The AACP Newsletter
Since 1970 Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc. - Books for All Ages April 2004
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At a Glance

East Indians are Asian Too
A historical look at how East Indians became Asians in the eyes of the US Government

Is There Anything Left to Say About William Hung?
An editorial on the American Idol William Hung

A South Asian American's Perspective
Melissa Eng learns from her friend Joanne

Special announcements from our readers

East Indians are Asian Too
U.S. vs Bhagat Singh Thind (1923)

By Leonard Chan
Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind was an early South Asian Sikh immigrant to the United States. He was also a defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision that would result in the exclusion of all Asians from obtaining naturalized citizenship.

Up until 1923 the racial classification of South Asians was not completely clear. Prior to 1923, South Asians were routinely allowed to become naturalized U.S. citizens. However, after the 1917 immigration law that effectively excluded all Asians (with the exception of Filipinos) from migrating to the United States, workers in the naturalization office began questioning the status of East Indians - were they Asian or Caucasian? A light skin high caste Indian certainly looked more like a European than an East Asian and any one classified as being free and "white" was allowed to be naturalized. Could a person of a group that was now being excluded from immigrating to the U.S. be allowed to become a citizen? This was the dilemma facing the courts as Bhagat Singh Thind's case moved from lower courts to the Supreme Court.

Thind, a U.C. Berkeley graduate and US Army World War I veteran, probably never could have anticipated that becoming American would put him through such difficult trials.

Less than a year after his service in the army, on November 18, 1920, Thind was granted citizenship by the Oregon District Court. Almost three years later, on July 25th, 1923, Chief Justice (and former US President) William Taft witnessed and gave orders to the Ninth Circuit Court to revoke Thind's citizenship certificate.

Thind's U.S. Supreme Court loss effectively resulted in all East Indians being grouped together with the other discriminated classes of Asians. The doors of U.S. citizenship had finally closed to all Asian immigrants and would last for the next 23 years.

An interesting note is that some Asians did manage to gain citizenship throughout this period, including Bhagat Shingh Thind. A few years after the Supreme Court's decision, the state of New York granted Thind U.S. citizenship and apparently no federal official in that state fought to revoke Thind's citizenship.

Bhagat Shingh Thind went on to earn a Ph.D., to write many books on philosophy and religion, to become an advocate for Indian independence from Britain, to provide financial aid to Indian students, and to fight for East Indians' rights to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

East Indians are Asian Too - Resources

Editor's Message

Hello everyone. This month our theme is about South Asians (note: some the highlighted books include South East Asians). A fairly frequent question asked of us is "Do you carry any books for Indians and Pakistanis?" I've even been asked if Indians and Pakistanis qualified as Asians. In truth, we are working on building up our collection of books on and for all Asian Americans. As always, if you have suggestions for some good books, that you think we should carry, please let us know.

In our efforts to bring you this newsletter, we paid another visit to the National Archives and Record Administration in San Bruno, CA. Philip and I were hoping to find more information for our Dr. Thind article. As it turns out, the San Bruno archive has the Ninth Circuit Court papers on the Thind trial. In the folder, I found notes on the various lower court cases and a document handed down to the Ninth Circuit Court from the U.S. Supreme Court. As it turns out, there were many more details than I wrote about for our brief article. The archive is a real treasure - you should really check it out. Thank you to all our friends at the San Bruno archive.

I've added a link to author Uma Krishnaswami's website to our Link Page. If you are an author with a website, feel free to send me your web address. Thanks.

Thank you Ms. Eleanor Wong Telemaque for your kind comments and your generous donation.

Thank you Melissa Eng for your help in writing a piece for this month's newsletter.

Thank you Alisa Lynch , Kim Linse, and Suzanne Lo for giving us the following announcements.

Leonard Chan
Executive Editor


Here are two announcements from two of our newsletter subscribers.

Our park ranger friends at the Manzanar National Historic Site actually have four different things that they wish to inform you about.

  1. They have remodeled their website ( check it out.
  2. The park service is looking for volunteers to help from April 19-23, 8-5pm, with an archeological investigations. Volunteers may spend any number of days, and any number of hours, but a full day (and multiple days) is preferred. If you are interested in participating, please contact Manzanar Volunteer Program Manager, Kim Linse at 760-878-2194 ext. 10.
  3. On April 24, 2004 the Manzanar Committee will hold its 35th Annual Pilgrimage. The event begins at 11:00 a.m. at the camp cemetery and will include a performance by Taiko drummers, remarks, and an interfaith religious service.
  4. Later that day at 1:30 p.m., the park service will have a Grand Opening of their interpretive center and park headquarters in the adaptively restored Manzanar High School Auditorium. The center includes 8,000 square feet of exhibits, two small movie theaters, park offices, and a bookstore operated by the new Manzanar History Association.
Asian Coalition Scholarship Dinner
The Asian Coalition of City College of San Francisco is having a scholarship fundraising dinner on April 30, 2004, starting at 5:30 p.m. It will take place at the Miriwa Restaurant, 728 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco and will have the theme Shanghai by Night. Ticket prices range between $35 to $45. Please contact Patricia Seid 415-452-5863 or Suzanne Lo 415-452-5546 for more information.

Up Coming Events

Here are some events that AACP will soon be attending.
Invite us to your events.
May 1
1st Annual Pacific Islands Festival Leo Ryan Park
Foster City, CA
June 16 Jeanne Houston book signing Golden Gate Optimist
San Francisco, CA
June 19
Japanese Cultural Fair Mission Plaza Park
Santa Cruz, CA
Other Events of Interest that AACP May Not Attend
April 24 Manzanar Grand Opening and Pilgrimage Manzanar National Historic Site
Independence, CA
April 24-25 The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA
April 30
Asian Coalition
Scholarship Dinner
Miriwa Restaurant
728 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, CA
May 2 Nikkei Matsuri Arts and Crafts Festival San Jose, CA
May 13 ADI's Asian Diversity Career Expo 2004 Madison Square Garden
May 22-24 NAAPAE 26th Annual Conference Loews Hotel
Philadelphia, PA
June 5-6
Sa 10-6pm
Su 10-5pm
Foster City Arts and Wine Festival Leo Ryan Park
Foster City, CA

Give Us Your Feedback

Please feel free to send us your reviews, comments, and book suggestions. You can contact us at -

Is There Anything Left to Say About William Hung?
An Editorial by Leonard Chan

Recently, Michael Kim (another one of our former interns) emailed me about an interesting article Emil Guillermo wrote on William Hung. I am not a fan of reality TV shows and did not see FOX's American Idol show that had William Hung on it. However, if you haven't heard about his less than stellar performance on the show and all the publicity that he's been getting of late, you probably had your head in the ground.

Emil Guillermo's article said just about all you needed to know about the controversy surrounding William's 20 minutes of fame, but I couldn't resist adding my two cents. Philip thought I'd better strike before the story disappeared and William Hung turned back into a pumpkin (or UC Berkeley civil engineering student :).

After my mom saw a news story about William Hung singing at a Warrior's basketball game, she couldn't help saying something unflattering about him and his singing. Her thoughts and mine were probably something in the neighborhood of "how embarrassing!"

After reading Guillermo's article, my thoughts have changed to - "hey if he could do it and make a buck, then Philip and I are announcing here and now that we're forming a rock group (Melissa likes Philip's rendition of Bowie's China Girl - good enough for me :)." Anybody care to sign us to a contract? Philip and I will also take your kind donations not to sing :).

But seriously, if you're interested in an Asian American that truly could sing, we still have some Larry Ching CDs. The Chinese Frank Sinatra beats the Chinese Ricky Martin any day.

A South Asian American's Perspective
By Melissa Eng
Edited by Philip Chin and Leonard Chan

Editor's Note: Many of us have few opportunities to meet with people of
South Asian descent, especially if we don't live in areas like California where many
different ethnic groups associate with each other. Melissa Eng, one of our past AACP
summer interns, is one of those individuals making an effort to meet and
understand people from all ethnic groups while she attends UC Davis.

Joanne Newnes, is an international student at U.C. Davis and is a dear friend of mine. In doing this interview with her, I learned a lot about her personality, her life story, her culture, and her multicultural views, which brought us closer together, as friends and as cultures.

Joanne was born in Bombay, India, 21 years ago. When she was six years old, she immigrated to Dubai, which is located in the United Arab Emirates. About 40% of Dubai is composed of Asian Indians so she was further immersed in her culture. Dubai is a very urban area, like San Francisco, and it is also a "mixed" culture. Dubai is not as "mixed" as major cities in America, but it is composed of many cultures, namely Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, and Filipinos. To Joanne, growing up in this mixture, race didn't matter because individual personalities mattered more.

Joanne spent six years in India and eleven years in the heavily Indian-influenced Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. She had an easier time understanding the role of whites as being the "dominant" race in the United States since she spent most of her life belonging to the "dominant" race in India and Dubai. Since Joanne's ethnicity was generally considered "standard" or, at least, one of the main "standards" where she lived, she was unaware that she was carrying an invisible knapsack of privilege just as whites here are mostly unaware of their uniquely privileged positions in US society.

When Joanne came to the United States at the age of seventeen, it was the first time she was seen as "different." Even though she moved to a place as diverse as the San Francisco Bay Area (with blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans) that did not mean that Bay Area residents were completely tolerant of her racial differences. The dominance of a single race is the antithesis to the idea of multiculturalism, the diversity of America that makes this country so fascinating. In Making Face, Making Soul, Lorna Dee Cervantes sadly reminds herself that, "...This is not my land and this is my land. I do not believe in the war between races but, in this country, there is war." Joanne found herself relating to Cervantes' quote (but, in a subtler way) and the plight of non-white minorities.

For Joanne this was a different experience. Joanne for the first time was now a member of a racial minority and she often found that people would make wrong assumption about her. For example, people would assume that Joanne was Hindu when she was really Catholic. She would be asked about the gods in "her" Hindu religion, such as Ganesha, the god with the elephant head, and Shiva, the god(dess) with the many hands and arms. When Joanne would inform people that she was Catholic, people would be shocked. Having the "wrong" religion for her race frustrated Joanne. Another common assumption that Americans would make is that they assumed that Joanne would be having an arranged marriage. People also assumed that her first language would be Hindi. In actuality, English is her first language and Hindi is her second language.

Generalizations about Asian Indians, like generalizations of any individual, are often proven to be false. These stereotypes stem from ideas designed to set racial groups apart from one another, as well as from just plain ignorance. In order to dispel these stereotypes, people need to realize that not all Asian Indians display these generalizations and that it is unfair to create racial boundaries by generalizing anyone from any culture.

With all the generalizations and stereotypes of Asian Indians in mind, Joanne has learned not to believe in the stereotypes that people make about others outside of her ethnic heritage. All people are created equal and racially "unequal" notions, such as Latinos and Blacks being intellectually inferior, should be fought. Joanne has educated herself about different races and cultures by directly asking people of "different" races questions about their cultures, from watching their ethnic dances (she is a dancer), and through news, educational, and cultural shows in the media.

Joanne belongs to an all-white (except for her, of course) Catholic youth group in Millbrae, California. Being the only "colored" person and a minority automatically singled her out. There would be cliques within her youth group that did not want to know her because she was "different." However, Joanne enjoyed it when the other people in her youth group were inquisitive about her culture. By having a general understanding of the role of being in a "dominant" culture, Joanne did not chastise them for asking ignorant questions (unless they were asked in an unjust, obviously hostile manner). She answered their questions and clarified their stereotypes.

Being inquisitive is one of the first steps towards racial tolerance. Minimizing ignorance creates understanding. Understanding the different ethnicities of people helps to contribute to the validity of the nation's motto: "E. pluribus unum" - "Out of many, one." People asking questions about Joanne's culture would make them more open-minded and curious about her culture and where she came from.

As for Joanne's ethnicity and where she came from, she is proud to be an Asian Indian and of their many high-achievements. She noted the importance of knowing your own roots because you gain a greater understanding of yourself by knowing where you came from. Joanne enjoys how her culture is collective, very social, and family-oriented.

Being Indian in America has given Joanne new perspectives. She has felt the ignorance of people's generalizations and questioning. It has also made Joanne wonder how and why people would treat her differently based upon the color of her skin. The inequality of those kinds of prejudices saddens her. However, Joanne sees reason for optimism. She sees people that are trying to expose themselves to the ways of many ethnicities. Asking ignorant questions is part of the learning process for living in a multicultural community.

Why is multiculturalism important? Joanne answered in this way, "Multiculturalism is important, because it gives us a different sense of identity and one that we can represent and be proud of, while learning about others. Just like, I feel the world would not be as interesting if everything was blue in color, rather there are tons of colors, each different from the other and having an expression of their own."

As a result of the enthusiastic, mind-expanding experience of this interview, I was further inspired to understand and learn about different cultures and celebrating our differences in a rich, diverse, multicultural America.

Editor's Note: The city of Goa was a Portuguese colony in India for hundreds of years. It had a heavy religious and cultural influence on nearby Bombay. Joanne is part Portuguese from both sides of her family tree. Her mother is from Goa and her father from Bombay.


The following books are discounted for subscribers to our newsletter. The discounts on these books end May 12, 2004.

The Stone Goddess

By Minfong Ho
2002, 201 pages, hardback.

After the Communists take over Cambodia and her family is torn from their city life, twelve-year-old Nakri and her older sister attempt to maintain their struggle to survive.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3211, Price $16.95

Shower of Gold
Girls and Women in the Stories of India

By Uma Krishnaswami
1999, 125 pages, hardback.

A collection of stories featuring strong female figures from Hindu mythology, Buddhist tales, and others from the history and folklore of the Indian subcontinent. Each piece is accompanied by background information.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3212, Price $21.50

A Thai Lullaby

By Minfong Ho
Illustrated by Holly Meade
2000, 29 pages, paperback.

Hush! is a universally charming story of how a mother tries to quiet the world for her supposedly sleeping child. Minfong Ho's poetic text is comparable to the best nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss. We are glad to have this award-winning children's book in stock again.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3213, Price $6.99

The Broken Tusk
Stories of the Hindu God Ganesha

Retold by Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrated by Maniam Selven
1996, 100 pages, hardback.

A collection of stories about the pantheon of Hindu gods, centering on the sometimes greedy, sometimes impulsive, but always generous, elephant-head Ganesha.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3214, Price $21.50

Muslim Child
Understanding Islam through Stories and Poems

By Rukhsana Khan
Illustrated by Patty Gallinger
Sidebars by Irfan Alli
2002, 104 pages, hardback.

a collection of stories and poems about Muslim children from a variety of backgrounds, focusing on the celebration of holidays and practices of Islam.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3215, Price $16.00

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