5 Ways to Celebrate Taiwanese American Heritage Week

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The story of how The Official CL came to be is a distinctly Taiwanese American one. My (CL) mom was speaking Mandarin (with a Taiwanese accent of course) at a community pool when LC’s mom overheard and shimmied over to introduce herself. The next thing I knew, she had convinced my family to enroll in Fremont Taiwan School. Growing up, L and I would take writing classes together, but also learn to speak Taiwanese (did anyone else sing 你是我心內的一首歌 by Wang Lee Hom?) and do our Mandarin Chinese homework together (the order of the strokes were of grave importance until we learned to type). We also performed at the Bay Area Taiwanese American Cultural Festival every year in May, donning the traditional apparel of Hakka farmers and indigenous groups to showcase the many subcultures of Taiwan. Since then, the Taiwanese American community has always meant family to me. When LC and I were envisioning this blog, we wanted to share how much our heritage has shaped our personal growth and aspirations. We are distinctively and proudly Taiwanese American women. Our mamas knew what they were doing.

But why does honoring my culture mean so much to me? Though I was born in Taiwan, having spent most of my life in the United States means that much of my identity has been shaped by the diasporic experience. My longing for authentic beef noodle soup and my extended family has made me crave and cherish the familiarity of Taiwan. Having people repeatedly tell me I’m Chinese or that China = Taiwan has only done more to affirm my pride in my heritage and our little country. (Let’s be honest, anyone who knows OCL in real life knows there’s a blog post or five in the works on why Taiwan =/= China, but for now we digress.)

The month of May was designated in 1990 as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to honor the contributions and cultures of Asians and Pacific Islanders. Appropriately, as our own mothers introduced us (aggressively, but with love) to our Taiwanese heritage, Mother’s Day kicks off Taiwanese American Heritage Week, an opportunity for our community to highlight our mosaic histories and people.

Here are a few ways you can celebrate Taiwanese American Heritage Week:
1. Practice your Taiwanese. If you don’t know any Taiwanese at all, learn some common Taiwanese phrases here and impress your grandma when you call her.
2. Taiwan’s history can be complex and politicized, and many second or third-generation Taiwanese Americans understandably grow up with a limited understanding of their homeland’s histories. Watch these Taiwan Bar videos (which have English subtitles)  for introductions to 2/28, the social movement of Taiwan in the 1920s, and more. (Spoiler alert: they’re hella cute. We want all your merch @ Taiwan Bar.)
3. Make yourself food that reminds you of Taiwan such as Din Tai Fung Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao 小籠包) or Dried Radish Omelette (Chhài-Pó-Nn̄g 菜脯蛋). Bonus points if you grew up with parents who cooked Taiwanese dishes; be extra kind to them and learn their recipes before you move out for good and can’t even make your own 滷肉飯 (braised pork rice).

4. Download these graphics created by The Official CL and post it on your Instagram, or share it on Facebook! Reflect on your diasporic experience and write a few sentences about what being Taiwanese American or Asian American means to you. Better yet, comment below so we can all bask in the glow of APAH month! Click here to download.

5. Visit TaiwaneseAmerican.org (which LC is a co-editor of ) to learn more about the people and events that make up our community! In honor of this year’s TACF, they’ve compiled a list of 50 books by Taiwanese American authors, so now’s your chance to add our stories to your personal library. We personally recommend Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan and Chrysanthemum, the first-ever anthology of works from creators of Taiwanese heritage (and edited by the other co-editor of TaiwaneseAmerican.org, Andrea Chu. It’s not nepotism if all of our friends just happen to be awesome.)

As a bonus, because we love you just as much as we love Taiwan, we’ve compiled just a few resources on Taiwan and Taiwanese America below.
Founded in 2006, TaiwaneseAmerican.org is a web portal highlighting many of the interesting people, events, and organizations that make up Taiwanese America.

Outreach For Taiwan (OFT) is an organization founded by two young Rutgers graduates, Eric Tsai and Jenny Wang. OFT strives to educate others about Taiwan by providing information and understanding about the political atmosphere, current events, and historical relevance of Taiwan. Outreach For Taiwan holds workshops and other events to fulfill its mission to educate young proponents and supporters of Taiwan on how to advocate for Taiwan.

Taiwanese News
Ketagalan Media started off as a podcast project to bring more Taiwan news and commentary to the English speaking audience. We believe that there is more room for quality coverage of Taiwan in English, and that news on Taiwan and Asia can feature more historical, ideological and international context. We are taking that same vision for connecting the dots between news stories forward in all of our upcoming offerings.

New Bloom Magazine
New Bloom is an online magazine featuring radical perspectives on Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific. New Bloom was founded by a group of students and activists after the 2014 Sunflower Movement in Taiwan. We seek to provide a space that fosters political and intellectual transnational dialogues in the Left.

The Daybreak Project (from New Bloom Magazine)
The Daybreak Project is an interactive encyclopedia and oral history archive of the 2014 Sunflower Movement. The Sunflower Movement has been a pivotal event thus far in the history of Taiwan in the 21st century and it deserves to be recorded in history in as detailed a manner as possible. To that end, the Daybreak Project in its current state is over 300,000 words, which would be over 1,000 pages if printed.

Taiwan Bar (YouTube)
We’re obsessed with this super-cute YouTube channel that has animated videos about Taiwan’s history, philosophy, laws, educational issues, local culture, and economics. Most videos are in Mandarin and Taiwanese, but have English subtitles. Also, have we mentioned that we reaaaaally want their merch?

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