination in the U.S. We hope we can help amplify the urgent need to acknowledge anti-Asian racism and the complexity of Asian American identity today." This list is meant to amplify Yoo and Kuo's compilation and help the Skokie community access these titles more easily. We recognize that reading lists are not enough, but they are a start.

  • We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation

    2016 by Chang, Jeff

    "Beginning with 'Is Diversity for White People?,'” Chang’s collection of essays is a thorough look at how racial inequity functions in America today."

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  • Yellow: Race in America beyond Black and White

    2002 by Wu, Frank H.

    "A mix of personal anecdotes, journalism, and legal analysis, Yellow offers an intersectional way of dissecting race beyond Black and white. Wu questions the absence of the Asian perspective in America’s discussion around race and touches on the complex ideas that have led to our understanding of Asian America via the model minority myth, perpetual foreigner stereotype, affirmation action, interracial marriage, and more. "

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  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

    2020 by Hong, Cathy Park

    "A radical look into the reality of walking through the world as an Asian American, Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings weaves the personal with the political and brings the tough questions around race and identity to the table."

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  • The Unpassing

    2019 by Lin, Chia-Chia

    "Chia-Chia Lin’s debut novel The Unpassing tells the story of a Taiwanese immigrant family of six struggling to make ends meet in Anchorage, Alaska. Against the bleak and cold backdrop of Alaskan winter, ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, falls into a coma and wakes a week later to find out his little sister Ruby was infected and died. As grief envelops the family, we see the remaining five members of the family struggle to stay afloat, navigate marginalization and alienation, and search for a sense of belonging in a foreign land. What does it mean to lose the ones you love in a place that is not home? What does it mean when there is no home to return to?"

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  • No-No Boy

    1981 by Okada, John

    "No-No Boy received practically no public recognition upon its publication in 1957, when Americans wanted to leave behind the atrocities of WWII—including the Japanese American internment and the nuclear bomb. Thanks to the efforts of Asian American writers Jeff Chan, Frank Chin, Lawson Fusao Inada and Shawn Wong who reissued the novel in 1976, No-No Boy is now recognized as a canonical Asian American text, one that deals head-on with the long history of anti-Asian racism."

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  • I Hotel

    2010 by Yamashita, Karen Tei

    "This wide-ranging novel centers on “I Hotel”—short for the International Hotel in San Francisco—as a way to explore the Yellow Power Movement in the ’60s. The Yellow Power Movement—started by UC Berkeley students who were inspired by the Black Power Movement—is credited with coining the term “Asian American.” I Hotel is meticulously researched, including memorabilia like pamphlets and news clippings from the era; it is also radical in experimentation as well as content, exploring with multimedia modes like comic strips. Yamashita poignantly conveys the historical struggle for Asian American rights, and the many shifting identities the term “Asian American” can encompass."

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  • The Leavers: A Novel

    2017 by Ko, Lisa

    "Set in both New York and China, The Leavers follows a Chinese American boy whose undocumented mother Polly vanishes one day. Deming Guo—later renamed Daniel Wilkinson by his white adoptive parents—is forced to reckon with what it means to be an “all-American” whose sense of belonging has vanished. What does it mean to belong? Does assimilation mean learning a new language, a new home, a new family, a new house, or a new name? And what happens to the person you used to be?"

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  • America Is Not the Heart

    2018 by Castillo, Elaine

    "In Castillo’s debut novel, Hero De Vera moves from a politically turbulent Philippines to suburban San Jose. America is Not the Heart explores social inequity and racism amidst the Filipinx American community, as well as what it means to pursue the “American Dream.” Castillo also pays careful attention to the code-switching that often happens for immigrant families; her characters speak Spanish, Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano. The title nods to Carlos Bulosan’s groundbreaking novel from the 1970s, America Is in the Heart, which describes a Filipino migrant worker’s experiences with brutal racism on a California farm."

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  • Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

    2018 by Jacob, Mira

    This title is not included in Yoo and Kuo's list, but I wanted to add this title. Jacob grounds the mixed-media graphic novel in conversations she has with her son about being a person of color in America. Thought provoking and beautiful.

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