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Remember, Persevere, Recognize: Celebrating AAPI Heritage

The Newsela Team
May 3, 2021

This May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month. While Americans have been celebrating AAPI heritage for over 40 years, this year has felt markedly different. Here at Newsela, we acknowledge that this is a particularly painful moment for many in the AAPI community. Recent shootings and rising incidents of discrimination and violence have brought devastating loss to AAPI communities across the country. 

In the face of such adversity, it is even more essential to elevate the countless ways the AAPI community has enriched the United States. 

Our goal this month is to celebrate, remember, preserve and recognize the contributions of the AAPI community. In our upcoming AAPI Heritage series, we offer articles about the many different cultures within the AAPI community. Newsela’s mission is to provide meaningful classroom learning for every student. And for our students of AAPI heritage, that means making sure they see themselves reflected in the curriculum we offer. 

Each week this month, students will be able to delve into text sets we have carefully curated. We offer an extensive selection of articles about AAPI cultures and communities; we look at their histories and experiences; we shed light on AAPI activism; and lastly, we highlight individuals of AAPI heritage who have excelled in their fields. These text sets are a mix of news, biographies, histories, fiction, folktales and poems with roots reaching all the way to China, Laos, India, the Philippines and to many more places in between.

From a story about why Sikhs wear turbans to a text about the surprising origins of the fortune cookie, our content aims to be responsive and inclusive of the diverse groups that gather together under the umbrella of “Asian American Pacific Islander.” We also have an article that explores this idea directly, addressing what it means to use the term, “Asian American.” 

This month we are also expanding our poetry selection to include more poems written by poets of AAPI heritage. Janet Wong’s poem titled, “I am not a plucot (but I kind of am)” celebrates the diversity in the Asian American experience. The speaker talks about having a mother who is Korean and a father who is Chinese. Wong writes, “Each kind of Asian is different,” playfully likening herself to the plucot, a fruit that is both apricot and plum--a fruit that is mixed--just like she is. 

I’m an editor at Newsela, and I’m also Asian American. My parents migrated to the United States from India, thanks to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.  My parents and older sister arrived in New York City on the 4th of July, and they went straight to a picnic in Brooklyn to celebrate. I am thrilled to be able to seek out vibrant content that reflects the AAPI world for teachers and students. When I was a student, I would have loved to have seen my experience reflected in the curriculum in this way. 

With every article we find, we hope we can reach students directly on issues they care about. We hope our content this month will expand notions about who AAPI people are and how their labor, traditions and stories have shaped American society in important ways. 

Tanuja Mehrotra Wakefield is an Associate Editor at Newsela.

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