APA Author Interview – Andrew Lam

Andrew Lam is familiar with many aspects of writing — he is the author of three books, a journalist, co-founder and editor of the ethnic news outlet New America Media, and teacher of journalism and creative nonfiction at San Francisco State University.

Molly Higgins: Please introduce yourself and briefly describe your literary work and career path to date.

Andrew Lam: I have written three books, two of them collections of literary essays, and the third a collection of short stories. The first book, “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora,” a memoir written in the form of personal essays, won the Pen Open Book 2005 Award, and was short listed for the Asian American nonfiction award. The second is “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres,” a collection of essays that explores the cultural impact of Asian immigration to America’s West. The latest, “Birds of Paradise Lost,” is a collection of short stories about Vietnamese boat people who survived their perilous journey in order to remake their lives in San Francisco, and it won the Pen West Coast/Josephine Miles Literary award and was a finalist for the California Book Award.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Lam

Photo courtesy of Andrew Lam

For eight years I was a regular contributor on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” I have and worked as a journalist and as an editor at Pacific News Service, which later became New America Media. I have contributed essays to many magazines and newspapers, including The Nation, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Mother Jones, National Geographic Traveler, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and many others.

In term of teaching, I have taught a few courses: advanced journalism writing for seniors in the journalism department at San Francisco State University, and  I am currently teaching a graduate level creative nonfiction class (the Art of the Personal Essay) this semester in the MFA program at San Jose State. I have also over the years conducted several master class workshops at various universities and colleges in essay and short fiction writing.

I have given many speeches at various universities, including Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA and Stanford. I gave a commencement speech at UC Irvine in 2013 School of the Humanities and was given the School of Humanities Medal in recognition of distinguished contributions to the humanities. Obama gave the commencement speech there in 2014.

I have been the subject of a PBS documentary, “My Journey Home,” which aired nationwide in 2004.

And I am a co-founder of New America Media, an association of ethnic media nationwide.

MH: Your writing takes several forms — you have three books published, you contribute to the Huffington Post, and you’re senior editor with New America Media. Does your work as an author inform your editing and vice versa? How?

AL: One set of knowledge does lend to the understanding of another. For instance, I reported on refugees for years, and when writing a short story about a refugee in San Francisco, as in the case of “Birds of Paradise Lost,” I understand the political, social and emotional implications from A-Z. What they all have in common is an innate sense of compassion and empathy for those less fortunate. Having been a refugee and homeless and stateless once, my instincts are speaking for the voiceless, rooting for the underdog. That informs all that I do, be it working as an editor, writer, journalist or radio commentator.

MH: Can you describe your work at New America Media? And, more generally, its role as a media organization?

AL: New America Media is the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Over 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3,000+ ethnic media outlets, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. At this point I am more or less part of the brain trust of the organization, having worked there for25 years. I am an editor there as we produce relevant content for our ethnic media partners, especially in crucial issues related to aging, education, healthcare and immigration reform. I come up with story ideas and work with particular writers/journalists to create relevant contents, but I also pick stories from our ethnic media partners to showcase their good work on our site.

We also put together briefings on important and relevant issues — Obamacare, scams in ethnic communities, immigration reforms, voters rights, etc. — so that there’ll be a more informed citizenry.

MH: How do you think your personal identity influences your writing and/or the diversity of your readership?

AL: In my autobiography class in the San Francisco State University creative writing program, I read my first essay out loud. The assignment was, “Why did you want to become a writer?” I talked about the Vietnam war. I talked about childhood memories. The falling bombs. The bravery of men and women. My parents’ struggles and fears. My own sadness. My longing to return to those bomb craters filled up with monsoon rain where children, who survived the battles, laughed and swam. “After all these years, I want to dive into that water,” I wrote. When I finished reading, there was this strange silence. The entire class looked at me in awe. The professor wept. The piece somehow reached the writer Richard Rodriguez and the editor of Pacific News Service, Sandy Close. They took me to tea. They more or less offered me a job as an op-ed writer. I started to travel the world, started to write about my past, my history and the Vietnamese Diaspora. And it resulted in “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora,” which won a Pen award. In any case, it was all unexpected. And it started from a heartbreak. It is no wonder my first book is a book of literary essays exploring that space between being a refugee and an American, between private sorrow and public intellectual exploration of one’s own circumstances in the world. I would say the majority of my work springs from that.

MH: You’re being interviewed by a librarian, for an audience of progressive Asian American librarians. What are your thoughts on libraries and their place in building diverse communities?

AL: When I was a poor refugee boy growing up at the end of Mission Street, where San Francisco ended and the working class of Daly City began, I took refuge in the libraries on weekends and in the summer. It was a cool place, literally, and I could read all the books I wanted. Though I regretted that I knew no librarian there personally, I had appreciated those countless hours of silence and reading. I wish I had met an Asian librarian who would point me to significant, meaningful authors who wrote stories that might mirror my own — post-war, growing up poor, immigrant, etc. As an author, I especially appreciated librarians who reached out to me to set up readings at their colleges, etc…. I always connected with audiences who showed up at libraries, as they are serious readers and have found librarians to be kind and receptive to my work.

I just wish that more author series were part of their work, especially where writers of a certain ethnicity come to a place where more of his/her own demographics — student population, local population — are significant and are looking to hear work from authors whose stories reflect theirs. A library to me is no longer a place that serves just as archives of books, but it can also be a place that reflects contemporary arts and cultures, and the more activities that reflect that, the more relevant it remains in our times.

MH: What advice would you give young professionals, especially those from diverse backgrounds, who are interested in a career in journalism (or writing generally)?

AL: A decade ago my answer would be easy: find internships with magazines or publishing houses that you admire and work your way up the ladder to understand how journalism or publishing world. The world of writing has transformed radically since then, and some would say, unraveled. It is true that the writing profession — a career — is so much harder to maintain given the state of the journalism institution and to lesser extent the state of publishing. It is oddly a great time to publish — that is, if you don’t care for doing it for free. Huffington Post usually doesn’t pay unless it’s an assigned story. But you’ll get a lot of eyeballs and public play. Exposure on social media gets attention for some artists but the career — making a living out of it — is much harder to fathom these days.

I think to make it a career you’ll need more skills and talents than mere writing. You need to know your audience, pick the right topic and theme and ride the wave, that is find a way to make yourself marketable. A writing career, after all, is different than a writing life. You can farm and write or you can teach and write. But a career seems to imply a regular income and making a go at being paid for your words, your articles. You need to be entrepreneurial these days to make it.

Editing assistance provided by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood.

Seattle’s API Flying Bookshelf

Interview conducted and edited by Alyssa Jocson Porter.

The API Flying Bookshelf is a collection “celebrating and promoting the works of Asian & Pacific Islander writers, artists, & scholars,” and includes novels, scholarly work, and even zines. The collection began traveling on July 1, 2014 among various Seattle neighborhoods and finding temporary homes in cafes. In April 2015, I had the chance to meet with API Flying Bookshelf co-founders Sabrina Chen and Derek Dizon and curator Chris Woon. We met at the Bookshelf’s current location, Cafe Hope, a coffee stand inside Asian Counseling and Referral Service with a training program to help clients gain barista and workplace skills. When I arrived, Sabrina, Derek, and Chris were already there with books piled on their table. We talked about the collection and the importance of storytelling and community.

#Shelfie, from left to right, API Flying Bookshelf's Sabrina Chen, Chris Woon, Derek O. Dizon, and APALA's Alyssa Jocson Porter.

#Shelfie, from left to right, API Flying Bookshelf’s Sabrina Chen, Chris Woon, Derek O. Dizon, and APALA’s Alyssa Jocson Porter.

Please introduce yourselves.

Derek Dizon (DD): I’m Derek Orbiso Dizon, and I’m a co-founder and curator.

Sabrina Chen (SC): I’m Sabrina Chen, and I’m a co-founder and curator as well.

Chris Woon (CW): My name is Chris Woon. I am a staff member of the Flying Bookshelf and a curator as well.

DD: I didn’t know we had “staff”! That’s cool. [Laughs]

CW: What else would I be?

SC: I like to call us the API Bookshelf Family.

DD: We also have a graphic designer, Angelo Salgado, and another curator named Tuyen Than.

SC: And Minh Nguyen, aka The Zine Lord, who does all our zines.


Could you briefly describe the API Flying Bookshelf?

API Flying Bookshelf 3 - logoDD: The API Flying Bookshelf is a traveling library which seeks to promote the works of Asian American and Pacific Islander and South Asian artists and storytellers.

SC: I’d add that it’s a free library where people can borrow books and read them, and it’s on the honor system.

DD: And it’s centered in community. We usually go to cafes or organizations that are API-centered or API-owned.


What was the inspiration for this project? How did it start?

SC: There’s a bookstore called the Asian American Curriculum Project in San Mateo, CA. It’s been around for a really long time… started [by] a group of Japanese American teachers after World War II. They were seeing a lot of the history curriculum totally left out the Japanese internment, and they wanted to bring together resources that hold that story. They were just collecting stuff. From there it grew into a bookstore. They actually publish books also. They do a lot. They’re really great. So, when I was visiting, [Chris] brought me to that bookstore and also to Eastwind Books of Berkeley. After seeing that, I thought there’s nothing like that in Seattle, but I felt like being in that space is something so powerful. All those Asian American books in one space. Derek and I are really good friends, so after I came back from my trip, I said, “We should open a bookstore.” He’s like, “We can’t do that.” [Laughs]

DD: I suggested a traveling bookshelf or library. Just to start. We had the conversation at a cafe too, so I just envisioned a bookshelf being there.

SC: It was a cafe that we went to a lot in the International District. It had a lot of community folks.

DD: It’s the Eastern Cafe, located in the historic Eastern Hotel. That was the first stop, the first landing. [The launch] was kind of overwhelming.

SC: Yeah, I think people were excited about the concept. It started off as a very small collection and kind of just grew from there. And then the donations started coming. Articles started coming. Derek planned the kick-off event.

DD: It was really great. Maybe 50 people came in and out. Maybe more. We opened up space to have people share stories, someone even did a dance piece in this small cafe. We had poetry, spoken word, rap pieces, and just talked about what it means to tell our stories as people who have not always had opportunities to speak and be heard.

The API Flying Bookshelf, when it landed at Cafe Hope in January 2014. Pictured with curator Chris Woon (left) and 2 ACRS/Cafe Hope staff.

The API Flying Bookshelf, when it landed at Cafe Hope in January 2014. Pictured with curator Chris Woon (left) and 2 ACRS/Cafe Hope staff.


The moving nature of the Bookshelf is very unique. It looks like you already have a lot of books, too. Do you have any plans on expanding?

SC: It’s tough with not very many people [on our team]. Moving one bookshelf is already a lot of work. We would have to start making like three trips or something [if we expanded]. Everything barely fits in Chris’ car right now. I think we’re pretty flexible about our capacity, though, and so we kind of just go with however much time we have to organize everything right now
CW: We have talked about having a home base. It’s our apartment right now.


What system do you have for lending out books?

SC: We use the honor system. We have a stack of cards for people to write their name and contact info.

CW: If people really want [to keep] that book for some reason—if it means that we get it out in the community and it’s getting some good use, then they can keep it. Especially because everything is donated. It’s a tough balance, though. Like some of the books are a little more rare. I just happened to have a few copies of [one title], but we’ve already lost two copies already.

SC: In one of the books we got, there was a paper in the back of it for people to write notes. There was [another] book with a kids’ picture left inside. It’s another cool part of it when curating books—these books hold stories, but they also hold the stories of the people who read them. It’s one of my favorite things about donations. We try to keep track of [those notes] just to show what a physical book really means… There’s something powerful about the people before you who engaged with the book.

CW: And sometimes it helps communicate us with each other, like the used books in college where there are multiple generations of marginalia.

Check out cards: The newest version (left) replaces the original cards (right), and captures the date and borrowers' names and contact information.

Check out cards: The newest version (left) replaces the original cards (right), and captures the date and borrowers’ names and contact information.


How are books collected/selected?

SC: We started with our own books, and now we have donations. There’s a sign on the Bookshelf that says “Put donations here,” and we try to say, “We may or may not take it.”

DD: And we do want to center on Asian American experiences with a critical, intersectional, type of social justice lens.

SC: We do try to get books too that are narratives that are missing. [If] we know we don’t have much [on a specific topic], we’ll see if we can find that.

CW: With trying to parse the literature, novels are kind of hard sometimes because so many of the narratives are transnational. And that is very much of the Asian American experience too.

SC: We do have, for example, “Asia’s Unknown Uprising.” That’s more focusing on a global perspective of uprisings that are hardly talked about in history books in different countries of Asia. For that, we kept it in because it’s something that gets left out a lot in movements—the background histories of why we’re here.

CW: We do look through the books [gestures to the stacks on the table]… It would be a little iffy if we shot them down [automatically]. For example, this book, “The Mao Case.” The back says “Chief inspector Chen of the Shanghai police department is assigned to a politically sensitive case by the Prime Minister of Public Safety…”, and it’s by a Chinese author who was raised in Shanghai but now lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Is that still part of the Asian American experience? He lives an Asian American experience—who am I to deny that? So, we take it case by case.


What makes the collection significant? What role or mission does the collection address?

CW: I had access to two bookstores in the Bay Area. It was something I took for granted. I also was an Asian American Studies (AAS) major, and I have my master’s in it, so I had this Asian American book collection already from my school days. And then Sabrina—

SC: You were probably thinking, “Why is she getting so excited [about API bookstores]?”

CW: I wouldn’t have known about [the Asian American Curriculum Project], if I didn’t have a family connection to the owner… But for years I didn’t know it was there. It probably wasn’t until I was actually in Asian American Studies that one of my parents told me about it. I think I really took it for granted, and then I moved [to Seattle], and I was like, “Whoa, there’s a void.”

SC: I feel like there is something really powerful about books and having access to some of these stories that people may not have access to. I don’t remember who but somebody was talking about how when they go to a bookstore and they go to the Asian section they see only history books or they go to the Feminism section and there’s not an Asian American feminist perspective. There’s not enough exposure unless you’re in Asian American Studies.

CW: Yeah, you’d go to the Asian section, and it’d be just Asian history books.

DD: Asians from Asia, not Asians from the U.S.

SC: But I think there are really some unique Asian American, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian American, narratives that are really rich and diverse and interesting.

DD: I was also an AAS major for my undergraduate degree. But even prior going into AAS, as a child, I was always put into that slower reading group as an elementary school kid. I thought I was slow in reading and I thought I was bad at reading, but it was only that I was uninterested in reading other people’s stories I couldn’t relate to. So what does it mean for us as people of color, as Asian Americans? To see ourselves in stories and to speak stories to people who we see ourselves in? I never had an opportunity to experience that as a child. It’s really interesting how we label students, like, “Oh, this person’s slow, this person doesn’t really understand this literature,” but maybe it’s less about understanding literature and more about not seeing ourselves in literature. I think that’s what so amazing about the Bookshelf, that it’s a way for us to see ourselves in stories… And if only one person from the whole community reads one book and they are able to connect with that book and see themselves through that story as a way to connect to the broader community, then I think we’ve served our purpose as a Bookshelf.

CW: To piggyback off that… I used to think I hated literature. In high school, I hated English class. I thought I didn’t like literature. And then finally in grad school, I took Asian American literature courses, and I loved taking literature courses! I loved writing papers about literature. Then all of a sudden I was getting A’s in my classes. It speaks to how these kind of books and stories can resonate in a different way.

DD: That’s really powerful about this Bookshelf: having access and representation. It’s cool too that we have an eclectic collection of different stories. You have those stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans, that they are A, B, C, but when we read these books, we see the other letters of the alphabet too. I grew up in a primarily white neighborhood… I was never exposed to my people’s stories in textbooks or even in my own family. For the longest time, I internalized that as my family didn’t have stories, our people didn’t have stories… That’s such a lie that we’re being told in so many ways in representations through media, through other libraries, through the education systems. It wasn’t until my AAS program, that I knew about these stories. I just never asked about them. This Bookshelf pushes me and others to ask family members about our stories even though they are hard to tell.

SC: I also keep thinking about our vision of the future [for the Bookshelf]. We could showcase all forms of art by Asian American artists. That’s a form of storytelling too. I think that’s part of the mission of the Bookshelf.


What hopes do you have for the API Flying Bookshelf?

The API Flying Bookshelf, as it was during its July 2014 launch at Eastern Hotel.

The API Flying Bookshelf, as it was during its July 2014 launch at Eastern Hotel.

DD: Talk about The Dream!

SC: There might be multiple versions of The Dream. In Brooklyn, we found a reading room. I really like that model where they just have a lot of books and you can go there and check out books like a library but not a part of the [public] library system. You go there and hang out. I think getting to be in one place [instead of traveling around] is the dream… We would love a cafe-type of space.

DD: To have a dedicated space for more than just this Bookshelf would be really amazing.

CW: It depends on how things transform in the future, right? Because we’ve been avoiding creating like a non-profit. We like this collective, contribute-if-you-can approach.

DD: I think if we had a physical spot we’d still have a traveling bookshelf.

SC: We really like that aspect of it because then the Bookshelf appears in different neighborhoods. We started in the International District, then Capitol Hill, and now we’re a little bit more south. I like how the Bookshelf can move to where people are at.

This summer, the API Flying Bookshelf celebrated its one-year anniversary by partnering with another organization supporting the API community, FIGHT (Formerly Incarcerated Groups Healing Together), to raise funds for a new library at Clallam Bay Corrections Center. Their event raised over $100 plus several book donations.

The Bookshelf is currently at Cafe Hope, located on the bottom floor of ACRS, 3639 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, Seattle, WA 98144. Open hours are Mondays to Thursdays from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m, and Fridays from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.

For more information about the API Flying Bookshelf, visit the official website http://apiflyingbookshelf.com/ or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/APIflyingbookshelf.

Editing assistance provided by Jaena Rae Cabrera. All photos courtesy of API Flying Bookshelf.

Annual Report from APALA President Eileen K. Bosch

Wow! What an amazing 2014-2015 year for APALA! We ended this past year on a high note – celebrating its 35th anniversary with a daylong series of workshops designed to share Asian Pacific American (APA) stories, highlight successful library programs, and feature new partnerships and advocacy efforts in building coalitions to meet the needs of APA communities. The “Building Bridges: Connecting Communities Through Librarianship & Advocacy” 35th anniversary symposium was a big success! We had an unprecedented number of librarians, speakers, library leaders, community activists, writers/artists/filmmakers, students, volunteers, and corporate partners coming together to celebrate this milestone. The symposium took place on June 25, 2015 at the University of San Francisco’s McLaren Conference Center.

Image of Eileen K Bosch

Eileen K. Bosch, APALA President, 2014-2015

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who worked hard throughout this past year to make APALA’s 35th anniversary a memorable and historic event!

THANK YOU to the 60+ committee members and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the APALA 35th symposium, APALA’s President Program, APALA’s tour of Chinatown and Manila Heritage Foundation, APALA Literature Award Banquet, and several programs & events during ALA annual.

THANK YOU to the 100+ participants who registered to attend our very 1st APALA 35th Symposium, and to the 120+ participants who joined us at the APALA Literature Award Banquet at ALA Annual. The high attendance numbers at both of these events truly shows the continued support from our members, friends, and partners!

THANK YOU to all of our 2014-2015 sponsors and individual donors! Your support is valued and appreciated by all of us in APALA!

THANK YOU to all the 20+ API community organizers, speakers, and library community leaders who joined us at the symposium to celebrate our 35th anniversary.

THANK YOU to our amazing keynote speaker Valarie Kaur for her inspiring remarks; to our plenary session speakers: Ghada Kanafani Elturk, Nancy Hom, Andrew Lam, and Gene Luen Yang who engaged us in a frank conversation on how to build connections across APA communities, professions, and fields; and to the University of San Francisco, Dean Tyrone Cannon, and Associate Dean Shawn Calhoun who very generously offered APALA the use of the McLaren Conference Center and the Gleeson Library staff to host and help with the APALA symposium.

…And behind the scenes making it all come together…

THANK YOU to my unbelievable 2014-2015 Executive Board: Vice-President/President Elect Janet Clarke, Secretary Sarah Jeong, Treasurer Dora Ho, Member-at-Large Melissa Cardenas-Dow, Member-at-Large Anna Coats, Member-at-Large Paolo Gujilde, Member-at-Large Annie Pho, Immediate Past President Eugenia Beh, and Executive Director Buenaventura (Ven) Basco.  Thank you for the great teamwork spirit, enthusiasm, and constructive feedback and guidance during the past year.

THANK YOU to all the Standing & Ad Hoc Committees Chairs and their incredible teams who dedicated months, weeks, and hundreds of hours to make APALA’s 35th anniversary a successful year. APALA’s success is largely due to the drive and accomplishments of our committees. Thank you to the following Chairs:  Constitution and Bylaws Chair Paul Lai; Finance and Fundraising Chair Sandy Wee & Lessa Pelayo-Lozada; Literature Awards Jury Chairs Dora Ho & Buenaventura (Ven) Basco; Literary Awards Category Chairs Tiffany Chow, Tinamarie Vella, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Jerry Dear, Gayatri Singh, Sandy Wee, Evelyn Yee, Irene Zapata, Tarida Anantachai, and Virginia Loh-Hagan; Membership Co-Chairs Maria Pontillas Shackles & Emily Chan; Mentoring Committee Co-Chairs Johana Orellana & Heawon Paick; Newsletter and Publications Co-Chairs Gary Colmenar & Melissa Cardenas-Dow; Nominations Chair Eugenia Beh; Program Committee & 2015 President’s Program Co-Chairs Janet Clarke & Peter Spyers-Duran; Publicity Co-Chairs Yen Tran & Holly Okuhara; Web Chair Alvin Dantes; Scholarships & Awards Co-Chairs Tassannee Chitcharoen & Valeria Molteni; Task Force on Family Literacy Focus Co-Chairs Lessa Pelayo-Lozada & Ariana Hussain; Task Force on  2015 annual Local Arrangements – San Francisco Co-Chairs Jerry Dear & Sherise Kimura; Task Force on 2015 midwinter Local Arrangements – Chicago Co-Chairs Annie Pho & Richard Kong; Task Force on 2015 Archives & Handbook Co-Chairs Paolo Guijilde & Sarah Jeong; Task Force on 2015 annual ALA Diversity & Outreach Fair – San Francisco Co-Chairs Paolo Gujilde & Tinamarie Vella; Diversity Council Representatives Sandy Wee & Eugenia Beh; ALA Working Group on Libraries & Digital Content Representative Holly Yu; JCLC Executive Board Committee Representative Kenneth Yamashita. I also would like to thank the APALA 35th Co-Chairs: Gary Colmenar, Florante Ibanez, and Jade Alburo as well as to APALA 35 Steering Committee Chairs: Assessment Chair Catherine Phan; Fundraising Chair Eileen K. Bosch; the fabulous Local Planning Co-Chairs Jerry Dear & Sherise Kimura; Program Committee Co Chairs Jade Alburo & Gerard “Gary” Colmenar; Anniversary Program Booklet designers Florante Ibanez & Brian Leaf; our brilliant Finance & Budget Committee Co-Chairs Dora Ho & Heawon Paick, Publicity/Outreach Committee  Co-Chairs Young Lee & Sandy Wee,  Raffle & Prizes Chair Tinamarie Vella, our super San Francisco to-go contacts Brian Huynh & Janet Tom; and to our creative web designer and logo creator Young Lee!

Below is a list of accomplishments and highlights during 2014-2015:


  • APALA’s fundraising campaign surpassed our initial fundraising goal of $10,000 for the APALA 35th Anniversary. As a result of APALA’s fundraising initiatives and the hard work of several members, APALA secured the sponsorship of many individuals and corporate sponsors supporting the APALA 35 Symposium and Literature Award Banquet. Our sponsorships and individual donations fully covered our expenses during the 35th Anniversary celebrations.
  • A “Fundraising Toolkit” was created to help and assist future committee members to keep doing the work.
  • Launched APALA AmazonSmile account to benefit our Scholarships & Awards fund and our Family Literacy Focus project.
  • Created a membership drive campaign before new membership fee increases for 2015-2016 beginning in August 1, 2015. Members were also offered a one time only lifetime membership special by making 4 monthly payments of $100 before December 31, 2015.


  • Completed the APALA Operational Manual. This manual will serve a much larger purpose than simply stating expectations; it will provide a definitive source of reference for EB officers and committee chairs on how to do their committee work and provide a better understanding of the organization.
  • Planned and developed an orientation session to returning and incoming EB officers at ALA Annual.
  • Appointed Melissa Cardenas-Dow to serve as Communication Coordinator to streamline communication processes between the standing committees, EB, and membership.
  • Encouraged the appointment of two co-chairs in all standing committees to begin succession-planning work within committees.


  • Actively promoted our organization via our social media outlets.
  • Published 6 articles: 1 Minnesota Institute Early Career Librarians article; 3 advocacy fatigue mini-series articles; 1 APALA founder/library leader article; 1 APALA 35th focus piece.
  • Continued to support and encourage APALA representation at ALA national level: Working Group on ALA Advocacy Coordination, Diversity Council, and JCLC Executive Board.
  • We increased our membership numbers from 350 (ALA MW) to 372 members (ALA Annual).
  • Organized our first national symposium, APALA 35th Symposium & Anniversary with over 100 attendees and planned several programs and events co-sponsored with other divisions and units at ALA Conference.
  • Organized APALA President’s Program featuring a dynamic discussion between Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC-Berkeley and Maria Taesil Hudson Carpenter, the City Librarian of the Santa Monica Public Library System. They examined the issues raised by Geographies of Kinship: International Asian Adoption, a new film by award-winning Berkeley-based filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem, in the larger context of international adoption and reflect on universal questions of identity, assimilation, family, community, and advocacy. Excerpts from the film and a personal introduction especially produced for this program by Deann was shown. The APALA President’s Program was co-sponsored by APALA and ALA Video Round Table (VRT) division.
  • Sponsored a record number of programs at ALA Annual. For a complete list of events, please see the annual ALA conference list.
  • Website redesign – Assigned four ALA Emerging Leaders (EL TEAM B: Xiaoyu Duan, Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, Ximin Mi, and Jennifer Nabzdyk) to work with Web Committee on the redesign of the APALA website. Even though Emerging Leaders members presented the results of their work at the EB Annual Meeting, the Web Committee has not yet finalized this ongoing project.


  • Melody Tsz-Way Leung was recipient of our Scholarship Award.
  • Shanna Shiah received our Travel Award.
  • Cynthia Orozco was recipient of Emerging Leaders Scholarship.
  • Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library (TN), Kenton County Public Library (Kentucky), Native Village of Eyak (Alaska), Oceanside Public Library (CA), Pacific Islands University (Guam), Palms-Rancho Park Library (CA), Red Lake Nation College (MN), San Juan College (NM), Sonoma County Library (CA), and USD 497 Native American Student Services for Lawrence Public Schools (KS) are recipients of our Family Literacy Focus:  Talk Story Grants. Each one was awarded $600 to complete a Talk Story grants.


  • 8 Mentors & Protégés were paired.
  • APALA 35th Symposium offered several workshops addressing professional development and outreach.
  • 4 ALA Emerging Leaders were able to work closely and be mentored by Web Committee and Executive Board throughout their EL project.

I could not emphasize enough my sincere thank yous to everyone who have contributed in helping me shape and create a shared vision for APALA during 2014-2015. Many – many THANK YOUs go out to many-many people! It takes an entire community to make incredible things happen!!

It has been an honor to serve as the President of APALA over the past year. I look forward to working as the Past Immediate President with the new Executive Board in 2015 as we strive to achieve our new strategic directions under the leadership of incoming President, Janet Clarke, Vice-President/President Elect Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Secretary Anna Coats, Treasurer Dora Ho, Member-at-Large Brian Leaf, Member-at-Large Arianna Hussain, Member-at-Large Paolo Gujilde, and Member-at-Large Melissa Cardenas-Dow.  APALA is lucky to have such a talented board and membership!


Eileen K. Bosch
APALA President, 2014-2015


APA Library Leaders Roster

Asian Pacific American Library Leaders: Past, Present, and Future


Dear APALA members,

In celebration of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association’s 35th anniversary, APALA wishes to honor a diverse array of APA librarians who are helping to shape our profession. The roster compiles the names of retired, current, and future APA librarian leaders who have made and are still making a significant impact in librarianship since 1980, the year that APALA was founded, and will continue to make such contributions in the future.  Several librarians listed in the roster have served as Presidents of both APALA and CALA, the Chinese American Librarians Association.

The roster is divided into two sections: APA Library Leaders – Current & Retired and APA Library Leaders – Future Voices. The first section highlights some of the incredible APA librarian leaders who have attained distinguished positions and roles as deans/directors of academic (university and community college) and public libraries, as well as state librarians and library school deans; American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board members, Division Presidents and Office Directors; and achieved other noteworthy professional accomplishments.

The second section honors aspiring APA library leaders who may not have yet attained distinguished positions; however, their leadership skills have been essential in guiding and leading current policy and important conversations that are helping to shape the future of our library profession.  They make our field more flexible in, and embracing of, the changes that are necessary to keep it thriving and sustainable, and especially attractive to future APA librarians. The categories include: ALA Councilors, ALA Emerging Leaders, ALA Leadership Institute Selected Participants, ARL Leadership Fellows, Library Journal Movers & Shakers and PLA Leadership Academy Fellows.

The roster of APA Library Leaders is not intended to be comprehensive or final. It is our hope that this list becomes a living document that will continue to evolve and change as more APA library professionals provide input and feedback as to names to include and more information to add or revise.  This list will serve as a resource for library leaders, library administrators, library and information professionals, library educators, and library students to enhance and promote a more diverse workforce and to inspire future APA librarians to empower the library communities they serve. These are the best and brightest voices of today that are shaping the profession of tomorrow.

Dr. Ken Yamashita
APALA President, 1996-1997

Eileen K. Bosch
APALA President, 2014-2015



Note – This roster is a continuation and expansion of the list of Asian American library directors/deans compiled by Ben Wakashige in 2007 and inspired by Dr. Jian-Zhong “JZ” Zhou’s research on Asian American library leadership on 5/2012.


To view the list, please download the roster:  APA Library Leaders Roster.pdf


Raffle Fundraiser at the APA Literature Awards Dinner

APALA’s annual awards dinner will be held on Saturday, June 27th at the Canton Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant from 6-9:30 p.m. If you would like to join us, don’t forget to buy your tickets. There will be a raffle drawing to raise funds for APALA. Please don’t forget to bring cash. Tickets are 1 for $2, 5 for $5, and 15 for $10, etc. The more raffle tickets you buy, the better your chances of winning. And the more money we raise!
Raffle winners will be called throughout the dinner. You must be present to win.
You could win these great prizes below:
image of red Beats Headphones by Dr. Dre

Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones

Customized Book Bracelet Jewelry from Diane Weltzer

Customized Book Bracelet Jewelry from Diane Weltzer

image of web banner for City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

Book Bundle From City Lights Bookstore

image of Firebrand Soprano Ukulele Complete Pack

Firebrand Soprano Ukulele Complete Pack

image of logo for Better World Books

Gift Cards from Better World Books

images of book covers in raffle

Assorted Books, CDs and DVDs from Asian American Publishers and Authors

image of logo from Springer Publisher

Promotional Swag from Springer

image of Hello Kitty logo

Hello Kitty Memorabilia

image of Chalk Hill Winery logo

Wine from Chalk Hill Winery

 Hope to see you there!

The Not-So-New History of Asian International and Transracial Adoption by Catherine Ceniza Choy

Social media’s recent co-option of the term “transracial” to describe former NAACP chapter President Rachel Dolezal’s controversial identification as black has garnered a maelstrom of criticism from adoption community members for good reason.  It erases the decades-long history of Asian international and transracial adoption in the United States.  The United States is the top recipient of adoptive children from throughout the world.  In the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, American families have adopted children from Latin American, European, and African nations.  However, beginning in the 1950s, predominantly white American parents’ adoption of Asian children played a formative role in making adoption global and transracial.

In the aftermath of World War II and at the onset of the Cold War, Americans’ adoption of mixed-race Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese children born of U.S. servicemen and Asian women captured the hearts and minds of the general public.  The distinctive racial features of these mixed Asian and American children had made them visible targets for abuse.  The lack of U.S. and Asian governmental support, and desertion by their American fathers, influenced their mothers’ decisions to abandon them, creating a group of children available for adoption.  International adoption from China is popularly conceived as a more recent phenomenon. Yet, an earlier period of Chinese international adoption took place under the auspices of “the Hong Kong Project” through which Chinese American and white American families adopted hundreds of Chinese boys and girls, who had been relinquished by refugee families fleeing communist mainland China.

The history of Asian international adoption in the United States provides a lens to view the relationship between U.S. foreign relations and immigration, specifically between an American military presence in other countries and the resultant migrations of children to the United States.  It also helps us glean the shifting definitions of what constitutes an American family.  Confronting this history is not easy.  It compels us to grapple with the brutal aftermath of war, the absence of social services to vulnerable populations, U.S. as well as Asian racisms, the adoption of children who were not true orphans, but whose relatives relinquished them because of poverty and hopelessness, American adoptive parents’ tense encounters with family members and neighbors who opposed their decision to adopt internationally and transracially, and Asian adoptees’ painful loss of their birth families and homelands.  Yet, these earlier experiences also contributed to progressive social changes—such as the increasing acceptance of multiracial peoples and multicultural heritages–that enabled Asian international adoption in the United States to grow exponentially.

Between 1971 and 2001, U.S. citizens adopted 265,677 children from other countries.  Over half of those children were from Asian countries. In the twenty-first century, China, South Korea, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, and the Philippines are among the top twenty sending countries of adoptive children. Beginning around 2005, the total numbers of international adoptions in the United States started to decline.  However, current demographic trends cannot undo the impact of Asian international adoption in the United States.  International adoption continues to shape the American experience through the presence of multiple generations of Asian adult adoptees as well as Asian adoptive children in our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

Image of book cover of Global Families by Catherine ChoyAt the Fall 2014 UC Berkeley Mixed Student Union conference, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation about my book Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption.  Afterwards, two young people—a college student and a recent college graduate—approached me to ask for further resources about international adoption.  The college student was a Chinese adoptee who was just beginning to explore her adoptive identity.  The recent graduate was not an adoptee, but he had become interested in Asian international adoption because his mother is a Korean adoptee.  She was uninterested in exploring her Korean heritage and trying to reunite with her Korean birth family, he explained.  But he was.  Listening to their stories powerfully reminded me that the United States is an international adoption nation.

Thus, the history of Asian international adoption in the United States and its legacies are important for all of us–and not solely those who are directly involved in adoption as parents, practitioners, and adoptees themselves—to know.  Educators and librarians play an important role by responding to questions, such as the ones posed to me at the student conference, with awareness, sensitivity, and insight.  We can and should advocate for making a diverse array of resources on international and transracial adoption available and accessible to our local communities and the general public.  APALA’s May 16th blog post on a resource guide to this topic by Sofia Leung and its upcoming President’s Program, “Global Roots, Local Identities: Asian International Adoption and Advocacy,” on June 27 provide a wonderful place to begin.


Global Roots, Local Identities: Asian International Adoption and Advocacy

Co-sponsored by Video Round Table
Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4:30-5:30 PM
Moscone Convention Center, 236-238 (S)

Description: APALA President’s Program will feature a dynamic discussion between Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC-Berkeley and Maria Taesil Hudson Carpenter, the City Librarian of the Santa Monica Public Library System. They will examine the issues raised by Geographies of Kinship: International Asian Adoption, a new film by award-winning Berkeley-based filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem, in the larger context of international adoption and reflect on universal questions of identity, assimilation, family, community, and advocacy. Excerpts from the film and a personal introduction especially produced for this program by Deann will be shown. The APALA President’s Program is co-sponsored by APALA and VRT.

We hope to see everyone there!

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