Celebrating Asian American, Pacific Islander heritage


By Nicole Fowles

Glad You Asked

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an annual celebration that recognizes the historical and cultural contributions of Asian Americans to the United States.

Before the month was celebrated, a federal week of celebration was commemorated. Jeanie Jew, a former Capitol Hill staffer, shared the idea with Rep. Frank Horton, who introduced the legislation. The resolution was initially brought to Congress in 1977. In 1978, similar legislation passed and was signed by President Jimmy Carter. More than a decade later, in 1992, Congress extended the observance to a month and passed a public law to annually designate May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Two significant dates were noted in the legislation to place the commemoration in May. The first Japanese immigrations arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843. And on May 10, 1869, also known as Golden Spike Day, the first transcontinental railroad in the United States was completed, with much of the work being completed by Chinese workers.

The month has expanded to celebrate the histories of Americans hailing from the entire Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing racial group in the United States.

At the Delaware County District Library, our librarians have created some great reading lists in honor of the month. At the library’s online catalog, at www.delawarelibrary.org, you can search for booklists by our staff members. Refine the search bar to find the user DCDL_MsJoelle, DCDL_Hillary, and DCDL_Hannah to find their amazing collections of literature for all ages.

Be sure to draw your attention to novels by our featured author, Lisa See. Lisa is the bestselling author of “The Island of Sea Women,” “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,” “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” and many more titles that celebrate authentic Chinese characters and cultures. Her newest novel, “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women,” is inspired by the true story of Tan Yunxian — a woman born in the 15th century who became a doctor of women and girls. Much of Lisa’s inspiration comes from her great-grandfather, Fong See, who overcame obstacles at every step to become the 100-year-old godfather of Los Angeles’s Chinatown and the patriarch of a sprawling family.

Lisa See will join us at the Liberty Branch Library on Wednesday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. Her visit is made possible by our Friends of the Library. Tickets are available for $30-35 and will include a book and signing. Find tickets at www.delawarelibrary.org/event and support the mission of the Friends of the Library.

Enjoy some of these AAPI Heritage Month reading recommendations for all the readers in your home.

• “Eyes That Kiss in the Corners” by Joanna Ho. A self-confident and strong young girl recounts how she shares her eyes—and so much more—with her mother, her amah and her little sister.

• “Ohana Means Family” by Ilima Loomis. In this cumulative rhyme in the style of “The House That Jack Built,” a family celebrates Hawaii and its culture while serving poi at a luau.

• “Drawn Together” by Minh Lê. A boy and his grandfather cross a language and culture barrier using their shared love of art, storytelling, and fantasy.

• “The Knockout” by Sajni Patel. When seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar finally admits she is a top-level Muay Thai fighter, knowing that might further alienate her from her Indian community, her classmates, especially handsome Amit, enthusiastically support her.

• “Butterfly Yellow” by Thanhhà Lai. A Vietnam War refugee in Texas partners with a city boy with rodeo dreams to track down the younger brother she was separated from six years before when he was evacuated by American troops during the waning days of the Vietnam War.

• “Sea Change” by Gina Chung. Ro is stuck. She’s just entered her thirties, she’s estranged from her mother, and her boyfriend has just left her to join a mission to Mars. Her days are spent dragging herself to her menial job at the aquarium, and her nights are spent drinking sharktinis (Mountain Dew and copious amounts of gin, plus a hint of jalapeño). With her best friend pulling away to focus on her upcoming wedding, Ro’s only companion is Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus who also happens to be Ro’s last remaining link to her father, a marine biologist who disappeared while on an expedition when Ro was a teenager.

• “The Covenant of Water” by Abraham Verghese. Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, and set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, an epic of love, faith and medicine follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning. An evocation of a bygone India, “The Covenant of Water” is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today.

• “The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See. The ostracized daughter of a Japanese collaborator and the daughter of their Korean village’s head female diver share nearly a century of friendship that is tested by their island’s torn position between two warring empires.

If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the library’s web site at www.delawarelibrary.org or directly to Nicole at [email protected]. No matter how you contact us, we’re always glad you asked!

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