Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage encompasses a vast breadth of experiences, and there’s no way for a single list of books and films to incorporate them all. However, the Penn Libraries continues to compile a list each year to help patrons delve into different individual experiences and stories that celebrate, and shed light on, different AAPI cultures and perspectives.
As always, you can find the selections 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.
Our Voices, Our Histories: Asian American and Pacific Islander Women edited by Shirley Hune and Gail M. Nomura
This volume brings together 35 Asian American and Pacific Islander authors to explore the historical experiences, perspectives, and actions of AAPI women along local, transnational, and global dimensions. The contributions consider diverse aspects of AAPI women’s history — from the politics of language to the role of food to experiences as adoptees, mixed race, and second generation — while acknowledging shared experiences as women of color in the United States.
Beauty in Boro (text in Japanese and English) by Kosaku Nukata
In times when cloth was much more precious, people in rural Japan thriftily stitched together scraps of fabric to make everything from garments to bedding. Although the practice no longer exists, the articles left behind have come to be celebrated as works of art and of textile—so much so, in fact, that today they are known around the world simply by their Japanese name, boro. This book selects 500-plus examples of boro out of the more than 1,000 that the author has collected over 35 years. Wrap yourself in a compelling world of beauty shaped unconsciously by scores of unknown hands.
Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood
Journalist Mei-Ling Hopgood had an all-American upbringing, never really identifying with her Asian roots or harboring a desire to uncover her ancestry. Then, when she’s in her twenties, her Taiwanese birth family comes calling. As her sisters and parents pull her into their lives, claiming her as one of their own, the devastating secrets that still haunt this family begin to emerge. Spanning cultures and continents, this memoir is a tale of joy and regret, hilarity, deep sadness, and great discovery as the author untangles the unlikely strands that formed her destiny.
Speak it Louder: Asian Americans Making Music by Deborah Wong
This detailed history documents the variety of music created by Asian Americans. Wong covers an astonishing variety of music, ethnically as well as stylistically: among them, Laotian song, Cambodian music drama, karaoke, Vietnamese pop, Japanese American taiko, Asian American hip hop, and pan-ethnic Asian American improvisational music. Wong uses these diverse styles to question what it means for Asian Americans to make music in environments of inter-ethnic contact, about the role of performativity in shaping social identities, and about the ways in which commercially and technologically mediated cultural production and reception transform individual perceptions of time, space, and society. Note: An accompanying CD is available in the Ormandy Music and Media Center.
- Tell Me How to Be by Neel Patel
Renu Amin is binge-watching soap operas and simmering with old resentments as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches. She can’t stop wondering if, 35 years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, is haunted by the painful memories he fled a decade ago. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally say goodbye and move on. Soon their pasts catch up to them, and Renu and Akash must decide between the lives they left behind and the ones they’ve since created, between making each other happy and setting themselves free.
Umma, which is the Korean word for “mother,” follows Amanda (Sandra Oh) and her daughter (Fivel Stewart) living a quiet life on an American farm. When the remains of Amanda's estranged mother arrive from Korea, Amanda becomes haunted by the fear of turning into her own mother.
Set in New York City over the course of one eventful year, American Adobo, is a heart-warming comedy about five Filipino-American friends conflicted with their life choices and destinies, as they party away, sharing laughs, secrets, recipes, and lovers. American Adobo is a delicious treat for anyone with a family and a dream for the future. Together, these friends weave a uniquely American story about what it means to be an immigrant in a land where it seems everyone is searching for an identity.
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Filmed over 23 years, this Academy Award-nominated directorial debut of renowned cinematographer Ellen Kuras is a story of survival and the resilient bonds of family. After the U.S. government waged a secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, Thavi's father and thousands of other Laotians who had fought alongside American forces were abandoned and left to face imprisonment or execution. Hoping to find safety, Thavi's family made a harrowing escape to America, where they discovered a different kind of war.
The atmospheric Spa Night is a portrait of forbidden sexual awakening set in the nocturnal world of spas and karaoke bars in Los Angeles' Koreatown. David Cho (Joe Seo), a timid 18-year-old living with his financially struggling immigrant parents, chances upon a secret cruising spot when he takes a job at an all-male spa. There he begins to realize hidden desires that threaten his life as a dutiful son and student.
Doris Chu, a recently divorced Chinese American woman, has plastic surgery to make her eyes rounder. From her teenage daughter Mei's perspective, her mother's two eyes equal two lies. When the family journeys to a desert resort during Doris' recuperation, a series of revelations and bitter confrontations erupt. This beautiful black and white drama is a poignant study of generational conflict and the struggle for identity in a world of hybrid cultures.