Since 1979, U.S. Americans have celebrated the contributions and culture of Asian-Pacific Americans throughout our country’s history. Originally a ten-day celebration in May, the observance was extended to include the entire month in 1990 as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month was signed into law. May includes many important anniversaries in Asian-Pacific American history, including the first arrival of Japanese immigrants to the U.S. in 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, largely constructed by Chinese immigrants, in 1869. As the start of May approaches, we’re sharing four ways to broaden your intercultural horizons and celebrate this historic month-long observance.
- Broaden Your Knowledge: While U.S. history is part of every citizen’s education, few academic curricula teach about Asian-Pacific history, politics, or culture. Spend some time this month reading about this region’s history, watching films by Asian-Pacific directors, exploring their cultural contributions, and understanding intercultural relations between the U.S. and Asia-Pacific. Some great resources include the Asia Society website, this list of documentaries, and best-selling cross-cultural guide Access to Asia.
- Take a Road Trip: From Seattle’s Panama Hotel, to Hawaii’s Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, to California’s historic Wintersburg community, some of our most celebrated national treasures are due to the contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans. Consider visiting a local monument rooted in Asian-Pacific American history, your nearest Asian-Pacific cultural center, or a community event sponsored by the Library of Congress. These troves of culture and history will enrich your understanding of the unique experience and contributions that Asian-Pacific Americans have made in the U.S. for over 150 years.
- Culinary Discovery: Brush off your chopsticks and enjoy a delicious meal of Asian-Pacific cuisine with friends! Asian-Pacific American Heritage month is a great opportunity to invite friends for a delicious meal at a local Asian-Pacific restaurant and appreciate the culinary contributions of Asian-Pacific cultures. If the restaurant isn’t too busy, start a conversation with the owners about their experiences as entrepreneurs in the U.S., their favorite recipes, and the cultural ties they cherish.
- Appreciate New Perspectives: Whether you’re a mystery enthusiast, a non-fiction aficionado, or a poet at heart, find an Asian-Pacific American author to enrich your reading list this May. Discovering works by multicultural authors allows us to discover unique perspectives and unforgettable voices that reveal new ways of seeing the world around us. For fiction lovers, give Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees a read, or check out this list of Asian American novelists. If you prefer non-fiction, try Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men, while poets will love Cathy Park Hong’s boundary-breaking verses.
Whether you enjoy mouthwatering Vietnamese bao buns or Japanese sushi, visit local Asian-Pacific heritage sites, or delve into a new book by an Asian-Pacific American author, find a way to celebrate these diverse cultures during the month of May.
Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.