A Guide to Organizing an Asian Pacific Islander American Children’s Literature Event in Your Community

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APIA Children's Book List

APIA Bookstores

APIA and Reproductive Justice Organizations

About Urbanity

About this Guide

About the Cover Art

“THE DIVINITY OF BEING ME” (mixed/digital media, poetry), by Sal Chen. SAL CHEN is an artist, writer, educator, and creative born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Sal's work is inspired by her passionate vision of creating an environmentally & socially sustainable world for collective thriving, as well as her experiences navigating her intersectional identities, growing up in NYC, as the child of immigrant Americans. (salchen.com)

“THE DIVINITY OF BEING ME,” by Sal Chen (Used with permission)

“THE DIVINITY OF BEING ME,” by Sal Chen (Used with permission)

About the Authors

MARCI CALABRETTA CANCIO-BELLO is an author, translator and editor. She was co-founder and editor at Print-Oriented Bastards and producer at The Working Poet Radio Show, and currently serves as a program coordinator for Miami Book Fair, Hyphen Magazine poetry editor, co-director for PEN America Miami South Florida Chapter, and serves on the advisory board for the Sundress Academy for the Arts.

ALISON ROH PARK is CEO and founder of Urbanity, LLC and recipient of the 2020 Voqal social enterprise fellowship. She teaches Asian American Studies at Hunter College, is an artist and Pushcart-nominated poet and past awardee of the Poetry Society of America and Poets & Writers Magazine Amy Award.

MAY TAKAHASHI uses food, movement and culture to foster intergenerational, multiracial community spaces. She has worked in youth education, domestic violence and voting rights and currently supports research and special projects for Urbanity, LLC.

About the Title

As with many efforts to make literature, culture and society more representative of those communities whose contributions and histories are integral yet systematically overlooked, the knowledge and cultural production of Black scholars, advocates, activists and thought leaders have been foundational to the collective change we seek to make. Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita at Ohio State University and “mother of multicultural children's literature”—as she is known for her groundbreaking work and research—is quoted regularly in the work of creating more authentic representation of children of color and their stories. We borrow from her imagery of “windows, doors and mirrors” that has become synonymous with efforts to transform storytelling and the stories we tell to, for and about children.

Alex Tizon was a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose stories sparked new conversations about class, power and slavery across generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders diaspora through the lens of his family's history. He compares time and place to prisms—a precise metaphor for the ways that context and myths can shape our understanding of ourselves and others. The authors see this as important not only in the work of unlearning and relearning American narratives of who Asian Americans are and came to be, but also as a point of hope for new kinds of doors, mirrors, windows and prisms that allow more children to see themselves, their communities and others in different light.

The authors thank and hope to build on the work and vision of those past, present and future whose work was found, compiled and interpreted here to recognize and reshape the power of children’s literature.

About Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM)

The term “Asian American” was coined by California ethnic studies students and activists in 1968 as part of broader liberation movements to foster a pan-Asian political unity in the  U.S. Concerned by the lack of federal recognition of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and activated by the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial celebrations, Asian American congressional staffers Jeanie Jew and Ruby Moy campaigned for May to be declared Asian Pacific Heritage Month. In 1977, Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta, closely followed by Hawai’i Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, introduced one of five resolutions declaring the first ten days of May as Asian-Pacific Heritage Week.

The month of May was chosen for various reasons: to commemorate May 7, 1843, the arrival of the first Japanese American immigrant (until the 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement that effectively ended Japanese entry other than “picture brides”); and May 10, 1869, the ceremonial completion date of the Transcontinental Railroad that was built by an estimated 20,000 Chinese American laborers who worked in cruel, exploitative conditions and were subjected to violence from employers, law enforcement and White settler mobs, all in service of so-called Manifest Destiny.

From Bridge Magazine, Summer 1992

From Bridge Magazine, Summer 1992

In 1992, the full month of May became recognized as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). In 2009, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month became Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM); however, the month continues to be popularly referred to with the hashtag #APAHM on social media.

Despite these specific commemorations of earlier groups inserted into the U.S. racial landscape, no single month, holiday or racial category could possibly reflect the true range of diverse identities, generations in the U.S., experiences, histories, ethnicities, and cultures that the moniker now includes (see the section Who Are Asian and Pacific Islander Americans?).