Posted in Interesting News & Commentary

Asian American and Pacific Islander Book Recommendations

What are you reading this month? May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and to celebrate the contributions and influence of AAPI communities in the United States, we have gathered eight significant reads written by AAPI authors. All titles are available at McCain Library in print and several are also available in eBook. Check one out today!

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita – I Hotel follows a group from San Francisco’s Chinatown. Taking place in 1968 and the years following, the novel explores their experiences throughout America’s struggle for civil rights. This group is connected through an intent to save the International Hotel, the main site for the Yellow Power Movement.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – A Tale for the Time Being explores the lives of two characters set generations apart: Nao and Ruth. Nao is a sixteen year old from Tokyo who, after struggling with bullying at school, decides to take her life. Before she does this though, she decides to write about the life of her great grandmother. Shortly after, we are introduced to Ruth, who lives across the Pacific. Ruth discovers Nao’s writings and is drawn into the past.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen – The Refugees is a collection of short stories revolving around topics such as race and immigration. The stories explain the lives of people stuck between two worlds, whether these worlds are two different countries or two differing personalities.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao – After the death of her mother, Poornima, a young girl in India, is stranded with her siblings and uncaring father. Poornima’s life is already set out for her: she will take care of her siblings until her father sets up an arranged marriage. This all changes when Savitha arrives, however. Savitha shows her a world that she never thought possible. So when Savitha is sent away, Poornima does everything that she can to return to her friend.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay – After discovering that his Filipino cousin, Jun, was killed due to the war on drugs, Jay travels to the Philippines to uncover the whole story. Along the way, he is forced to confront new truths about his cousin to fully understand the events leading up to his death.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung – This biography recounts the experiences of Nicole Chung as a transracial adoptee. After being placed for adoption by her biological Korean parents, Nicole is adopted by a white family in the United States. As a child, she believes that her parents made this choice for her own wellbeing, but as she grows up and begins to experience prejudice due to her race, she questions if she was told the full story and seeks the truth of her adoption.

Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen by Queen Liliuokalani – This biography, written by Hawaii’s last monarch (Queen Liliuokalani), tells over six decades of Hawaii’s history. The events discussed range from Queen Liliuokalani’s upbringing to the eventual annexation of Hawaii by the United States. This book directly portrays the actions of the United States and the harm that it caused to the Hawaiian people. It has often been referred to as one of the most significant books in Hawaiian literature.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko – This novel tells the story of Deming Guo, a young boy living in the Bronx. Deming’s mother, Polly, is an undocumented immigrant and one day does not return home from work. With his mother gone, Deming is taken in by two white college professors. Here, he must learn how to live after everything that he once knew was taken away. At the same time, his mother must also deal with her past mistakes.

Posted in Interesting News & Commentary

2020-2021 Skill Builder Series Recap

Have you attended a Skill Builder workshop this year? Since Fall 2020, McCain Library staff have hosted many workshops geared towards building research and technology skills as well as sessions around library services such as our record collection (and growing a collection of your own) or podcasting equipment and resources. Recorded Skill Builders can be located on the McCain Library YouTube page here. Find videos on Decatur and Atlanta bike trails, researching family ancestry, voting information for local, state, and federal elections, and accessing audiobooks, eBooks, movies, and music through McCain Library and your local public libraries!

Thank you to everyone who attended a session this year! If you would like to see a session on a specific topic, share your ideas in the comments below.

Posted in Interesting News & Commentary

More Seeds Available at McCain Library

Have you gotten seeds from McCain Library yet? Last week we began a seed library to share free seeds from the Agnes Scott greenhouse. Pick up a pack of hibiscus, buckwheat, milkweed, sunflowers, calendula, dill, and/or echinacea for your garden today! This program is open to Agnes Scott students, faculty, and staff!

These seeds are a donation from Lois Swords, Agnes Scott’s Organic Gardener. Thank you, Lois, for your generous donation!

The seeds are available on a first come, first serve basis and include planting directions. Please stop by the first floor circulation desk to select your seeds starting today.

Posted in Interesting News & Commentary

Sustainable Picnic Blankets at McCain Library

Have you tried one of the new picnic blankets from McCain Library yet? These ethically-sourced blankets were made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, making them sustainable as well as perfect for outdoor use! Next time you lay out on the quads to study or relax, check out a blanket from the library to make your outdoors time that much better!

The outdoor blanket project was led by Mina Goldsman ‘23 and Grace Payne ‘23, and funded by the Student Green Fee Fund.

Posted in Book Reviews, New Books, Smith Collection

Smith Collection Reviews

…these restaurants are also the stage for inspiring immigration stories that highlight Asian culture’s strong family ties while celebrating the creation of new dishes that define new immigrant traditions.”

Rafael Ocasio, Charles A. Dana Professor of Spanish

Exploring the rich international cuisine available at local restaurants for many of us is a fun pastime. Indeed, you may have already developed an expertise in tasting certain national dishes (I, for instance, will drive long distances for a new variety of iconic Latin American empanadas), or you may just enjoy discovering new flavors within the exotic settings of the so-called ethnic restaurants. For international individuals, whether recent arrivals, long-time residents or first-generation U.S. Americans, these restaurants are welcoming meeting places, where homesickness is often quenched over that one special dish that brings so many memories of the homeland or homemade cooking. The geographical coordinates of a “homeland” and even “homemade cooking,” are not, however, so easily defined as explored in Chop Suey Nation and Eat a Peach. An ancestral “home” can be found hidden behind the kitchens of Chinese and Korean-inspired restaurants throughout Canada and the United States. As the authors stress, these restaurants are also the stage for inspiring immigration stories that highlight Asian culture’s strong family ties while celebrating the creation of new dishes that define new immigrant traditions. 

Bridging diverse cultures through food is the subject of Chop Suey Nation.  First-generation Chinese-Canadian journalist Ann Hui sets out to explore the origins of “chop suey,” a national culinary innovation that her own family, owners of traditional Chinese restaurants, often belittled as “fake” Chinese food (18). It is a quest that took Hui around the expansive Canadian geography. While traveling by car around the country she visited many family-owned Chinese restaurants where she tried out a variety of local chop suey dishes. Her discoveries, such as “ginger beef is uniquely Canadian” (80), go beyond a simple listing of Chinese contributions to modern popular Canadian eating habits. What started as a documentation of chop suey restaurants led Hui to write about the historical impact of Chinese immigrants in Canada (first arrivals, overwhelmingly large numbers of men, worked in the construction of a national train system beginning in the mid-nineteenth century), leading to the development of “China towns.” Hui’s conversations with owners of restaurants reveal the plight of Chinese immigrants as part of a harsh immigrational history: “They had created a cuisine that was a testament to creativity, perseverance and resourcefulness” (199).

David Chang’s memoir, Eat a Peach, examines the modern cuisine trend popularly known as fusion, or the blending of national flavors as unique dishes. Chang is a celebrated chef and founder of Momofuku, an international conglomerate of Asian-inspired restaurants well-known for their experimentation of traditional Asian ingredients, such as ramen noodles. As Chang traces in his book, his exploration of iconic Asian flavors, although initially a culinary hit, did not go without challenges. At a television interview with CBS Morning on September 9, 2020 Chang stressed his background as a first generation Korean-American chef: “I always felt in between… not ever going to be part of white culture and never going to be part of Korean American culture” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUN_jgwsvic). His memoir fully explores such subjects as “cultural conditioning” and “cultural appropriation” related to the processes behind modern fusion cooking: “I began to question the validity of various cultural truths. Who gets to assign value to certain foods? What makes something acceptable or not?” (210-211).       

Eating with family members in the intimacy of home is the central subject of In Bibi’s Kitchen, a compilation of delicious family recipes by bibis, grandmothers who have kept alive the culinary traditions from eight African countries along the Indian Ocean border: Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Madagascar, and Comoros. A handsomely produced cookbook with beautiful photographs in color of the dishes, the central protagonists are a variety of elder women, some of them living in the African cities and rural areas of their birth, some of them refugees in Africa or living abroad. As the editors of the recipes underscore, the cooks speak “this language of food” (1). And the bibi cooks do have a lot to say about African “home cooking,” including their opinions about their favorite blends of African spices and teas, best ways to cook rice and pasta (because of the strong Italian colonial past, pasta sauce with beef, or Suugo Suqaar, is a popular dish in Somalia), or how best to incorporate tropical fruits in their dishes. These charming bibis have lived extremely rich lives and overcame terrible challenges; their outlook toward the future of their native countries is truly inspiring.         
As we thankfully move to an end of the pandemic quarantine, I invite you to support your local family-owned international cuisine restaurants. Better yet, learn about their cooking staff and servers. You will be pleasantly surprised to discover about their rich life stories. Ah, if you check out In Bibi’s Kitchen and you need an unbiased taster, please reach out to me. I do love to try out different kinds of cuisines! Happy reading and may you have a relaxed summer!  

To check out any of these books, check out the Smith Collection on WorldCat and place a hold to utilize our Grab & Go services.

Books Reviewed: Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui
Eat a Peach by David Chang
In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan, Julia Turshen, and more