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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Chatham Square Library

Chatham Square Library once again invites you to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with us every Saturday in May.* The program kicks off on May 5 with a screening of the iconic film, Chan is Missing (1982), directed by Wayne Wang. Then, on May 12, we'll screen the documentary, Breathin': The Eddy Zheng Story, which delves into the fascinating story and life of an immigrant arrested at age 16 and tried as an adult for kidnapping and robbery. Finally, on May 19, author Lauren Hilgers will discuss her new book, Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown.  Here are details, with links, on each of the three events: 

Saturday, May 5 at 1 PM: Chan is Missing film screening

Chan is Missing movie cover

Acclaimed filmmaker Wayne Wang's feature film, Chan is Missing (1982), follows the adventures of two cabbies on their search through San Francisco's Chinatown for a mysterious character who has disappeared with $4,000 of their money. Their quest to figure out what happened to Chan and their missing cash leads them on a humorous journey that illuminates the pitfalls of Chinese-Americans trying to assimilate into contemporary American society. (synopsis courtesy Kanopy

Chan is Missing won Best Experimental/Independent Film from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and, in 1995, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."  

Wayne Wang later went on to direct the beloved film, The Joy Luck ClubThis screening of Chan is Missing celebrates the role and influence of Chinese-American filmmakers on American independent cinema.

Saturday, May 12 at 1 PM: Breathin': The Eddy Zheng Story film screening

Breathin': The Eddy Zheng Story is a 2016 documentary from Ben Wang, about the youngest San Quentin state prisoner on The Eddy Zheng Story movie cover his road to freedom. While in prison, Eddy learned English, earned his college degree, published his poetry, and transformed into a nationally recognized leader—inspiring youth, activists, and politicians on issues of prison reform and youth violence prevention.

As an advocate for Ethnic Studies in the prison college curriculum, Eddy was sent to solitary confinement for 11 months, where he garnered support from community activists and leaders. Even as Eddy fought systemic injustices, he continued to fight an internal battle. Spending nearly two decades in prison left a physical and mental toll on him, an all-too-common phenomenon for the incarcerated.

Despite being released from immigration custody in 2007, Eddy has been ordered deported to China and awaits the final court decision. With the looming possibility of deportation, Eddy must negotiate what it means to “live freely”—attempting to rebuild a family, reconcile with his victims, and make a lasting change in society at large. (synopsis courtesy Breathin' official website)

Breathin' won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at CAAMFest, Jury Award for Best Documentary and Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Austin Asian American Film Festival, and the Jason D. Mak Social Justice Award at the DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon. This screening aims to highlight a highly unique and lesser known immigrant story, and celebrate up-and-coming independent filmmakers from the AAPI community.

Saturday, May 19 at 2 PM: Author talk with Lauren Hilgers

Patriot Number One - American Dreams in Chinatown book cover

Author Lauren Hilgers will join us for a talk about her highly praised new book, Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown, a deeply reported look at the Chinese immigrant community in the United States. Hilgers follows a dauntless family through a world hidden in plain sight: a byzantine network of employment agencies and language schools, of underground asylum brokers and illegal dormitories that Flushing’s Chinese community relies on for survival. With a novelist’s eye for character and detail, Hilgers captures the joys and indignities of building a life in a new country—and the stubborn allure of the American dream.

About Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

(from the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month government website)

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A rather broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).

Like most commemorative months, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month originated with Congress. In 1977 Reps. Frank Horton of New York introduced House Joint Resolution 540 to proclaim the first ten days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week. In the same year, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a similar resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 72. Neither of these resolutions passed, so in June 1978, Rep. Horton introduced House Joint Resolution 1007. This resolution proposed that the President should “proclaim a week, which is to include the seventh and tenth of the month, during the first ten days in May of 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” This joint resolution was passed by the House and then the Senate and was signed by President Jimmy Carter on October 5, 1978 to become Public Law 95-419 (PDF, 158kb). This law amended the original language of the bill and directed the President to issue a proclamation for the “7 day period beginning on May 4, 1979 as ‘Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.’” During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress passed Public Law 101-283 (PDF, 166kb) which expanded the observance to a month for 1990. Then in 1992, Congress passed Public Law 102-450 (PDF, 285kb) which annually designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.

Formerly known as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the name officially changed to Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May 2009, with President Barack Obama's signing of Proclamation 8369. The official website still refers to the commemoration as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, so it seems they need an update! 

*Please note we are closed Saturday, May 26 in observance of Memorial Day.

Additional Reading

Barack Obama, "Proclamation 8369—Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, 2009," May 1, 2009. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project;

"A Chinese Revolutionary, Reinventing Himself in American Exile." The New York Times. March 21, 2018.

"Wayne Wang- He Made it the Year's Unlikeliest Hit." New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast) ed.May 30 1982. ProQuest



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