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Literature highlights diversity within Asian American, Pacific Islander community

AAPI anthony shiu.png
Posted at 8:10 AM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 09:10:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Even after the semester ended, University of Missouri - Kansas City associate professor Anthony Shiu was walking around campus holding a book.

“I’m trying to figure out what to teach for fall,” said the professor of Asian-American and African-American literature and cultural studies.

Shiu said he sees mostly Chinese-American and Japanese-American authors in mainstream publications; and often times their stories pit first generation families against second and third generation relatives, all of which influences mainstream perceptions.

“Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, especially, are considered or are the default, I think when people think of Asian-Americans,” Shiu pointed out.

But the terms Asian-American and Pacific Islander covers much more than Japanese and Chinese-Americans. During AAPI Heritage Month, Shiu said it’s important to understand the wide range of cultures, people and ethnicities, which fall into the AAPI umbrella. Asia is the world’s largest continent.

“You have to recognize there’s difference within the sameness of that umbrella term,” he said.

Shiu uses literature to help launch those conversations. He’s recently found himself reading books by Vietnamese authors and has seen references to Hmong culture in more literature.

“How can we recognize these different areas, or these different groupings [within AAPI], but also how can we maybe rethink what Asian-American is? I think that’s always an ongoing, productive conversation,” the professor said.

It’s a conversation which is continually reflected in the literature we read.