Exploring Heritage Through Stories

It’s May now, which means it is now Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month; a month devoted to acknowledge and honor the people, culture, and history of such backgrounds. Programs and celebrations are scheduled to take place and stories shall be exchanged. There’s a certain empowering tone that comes with a month that acknowledges the heritage of people who are just starting to be heard and represented a little better by the mainstream media; whether that be in the form of books, movies or television. In my case scenario, this month serves as a time for me to take a look at my role in it all; not only as amongst the growing number of Asian American female authors out there, but also in terms of looking through the lenses of being Hapa (an individual of part Asian descent).

I’ve spoken about me being mixed race a couple of times in the past and two years ago, I did an essay that was completely devoted to the subject matter. However, one thing that had always bothered me growing up was that I was never given an equal amount of attention to all four parts of my heritage. For the most part, I grew up learning about my German heritage and also a little bit about my Irish heritage. Looking back on my upbringing, I cannot help but wish I had been exposed more so to my Portuguese heritage as well as my Filipino heritage. While I know the reasons why I wasn’t and find them understandable, it also doesn’t seem really fair when I’m an equal split amongst all four heritages and only be exposed to two of them.

That’s why since my teenage years, I’ve been making up for it by learning about the other two in any way I can. Anything as small as learning about the food of one culture and the customs of another is satisfying the part of me that craves this kind of knowledge. While that may not necessarily mean I’ll be incorporating these factors into my life, it helps with at least knowing about it if anything. I’m a firm believer in acknowledging all parts of my heritage and not feel ashamed or embarrassed about them.

Just yesterday I watched a film that gained insight to what was going on with my extended family in the Philippines during World War II. It was a film called “Back to Bataan” where it follows the U.S. Army as it collaborates with the Philippine Scouts as they took on the Japanese Army who occupied the Philippines at the time. Whether if it was by coincidence or a leap of faith, my dad was surprised to have found this movie recorded yesterday on his TV, for this was a movie my great aunt went to the theater to see six times when it was showing in the Philippines. I can imagine it to have been incredibly resonating with her; for during Japan’s occupation of the islands, she was working with the resistance, her younger brother served as a Scout, and her father and other relatives were imprisoned in concentration camps by the Japanese Army. The film as a whole is a remarkable project, for it was constantly being rewritten as the events played out. In fact, this month marks 70 years since its release.

On a general scale, as a member of the Hapa community, it’s nice to have seen this past year more exposure to narratives of people belonging to a background similar to mine. To grow up and not see people who look like you and have gone through similar experiences as you is hard, for you can’t help but feel like your story is not worthy of being acknowledged. I’m happy to see a change in that. I’m happy to see how last summer, a novel following a mixed race family (Chinese and white) in the aftermath of their daughter’s death was thought provoking enough to be become a New York Times bestseller. I’m happy to see how on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” as Skye learns more about her abilities as an Inhuman, it allows for room to highlight on her heritage as an individual of part Chinese descent. I’m happy to see how an animated film where its protagonist is Hapa and becomes a tech-savvy superhero is worthy enough to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

It’s the stories that come of out the community and hearing them that I love about this month, and it helps with not only learning about the various aspects of my own heritage, but also what it means to be Hapa in today’s time. I hope to see more narratives of a similar kind continue to be created and exposed in the future to come.

A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 5 reviews so I’m already a quarter of a way to my goal).

Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.


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