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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Primary Sources

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Japanese Father and Daughter shairng an ice cream soda
Father and Daughter Sharing an Ice Cream Soda. Russell Lee, 1942

In May, we pay tribute to the generations of Asian or Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success. Primary sources can help us explore many facets of a community or ethnic group. Here are some resources you might use with your students.

  • The American Folklife Center has brought a variety of performers to the Library for the Homegrown concert series. Watch performances of Cambodian music and dance, Sattirya, and Kuchipudi dance from India and a dance celebrating the birthday of the Buddha from the Lao and Thai traditions.
  • Explore some of the musical traditions of Asian Pacific American communities including work songs of Japanese immigrant workers and Hindustani music.
  • Newspapers in  Chronicling America collection document life in specific places and times. Check out the Filipino Forum and Hawaii Holomua. There are also newspapers written in Japanese and Hawaiian.

    The "Moongate" at the Riverside International Friendship Gardens in the Mississippi River port of La Crosse, Wisconsin
    The “Moongate” at the Riverside International Friendship Gardens in the Mississippi River port of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Carol Highsmith, 2016
  • Also explore the newspapers  created by Japanese Americans living in the internment camps during World War II.
  • Native Hawaiians faced the destruction of their culture when other groups came to the islands. Learn how they fought to preserve their language and how one king worked to insure their folklore and culture was preserved.
  • The poetry and literature of Asian Pacific Americans has been recorded and studied at the Library. Japanese American poet David Mura and Jamaican poet Claudia Rankine share their poems and discuss issues of race and identity in one recording found in the Archive of Recorded Literature and Poetry. Other poets of interest included in this collection are Makoto Ooka and Shreela Ray.
  • There are many other poetry readings within the Library’s collections, including works from new Asian American poets and a program celebrating the literary works of Pacific Islanders.
  • The Library has also participated in the Asian American Literature Festival for the past few years. Recordings from the festival include an interview with poet and then president of the Poetry Society of America Kimiko Haun, a tour of Asian American literature, and a lecture and reading from Karen Tei Yamashita.

Encourage students to look at these and other materials included on the website. How have they helped them to learn more about the lives and experiences of those from Asian American and Pacific Islander communities?


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