May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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asian americanMay is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

In this crazy time when a movement is growing to #StopAsianHate (check out these resources from the Smithsonian Museum or Reuters for more information), it is good to celebrate the rich, diverse heritage that is thousands of years old and a beautiful part of the American cultural tapestry.

And before I start sharing ideas of ways to enjoy and celebrate the month, in case you haven’t played Risk lately, I want to remind you that we are talking about 48 countries, including China and India, but also the countries of Russia and New Zealand, and the state of Hawaii.

As the weather warms and with the prospect of a decrease in the number of COVID cases (thank you, science for developing vaccines against the coronavirus!), May might be a good time to visit one of the awesome museums dedicated to Asian American Art.

In our region, you can check out the We The People: Xu Bing and Sun Xun Respond to the Declaration of Independence exhibit at the Asia Society Museum in NYC or the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum that is part of the Springfield Museum’s collection (also featuring the Dr. Seuss Museum which my kids loved on our last visit). If you don’t make it there until summer, the good news is that you could see the Ai Weiwei: Tradition and Dissent exhibit that starts July 17, 2021.

If you are up for a road trip, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center will provide you with a day’s worth of discovery in addition to all sorts of online exhibits. Highlights include A Day in the Queer Life of Asian Pacific America to Pickles and Tea – Recipes with Pat Tanumihardja. Also, if you are a parent or an educator, definitely check out their resources and the digital storytelling initiative to learn more.  

If you aren’t ready for museums yet, you can also enjoy the Virtual Asian American Art Museum. VAAAM is currently featuring a collection of artists, including Michiko Itatani, James Numata, and Ray Yoshida, whose works are united around Japanese American photography and art from a post-World War II Chicago.

Another great thing to do around Fairfield County is to check out the BookDragon reading list to find something for yourself or your kids. I recently read Brave Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani, the first South Asian American woman to run for congress and the tech organization Girls Who Code founder. I have to get my daughter to read this book when she gets to middle school. Brave, Not Perfect is uplifting and speaks of the challenges of being a motivated, audacious woman and shows how she took risks even when she didn’t always have the support of her friends.

One of our nighttime stories recently was The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller. In The Science of Breakable Things, we follow the struggles of a middle school girl who is ¼ Korean and is grappling with typical social dynamics at school while also hiding her mom’s depression (and how that makes her feel) from the world.

Both books were great in different ways, enjoyable and easy to read, address the issues of struggling and overcoming but from varying perspectives. Also, the stories’ protagonists are multifaceted and relatable, with their racial identity being in the background rather than the foreground of the stories.

You could also try cooking a new Asian dish. If you are new to Asian cooking, I highly recommend keeping it simple and sauteing some chicken in some teriyaki sauce (my family loves Soy Vay’s Veri Veri Teriyaki) along with microwaving a bag each of frozen rice and broccoli. And Intermediate dish would be Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce.

If you are a more adventurous cook, then try making Sukiyaki, especially if it is one of those random cool and rainy days we can get in May. I love Sukiyaki. It is the second meal I ever cooked for my Japanese American husband. And after he took his first bite, he gave me the best compliment – that he thought his mother would approve. A friend and fellow Fairfield County Mom contributor also recommended trying to make Sinigang na Baboy (Sour Tamarind Filipino Pork Soup). And her special tip is that if you can’t find the pork shoulder, get some country-style pork ribs that work just as well. And if you need an online store to make it easy to find all the ingredients straight to your home, then check out Umami Cart delivery service – they have everything you could need and more.  

When takeout is more your speed, there is a lot of great Asian food in the area – enough to inspire a whole, different blog post.

Today, more than 19 million Asian Americans live in the US, some of whom have ancestors that emigrated to the US as early as the 1850s. And there are so many ways that our lives are better thanks to the influence of Asian/Pacific Island Americans.

So celebrate how these amazing, diverse peoples have made America awesome. To learn more, check out the many other perspectives and resources available from the Asian Society to educate yourself as you celebrate this month.

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Erika is a professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies and mom to two kids (2010 and 2013) plus two cats (2005 and 2019). A Midwestern transplant who has lived in 32 places, she has happily called Fairfield her home for the past 12 years. At work, she directs a program to support first-generation and underrepresented student success in science. In town, she can often be found driving her kids back and forth to their respective sporting events and teams or sitting in a coffee shop using the wifi to get a little work done before pick up. Erika loves spending time enjoying the water, cooking, theater, reading, and hanging out with her husband.

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