Reading has been something that I’ve put off for a while. I’ve been excusing it with not having time (which I didn’t really have much but I could’ve fit it in somewhere), but it’s mostly been lack of motivation. Being surrounded by friends who love reading and tend to read a lot more diverse books, it’s actually brought back my desire to read more. As a result, I’ve ended up ordering a bunch of books through Better World Books. So here’s are a few of the books I’ve read in the past few months.
Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America by Erika Lee and Judy Yung
This has been the only non-fiction book that I’ve read recently. It discusses the much overlooked Angel Island, which was originally touted as the ‘Ellis Island of the West’. It has a very different history because many of the people who entered through Angel Island were from predominantly non-white countries, while Ellis Island primarily dealt with white European immigration.
Lee and Yung focus on the histories left at Angel Island by people who were Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, Mexican, Russian and Jewish, and Filipinx. It details a lot of immigration history that we have conveniently overlooked in many of our US History courses and should be taught in schools without people having to go out of their way to learn about this, as I did. Much of what was discussed, especially with regard to immigrants coming from all over Asia, was stuff that I had barely even heard of.
I had never heard about the Gentleman’s Agreement with Japan to halt the immigration of lower and working class people. I’d never realised that the pathway to independence for the Philippines was because the US wanted to reclassify its citizens as aliens so they could deny them access to the US. I had never heard about the ways that South Asian people were treated, especially as a result of our connection to their coloniser: the British. And I’d never realised how women of all races, but especially non-white women, were assumed to be prostitutes and immoral until a man had proven otherwise.
It’s so hard to condense this book to a few paragraphs because there is so much information in it, and I recommend anyone who is curious about today’s standard of immigration in the US and wants to know where its current structure comes from.
Her Wild American Self by M. Evelina Galang
I was shocked at how much I found myself engaging with this book because I generally am not a fan of short stories; they often feel as if they’re lacking an incomplete. But all of these were all fantastic; I found that I really wanted more after I had completed the whole collection.
They all engage with an American identity that is not often heard: a Filipina-American who is struggling with her own identity. They explore the experiences from childhood to adulthood, fleshing out the characters and scenes in ways that make everything so vivid. They explore what it means to be a woman who often feels she’s of two worlds, and there are so many aspects of them that are easy to connect to.
This is probably because, while there is the exploration of culture and how it forms and functions within a society that is different from where it originated, it also discusses experiences that many people can find familiar. It shows that, though there is difference, there is often glaring similarities that we tend to overlook.
I can’t do this book justice; I never will be able to. But it is a collection of short stories that I will forever recommend people read. It is such an important collection that speaks of experiences of race, gender, how different social norms affect us, generational difference, and so much more. It’s glorious.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
My very good friend and former co-worker decided to teach this book across three of her four classes. If I remember correctly, she had only intended to use it with one section, but she decided to teach it to all of her level-appropriate classes after students came to both of us, speaking up about their own experiences with rape and a problem at the school with inappropriate or unwanted touching (that the administration felt wasn’t a problem to deal with).
I had never before heard of the book, which is written about a young girl who is the victim of rape by the ‘most popular’ boy in high school. It follows her through her attempts to speak out about it but never feel comfortable doing so; there are few moments where she feels as if she can openly talk about things, but that changes when she realises she can do one very small act of justice: write about it on the bathroom wall.
Gaining much anonymous support, she finds the voice she wasn’t able to have in the beginning. It’s a great story that shows one of the many ways that girls and women deal with sexual abuse, and I’m glad that almost every girl in my friend’s class ran up to me demanding that I, too, read the book along with them; they were happy to hear my friend’s perspective on it during her class, but they wanted to know mine. In fact, some of the boys were demanding that I read it, too. There was a hugely positive response to this novel.
I love this book. I think I love it more because it helped us show the girls at my former school that it’s not their fault; it gave some of them the courage to finally speak out about it, even if it was just to my friend or myself. We need more literature of this nature, especially in the young adult category; we need to be discussing these topics.