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‘Joy Luck Club’ to ‘Pachinko’: The Asian diaspora on-screen

Inji Jeong, Yeji Yeon and Bomin Kim in “Pachinko”
Inji Jeong, Yeji Yeon and Bomin Kim in “Pachinko”

From “Turning Red” to “Pachinko” to “After Yang,” it’s been a big month for stories about the Asian diaspora.

Even so, the entertainment industry — and the projects it greenlights — remains overwhelmingly white.

A new book chronicles Asian-American contributions to pop culture — from the problematic to the groundbreaking. It’s called “Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now.”

From co-author Jeff Yang:

There were a lot of Asian Americans who, even as they rose professionally, were saying to themselves, “I know I’m Asian American, but that’s not how I define myself. I don’t want to be seen as an Asian American writer, an Asian American journalist, an Asian American actor. I want to be seen as an actor who happens to be Asian American.” The perception was that being Asian American was a liability that would typecast you, that would prevent you from advancing into “mainstream.” Thirty years-plus later, we’re at a place now where all these people are coming out of the woodwork saying, “Yes, I’m Asian American.” And more than that, [they’re saying], “I want to elevate other Asian Americans, and I want to make creative and cultural and political work around our community.” By going from the beginning to now in this book, you get that sense of a community awakening to itself and finally feeling like we can be a little bit more proud of who we are.

We talk with Yang, sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen, and “Pachinko” director Soo Hugh about telling stories of the Asian diaspora.

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