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Featured Books and DVDs: AAPI Heritage Month

Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with this selection of books and DVDs!

A tall stack of books with their spines displayed sits on a marble ledge, with a line of DVDs leaning against the left edge of the stack. The colorful assortment of titles is displayed in front of a variety of greenery, indicating the outdoors.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates the contributions and influence of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. The Penn Libraries invites you to join by exploring the works of talented writers, illustrators, filmmakers, and actors with this month’s Featured Books and DVDs.  

Looking for a soundtrack to accompany your reading? Check out Bravespace, a compilation of original songs, sounds, and meditations created by Asian American women and nonbinary artists and musicians for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Designed as a compilation for “Meditation, Mindfulness, and Collective Healing” in honor of AAPI Heritage Month, Bravespace is available through a variety of listening platforms.

You can find the books and DVDs highlighted below, and many more, on display on the first floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, next to New Books.

Note: The descriptions below are collected from publishers and edited for brevity and clarity.   
 

Books

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

When Ann Tran gets the call that her fiercely beloved grandmother, Minh, has passed away, her life is already at a crossroads. With both her relationship and carefully planned future in question, Ann returns home to Florida to face her estranged mother, Huơng. Under the same roof for the first time in years, mother and daughter must face the simmering questions of their past and their uncertain futures, while trying to rebuild their relationship without the one person who’s always held them together.

Running parallel to this is Minh’s story, as she goes from a lovestruck teenager living in the shadow of the Vietnam War to a determined young mother immigrating to America in search of a better life for her children. Spanning decades and continents, from 1960s Vietnam to the wild swamplands of the Florida coast, Banyan Moon is a stunning and deeply moving story of mothers and daughters, the things we inherit, and the lives we choose to make out of that inheritance.


Stories for South Asian Supergirls by Raj Kaur Khaira

Through the inspirational stories of 50 famous and under-celebrated women from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, South Asian girls will have a chance to dream about lives for themselves that radically differ from the limited narratives and stereotypes written for them by their culture, wider society, and the mainstream media.

Stories for South Asian Supergirls seeks to redress the imbalance for young girls of color by empowering them to break new ground for themselves and to inspire others in the process. Illustrated with striking portraits by 10 international South Asian female artists, this is a book for all ages – the perfect gift that will be treasured by parents as much as their children will enjoy reading them.

Impossible Children by Robert Yune

In these inventive short stories, characters must navigate an impossible world: America as we know it. Two estranged brothers on a road trip attempt to reconcile but end up at a Revolutionary War reenactment camp; a young woman moves in with her boyfriend and discovers an eerily personalized seduction manual on his bookshelf; a middle-aged Korean-American father attends college courses and is either blessed or haunted by the presence of Edward Moon, an eccentric billionaire who also happens to be “the most successful Korean in America.”

Playfully engaging with genres like science fiction, the fairy tale, and the Gothic tale, the interconnected short stories of Impossible Children pit tiny heroes against tiny villains; the result is a stunning mapping of geography, heritage, immigration, freedom, and the mysterious forces behind epic ruins and epic successes.

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City by Jane Wong

In the late 1980s on the Jersey shore, Jane Wong watches her mother shake ants from an MSG bin behind the family’s Chinese restaurant. Jane is part of a family staking their claim to the American dream, even as this dream crumbles. Beneath Atlantic City’s promise lies her father’s gambling addiction, an addiction that causes him to disappear for days and ultimately leads to the loss of the restaurant.

In her debut memoir, Jane Wong tells a new story about Atlantic City, one that resists a single identity, a single story as she writes about making do with what you have—and what you don’t. Filled with beauty found in unexpected places, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is a resounding love song of the Asian American working class, a portrait of how we become who we are, and a story of lyric wisdom to hold and to share.

Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake by Diane C. Fujino

Demanding liberation, advocating for the oppressed, and organizing for justice, siblings Mitsuye Yamada (1923–) and Michael Yasutake (1920–2001) rebelled against respectability and assimilation, charting their own paths for what it means to be Nisei. Raised in Seattle and then forcibly removed and detained in the Minidoka concentration camp, their early lives mirrored those of many second-generation Japanese Americans. Yasutake worked tirelessly to free political prisoners and defend human rights, while Yamada became an internationally acclaimed feminist poet, professor, and activist who continues to speak out against racism and patriarchy.

Nisei Radicals examines the siblings’ half century of dedication to global movements, including multicultural feminism, Puerto Rican independence, Japanese American redress, Indigenous sovereignty, and more. From displacement and invisibility to insurgent mobilization, Yamada and Yasutake rejected stereotypes and fought to dismantle systems of injustice.

 

DVDs

Minding the Gap

This extraordinary debut from documentarian Bing Liu weaves a story of skateboarding, friendship, and fathers and sons into a coming-of-age journey of courageous vulnerability. Over the course of several years, Liu records the rocky paths into adulthood of Keire and Zack, two friends from his own skateboarding community in Rockford, Illinois. As he does so, deeper parallels emerge that ultimately draw the filmmaker into a heartrending confrontation with his own past. With images of exhilarating poetry and a keen emotional sensitivity, Minding the Gap is a powerfully cathartic portrait of fledgling lives forged in trauma and fighting to break free.

Yellow Rose

A Filipina teen from a small Texas town fights to pursue her dreams as a country music performer while having to decide between staying with her family or leaving the only home she has known. The timeliness of the film’s immigration plotline was noted by many critics on its release in 2019.  

New Year Baby

Born in a Thai refugee camp on Cambodian New Year, filmmaker Socheata Poeuv grew up in the United States never knowing that her family had survived the Khmer Rouge genocide. In New Year Baby, she embarks on a journey to Cambodia in search of the truth and to find out why her family’s history had been buried in secrecy for so long.

Meet the Patels

In this laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy that melds the documentary and narrative form, Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian American, enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams ... and his parents. Filmed by Ravi’s sister in what started as a family vacation video, this hilarious and heartbreaking film reveals how love is a family affair.

Ravi is willing to do whatever it takes to find love—but there’s one tricky detail to consider: In his family, everyone has the last name Patel. Patels marry other Patels (the last name indicating they are from the same 50-square mile radius in India). Struck with how overwhelmingly happy the marriages are of his Patel family and friends, Ravi enters a fool-proof Patel matchmaking system and embarks on a worldwide search for another American Patel just like him.

Surname Viêt Given Name Nam

Vietnamese-born Trinh T. Minh-ha’s profoundly personal documentary explores the role of Vietnamese women historically and in contemporary society. Using dance, printed texts, folk poetry, and the words and experiences of Vietnamese women in Vietnam and the United States, Trinh’s film challenges official culture with the voices of women. A theoretically and formally complex work, Surname Viêt Given Name Nam explores the difficulty of translation, and themes of dislocation and exile, critiquing both traditional society and life since the war.