August 26, 2022

Volume 2, Issue 17

Dear Friends,

We’re thrilled to announce that our new executive director, Susana Liu-Hedberg, will be joining us on September 1. Please scroll down to our Spotlight section below to learn more. In addition, the recordings from our recent Teachers Workshop are now available.

Thanks for your continued support of the 1990 Institute and newsletter. Please share this newsletter with your friends and family and encourage them to subscribe.


The recordings are available for our Teachers Workshop sessions on the Asian American experience and Modern China.


How do we use writing and information to build community and democracy?

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang


I was draped with leis from friends and writing students — pua kenikeni, pikake, red ginger, song of India, orchids — and I felt warm in the community’s fragrant embrace. I was doing a book reading and signing in Hawaii, and all my friends in that town showed up. And since it is a small town, everyone knew each other somehow. 

Novelist Tom Peek, author of “Daughters of Fire,” introduced me and moderated a lively conversation that traversed continents, history, family, writing, and community. I learned how to teach writing from Peek, and so we talked about the power of writing to create oneself and to create community. And while we were there, we made sure to connect more people. 

Similarly, the Indian American writing community has been coming together these past few weeks, in concern after the stabbing attack of Indian American writer Salman Rushdie at a reading in upstate New York earlier this month. Since 1989, Rushdie has been the target of a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini condemning him to death for alleged blasphemy in his novel “The Satanic Verses.” He lived in hiding for over a decade, but in recent years has begun coming out in public more and more. 

Poet Usha Akella recalled on Facebook how Rushdie walked into Matwaala’s 2019 literary festival unannounced and sat quietly in the corner to enjoy the readings, but then graciously stayed for photographs and autographs. She wrote about his goodwill and down-to-earth persona. “He came as a lover of words not as one of the most celebrated writers.”

Another group of Indian and Indian diasporic writers were brought together by PEN America to commemorate India’s 75th anniversary of independence. Suketu Mehta writes, “In this time when country after country is turning its back on democracy, India has to be an example to countries around the world, this beautiful dream of nationhood expressed in the Hindu scriptures as ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ — the whole earth is a family. We should all be rooting for this incredible experiment in multiplicity to work. As goes India, so goes democracy.”

To help Asian American communities become fully engaged in American democracy, many Asian American advocates are centering healing justice as a core strategy. A new report looks at how disinformation is being used to create divisions in Asian American communities: “Power, Platforms, & Politics: Asian Americans & Disinformation,” by Asian American Disinformation Table, a coalition of organizations anchored by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)

“Disinformation is explicitly designed to expose the frictions, fault lines, and tensions within and across our various diasporic communities while also working to deplatform us from democracy and create divisions with other communities of color,” the Table writes. “That is why we must connect the process of monitoring Asian American disinformation to power building to return trust, consensus, and accountability to our community narratives.”


Curated News

Essay by Hua Hsu: My Dad and Kurt Cobain | The New Yorker  "When my father moved to Taiwan, a fax machine and a shared love of music bridged an ocean."

The number of LGBTQ Asian American and Pacific Islander political candidates has doubled. They share some reasons. | NBC News  “We’re navigating a very challenging last couple of years," an expert said. "It really says something about these candidates that they’re willing to be very visible.”

Racist and sexist disinformation is sowing divisions among Asian Americans | NBC News  Researchers highlighted the Men’s Rights Asians movement, the prevalence of casteism and social media aggregators of Black-on-Asian crime as examples of “bad actors.” Report here

Protesters at an Indian Independence Day parade in California were shoved and called ‘stupid Muslims’ | NBC News  “We were being called terrorists. We were being asked questions like, ‘Are you Pakistani?’” one of the protesters said.

China cuts lending benchmarks to revive faltering economy | Reuters  China cut its benchmark lending rate and lowered the mortgage reference as Beijing boosts efforts to revive an economy hobbled by a property crisis and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. 

China's No.2 admits economic recovery is at 'most difficult point’ | CNN  Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has urged China's wealthiest provinces to "bravely take the lead" to bolster growth and employment.

‘Food is our love language’: exploring south-east Asian roots with meal kits | The Guardian  Tuk Tuk Box, a monthly subscription service, highlights the diversity of Southeast Asian flavors.

Jollibee named ‘best fried chicken chain in America’ | ABS-CBN  "Jollibee's signature gravy is more than just an optional dunk; it completes the dish, gelatinous in a way I can only describe as naughty, while proudly showing its Filipino colors with a hefty dose of sugar." 

‘Never Have I Ever’ star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan on dating and grief as a brown teen | NBC News  “We show a brown girl just in her skin not changing who she is — body hair and all — smart, not trying to dumb herself down, and these guys want to be with her."

India at 75 | Pen America  To mark India at 75, PEN America reached out to authors from India and the Indian diaspora to write short texts expressing what they felt. Together they make a historic document. Includes Salman Rushdie before he was attacked.

STAATUS Index: American attitudes towards Asian Americans in 2022 | LAAUNCH  The 2022 STAATUS INDEX survey reveals both new insights and long-standing issues about how Asian Americans are perceived and treated in the U.S.


Meet our new Executive Director: Susana Liu-Hedberg joins us on September 1.


  • NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – We are pleased to announce the appointment of Susana Liu-Hedberg as the new Executive Director of the 1990 Institute, effective September 1, 2022.

    Before joining us, Susana was a program officer at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) where she worked with multiple stakeholders to advance inclusive and welcoming policies for migrants and refugees. She also spearheaded efforts to drive funding to Asian diaspora communities globally. Prior to OSF, Susana worked at the Ford Foundation to promote impact investing policies in the U.S. to benefit underserved communities. She previously served as a co-founder of New Beginnings, a New York nonprofit focused on providing resources to first-generation immigrant families as they acclimate to new lives in the U.S.

    Susana is also a member of the Immigrant History Initiative’s Advisory Council. She has an MLA in International Relations and Political Science from the University of St. Thomas and a BA in history from the University of Houston. She was born in Hong Kong and raised in Oakland, CA and Houston, TX. We are thrilled to welcome Susana!

  • TEACHERS WORKSHOP WEBINAR RECORDINGS ARE NOW AVAILABLE – The recordings of our expanded Teachers Workshop program, with sessions on both the Asian American experience and modern China, are available on our Teachers Workshop playlist on our YouTube channel. Also, check out our Teachers Workshop portal filled with resources. Missing in History®: The Asian American Journey addressed key issues on Asian Americans in three seminars and followed an ethnic studies framework and curriculum requirements. The China You Should Know: Past and Present had two presentations focused on Modern China and its impact on the U.S and on the world.
    (Missing in History is a registered trademark of Helen Zia.)

Dim Sum - A Little Bit of Heart


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