Jeff Yang's new book is a 'cheer out loud' for the films that made Asian America
There has been notable progress in Asian American representation in film over the past few years. One author explores how the journey to this point wasn't always easy.
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What's the big deal? Yang's newest book is The Golden Screen: The Movies That Made Asian America — a collection of cultural commentary on the state of Asian American representation in our media.
What are people saying? Yang and Chhibber sat down with All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang to talk about the need for this book, the stories recounted and the state of Asian American film today.
On why the book felt necessary:
Yang: Well, this is a moment in which we're finally, for the first time, starting to see this plethora of diverse, inclusive and authentic representations of our Asian experiences on screen.
Even when you were kind of playing a little snippet of Everything Everywhere All At Once winning the Oscar [in the interview], I almost cheered out loud.
And the book is sort of like a cheer out loud.
On why including foreign films was necessary to convey the Asian American experience:
Yang: For me, watching kung fu movies in double feature theaters in Chinatown was the first time I saw Asian heroes who were saving the day, who were getting the girl.
I loved action movies in America. I aspired to be the white actors who were on screen. But when I actually, for the first time, got to see people who shared some aspects of my life and my world, that was the first time I felt like something new was possible.
Chhibber: "Bollywood's the biggest film industry in the world" is what we always say, right?
But I feel like Bollywood cinema was seen as sort of gimmicky or not necessarily a valid artform for a long, long time. And it's something I grew up with.
I think the influence of Bollywood is much more recent in Hollywood than when I was little for a multitude of reasons. But it was such a huge part of our community that all I wanted to do was just, like, share it with everybody I knew.
On their hopes for the next breakthrough in Asian American cinema:
Yang: To not have to have a sharp intake of breath every single time a new Asian or Asian American film comes to the screen.
We don't want to worry about whether it's going to be successful or represent us well. And I think we're kind of getting there. We finally arrived at the era where Asian Americans can be mediocre.
We can put stories out there that don't have to match up with the model minority or even the standards of success that are often imposed on minorities in general.
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So, what now?
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