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Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

PEAK’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Affinity Group convened for the first time on May 12 as part of PEAK2021 Online. Created by PEAK in collaboration with our membership, this group was created to be a space where members who identify as AAPI can connect, network, and support one another. To mark both the launch of this new forum and AAPI Heritage Month, we asked affinity group co-chairs Jina Freiberg, Anna Huynh, and Sheryl Saturnino to recommend books, film, and other media to promote greater understanding and appreciation of AAPI heritage and support everyone in being better allies to the AAPI community. 

And because this is a term that encompasses people with many more identities than what can be covered in this space, we’d love to hear what writings, movies, podcasts, or other resources that elevate aspects of the AAPI experience for you. Contact our team or give us a shout-out on Twitter by including our @PEAKgrantmaking handle with your recommendation. 

Jina’s Recommendations

Pachinko This work of historical fiction by Korean American writer Min Jin Lee spins the epic story of four generations of a Korean family—first in Japan-occupied Korea and then in Japan proper—and their struggles with racism, identity, and belonging.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning This examination of the Asian American frame of being is perhaps best summarized by the publisher: “As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these ‘minor feelings’ occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity.” 

Crying in H Mart Michelle Zauner spun her viral 2018 New Yorker essay into this memoir that explores her complicated relationship with her mother, whose death is the catalyst for Zauner to reconnect with her Korean identity.

“Seeking to Soar: Foundation Funding for Asian American & Pacific Islander Communities” This report by the Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) examines the current—and alarming—state of philanthropic investment in AAPI communities. According to AAPIP, “for every $100 awarded by foundations for work in the United States, only 20 cents is designated for AAPI communities.” What’s more, five funders account for 40 percent of investment in AAPI communities. Were these funders to experience any disruptions, the ripple effects could be devastating.

Anna’s Recommendations

Asian Americans This five-hour documentary series on the Asian-American experience from the 19th century to today is available to stream for free on the PBS website through June 26. 

“Young Vietnamese Americans Fight Online Misinformation for the Community” This article tells the story of how a nonprofit organization launched a campaign to overcome linguistic and cultural divides to combat the spread of COVID-19 misinformation throughout the Vietnamese community.

Sheryl’s Recommendations

United We Stand This nonprofit organization offers programming and resources to students, educators, and caregivers to prevent bullying of AAPI youth. In this recording of a recent YouTube event, guest speakers and panel discussions featuring AAPI luminaries explore the many facets of the AAPI experience. 

“The Mental State of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” In this article, Kevin Leo Yabut Nadal, who is a professor of psychology at the City University of New York, examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues experienced by AAPIs and makes recommendations for how to initiate conversations around mental well-being. 

The Body Papers Grace Talusan’s memoir explores surviving the many traumas of her life—immigrating from the Philippines to the United States and the subsequent subjection to racism, sexual abuse, cancer—and how she was able to find strength and healing despite those experiences.

Patron Saints of Nothing This young adult novel was hailed by many as one of the best books of 2019—NPR, the New York Public Library, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus, to name just a few. Here, author Randy Ribay delves into the questions around identity, family, and connection to place that underpin the immigrant experience—all explored through the story of a young man who flies to the Philippines to seek the truth behind his cousin’s death as a result of President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

The Asian American Education Project Launched this year, the Asian American Education Project is the result of a major collaborative effort of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, Stanford University SPICE, and PBS LearningMedia and seeks to elevate the history of and contributions made by Asian Americans to public school curricula.

For additional resources, including personal stories and AAPI heritage events, visit Illustration by Jamie Chin.

Are you a PEAK member who would like to participate in our AAPI Affinity Group? Complete this brief form to express your interest and learn more.