Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year! I wanted to celebrate by sharing 12 Asian voices and stories to listen to, watch, and follow.
As a child of parents who immigrated from Taiwan, these stories–especially the ones of growing up first generation in America–really resonated with me. I could see bits of my own experiences in them and they made me feel like I was not alone in going through them.
I hope you’ll check them out this weekend and continue to seek out and listen to voices from Asian filmmakers, creators, leaders, and advocates year round. Best wishes for a happy, joyous, and prosperous Year of the Ox and enjoy :)
PS: While 13 is an unlucky number in the western culture, not so much in the Chinese culture! It’s considered a lucky number because the character for 3 (三) sounds similar to the one that’s used for birth (生) and therefore has connotations of life and growth.
Larry speaks English. His dad speaks Chinese. They grew up in the same house but Larry could never speak to his dad. After 20 years, with the help of filmmaker Bianca Giaever, he and his dad have their first conversation. This story began as part a collaboration called Videos 4 U, where Bianca helps people with a confession they wanted to tell someone else but they didn’t know how to say it.
My eyes welled up with tears listening this story! I think a lot of us can relate to not being able to say what we want to say to a parent or loved one, whether there is a language barrier or not.
Filmmaker Lulu Wang tells the story of an elaborate attempt to keep someone ignorant — her grandmother — and how her family pulled it off.
I remember being fascinated and touched by this story. If the summary above sounds familiar to you, it may be because Lulu’s film The Farewell is based on this!
Written and Directed by Lulu Wang
In this funny, uplifting tale based on an actual lie, Chinese-born, U.S.-raised Billi (Awkwafina) reluctantly returns to Changchun to find that, although the whole family knows their beloved matriarch, Nai-Nai, has been given mere weeks to live, everyone has decided not to tell Nai Nai herself.
Awkwafina is the perfect Billi–she made me laugh and cry. It’s a heartfelt film and you must watch until the very end to see how everything turns out.
Based on Jenny Han’s bestselling book series
If you know me at all, you know that I am a HUGE fan of the To All The Boys movies with the final one coming out Friday, 2/12 on Netflix! The films are based on the young adult novels by author, Jenny Han. I actually hadn’t heard of the books but the reason I stopped to watch the movie was because the movie poster had Lana Condor, an Asian lead, front and center and I was curious what it was!
It wasn’t until TATBILB that I really thought about how representation makes a difference–I wish this movie came out when I was growing up!
One of my most favorite parts is a reference to a Korean word and I am so excited they will be traveling to South Korea in the third movie (I won’t say anymore–no spoilers!) I highly recommend for the sweet, feel good vibes, all the different types of love and relationships (from sisters to crushes) the film touches on, and Lana’s AMAZING acting–nobody could have been a more perfect Lara Jean!
Written and Directed by Alan Yang
The deeply powerful and personal film is based loosely on Alan’s experiences as the child of immigrants, as well as what his father went through, coming to the Bronx from Taiwan to find opportunities.
I knew I had to watch this when I saw the trailer and I heard them speaking in Taiwanese! This was definitely a tear-jerker for me–I cried so hard watching I couldn’t breathe! There’s so much heartbreak and sacrifice but also love and hope. It hit close to home as my parents also immigrated to America from Taiwan and I could really relate to the daughter in the film. I feel like this movie tells the stories most of us don’t know about our parents–their lives before us and the people and memories they leave behind. You can watch this film on Netflix.
Written and Directed by Alice Wu
A coming-of-age comedy-drama exploring friendship, love, and sexuality, as well as the hardships of a Chinese family’s integration in the U. S. When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn’t expect to become his friend–or fall for his crush.
When I first saw the trailer, I thought this was another typical high school rom-com but it was much more than that! One of my favorite quotes is from this film: “Is this really the boldest stroke you can make?” You can watch this film on Netflix.
Directed by Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu
Written by Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu and Maya Huang
A family grapples with the passing of their estranged father and the remnants of the life he led during his absence.
I haven’t seen this yet but it’s on my to watch list! The trailer started playing when I logged onto Netflix the other day–the Taiwanese being spoken caught my attention! I am really looking forward to checking this one out!
I recently found Amanda on Instagram and wish I had been following her sooner–she is incredibly inspiring! Here is her bio from Rise:
Amanda is the CEO and founder of Rise. She penned her own civil rights into existence and unanimously passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, after having to navigate the broken criminal justice system after her own rape. The federal law was the 21st bill in modern US history to pass unanimously on the record and served as a model for 15 other laws protecting sexual violence survivors throughout the nation. Amanda has been named a Forbes 30 Under 30, by Foreign Policy as a Top 100 Leading Global Thinker, Marie Claire as a Young Woman of the Year, and The Tempest’s #1 Woman of Color Trailblazer. Previously, Amanda was appointed by President Barack Obama to the United States Department of State as his Deputy White House Liaison. In 2018, Amanda was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
Racism against Asians has always existed but the recent rise throughout the pandemic–especially against the elderly–has been especially heartbreaking, scary, and infuriating. I came across AngryAsianFeminist’s posts and they have put into words how I have been feeling, better than I could have. If you haven’t heard of what’s been going on, follow this account, read the posts, and/or do a Google search.
Red Hony Yi is another artist I recently discovered and I am in awe of her creativity (she uses things like chopsticks, items from her pantry, flowers and other non-traditional materials to “paint”) and inspired by her activism. Here is her bio from her website:
Red Hong Yi is a Chinese-Malaysian contemporary artist who makes work expressing her heritage and Chinese diasporic consciousness. Known as “the artist who paints without a paintbrush”, she creates mixed media installations by reinterpreting everyday materials through the accumulation of objects. By combining traditional craftsmanship and digital technology, she creates work that consider perceptual habits and preconceptions on the chosen objects and subjects, expressing the themes of women and race.
This is such a precious Instagram account that always makes me smile! It features grandparents, Chang Wan-ji and Hsu Sho-er, both in their 80s, modeling forgotten clothes left at the laundry shop they own in Taichung, Taiwan. Their grandson created the account as a fun thing for them to do during the pandemic. Their style is on point and they are adorable! There have been many articles written about them as well, here is a profile from The New York Times.
Joanne creates beautiful food and shares them alongside stories she narrates that are just as beautiful–full of honesty and vulnerability , watching every single post, salivating and crying, and wanting to hear more from her! Please head over to her IG now to experience it for yourself. She talks about everything from growing up Korean American, relationships, fear, food, and everything in between. Then when you’re done going through her posts, check out her website for plant-based recipes–I am excited to start trying them!
This account is from the book, Chinatown Pretty, and celebrates the street style of seniors living in Chinatown. I don’t know what it is with seniors and fashion but I am a big fan! Chinatown Pretty features seniors from Chinatowns in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Vancouver. You can learn more about the book and project on their website.