May is Asian Heritage Month and is recognized in both Canada and the United States. Many academic organizations and not-for-profit associations have collected and curated a number of sites and resources for teaching and learning. In this week’s blog, you will find a mixture of sites and sources to support class activities and assignments.
Torchinsky, Rina. “The Story behind Asian Pacific American Heritage, and Why It’s Celebrated in May.” NPR, May 1, 2023. https://www.npr.org/2022/05/02/1095812576/aapi-asian-pacific-heritage-month-origin-may-why.
Curated Sites: Resources
Heritage Minute films have been a staple part of Canadian history education since 1991, when the first set of 15 minute-long films were released. These films are nationalistic by design; they are intended to serve as micro doses of largely celebratory Canadian history. However, they are also explicitly thought provoking, and as such are supposed to tackle difficult aspects of the nation’s past. The series now boasts 100 films, many of which focus upon stories that have a purposeful ethnic and/or racial focus. As teaching tools, the Heritage Minutes are useful, as they are a quick and easy way to open a wide range of questions in a class discussion, including questions concerning the methods behind and politics involved in creating the minutes themselves.
The following four-minute-long films provide a sample of Heritage Minutes that touch upon Asian heritage in the Canadian context:
Heritage Minutes: “Nitro” 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE3ISzalVuo
Heritage Minutes: “Boat People” Refugees, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4nKkqdnVCM.
Heritage Minutes: “Vancouver Asahi” 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBv-MYAf9P0.
Heritage Minutes: “Paldi” 2023. https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/paldi.
National Film Board of Canada
In their most recent newsletter, the NFB has shared a set of their films and channels associated with Asian identity and heritage to mark Asian Heritage Month. The set includes this collection titled “Asian Communities in Canada.”
And coming soon: A Passage Beyond Fortune
“Through an intimate archive of the Chow’s family lineage, A Passage Beyond Fortune offers an homage to the culturally significant but buried history of Chinese-Canadian communities in Moose Jaw” (to be released May 22, 2023).
Stanger-Ross, Jordan, and Henry Abe. “Landscapes of Injustice: An Historical Wrong.” Landscapes of Injustice. Accessed May 8, 2023. https://www.landscapesofinjustice.com/.
This award-winning public history website is supported by the monograph, Stanger-Ross, Jordan, ed. Landscapes of Injustice: A New Perspective on the Internment and Dispossession of Japanese Canadians. Montreal ; Kingston ; London ; Chicago: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020.
This website has links to the museum exhibit, teacher resources, a research database, the digital storytelling website, as well as first person accounts, “Touched by Dispossession.”
Visitors can also access the website resource library: https://www.landscapesofinjustice.com/resource-library/
Some students find reading fiction an accessible way to learn about the past, especially when they, their families, and their communities are not well represented in the major textbooks and monographs yet, or when the course covers a contemporary period. An assignment can be framed to support historical research and analysis by using fiction as a primary source, considering the strengths and limitations of the novel. One way to approach this assignment is to evaluate the students on four components:
- Knowledge and understanding of the novel. Students must identify several themes, key characters, and describe time and place represented by the fictional characters. They may also identify actual historical events, characters, and legislations, for example. (35 marks)
- Knowledge and understanding of the novel/book demonstrated. For this section, students can explore the historical context of the novel, and explore both primary and secondary sources. When students submit a project proposal, guidance on sources, peer-reviewed journal articles and monographs can further support their analysis and critical thinking. (40 marks)
- Knowledge of the author. An important habit (skill) for students to develop is to consider who they are reading, their body of work, and additional biographical information. Encouraging students to listen to interviews and podcasts that include the author supports this skill and can help students to make connections about who they are reading. (15 marks)
- Presentation, style, organization, and mechanics. (10 marks)
There are many novels for students to read to support this assignment. Some examples are shared below:
Bates, Judy Fong. Midnight at the Dragon Café. Toronto: Emblem Editions, 2005.
Choy, Wayson. The Jade Peony: A Novel. New York: Other Press, 2006.
Lam, Vincent. On the Ravine. Knopf Canada, 2023.
Liew, Jamie Chai Yun. Dandelion. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2022. https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/dandelion/9781551528816-item.html.
Selvadurai, Shyam. Mansions of the Moon. Knopf Canada, 2022.
Using made-for-children fiction can also be a very good way of stimulating thoughtfulness in students. They are an easy focus for deconstruction. The Toronto Public Library has pulled together a set of books for Asian Heritage Month here:
Autobiographies and life-writing materials offer teachers invaluable opportunities to present students with first-person explorations of identity, perspective, and experience. This is obviously the case regardless of period or geographical context. In the case of Canadian history, one could establish a very long list of works written by people of Asian heritage that fit this bill. An example of a text that has served in the classroom well over the past couple of decades is Vijay Agnew’s book, Where I Come From, which started out as the author’s effort to write a feminist think piece, but which evolved into a self-conscious biographical consideration of life in Canada in the 1970s and ‘80s as a relatively privileged woman from India. Because the work is about life as a student and then professional academic, this book tends to stimulate lots of discussion amongst university students.
Agnew, Vijay. Where I Come From. Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2003. https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Books/W/Where-I-Come-From.
Hassan, Ali. Is There Bacon in Heaven?, 2022. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Is-There-Bacon-in-Heaven/Ali-Hassan/9781982149178.
Liu, Simu. We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story. HarperCollins Publishers, 2022.
Wong, Alice. Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life. Vintage, 2022.
From Tamarak Institute – a collection of resources
Key elements from their website that would be useful in history:
- Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Asian Heritage Month (May) resources
- CCDI’s Anti-Asian discrimination resources
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s Resources for Combatting Anti-Asian Racism & Learning About Canadians of Asian Descent
- Government of Canada: Asian Heritage Month 2022… by the numbers EN
- Government du Canada: Mois du patrimoine asiatique 2022… en chiffres FR
- Government of Canada: Organizations and educational resources EN
- Government du Canada: Organisations et ressources éducatives FR
- Government of Canada: Significant events in the history of Canadians of Asian heritage EN
- Government du Canada: Événements marquants de l’histoire des Canadiens d’origine asiatique FR
- Government of Canada: Discrimination before and since the start of the pandemic EN
- Government du Canada: La discrimination avant la pandémie et depuis le début de celle-ci FR
- Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter’s Another Year: anti-Asian racism across Canada two years into the covid-19 pandemic
- University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work’s 2020 In Hindsight: Intergenerational conversations on anti-Asian racism during the covid-19 pandemic – Community research report
- Western University Violence Against Women Learning Network’s Examining the intersections of anti-Asian racism and gender-based violence in Canada
- ACCT Foundation & Act2endracism Human Rights Commissions and Anti-Asian Racism Consultation Report