First. Truth. I’ve got books on my nightstand but I don’t read at night. I mostly read in the early, early morning before the sun comes up; when the air outside is quiet, still and fresh; when cars are parked, the hustle bustle of the day hasn’t begun and most people are still sound asleep; most importantly my six-year-old son is still sound asleep. And I keep books all over the house. On my nightstand yes. But also on shelves, counters, in book bags, unopened and opened boxes, upstairs and downstairs, half-read, read twice, never read, will read later, reading now. In my head I have a rule “one book at a time, finish first then the next.” But in reality that never works out. There is - to simply put the simple truth - just too much exciting stuff to read and not always the perfect time to read it in.
So what’s in my for-the-morning nightstand/all-over-the-house piles right now?
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins (1990)
When I finished writing Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children In a Post-Racial World I left with a whole bunch of questions (as I think most research will inevitably do). Questions about intersectionality and in particular the gendered experience of race and racism. We often speak of racial group experiences as monolithic: the Asian American experience, the Black experience, the Latinx experience, etc. But within these groups there is much stratification along gender, sexuality, class, religion, ethnicity, citizenship status, able-bodiedness and other lines that is often harmfully disguised by generalizing. Pondering race through a prism in this way lead me to my next book project looking at Asian American women, sexism and gendered racism. Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought is a seminal work in Black feminist thinking and a must-read for anyone attempting to write on women of color in the U.S.
One of a Kind Like Me / Único como yo, written by Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo (release Oct 2016, pre-order now)
This incredibly exciting picture book is not only on my nightstand but my son’s nightstand too. Out next month and the second title released by artist/author/activist Janine Macbeth’s radical Blood Orange Press - One of a Kind Like Me / Único como yo explores multiraciality, sexuality, gender, language, family (and more) through the story of a young mixed-race boy wanting to dress up as a princess. What’s so amazing about this story is its attention to multiplicity in building identity; something I don’t see much of in children’s lit but something that is very salient for our children. I had the honor of meeting Laurin Mayeno at my recent book talk in San Jose where I also invited her up to speak. She is a mixed-race identifying person herself, devoted, loving mother, and fierce advocate for her gay son. She has a profound view on society and willingness to speak it. I highly recommend her book which is available for pre-order now!
Race Policy and Multiracial Americans edited by Kathleen Odell Korgen (2016)
I can’t express how thrilled I was when Professor Kathleen Odell Korgen and I put our books (and selves) into conversation with each other. Kathleen is a public sociologist who specializes in racial identity, race relations and teaching sociology. She is author/editor of several works including her newest Race Policy and Multiracial Americans which is the first to look at the impact of multiracial people on race policies and promoting racial justice for multiracial Americans. At a time when mixed race is the fastest growing identifier among youth but the dominant narrative is coopting mixedness to promote harmful post-racial myths and racial justice work rarely makes space for multiracial issues (which are frequently considered trivial) - I cannot emphasize enough how consequential Kathleen’s book is. A deeply, deeply important anthology on multiraciality and policy that is in my view ahead of its time and something we will find ourselves turning to at the next decennial census when we see even more shift in numbers.
Idoru by William Gibson (1997)
I’ve always loved sci-fi but the well known reality is that most of it is written by white men. It can be hard, sometimes very hard, to read the stories and concurrent bias I see over and over in this genre (e.g. anti-woman, anti-people of color, etc.). Still I haven’t given up on it! If we care about something but see its flaws a lot of times we don’t walk away but hope/help it to change right? Today I try to appreciate the artistry and storytelling while keeping a careful critical eye to how the creator’s privileges might be impacting their worldview and weaknesses. Which is why I deliberately picked up William Gibson’s Idoru recently knowing it utilizes Asian themes. Even though part of me cringed at the thought, I also continue to feel it is super important to be aware of white male sci-fi’s lens on Asia being a fan of the genre and person of Asian descent myself.
Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk (2007)
Over the years I have become increasingly visible via my book, talks, panels, presentations, other writings, community participation, activism and organizing. But that visibility does not come without a cost. Especially for a woman of color with a critical social justice and antiracist analysis. I’ve also become increasingly targeted by bigots, trolls, racists, sexists, etc. Meanwhile I am witness to the constant, similar/different, and often much more violent struggles of other folks of color and marginalized peoples. The toll starts to become very high and the spirit can’t help but get worn down. One of my best friends in the world gifted me Trauma Stewardship this year - an incredible resource for self-care and sustaining social justice work. It is now the book in my library given to me with the most thoughtful, loving care I’ve ever received.
Happy Reading and hope to see you at my Central Library talk Thursday September 29th, 7:00-9:00p!
Sharon H. Chang
author scholar activist
P.S. Before I leave it would be remiss of me not to mention my queue. Though admittedly late to the game I just learned about nonprofit Aunt Lute: A Multicultural Women’s Press which has been publishing women of color literature for over thirty years. I immediately ordered three innovative anthologies the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere else. Maybe you’ll join me? (If you do, please make sure to order direct from the publisher)...
Babaylan: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers edited by Nick Carbó and Eileen Tabios (2000). First international anthology of Filipina writers published in the United States.
Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters On Obedience and Rebellion edited by Piyali Bhattacharya (2016). The first anthology to examine the multiple facets of daughterhood in South Asian American families.
Our Feet Walk the Sky: Women of the South Asian Diaspora (1993). The first comprehensive work to focus on South Asian American and South Asian immigrant women in the U.S.