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The Landscape of Contemporary Asian American Studies (September 2016): Reference Resources

By Mark E. Pfeifer

Reference Resources

A significant development in recent years has been an increasing number of reference works on Asian American studies.  These works include encyclopedias and collections of primary source documents as well as oral histories.  Edith Wen-Chu Chen and Grace J. Yoo, editors of the two volumes of Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today, present thematic sections featuring invited articles on a range of topics.  They include diversity and demographics; economy and work; education; health; identity; immigration, refugees, and citizenship; law; media; politics; war; and youth, family, and the aged.  Each thematic section begins with an essay that provides a broad contemporary and sometimes historical overview of the main topic.  These are followed by issue-specific entries organized in alphabetical order.  The work provides readers with a very useful overview of issues central to the concerns of contemporary Asian American studies researchers.  Lon Kurashige and Alice Yang Murray’s Major Problems in Asian American History is an indispensable resource for students and scholars of Asian American history.  The volume includes several seminal thematic essays on important topics in Asian American history and a wide range of primary documents pertaining to key events in that history.  The primary documents included range from writer Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1824 excoriation of Chinese civilization to US government documents from the Vietnam War era and the subsequent resettlement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s.  In a similar vein, Sang Chi and Emily Moberg Robinson serve as editors of the multivolume Voices of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience.  The work consists of more than two hundred primary source documents dating from the early nineteenth century to the twenty-first century.  The documents are organized by ethnic group, with about twenty Asian American and Pacific Islander ethnic populations represented; documents are also included in “General Asian American” and “Multiheritage Asian American” sections.

Concluding this discussion of reference materials is Joann Faung Jean Lee’s Asian Americans in the Twenty-First Century: Oral Histories of First- to Fourth-Generation Americans from China, Japan, India, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Laos, a collection of individual oral histories that together document the experiences of a wide range of Asian American ethnic groups.  Included are those from Steve Thao, who describes moving from Laos to Iowa as a Hmong refugee; Gary Locke, a Chinese American who was elected governor of Washington State; Korean American adoptees; and individuals who describe their experiences growing up in Hawai’i, in Chinatown in New York City, in a Hmong community in California’s Central Valley, as a Vietnamese American in Maryland, and in Koreatown in Los Angeles.