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A #StopAsianHate Reading List

By Jessie Ho • March 04, 2021Big Ideas

From the immigrant experience to a hard look at race and history, consider these a starting point to fighting anti-Asian racism and uplifting Asian stories

Since the pandemic began, incidents of racism and violence towards Asians of American and Canadian descent have skyrocketed. StopAAPIHate, a group that has been tracking hate incidents in the States, has tallied over 2,800 since March. In Canada, over 600 incidents of anti-Asian racism have been reported.

Racism and discimination against Asian communities have existed long before 2020 (see: Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1871 Chinese Massacre, the Japanese internment, just to name a few.) However, they are often overlooked, ignored, or even denied in conversations about race today. A big part of this has to do with the model minority myth, a stereotype that was created to drive a wedge between the pan-Asian community and other people of colour, one that often discourages Asian Americans from speaking up.

Right now is a time for community and conversations, to learn that being actively anti-racist is to be against both anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, while leaning into solidarity amongst marginalized communities. We must continue condemning discrimination and xenophobia in all forms, continue listening and learning, yes—but also acting.

Here are thirteen eBooks and audiobooks — eight works of nonfiction, five fiction — to act as a starting point to diving into the nuances and complexities of the Asian American experience today.

For more resources, check out the following organizations: Hate Is A Virus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and GoFundMe's #StopAsianHate campaign in the U.S., as well as Elimin8Hate and Covid Racism in Canada.

Nonfiction

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong gives an unflinchingly honest take on what it means to be Asian American today—and how to navigate what she calls the oft-overlooked, “purgatorial status” of Asian Americans in conversations about racial identity. She tackles the dangers of the model minority myth, the dissonance between the American dream and the American reality, and the resulting “minor feelings” (which are anything but minor).

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Living For Change: An Autobiography by Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs was an intersectional activist for over seven decades who fought for civil rights, women’s rights, worker’s rights and more. Her identity as a first-generation Asian American woman shaped how she was able to relate to and fight for the different, yet connected struggles of her community. This is an inspiring read that demonstrates how solidarity and social justice must come together in the fight for a better society.

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The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee

Award-winning historian Erika Lee takes on the little-known history of Asian Americans, highlighting the global journeys of individuals, families, and communities. From the first sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500s to the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, this is a comprehensive look at how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have impacted the country and our understanding of race and immigration today.

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We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang

From the Ferguson protests to #OscarsSoWhite, to the Black Lives Matter movement, Jeff Chang recounts America’s grapple with equity and diversity. While not centred on the Asian American experience, Chang doesn’t forget Asian Americans in his discussion about race and shifting identities. In these sharply provoking essays, he explores the rise and fall of “diversity" along with the roots of student protest, and why undoing resegregation is the key to the future.

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

Nisei (“second generation”) is a term that describes ethnically Japanese people who were born to immigrant Japanese parents. This book follows siblings, Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake, who were detained in the Minidoka concentration camp in their 20's and how they went on to become Nisei activists, rebelling against respectability and assimilation expected from Asian Americans.

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The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority by Ellen D. Wu

The Color of Success tells the story of how Asians in the United States went from being the "yellow peril" to "model minorities”—separate from the white majority but applauded for being well-assimilated to it. Wu documents how the emergence of this stereotype was linked to the geopolitical climate of the 1950s and the civil rights movement, as well as how it undermines the struggles of the Asian American community, with far-reaching impacts that continue to influence how we understand race and nationhood.

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Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People by Helen Zia

This book provides valuable insight into when Asian American identity began to form. Helen Zia was born to Chinese immigrants in 1950s America when there were only 150,000 Chinese Americans in the country. From the murder of Vincent Chin to the LA Riots, this book is both a personal and a historical account of how Asian Americans were shocked into a new consciousness—growing from being largely invisible into a self-identified racial group with considerable influence on American society.

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The Karma of Brown Folk by Vijay Prashad

An homage to the W.E.B. Du Bois’s classic The Souls of Black Folk, Prashad examines the complexities of being South Asian in America—in particular, the model minority myth as it is deployed against Black Americans. A hard look at the quiet accommodation to racism made by many South Asians, this book explores collective struggle and multiracial alliances, the long history of Black and South Asian solidarity, and how Indian and South Asian identity has shaped and been shaped by American culture.

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Fiction

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

From one of the writers of Westworld comes a satire of Hollywood about subverting popular clichés about Asians and Asian-Americans and the roles we are forced to play. Charles Yu explores themes of race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation in a novel that is not only deeply funny but deeply personal.

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Ru by Kim Thúy

Kim Thúy’s Governor General's Literary Award-winning Ru is a lullaby for Vietnam and a love letter to a new homeland. Written in vignettes that move between past and present, the novel follows An Tinh Nguyen’s journey from her childhood in Saigon, to a Malaysian refugee camp, and finally to her new life in Quebec. It is a celebration of life, in the struggles of being uprooted, and the triumph in finding a new identity in a new home.

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Disappearing Moon Cafe by SKY Lee

A Canadian literary classic based in Vancouver, this is a riveting story of four generations of women whose lives are haunted by their ancestors but also by the racial divides and discrimination that shaped the lives of the first generation of Chinese immigrants to Canada. Each character must navigate what it means to be both Chinese and Canadian, creating a richly written microcosm of the history of race and gender relations in this country.

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How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

In this stunning fiction debut—and recent winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize—Souvankham Thammavongsa creates characters who struggle to make a living, to live, and to belong. The nuance between these three desires comes into play as the stories honour characters caught between cultures, languages, and values—even as they do the necessary "grunt work of the world.”

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Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada's Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui

This book is an exploration of the one thing all cultures have in common: food. Chop Suey Nation chronicles reporter Ann Hui’s journey from one end of the country to the other and an investigation into how chop suey cuisine is quintessentially Canadian. Woven together with her own family story, this book is a deep dive into the immigrant history of small-town Chinese-Canadian food and the essentially Chinese values that drive these restaurants—perseverance, entrepreneurialism and deep love for family.

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