The Refugee Aesthetic: Reimagining Southeast Asian America, Timothy K August (Temple University Press, December 2020)
The Refugee Aesthetic: Reimagining Southeast Asian America, Timothy K August (Temple University Press, December 2020)

The refugee is conventionally considered a powerless figure, eagerly cast aside by both migrant and host communities. In his book, The Refugee Aesthetic, Timothy August investigates how and why a number of Southeast Asian American artists and writers have recently embraced the figure of the refugee as a particularly transformative position.

Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora, Kavita Daiya (Temple University Press, November 2020)
Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora, Kavita Daiya (Temple University Press, November 2020)

In Graphic Migrations: Precarity and Gender in India and the Diaspora, Kavita Daiya provides a literary and cultural archive of refugee stories and experiences to respond to the question “What is created?” after decolonization and the 1947 Partition of India.

The country is made up almost entirely of immigrants, yet the United States goes through decades-long bouts of antipathy toward them. Journalist Jia Lynn Yang’s family emigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1976; it wasn’t until much later that she learned her family had benefited from a US policy only a decade old when her parents applied for visas. Interested in the change in policy, she set out to research US immigration law during the period when it was restricted the most. Her new book, One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965, tells the fascinating story of how these immigration restrictions came to be and why they were relaxed after four decades. 

As anti-Chinese prejudice rears its ugly head in the United States, more palpably and consequentially than it has in living memory, it is worth remembering that Chinese have been in America for generations. C Pam Zhang’s debut novel of Chinese immigrants who came for the railroads and the gold rush, How Much of These Hills is Gold, is a haunting tale of family, home, and belonging.   

As Asian-American writers are increasingly considered mainstream, populate “best books” and “books to watch” lists, and receive acclaim from both critics and the general public, there has been a rediscovery of works of some of the early pioneers. Louis Chu’s Eat a Bowl of Tea, just re-released by University of Washington Press as part of its Classics of Asian American Literature series, was first published in 1961, re-released in 1979 and adapted for film by Wayne Wang in 1989, also to critical acclaim.

The Philippine economy has, relative to both its history and many other parts of the world, seen something of a recent boom. Yet although the poverty rate has plunged by about a third in the three years to 2018, Filipinos leaving their country for a future abroad still abound. Longtime New York Times reporter Jason DeParle explores global migration through a tightly-woven biography of a Filipino migrant family in A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century.