A myriad of glowing voices echoed within the walls of the Northwood Media Center, shining light on the often untold Asian American stories through combining disciplines of music, poetry and writing. The second iteration of the Introduction to Asian American Literature reading occurred on April 14, garnering an audience of nearly 50 people.
Organized by seniors Tanvi Garneni and Ayushi Das through Northwood’s book club, the event showcased a variety of performances by various Asian American students. Centered around themes of connection, community and authentic creation, seniors Amelia Yum, Isaac Lee, Shaina Grover, Noelle Escalante and Saba Nabaeighahroudi as well as sophomore Baylie Wong and freshmen Niharika Mahesh and Courtney Lee all spoke about their experiences living as an Asian American.
The speakers either presented published works by esteemed Asian authors that resonated with them or performed original work that displayed facets of their ethnic identity.
“The only time we got the chance to explore Asian Americans or people of color in general in literature and history was in the context of our oppression,” Garneni said. “My ultimate goal was honestly for [Asian American] students to feel like they had a place in academia and the humanities.”
Through the creation of the event, Das and Garneni hoped to develop a safe space where students could introduce new perspectives on Asian identity to challenge traditional stereotypes. Attempting to spark discussion about the lack of AAPI representation within the school curriculum, the event served as a platform to help paint the story of the Asian diaspora, shaping facets of Asian American identity. Although Northwood’s demographic is predominantly Asian, representing 58% of the student body, students are often not exposed to Asian American literature as a result of the traditional limitations within the English and history curriculum.
The Northwood English department acknowledges the eurocentricity of the humanities curriculum. Changes to increase diversity, such as the addition of new novels, are often deliberated on and made every school year to the English curriculum and will continue to be made in the future.
“It can definitely be done,” English department chair Katie Cullen said. “We can make more purposeful changes throughout each year to diversify our curriculum to draw more voices in and help reflect the identity of our student population.”
Since the event provided a platform for students to share their personal stories, the hope is that more students will be able to advocate for cultural diversity and minority representation on campus and in the classroom.
“Asian Americans don’t deserve to be a footnote, or an afterthought in American history,” Courtney Lee said. “We deserve a whole textbook.”