Hi, guys! I hope you all have been having a lovely summer so far. As it winds to a close with the fall equinox rapidly approaching, August has brought to us a wealth of Asian stories. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han are two very different, very unique stories starring narratives of Asian main characters and both have been released as movies in the same weekend. There have been a series of Tweets recently about why Asian stories don’t matter, and that is plain hurtful. I can’t even begin to explain what I’m feeling because everything is so tightly wound together. So here’s my piece on WHY THEY DO MATTER. BECAUSE ALL REPRESENTATION MATTERS.
With the heady rush to see and support both of these masterful creations, it’s important to stop and think about why these movies (and books) mean so much to the Asian-American community.
While Crazy Rich Asians certainly isn’t exclusively a story about only Asian-Americans (the only Asian-Am character is Rachel Chu), it still stands as a great feat because it stars an all Asian-American cast, the first in 25 years. Why did it take so long for America to produce a movie like this again? The fight for representation reaches to all people of color, and that includes Asian people and culture. This should be done in a respectful manner, not done by white people who think they have an idea of what Asian people would like. And that is something that has happened for far too long. This story follows Asian families and tells an Asian story. It centers around the vast diversity within the Asian community and includes many nuances that are hard to grasp if you’re not born and raised in it.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was originally only a YA contemporary novel written by Jenny Han. It was the first time I clearly remember seeing an Asian girl on a book cover. It was published in 2015. At that point I was already 16 years old. For me to have lived as long as I did without seeing someone who looked like me on something as simple as a book cover is mind blowing. What about all of the people who lived longer without this kind of simple representation? Think of all of the covers with white people on it. There are gobs of them. I want to emphasize that this isn’t terrible, but it’s something to consider when our nation quite frankly is not all white. It has never been solely white people.
TATBILB is not a story about a girl and her Asian-ness. And not every story featuring a person of color has to be that kind of teaching moment. It shouldn’t have to be. People of color shouldn’t have to explain themselves and who they are to be accepted as people. We want to see people who look like us doing things that we do. We go to school, go to work, fall in love, fall out of love, get angry, get into arguments, make amends. We live as normally as anyone else. When this kind of story is missing, it is saying that they are less important than others. It takes away the unique struggles that we face as people of color because of our skin. Not every person of color faces the same challenges either. What matters is that these problems we face get acknowledged. We have been silenced and told our stories don’t matter for so long. We can no longer stand for this. People of color need to raise each other up. Everyone wants a piece of the equality pie, and fighting each other is counterproductive and hypocritical.
That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. Thanks for reading this piece!