Recommended Reading: Asian American Identity and Activism

The Asian American diaspora is uniquely diverse. While the Jeremy Lin phenomenon has sparked mainstream media attention and created popular discussion around Asian American identity, there are still many unheard voices and perspectives. Jay Caspian Kang writes, “We still haven’t figured out how to talk about Asian Americans.”

The Asian American community struggles to navigate and make visible a racial identity society has trapped between white and black. Books by Asian American scholars and activists discuss how the community can transcend awareness and move towards social action. The books below connect culture and politics and share ways that the Asian American community stand in solidarity with other communities of color.

1.Yellow: Race in American Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu:  Howard University law professor, journalist, and activist, Frank H. Wu provokes the “color line” by giving voice to the Asian American community. He combines personal stories, history, news, academic research, and legal cases to discuss and investigate the damaging “model minority” and “perpetual foreigner” stereotype. He tackles contemporary issues such as affirmative action, discrimination, diversity dilemmas, and the mixed race movement from new perspectives. In the chapter, the Power of Coalitions, Wu writes: “Asian Americans are uniquely American. Our concerns about self-realization, racial dynamics, minority status, and the related matters arising from our status arise here [in the U.S.]…Asian American identity encompasses Filipinos, Vietnamese, Indians, Pakistanis, Thai, Hmong, Korean, Japanese, Hawaiians, Samoans, and others. We did not come by [this diversity] instinctively.” Using the Asian American experience, Wu offers a unique way to think about race and ethnic prejudice in the United States.

2. Wicked Theory, Naked Practice by Fred Ho: Radical artist and activist Fred Ho fuses Asian and African traditions through his music. This collection of his writings, speeches and interviews show how Ho passionately connects art to social justice, music to politics, and creative processes to activist organizing. Cultural and political theory merge together to reveal Ho’s story. Topics in this collection include Ho’s writing about Asian American jazz, cultural production and expressive culture, Asian-Pacific American working class revolutions, and Asian American social movements.

3. Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections Between African Americans and Asian Americans edited by Fred Ho and Bill V. Mullen: Activists, artists and scholars contribute to this anthology linking together African Americans and Asian Americans in their historical experiences of class and racial exploitation. The collection of autobiographies, poetry, scholarly criticism, creative writing and other genres represents two centuries of “collaborative radical political and cultural connections” and “shared traditions of resistance and struggle…for liberation and equality.” Ho and Mullen write in the introduction, “In our focus upon interconnectivity, collaboration, mutual influences, we assert and establish an alternative tradition of cross-cultural unity among oppressed people in the United States.” Some writings included are:

  • Seoul City Sue & the Bugout Blues: Black American Narratives of the Forgotten War – Daniel Widener
  • The Black Liberation Movement & Japanese American Activism – Diane C. Fujino
  • Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution – Robin D.G. Kelley & Betsy Esch
  • Yellow Lines: Asian Americans and Hip Hop – Thien-bao Thuc Phi
  • We Don’t Stand a Chinaman’s Chance Unless We Create a Revolution – Kalamu ya Salaam

Got book recommendations? Please share them with us! 

4 thoughts on “Recommended Reading: Asian American Identity and Activism

  1. Pingback: LINpowerment: One Asian American’s Perspective on Jeremy Lin | Threads

  2. Reblogged this on Intellection and commented:
    As someone who hopes to make a living studying diasporic literature, I think it’s awesome that the Jeremy Lin hullabaloo in the media is bringing more attention to the issue of unique Asian-American cultural identity within America. Great post and strong book recommendations that really kick off a conversation about what it means to construct and view American identity from an Asian-American lens.

  3. Pingback: TV’s Newest Tokens: South Asians as Sitcom Nerds | Threads

  4. Pingback: Book and Movie Selections from IJET’s Featured Speakers | Threads

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