Sunday Reading: The Asian-American Experience

Last month, Jiayang Fan wrote for The New Yorker about the killing of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, by a white gunman in Atlanta. The shootings were part of a rise in attacks on Asian-Americans across the country, and seemed to embody a terrible period in which hate crimes and other acts of racism have proliferated. Fan reflects movingly on the consequences of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence, both for the immediate victims and for the community as a whole. “To live through this period as an Asian-American is to feel defenseless against a virus as well as a virulent strain of scapegoating,” she observes. “It is to feel trapped in an American tragedy while being denied the legitimacy of being an American.”

This week, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about the Asian-American experience and the ongoing wave of anti-Asian violence. In “When Immigrants Are No Longer Considered Americans,” published in 2017, Hua Hsu writes about the history of Japanese internment, xenophobic immigration policy, and shifting perspectives on citizenship. (The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, he observes, was “simply the culmination of a series of measures that sought to slow the tide of Chinese migrant laborers, by targeting where they lived and the amount of air they breathed, the families they sought to bring over.”) In “Confronting Anti-Asian Discrimination During the Coronavirus Crisis,” the novelist Ed Park explores how the pandemic combined with anti-immigrant discourse to trigger an increase in everyday bigotry. (“At the time, I kept thinking, Would he have treated a white kid that way? Now I think, Does the coronavirus outbreak make it seem O.K. to shout at an Asian kid?”) In “ ‘Minor Feelings’ and the Possibilities of Asian-American Identity,” Jia Tolentino reviews an essay collection by the poet Cathy Park Hong and considers the harmful consequences of Asians’ marginalization. Finally, in “America Ruined My Name for Me,” Beth Nguyen recounts how her Vietnamese birth name made her a target of mockery among her American-born classmates. (“It is one of my historical facts that the name is steeped in shame, because living in the United States as a refugee and a child of refugees was steeped in shame.”) Taken together, these pieces illuminate how deeply ingrained these biases are in our culture, and the profound challenges we face going forward.

—David Remnick


Photograph by Megan Varner / Getty

To live through this period as an Asian-American is to feel trapped in an American tragedy while being denied the legitimacy of being an American.


Photograph by Dorothea Lange / Library of Congress

My Chinese-immigrant grandfather, the Japanese internment, and the unpredictable treatment of immigrants in America.


Illustration by Dadu Shin

As the coronavirus outbreak sweeps through New York City, a Korean-American observes a rising tide of anti-Asian sentiment.


Cathy Park Hong’s book of essays bled a dormant discomfort out of me with surgical precision.


So I chose a new one.

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