Reading Women Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Kendra Winchester and Sachi Argabright Discuss This Month's Theme
For May’s theme, Kendra, Sachi, and RuthAnn discuss nonfiction books for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
From the episode:
Sachi: As many of you probably remember from last year, I feel like I am a huge obvious champion of this celebration, literary celebration. Well, not literally . . . literary for this podcast, but a celebration in general for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And so we wanted to incorporate a way to celebrate this month, but do it in a way that was different than what we talked about last year. So that’s why we really wanted to focus on nonfiction picks, which I really loved because I—guilty as charged—usually read fiction over nonfiction, but any time I do pick up nonfiction, I’m usually very, very pleasantly surprised. And I’m always like, I should read more of this. And then I dive into the fiction rabbit hole. So this was a great way for me to focus on that. And, you know, get the word out on these two absolutely great titles that I picked for the podcast today, which I’m very jazzed about. So get ready to get all of the gushing because that’s what we do best here at Reading Women.
Kendra: It’s true.
Sachi: So the first book that I have today that I’d like to share is called Whiter: Asian American Womenon Skin Color and Colorism. And this is edited by Nikki Khanna. And it’s out from NYU Press. And this is an anthology collection. So multiple authors or writers. And all of the contributors are Asian American women, and they’re talking about their experiences with colorism.
The thing that I liked most about this book is that . . . first, it has a really great intro and then is divided into these six parts. And the stories are organized or grouped into these themes, which made it very, very easy to follow. So the six parts are Colorism Defined, Privilege, Aspirational Whiteness, Anti-Blackness, Belonging and Identity, and Skin-Redefined. And for me personally, this was something I have never really read before. I’ve read about colorism mainly from the kind of lens of the Black experience and not necessarily Asian and specifically Asian American experience.
And so, you know, both books that I’m going to highlight are absolutely important. And I’m so thankful they’re being published right now. I feel like Asian American fiction really got a big spotlight. I feel like . . . I think it was like two years ago in 2018. And I think Asian American nonfiction is really getting spotlight in 2020, at least with these two picks because 2020 is kind of already off the rails, so who knows what the rest of the year is going to look like. But these two books that I’m highlighting today are 2020 releases earlier in the year, and I think are absolutely standout.
So I have a ton of notes for this book. I could literally go on and on and on forever. But, you know, there’s all kinds of things that I didn’t know about, you know, skin lightening and the discrimination, even within specific racial groups and within certain Asian communities. You know, I fully recognize I’m a light-skinned bi-racial individual. And so there is a certain privilege that comes with that. So part of my lack of knowledge around colorism is because I don’t experience it as much as some other of my other Asian and Asian American counterparts do. I’m just thankful that this is out there, and it very much explains some of the things that’s probably very common knowledge to most people.
But, you know, after having reflected back on some of my conversations with my Japanese relatives and how they’re so fascinated by like my Eurasian-looking face because I’m hoppa or hafu in the Japanese community because I’m half Japanese and half white. You know, that is a form of this emphasis on colorism. And the more I kind of read this book, and I look back at my life and my experiences, it has touched me. And it does affect so many people. And I wouldn’t have recognized that. And it wouldn’t have informed my thinking if I hadn’t read this book. So I’m just so thankful that this is out there. And if anyone wants to learn more about this topic and, you know, the very many ways it can affect people, this is a really, really great resource. And I just keep talking about it all the time to people. So, Kendra, had you heard about this book at all before we picked it for the podcast?
Kendra: I hadn’t heard of it until you mentioned it. But then when I talked to Sumaiyya, she had it on her radar because we’re doing beauty standards in the fall.
Sachi: Oh, okay, yeah. This will be perfect for that.
Kendra: Yeah. So I’m very excited about it. It’s on my list to buy. It sounds like this is a book that’s sort of like Cathy Park Hong’s book, but only for beauty standards from an Asian, pan-Asian perspective.
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This episodes sponsors are Kobo Audiobooks; Skylight Frame, where you can get $10 of your purchase at SkylightFrame.com/READING and enter code READING; and the new book A Farewell to Arms, Legs, and Jockstraps by Diane Shah.