People today are frequently caught on matters about racism, social etiquette, and moral compasses. In such a busy world, one business entity serves to fulfill the task of opening the public’s eye into a different perspective by offering a diverse lineup of stories. Referred to in the publishing industry as a multi-store independent bookseller, Barbara’s Bookstore offers books about the world, race, and culture. Founded in 1963, this Chicago-based independent bookstore chain has been sharing stories on cultural heritage, aiming to educate the public on diversity that contributes to nation-building.
“With the family advocacy of being able to promote diversity, Barbara’s bookstore started to highlight Asian American books since time immemorial,” shared by Chris Mahin, one of the book store managers at Barbara Bookstore. Although they have highlighted these publications in the past, it was only recently that the idea started to kick in to the public. After noticing that they showcased and highlighted Black-American books, an Asian-American employee suggested they also make a display of Asian-American publications in time for the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to which the bookstore has agreed. They quickly hauled signages and displayed a very long table of AAPI literature which has been getting a lot of attention especially with the current socio-political climate.
Barbara’s Bookstore has been going above and beyond by not only giving importance to some of the most best-selling literature, but highlighting books that the public may not have seen before. As part of their initiatives, they launch virtual events with a diverse lineup of authors in hopes of giving equal opportunities to different ethnicities and styles. Chris emphasized the importance of understanding what this country is made of by educating oneself on its history and recognizing the contributions made by each community. “The AAPIs were instrumental in building this country. We must do away from all the hate they do not deserve.”
Admittedly, like any other business, they also had their fair share of tough times when it comes to facing the challenges brought by the pandemic. They are very hopeful nonetheless that there will be in-store events once again. Chris also expressed their utmost gratitude to the reading community as their support made their shop survive even during this time where most of the books are sold on digital e-commerce platforms. Truly, the experience of opening, buying, and holding books are still a quintessential experience. Chris encourages everyone to visit the store and see for themselves if there’s anything they’d like to buy.
Here are ten recommendations by Barbara’s Bookstore that you could read in time for the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
1.) "America Is In the Heart"
by Carlos Bulosan
First published in 1946, this classic memoir by well-known poet Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan describes the writer's boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship working as an itinerant laborer.
2.) "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of A Girlhood Among Ghosts"
by Maxine Hong Kingston
A blend of autobiography and mythology, this is a self-portrait of a writer with multiple identities--immigrant, female, Chinese, American
3.) "The New Chinatown"
by Peter Kwong
A deeply researched study of New York City's Chinatown and how it changed during the 20th century.
4.) "The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism" (2nd edition)
by Rosalind S. Chou and Joe R. Feagin
An important scholarly study that showcases the reality of Asian Americans who have long been viewed by white Americans as the model minority.
5.) "Superman Smashes the Klan"
by Gene Luen Yang
A Young Adult graphic novel in which Superman comes to the defense of a Chinese-American family under attack by the Klan. Inspired by a 1940s Superman radio serial.
6.) "They Called Us Enemy"
by George Takei
A graphic memoir by actor and activist George Takei recounting his harrowing childhood in a concentration camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.
7.) "Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans"
by Ronald Takaki
In an extraordinary blend of eloquent narrative history, vivid personal recollection, and oral testimony, Ronald Takaki relates the diverse 150-year history of Asian-Americans.
8.) "Chinese in Chicago: 1870-1945"
by Chuimei Ho
A photographic account of 75 years in the history of Chicago's Chinese community.
9.) "Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning"
by Cathy Park Hong
Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative.
10.) "Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II"
by Daniel James Brown
An account of what faced Japanese-American soldiers in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, and what their relatives at home were forced to endure.
All images were taken from Barbara’s Bookstore and Goodreads websites. These books are available at https://barbarasbookstores.handseller.com/home/browseallcat.