November 5, 2021

Volume 1, Issue 20

Dear Friends,

Scroll down to Spotlight to learn more about our new “China in Perspective” video series! Thanks for your continued support of the 1990 Institute and newsletter. Thanks also for forwarding this newsletter to your friends and family, and for encouraging your friends to subscribe so they can get this content straight to their inboxes too. 


Our newest video has launched! “A Tale of Two Countries: China and U.S. Demographics” compares U.S. and China data to gain a better understanding of China today


Want to write (or get your elders to write) the Great Asian American Memoir?

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang


Happy National Novel Writing Month! Also known as NaNoWriMo, every November, people around the country come together to write their Great American Novel. Founded in 1999, the premise is simple. A short novel like “The Great Gatsby” is about 50,000 words. 50,000 words divided by 30 days equals 1,667 words a day. So all one has to do to write a novel is to write 1,667 words a day for 30 days.

It may not be a very good novel, but it is a completed novel, and everything can be fixed in editing.

Last year, 552,335 writers from around the world participated in NaNoWriMo programs, including 97,439 students and educators in the Young Writers Program. Hundreds of NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published, including “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen and “The Truth About Twinkie Pie” by Kat Yeh.

This year, the folks at Creative Nonfiction decided, “Why should fiction writers get all the support this month? We’re proclaiming November as National Memoir Writing Month. Long live NaMeWriMo!”

And I am all for it. Let’s write and get our elders to write.

Last spring I taught a creative writing class at the New York Public Library in Mandarin Chinese to a group of lively Chinese grandmas, including my mom, aunties, and a lot of their friends and classmates. Some of them wanted to write in English so that their grandchildren would be able to read what they wrote. Some felt more comfortable writing in Chinese. The language did not really matter. We had so much fun writing and sharing stories about first days in America, favorite foods missed, and hopes and dreams for beloved grandchildren. The class was supposed to be one hour long, but people stayed on and continued chatting for two.

If 50,000 words seems daunting, don’t worry. There are many ways to tell the stories of one’s life, including audio recordings, video/Zoom/Facetime recordings, StoryCorps interviews (there’s an app), paintings, drawings, photographs, cookbooks, cooking videos, short memories, even just writing a love letter to our families. It does not have to be long.

My friend Gil made cooking videos with his mother, asking her to teach him how to cook his favorite dishes. And while she was distracted demonstrating proper chopping techniques, he asked her questions about her food and her life.

Our elders have so many incredible stories to share, all we have to do is ask.


Our video, “China By the Numbers: If China Were a Country of 100 People,” provides an overview of the demographic breakdown of the Chinese population – see it on our YouTube channel


Curated News

Kristina Wong’s Pandemic Story: Sewing With Her Aunties | New York Times  The performance artist ran a mask-making operation during the pandemic. That inspired her new comedy at New York Theater Workshop.

Ida's forgotten victims: Nearly all storm's basement deaths were Asian residents, obscured by climate injustice | NBC News  More than a month later, loved ones are still reeling from the loss, which experts say was the result of housing issues, climate change's hidden toll on low-income immigrants, and more.

After 24 years, musical love story ‘Gold Mountain’ will have its world debut in West Valley City | Salt Lake Tribune  The world premiere of the musical “Gold Mountain” is Thursday, November 4, at the West Valley Performing Arts Center — a mere 24 years after Jason Ma wrote it. Directed by Alan Muraoka!

Filipino martial arts isn’t as widely known, but that could be changing | NBC News  “By training, we’re evoking and connecting with our ancestry that go back centuries,” one martial artist said.

DNA reveals unexpected origins of enigmatic mummies buried in a Chinese desert | CNN  "Beyond being extraordinarily preserved, they were found in a highly unusual context, and they exhibit diverse and far-flung cultural elements."

VIDEO: Taiwan: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)  John Oliver discusses Taiwan’s history of being governed by other countries, its fraught present-day relationship with China, and what its citizens would like their future to look like.

VIDEO: On October 26, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth introduced Chantale Yokmin Wong to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to be considered for U.S. Director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of Ambassador. Wong is the first open lesbian nominee to any U.S. Ambassador rank position. Note: Linda Tsao Yang, former 1990 Institute director and now honorary co-chair, was the first Asian American to be selected as ambassador to the Asian Development Bank.

VIDEO: China’s timeline to ditch coal, adopt green technology may be too slow to help climate | PBS NewsHour  World leaders from more than 100 countries are in attendance at the U.N. Climate conference in Scotland, but China's Xi Jinping, president of the globe's largest polluter, is absent from the crowd. For any efforts to succeed in fighting climate change, China must be at the forefront.


Writer/director Evan Jackson Leong and producers Anson Ho and Brian Yang joined a 1990 Institute co-sponsored fundraising event on October 29 in support of the San Francisco Bay Area premiere of “Snakehead” (Photo credit: Mark Young)



  • Two Videos In our NEW “CHINA IN PERSPECTIVE” series have launched! These new videos are designed to expose you to interesting and insightful information about contemporary China to better understand this complex and intriguing country of 1.4 billion people.
    • China by the Numbers: If China Were a Country of 100 People” is a primer for the series, providing a general overview of the demographic breakdown of the Chinese population, from wealth distribution to education, from social media to video game usage, and more! See the video here. 
    • A Tale of Two Countries: China and U.S. Demographics” juxtaposes U.S. data with China data to gain a better understanding of China today. Take a look at the two biggest economies in the world in comparison to each other – do you know that the total land masses of the two countries are approximately equal but China has 4.4 times as many people? What strengths and disadvantages follow? This video puts in perspective a wealthy country like the U.S. and a developing country like China to show that what happens in each country can impact each other and the world. Watch it here.
  • Have you seen “Snakehead” yet? The 1990 Institute co-sponsored a movie theater buyout for the film’s San Francisco Bay Area premiere last Friday, October 29. It was a fun event and raised funds that will be redirected back toward other AAPI initiatives. After the screening, we were treated to an intimate conversation with writer/director Evan Jackson Leong (“Linsanity”) and producer Brian Yang. In the film, Sister Tse comes from China to New York via a human smuggler known as a snakehead. She rises through the ranks of a crime family quickly but success isn’t the only reason she came to America. What is she hiding? Catch the trailer for a sneak peak and find everywhere you can see “Snakehead” – in select theaters, Apple TV+, Amazon, and more. Brian Yang is a community activist in addition to a producer and actor. He recently joined our Bund to Brooklyn podcast to talk about AAPI political engagement. Listen to the episode here!

Dim Sum - A Little Bit of Heart


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