Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Nearly 40 years ago, May was designated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. And on May 1, this is the proclamation released from the White House by President Barack Obama:
The vast diversity of languages, religions, and cultural traditions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continues to strengthen the fabric of American society. From the arrival of the first Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants 150 years ago to those who arrive today, as well as those native to the Hawaiian Islands and to our Pacific Island territories, all possess the common purpose of the fulfilling the American dream and leading a life bound by the American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we remember the challenges and celebrate the achievements that define our history.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have endured and overcome hardship and heartache. In the earliest years, tens of thousands of Gold Rush pioneers, coal miners, transcontinental railroad builders, as well as farm and orchard laborers, were subject to unjust working conditions, prejudice, and discrimination——yet they excelled. Even in the darkness of the Exclusion Act and Japanese internment, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have persevered, providing for their families and creating opportunities for their children.

Amidst these struggles, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed in great and significant ways to all aspects of society. They have created works of literature and art, thrived as American athletes, and prospered in the world of academia. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played a vital role in our Nation's economic and technological growth by establishing successful enterprises and pushing the limits of science. They are serving in positions of leadership within the government more now than ever before. And along with all of our great service men and women, they have defended the United States from threats at home and abroad, serving our Nation with valor.

From the beaches of the Pacific islands and the California coast, the grasslands of Central Asia and the bluegrass of Kentucky, and from the summits of the Himalayas and the Rocky Mountains, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community hails from near and far. This is the story of our more perfect union: that it is diversity itself that enriches, and is fundamental to, the American story.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2009, as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I call upon the people of the United States to learn more about the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

[I know that Obama has people to write up these things, but I can't help but think that given his background from Hawaii, the man has some intimate knowledge about Asian Pacific Americans and their heritage and history. After all, his sister is Asian American, they both lived in Indonesia for a while, and his brother-in-law and niece/nephew are Asian American. In fact, one could consider Obama to be our first Asian American president]

Anyway, in honor of APA Heritage/History month, I'm going to offer five lucky commenters the chance to win one of the following books:

*Free Food for Millionaires -- Min Jin Lee
*Trail of Crumbs -- Kim Sunee
*The Fortune Cookie Chronicles -- Jennifer 8 Lee
*Transparency -- Frances Hwang
*Strangers from a Different Shore -- Ronald Takaki

All of these books were donated by the Hachette Book Group (if you click on the titles, you will get a description and it will take you to the Hachette Book website). Some of the above books I've read already, like Free Food for Millionaires. Takaki's book is required reading for anyone interested in a broader history of Asian Pacific Americans on this continent (or in the Pacific). Anyway, in honor of APA History month I'll be trying to write specific posts with tidbits of little-known Asian American factoids, especially those that emblemize a mixed-race America.

All you need to do for a chance to win one of the five books I've listed is to write a comment sometime during the month of May (all those who have already commented from May 1-13 are automatically entered to win). I'll draw five names, at random, on June 1 and then have Hachette Book group send you your winning book. How easy is that!

And on that note, let me end with a spoken-word clip by an artist I've written about in the past, Beau Sia, and his piece "Asian Invasion":


Anonymous said...

This is a great idea -- I've wanted to read both _Millionaires_ and _Strangers_ for a while now.


p.s. Sorry if this is a gratuitous comment... but I am all about free books! Eons ago I used to work in a bookstore and then for a publishing company, but I don't think that I've gotten a free book since then.

Joy-Z said...

Beau Sia's work makes me feel a deep and vibrant sort of happy.

Beverly said...

A great collection of books.

Thanks for sharing the clip of Beau Sia's work.

I will be looking for more of his work.

Bingo said...

Thanks for the great giveaway.
nazatraz (at) yahoo (dot) com

Jennifer said...

Thanks everyone for leaving a comment--glad to introduce a few of you to Beau Sia (btw, he was the emcee/host of the wedding in Rachel's Getting Married) -- there are a few you tube clips of his performances that are worth checking out (like his Open Letter to Rosie O'Donnell).

And Sang-Shil, I love free books too!

Anonymous said...

Please enter me. Thank you for the giveaway!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

scottsgal said...

This is a different genre than what I normally read but they sound fascinating. Please count me in

msboatgal at

Linda Nguyen said...

I'd like to enter the giveaway.

Thank you for hosting it!


ikkinlala said...

These look like wonderful books!

ikkinlala AT yahoo DOT ca

mrsshukra said...

Reading these books is a great way to celebrate Asian Heritage Month, thanks! delilah0180 (at) yahoo (dot) com

♔ jessica.marie said...

I am so excited about this giveaway! I have been studying Japanese all year and have been taking some Asian history classes, but all of my teacher's have failed to inform anyone that it was Asian heritage month. ^_^

I think the Fortune Cookie Chronicles looks very interesting... I definitely didn't think Chinese restaurants outnumbered our fast food, but then I thought about the number of them in my town compared to the fast food places. ;)

lovejessicamarie [@] gmail [.] com

bettycd said...

Definitely agree that free books are super. We lived in Korea for awhile and would specially like to read Free Food for Millionaires

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say how great I think this campaign is. One of the books listed is by Takaki who took his life a few days ago b/c of a debilitating illness. It makes having access to that book all the more special.

Lesley (aka Upper West Side Writer) said...

What a great collection of books! Thank you!


Charleydog said...

Thanks for the great giveaway. I love book sites.