Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and expand your understanding of AAPI history and culture through a collection of works by College of Arts & Sciences faculty, students and alumni.


Art and Other Media

Image: Still from Chanhee Choi's "Pandemic"; courtesy of the artist.

These artists want to draw the Chinese railroad workers back into history (NBC News)

Zhi Lin, Professor of Painting + Drawing, focuses on the forgotten Chinese-American experience and history in the US. He traced the entire first transcontinental railroad route making visual documentation of the landscapes and landmarks from 2005 to 2018, and he made several series of works addressing this absence and erasion. Since 2018, he has investigated the Anti-Chinese American riots in the 1880s through 40 to 50 feet long handscroll paintings. 

Related works and articles:


An Artist Was Targeted in a Hate Crime. So She Designed a Video Game (Wired)

The pandemic saw a spike in xenophobia against Asians. Digital artist Chanhee Choi, a multidisciplinary artist and Ph.D. student in Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), decided to fight back in a way only she could.

Articles related to the project:


Gearbreakers (Macmillan, 2021)

by Zoe Hana Mikuta

An unassuming sophomore at the time, Zoe Hana Mikuta impressed long-time UW English Professor Shawn Wong with her essay in winter 2019. At just 19, she had already secured a two-book deal with MacMillan Publishers, one of the “Big Five” publishers of English-language books. Mikuta’s first book, Gearbreakers, is set to come out June 29, 2021.


Be Water (ESPN)

Directed by Bao Nguyen, "Be Water" examines the life and career of Bruce Lee, who studied philosophy and drama at the UW.  Nguyen told Newsweek how Lee's legacy continues to live on, "For many people of color particularly Asian Americans like myself, Bruce Lee was the first time they saw themselves being portrayed as the hero onscreen. There were other Asian Americans actors that came before him but Bruce's camera presence and charisma surely set him apart. In addition, his early, tragic death has immortalized him into a sort of symbol."


A People's Landscape: Racism and Resistance at UW

Our People's History Group, in collaboration with the Geography Graduate Student Association, created this interactive map that provides historical context to campus locations that confronts colonialism and racism, while highlighting stories of resistance and resources. 



Books and Research

The Ocean in the School: Pacific Islander Students Transforming their University (Duke University Press, 2020)

by Rick Bonus, Professor and Chair of the Department of American Ethnic Studies

In his latest book, Rick Bonus discusses how Pacific Islander students at the UW used the ocean as a metaphor to create community for themselves and change their university. 

The book tells of Pacific Islander students and their allies as they “struggle to transform a university they believed did not value their presence” despite campus promotion of diversity and student success programs. Bonus interviewed dozens of students he taught and advised at the UW between 2004 and 2018 about their experiences.

Additional books by Rick Bonus:


No-No Boy (UW Press, 2014)

by John Okada (BA, English, '47)

"No-No Boy has the honor of being among the first of what has become an entire literary canon of Asian American literature,” writes novelist Ruth Ozeki in her new foreword. First published in 1957, No-No Boy was virtually ignored by a public eager to put World War II and the Japanese internment behind them. It was not until the mid-1970s that a new generation of Japanese American writers and scholars, including UW English Professor Shawn Wong, recognized the novel’s importance and popularized it as one of literature’s most powerful testaments to the Asian American experience.

Related Articles:


We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration (Wing Luke Asian Museum and Chin Music Press, 2021)

By Frank Abe & Tamiko Nimura (PhD, English, 2004)

Based upon painstaking research, We Hereby Refuse presents an original vision of America's past with disturbing links to the American present.

In this groundbreaking graphic novel, we meet:

  • JIM AKUTSU, the inspiration for John Okada’s acclaimed novel No-No Boy, who refuses to be drafted from the camp at Minidoka after the Selective Service classifies him not as a citizen but as an enemy alien
  • HIROSHI KASHIWAGI, who resists government pressure to sign a loyalty oath at Tule Lake, but yields to family pressure to renounce his U.S. citizenship, putting himself at risk of deportation
  • MITSUYE ENDO, a reluctant recruit to a lawsuit contesting her imprisonment, who refuses a chance to leave the camp at Topaz so that her case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court. For the first time, we see Mitzi Endo as a person and not just a name on a legal brief


Homebase (UW Press, 2008)

by Shawn Wong, Department of English, Professor

Homebase is the coming of age story of Rainsford Chan in 1950s and '60s California. Rainsford is a fourth-generation Chinese American named after the town where his great-grandfather worked during the gold rush. Orphaned at fifteen, he attempts to claim America as his homebase, and his personal history is interwoven with dreams, stories, and letters of his family's life in America. Moving through time and place, the story allows the reader to discover the past as Rainsford does, to see the world through his eyes, and to learn the truth about the Chinese American experience.


Union by Law: Filipino American Labor Activists, Rights Radicalism, and Racial Capitalism (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

by Michael W. McCann, Political Science; Laws, Societies & Justice, with George I. Lovell, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences; Political Science; Laws, Societies & Justice

Union by Law analyzes the broad social and legal history of Filipino American workers' rights based struggles, culminating in the devastating landmark Supreme Court ruling, Wards Cove v Atonio (1989).  Reclaiming a long legacy of racial capitalist domination over Filipino and other low-wage or unpaid migrant workers, the book tells a story about the aspiration of human rights advocacy over several generations and the many ways that law was mobilized both to enforce and to challenge race, class, and gender hierarchy at work. 


My Unforgotten Seattle (University of Washington Press, 2020)

by Ron Chew

Third-generation Seattleite, historian, journalist, and museum visionary Ron Chew spent more than five decades fighting for Asian American and social justice causes in Seattle. 

"In our midst are a few incredible people who witness events, take notes, keep journals and hoard letters...If we’re lucky, they bring it all together for the rest of us before it disappears into time. Chew is one of those people...He tells of the ordinary people he saw do extraordinary things." — UW Magazine

Related article: "My Unforgotten Seattle" embraces disability (Shoreline Area News) To make Ron Chew's book more accessible, his latest project is creating an audio version of his memoir. A joint project between Chew Communications, partnering with Seattle’s Talking Book and Braille Library, and the International Examiner, they plan to have the audio book available later this year. 

This year, the UW School of Art + Art History + Design honors Ron Chew with the Anne Focke Arts Leadership Award.


Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)

by Moon-Ho Jung, Department of History, Professor

How did thousands of Chinese migrants end up working alongside African Americans in Louisiana after the Civil War? With the stories of these workers, Coolies and Cane advances an interpretation of emancipation that moves beyond U.S. borders and the black-white racial dynamic. Tracing American ideas of Asian labor to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, Moon-Ho Jung argues that the racial formation of "coolies" in American culture and law played a pivotal role in reconstructing concepts of race, nation, and citizenship in the United States.

Additional books by Moon-Ho Jung:


Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture (University of Illinois Press, 2014)

by LeiLani Nishime, Department of Communication, Professor

In this first book-length study of media images of multiracial Asian Americans, Leilani Nishime traces the codes that alternatively enable and prevent audiences from recognizing the multiracial status of Asian Americans. Nishime's perceptive readings of popular media--movies, television shows, magazine articles, and artwork--indicate how and why the viewing public often fails to identify multiracial Asian Americans. Using actor Keanu Reeves, golfer Tiger Woods, and the television show Battlestar Galactica as examples, Nishime suggests that this failure is tied to gender, sexuality, and post-racial politics. 

Additional books by LeiLani Nishime:


An Absent Presence: Japanese Americans in Postwar American Culture, 1945-1960 (Duke University Press, 2002)

by Caroline Chung Simpson, Department of Comparative History of Ideas, Associate Professor

There have been many studies on the forced relocation and internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. But An Absent Presence is the first to focus on how popular representations of this unparalleled episode in U.S. history affected the formation of Cold War culture. Caroline Chung Simpson shows how the portrayal of this economic and social disenfranchisement haunted—and even shaped—the expression of American race relations and national identity throughout the middle of the twentieth century.


A Thousand Miles of Dreams: The Journeys of Two Chinese Sisters (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006)

by Sasha Su-Ling Welland, Department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, Associate Professor

A Thousand Miles of Dreams is an evocative and intimate biography of two Chinese sisters who took very different paths in their quests to be independent women. Ling Shuhao arrived in Cleveland in 1925 to study medicine in the middle of a U.S. crackdown on Chinese immigrant communities, and her effort to assimilate began. She became an American named Amy, while her sister Ling Shuhua burst onto the Beijing literary scene as a writer of short fiction. Shuhua's tumultuous affair with Virginia Woolf's nephew during his years in China eventually drew her into the orbit of the Bloomsbury group. The sisters were Chinese "modern girls" who sought to forge their own way in an era of social revolution that unsettled relations between men and women and among nations. Daughters of an imperial scholar-official and a concubine, they followed trajectories unimaginable to their parents' generation.


Forever Foreigners or Honorary Whites? (Rutgers University Press, 1999)

by Mia Tuan, College of Education, Dean

What does it mean to be an Asian-American in the United States today? Are Asian-Americans considered "honorary whites" or forever thought of as "foreigners?"

Mia Tuan examines the salience and meaning of ethnicity for later generation Chinese- and Japanese-Americans, and asks how their concepts of ethnicity differ from that of white ethnic Americans. She interviewed 95 middle-class Chinese and Japanese Californians and analyzes the importance of ethnic identities and the concept of becoming a "real" American for both Asian and white ethnics. She asks her subjects about their early memories and experiences with Chinese/Japanese culture; current lifestyle and emerging cultural practices; experiences with racism and discrimination; and  attitudes toward current Asian immigration.


Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation (Duke University Press, 2016)

by Vincent L. Rafael, Department of History, Professor; Department of Comparative History of Ideas, Professor

In Motherless Tongues, Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history gleaned from the workings of translation in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond. Moving across a range of colonial and postcolonial settings, he demonstrates translation's agency in the making and understanding of events. These include nationalist efforts to vernacularize politics, U.S. projects to weaponize languages in wartime, and autobiographical attempts by area studies scholars to translate the otherness of their lives amid the Cold War. In all cases, translation is at war with itself, generating divergent effects.


Seattle's Asian American Movement

Although multi-racial coalitions between different immigrant groups had long played an important part in campaigns for civil rights on the West Coast, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that diverse communities with different histories began to self-consciously unite as “Asian Americans.” Challenging stereotypes, the Asian American movement that promoted this new identity largely by student activists.

The Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project is based at the University of Washington. It represents a unique collaboration involving community groups, UW faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. Support for this project comes from the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, and the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, and the following University of Washington offices: the Office of Undergraduate Education, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Office of the Provost, UW-IT Learning Technologies.



Stop AAPI Hate: Taking Action 

Image: Curtis Compton / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / TNS

"Asian Americans’ economic inequalities is violence, too" (The Seattle Times)

"If we can name physical attacks and deaths as racist violence, why can’t we name the system of racial capitalism that produces the economic precarity of living paycheck to paycheck an issue of violence, as well? Much of the mainstream focus on race and racial violence ignores the intersection of class," writes Linh Thủy Nguyễn, assistant professor of American Ethnic Studies at the UW.

In addition, Linh Thủy Nguyễn was recently interviewed by UW News in "How white supremacy, racist myths fuel anti-Asian violence" and was a speaker in a panel featuring UW faculty and staff, "Anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander Racism: Past, Present, and a Brighter Future."


"In the face of hate, Asian Americans call for solidarity with all people of color" (South Seattle Emerald)

Reuben Deleon, a lecturer in American Ethnic studies at the UW, who grew up in White Center, is a firm believer in the power of ethnic studies to critically challenge and transform our racist system. He is passionate about instilling students with agency and power. Learning local history and examining how race, immigration, and inequity have played out in the places we live is key to feeling empowered to act for change. “For some, [ethnic studies] is a form of healing. For others it’s the ‘aha’ moment of this is why it happens!” 


"Stand up against anti-Asian hatred, misogyny and violence" (The Seattle Times)

"Enough with excuses. Enough with harassment. Enough with objectifying women. Enough with violence against women and AAPI. Enough of domestic terrorism against women and Black, Indigenous and people of color. Enough with hate crimes. Enough with white supremacy. We stand in solidarity with others demanding justice," writes Connie So, teaching professor of American Ethnic Studies at the UW; Sutapa Basu of the University of Washington Women’s Center; and Velma Veloria, a former Washington State Representative. 


"Violence Against Asian Americans" (PBS)

Connie So, teaching professor of American Ethnic Studies at the UW, joins a discussion about the racist attacks on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders not only throughout the country but also right here in Western Washington and what can be done to put a stop to them. 

Course you can take with Connie So this Autumn: AAS 395 A: Critical Studies of Post-Vietnam War Southeast Asian Americans: Not Just Refugees (Connie So) 


Departments and Areas of Study

Explore the Departments and Areas of Study in the College of Arts & Sciences where you can deepen your learning in Asian American and Pacific Islander culture and history.


Take a course this Autumn to deepen your learning in Asian American and Pacific Islander culture and history:

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Is there work that you would like to see in this article? Email us at uwartsci@uw.edu

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