Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Emily Moberg Robinson, coeditor of Voices of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience

Q: What prompted you to write Voices of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience?

One of my friends and another ABC-CLIO author, Tiffany Wayne, told me about the project. I was particularly excited about the opportunity to learn more about other Asian American groups (my own research is in Japanese Americans).

Q: What "message" do you want to communicate?

There is no single, definitive Asian American/Pacific Islander experience. Each individual experiences his or her life through many different lenses—religion, ethnicity, gender, etc. And while it's vitally important to look at broad themes and group identities, in the end, we all have our own story, our own way of interpreting our lives.

Q: What was the highlight of your research?

'Meeting' so many wonderful Asian American authors, bloggers, activists and artists definitely was the highlight of the project for me. People generously shared their work, and I truly enjoyed getting to know all of the contributors. Often, one person would send my name on to another, and then to another—we got some fantastic documents this way, particularly in the Pakistani American section. I also was introduced to several people who knew my mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents back on Kauai. It was a lot of fun connecting with old family friends, and hearing new-to-me stories about the plantation days.

Q: What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

The enormous diversity of the Asian American and Pacific Islander population—both in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of experience and identity. Several people were surprised that there are Jewish Asian Americans!

Q: How did your research change your outlook on the subject?

I've always loved reading old historical documents and imagining the lives of the people who wrote them, but most of the documents I've worked with in the past are not as personal as the ones we included in this anthology. Reading the interviews, the memoirs, the reflections was so moving for me—a reminder that big events and movements and developments are always lived, pushed, experienced by real people, by individuals, with their own stories. I think this is something every historian and sociologist ought to have in the back (or front!) of her mind when she's doing 'macro-level' work.

Q: How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth?

People are excited to read documents that reflect their own experiences—to see their own personal, family, community history placed in a larger context. No matter what ethnicity you are, there is something in this book that will resonate with you.

Q: What's next for you?

I just finished up another writing project, a chapter in a book on ethnic/religious identity—who knew 18th century Scottish Presbyterian immigrants could have so much in common with 19th and 20th century Asian immigrants! I'd love to do more writing on Asian Americans. In the meantime, I'm running around after my three kids, and trying to convince people that my red headed children really are Japanese Americans.

No comments:

Post a Comment