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The month of May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. The month was chosen for the commemoration because it was on May 7, 1843, when the first Japanese immigrated to the United States. Also, on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, and the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
Asian and Pacific Americans have made a big impact in the literary world. This month, Schlow Centre Region Library has two special book displays — one in its Children’s Department and one on the second floor in its Adult Services Department — to honor their contributions.
“Authors such as Amy Tan, Julie Otsuka, and Jamie Ford are invaluable contributors to our historical and cultural narrative,” says Maria Burchill, head of adult services at Schlow. “In celebrating theirs and others’ literary and artistic contributions we are recognizing the voices and experiences of so many people who make our country unique.”
Elaine Bayly, the technician in Schlow’s Children’s Department, was born and raised in the Philippines before she and her family moved to the United States when she was nine years old. She recalls surviving several natural disasters while living in the Philippines, including the June 1991 volcano eruption of Mount Pinatubo that killed nearly 900 people.
Bayly, who was seven at the time, says, “All I remember was the humongous ash cloud and the ash fall accumulation was a couple of feet deep and it covered everything. My mom was actually in the hospital giving birth to my little sister, who was born on June 11, 1991, and the rest of the family had to evacuate to surrounding areas.”
A few years later, Bayly and her family came to the United States and were living in Moscow, Idaho.
“It was difficult not knowing how to communicate with my classmates and teachers — I don’t think I spoke one word my first six months of school as I was very unsure of my English,” she says. “I learned English in school in the Philippines, but speaking it was challenging. Shortly after we moved to the US, my grandmother took me to the library and I read a lot of books and we checked out movies, which was recommended by my ESL teacher — and that’s how I pretty much learned how to converse in English.”
Now a public library is where Bayly works; she’s been at Schlow since 2017.
If you’d like to check out books written by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, NBCNews.com put together a list of recently published ones or ones that will be coming out later this year. Here are a few that Schlow has or will have soon:
Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat (Children’s)
“This new picture book tells the story of a little boy who visits his grandfather. At first, the pair struggles with a language barrier but soon learn to bond through their shared love of art and creativity.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (Fiction)
Lee visited Schlow in 2017 when her book, Under A Painted Sky, was the Centre County Reads selection for that year. In her upcoming novel, due out in August, the book “centers on Jo Kwan, a teenager maid in 1890s Atlanta who works for one of the wealthiest families in the city. As Jo toggles between the moneyed world of her employers and the working-class home of her Chinese immigrant father, she also finds time to write Atlanta’s most popular advice column under the name ‘Miss Sweetie.’ ”
If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (Fiction)
“An emotionally riveting debut novel about war, family, and forbidden love, the unforgettable saga of two ill-fated lovers in Korea, and the heartbreaking choices they're forced to make in the years surrounding the civil war that still haunts us today.”
Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia (Nonfiction)
“The dramatic, real-life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China's 1949 Communist Revolution--a precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today.”
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir” by Nicole Chung (Nonfiction)
“What does it mean to lose your roots — within your culture, within your family — and what happens when you find them? Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up — facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn't see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from — she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth. With the same warmth, candor, and startling insight that has made her a beloved voice, Nicole Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child.”