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‘Joy Luck Club’ to ‘Pachinko’: The Asian diaspora on-screen

Inji Jeong, Yeji Yeon and Bomin Kim in “Pachinko”
Inji Jeong, Yeji Yeon and Bomin Kim in “Pachinko”

From “Turning Red” to “Pachinko” to “After Yang,” it’s been a big month for stories about the Asian diaspora.

Even so, the entertainment industry — and the projects it greenlights — remains overwhelmingly white.

A new book chronicles Asian-American contributions to pop culture — from the problematic to the groundbreaking. It’s called “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now.”

From co-author Jeff Yang:

There were a lot of Asian Americans who, even as they rose professionally, were saying to themselves, “I know I’m Asian American, but that’s not how I define myself. I don’t want to be seen as an Asian American writer, an Asian American journalist, an Asian American actor. I want to be seen as an actor who happens to be Asian American.” The perception was that being Asian American was a liability that would typecast you, that would prevent you from advancing into “mainstream.” Thirty years-plus later, we’re at a place now where all these people are coming out of the woodwork saying, “Yes, I’m Asian American.” And more than that, [they’re saying], “I want to elevate other Asian Americans, and I want to make creative and cultural and political work around our community.” By going from the beginning to now in this book, you get that sense of a community awakening to itself and finally feeling like we can be a little bit more proud of who we are.

We talk with Yang, sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen, and “Pachinko” director Soo Hugh about telling stories of the Asian diaspora.

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Kathryn Fink