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

Asian Americans in Hollywood
A movie review of "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle"

Asian American Image in Books
An Open Email Debate on the Books we Advocate

Asian Americans in Hollywood
"Harold and Kumar go to White Castle"

A Movie Review By Emily Mah
I have to admit, I wasn't especially eager to watch "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle." Television trailers bragged that the movie was from the producers of "Dude, Where's My Car?" and it definitely looked like it fell into the "Van Wilder" offensively grotesque, senseless college-kid comedy genre (pretty specific category, I know). Even though the movie is targeted towards my age level, it definitely favors a uniquely male sense of humor, so when I dragged a couple of my girlfriends into the movie, I prayed that we wouldn't regret wasting our money. But I must confess, the movie was much better than I expected. It was actually funny, even if semi-crude and utilized a lot of cheap humor. At least it wasn't as crude or slapstick as the "American Pie" or "Scary Movie" series. Even I, the decidedly "don't stereotype me based on things as superficial as age, sex, or race" one could appreciate what the movie implicitly brings to the Asian-American community.

Yes, it definitely was a risk casting two virtually unknowns as leads, but even more so when considering that they were two Asian-American males in lead roles in a mainstream movie, an option prefaced only briefly by a distinct few movies, movies we'll all remember as Asian-Americans, movies such as "Joy Luck Club," "The Last Emperor," and "Better Luck Tomorrow." But the essential difference here is that while those movies embraced our culture and history, they also built upon common Asian stereotypes. "Harold and Kumar" on the other

hand, seeks to destroy those same stereotypes and show that Asian-American men are capable of being just "one of the guys." The movie addresses and shoots down just about every Asian stereotype known.

That the movie should be offensive to women, however, was a fear that was not dispelled upon actually watching it. Women are seen as objects throughout the entire movie, some more attractive than others and so discussed in a more sexually harassing manner, but even this doesn't bother me, a well-established feminist, too much. Depictions of women in this manner are quite typical of "guy" movies like these and so, even in this way, Harold and Kumar are able to transcend Asian stereotypes to become "normal guys."

All in all, I liked the movie, and I look forward to more movies with Asian Americans in lead roles. Perhaps after some time, and after more movies like this, stereotypes and issues of race won't need to be addressed and made fun of to the point of exhaustion because people won't be so keen to such shallow differences. Perhaps I only found it entertaining because I am an Asian American myself, and am well aware of all associated stereotypes. It's like watching the Kings of Comedy for African-Americans, when you're just able to laugh at yourself and the images imposed upon you by ignorant individuals.

Editor's Message

Hello Everyone.

For the past month, AACP has been in the process of moving. We apologize for this late newsletter and for any lack of service during this time period.

Our new address and phone numbers are as follows -
529 East Third Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94401

1-800-874-2242 Toll Free Voice
1-650-375-8286 Voice
1-650-375-8797 FAX

Within the next week or so, I'll update our website map to include directions and parking information. For now click here to get the Yahoo Maps direction to our store.

We will be sending you information about our grand opening events within the next few weeks. For now, please keep Saturday September 25, October 2, and October 9 free.

Thank you to all the volunteers that helped with our move and to Emily Mah and Michael Kim for your help with this newsletter.

Leonard Chan
Executive Editor

Up Coming Events

Here are some events that AACP will soon be attending.
Invite us to your events.
Sept. 4
9am - 4pm
Midori Kai Boutique Mt. View Buddhist Temple
Mt. View, CA
Other Events of Interest that AACP May Not Attend
Sept. 18
Sonoma County Bookfair Old Court House Square
Santa Rosa, CA
Sept. 18-19
Cupertino's 6th Annual Moon Festival Memorial Park
Cupertino, CA
Sept. 18-19 Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival Chinatown
San Francisco, CA
Oct. 27-31 Nat. Assoc. for Multicultural Ed. (NAME) 2004 Conference Hyatt Regency
Kansas City, MO

Give Us Your Feedback

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

Asian American Image in Books
An Open Email Discussion by Leonard Chan, Philip Chin, and Michael Kim
The following are excerpts from emails that were sent between our newsletter staff over the debate of whether we should include "The Golden Mountain" in our newsletter. I posed the following questions to our group -

One of the books that I am considering for the newsletter is "The Golden Mountain" by Irene Kai. I am undecided about including this book because of the nature of the story. I have not read this book in entirety, but I've read some reviews and some comments on the book.

From what I can gather, the story is a semi-fictionalized account of the life of the author's great grandmother, grandmother, mother, and her own. Like many stories that get published, this book seems to paint late 19th and early 20th century Chinese society as misogynistic. Further, the first 20 pages contains a scene where a father kills his new born daughter for being a girl and also seems to portray China Chinese as avid practitioners of bigamy (not the wife in two countries case).

First of all, this could be true, but should we be advocating such a negative story on Chinese society? Would I be white washing Chinese society and culture by not featuring this book? If this was typical for Chinese society, shouldn't we have no apprehensions about advocating such a well written book?

Could any of you tell me that this negative imagery was not true for the majority of Chinese society?

The taking of two or more wives was limited to those who could afford it. If you were of a certain class in China it was a reality but for the majority of people it wouldn't have been since they wouldn't have been able to afford it. This just means that it reflects the reality of a certain minor in size but very important social group in Chinese history.

This sounds like the debate that often comes up surrounding Maxine Hong Kingston's books. In fact, this book sounds like it could be one of hers. I think that's tied largely to marketability. Since Kingston's books have done so well, why not emulate her formula?

I think, with any publication, you want something that's completely honest about what it is. If the contents are fiction, you want that to be apparent. If it's not a fair depiction about a certain time or culture, the readers should know that. Ironically, some of my Asian American Studies lecturers said that authors like Kingston have no obligation to represent Asian cultures accurately and can write whatever they want. Even though I think they said that mostly in a spirit of anti-censorship and support for Asian American authors, I don't agree at all. With so many stereotypes and misconceptions about Asian Americans and Asian cultures, I think any author

who writes about Asian and Asian American issues should give a full and accurate portrayal of them.

Why is there so much focus on China at the turn of the twentieth century? Why do authors feel the need to associate misogyny with China and Asian cultures when there's arguably as much in other cultures? These are questions that need to be asked. I think if you do include this book, you should include others (possibly nonfiction) with different perspectives so that you're not advocating an inaccurate portrayal of Chinese culture as a one-dimensional misogynist culture.

The book reflects the reality of a particular class within Chinese society during that time period. The major problem with Chinese history of the early 20th Century is that the people who didn't have multiple wives; those who were so poor that they didn't learn to read or write, didn't leave much of a written record behind. The fact that the descendants of the rich people were literate and had higher incomes meant that they were also more likely to immigrate to the US and to eventually write their stories. This introduces class bias and the perception that all Chinese had multiple wives and lived in an opium haze. From what I recall, Kingston didn't come from a very poor family.

Imagine what slavery would look like in the history books if only the descendants of slave masters wrote the stories about what it was like. Slavery would look like a very benign and good system I would think.

From the modern woman's perspective, Chinese society of that time was misogynist. As for it being one dimensional, that is probably the function of the leisured classes being the ones telling the story. How many stories in English tell about life from an ordinary Chinese peasant perspective with all of its complications? I think only Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth" fits that bill and she was white and writing in the 1930s. Has anything happened in popular "Asian" literature since then, except for Tan and Kingston? Perhaps part of the problem is that Asian men haven't written hit stories that would combat the perception that we are all misogynists.

This debate reminds me of this workshop exercise that Emi Young (editor of Poston Camp II) and friends had put on in conjunction with the release of her father's book. The thing that I remember from the workshop was how I was convinced that what we should let people know is that stereotypes should be avoided. Individuals in various groups may have similar characteristics in common, but for the most part, you cannot make assumptions that we are all the same. There are so many factors that contribute to who we are. Though we may have similarities in terms of cultures, every one of us is completely different. Keep this in mind when you read, watch movies, or learn anything about anybody.

It's now your turn - buy "The Golden Mountain" or check it out from a library. Give us your feedback. Thanks.


The following books are discounted for subscribers to our newsletter. The discounts on these books end September 15, 2004.

Good-bye 382 Shin Dang Dong

By Frances Park and Ginger Park
Illustrated by Yangsook Choi
2002, 29 pages, hardback.

Jangmi finds it hard to say goodbye to relatives and friends, plus the food, customs, and beautiful things of her home in Korea, when her family moves to America.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3121, Price $16.95

Best Chinese Myths
Beginning of Time

Translated by Gong Lizeng and Yang Aiwen
Illustrated by Kok Hao Yun
1999, 113 pages, paperback.
Part of the ASIAPAC Comic Series

This book is a collection of five timeless Chinese folktales. The stories in this book range from the creation stories of Pangu and Nuwa to the stories of self-sacrifice display in the myths of Houyi, Kuafum and Fuxi.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3244, Price $12.95

The Firekeeper's Son

By Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by Julie Downing
2004, 37 pages, hardback.

In early-19th-century Korea, after Sang-hee's father injures his ankle, Sang-hee attempts to take over the task of lighting the evening fire, which signals to the palace that all is well. Includes historical notes.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3245, Price $16.00

Chinese Astrology
A General Guide to the Animal Cycle

By Sherman Tai
Illustrated by Leow Yong Shin
Translated by Clara Show
2004, 218 pages, paperback.
Part of the ASIAPAC Comic Series

This humorously illustrated comic book style guide will help you learn about Chinese Astrology. Learn about the characteristics that are suppose to be in common for people born in each of the 12 animals years in the Chinese astrological cycle.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3246, Price $17.95

The Golden Mountain
Beyond the American Dream

By Irene Kai
2004, 368 pages, paperback.

The Golden Mountain is a partially fictionalized account of the lives of author Irene Kai and her family. The first half the book covers Kai's great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. The remainder of the book covers Kai's early life and life in America as she struggled to discover the power to create her own destiny and in so doing discovers that she didn't have to simply "accept" her fate as her mother and grandmother had done.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3243, Price $14.95

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