May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month, but as author Nicole Chung noted, “work by Asian American writers is always timely.” The library has created some fantastic lists celebrating Asian American writers and artists for all ages to explore, but I wanted to call attention to some Pacific Northwest Asian American and Pacific Islander authors and books to explore this May and beyond.
Current Library Board member Ron Chew served as the editor for the International Examiner, the Asian American community paper, for more than a decade, but as Carey Quan Gelernter says in the introduction to Chew’s memoir, My Unforgotten Seattle, when asked 25-years-prior whether Gelernter could write a profile on him Chew was reticent: “He protested that he wasn’t interesting, or important, enough.” Thank goodness Chew later consented to be interviewed, mainly out of his commitment to sharing the good work of the Wing Luke Museum. We are all the more fortunate that years later Chew decided to pen a memoir imparting the depth of knowledge he had to share on his years as an activist and storyteller in Seattle. My Unforgotten Seattle is steeped in history and a deep connection with the Asian American community whose lives and stories Chew reveals with appreciation and care.
Sonora Jha’s memoir How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of My Family shares the Seattle-based professor of journalism and feminist media scholar’s journey to raise her son with intentionality. Growing up in India, Jha experienced the harms that patriarchal society inflicts on men and women and wanted to raise a son free of these fetters. Crosscut said: “In a sense, despite its title, this book will help anyone hoping to raise a feminist — or even to raise and re-raise yourself as one. As Jha notes, it is a lifelong process.”
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
If you like gorgeously written memoirs that explore the complexity of family, then this is for you. Nicole Chung was born in Seattle and raised in rural Oregon, where she was told by her white adoptive parents that she was a gift from God and that her Korean parents gave her up because they knew they could not give her the life she deserved. Nicole grew up in a mostly white community so she loved visiting Seattle where she saw so many people who looked like her. Chung’s journey to process her life as a transracial adoptee and to find her Korean birth family is powerful and beautifully told. I had the pleasure of sharing this book on KING5’s New Day Northwest when it came out in 2018!
Eric Liu offers hope and perspective in all that he does. His book Become America: Civic Sermons On Love, Responsibility, and Democracy gathers together some of his civic sermons at the events he convened with the non-profit he founded, Citizen University, in the wake of the Trump presidency. Civic Saturday provided connection, reflection, and a call to action in Seattle and beyond. Liu has also written movingly about his experiences as a Chinese American in The Accidental Asian: Notes from a Native Speaker and A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream. Also, check out this podcast on how to find unity in a divided America.
For a novel that depicts the dark mystery of the Northwest’s remote island locales, try Kim Fu’s The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore. Five girls and their counselor canoe to an island for an opportunity to learn wilderness skills. But when their counselor dies without the means to contact adults for help, these five girls learn survival at higher stakes than expected. Years later, what happened on the island reverberates in the lives of these five women.
Check out more books written by and about Asian American and Pacific Islander authors in the Pacific Northwest and explore Asian Pacific American History and Culture in Seattle.
~posted by Misha S.