Book Talks

Why AANHPI Literature Matters

Growing up Filipino-American in the 90s, the only AANHPI writer I heard of was Amy Tan. At the time, I wasn’t aware of Filipino-Americans in literature. It wasn’t until I discovered Jessica Hagedorn in college during the 2000s that I realized Filipino-Americans’ place in the American Literary canon had already been solidified by the likes of her, Gina Apostal, and Carlos Bulosan. However, our stories and our place in the dichotomy America’s mixing pot still remained overshadowed by the vague label of “Asian.” AANHPI Literature continues to dissipate the murkiness of the “Asian” moniker and celebrate our specific cultures and places in the American hyphenated world. The more we uplift and celebrate AANHPI Literature, the more visible AANHPI experiences become.

AANHPI Literature is more diverse than ever before, introducing a wide array of experiences and characters from different backgrounds. The Novel Sharks in The Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn explores growing up in Hawaii while traversing Hawaiian heritage and the cost of success. The memoir Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner illustrates Zauner’s loss of her mother while celebrating her memories and love of Korean food they shared. Diverse stories like these act as a window to a world we wouldn’t know unless we read about it. Diverse stories like these resonate with themes such as family dynamics, immigration, identity, and cultural heritage all Americans can empathize with while presenting authentic voices people of our specific communities can relate to.

Today, I am joined by an amazing group of contemporary Filipino-American writers who continue to bring our community to light. From the thought-provoking stories of Ellaine Castillo‘s novel America is Not The Heart and Lysley Tenorio‘s short story collection Monstress to the cozy and dynamic genre fictions of Mia P Manansala‘s Arsenic and Adobo and Cindy Fazzi‘s Multo, it is getting harder to identify Filipino-American stories or any story from the AANHPI community as merely “Asian.” Our characters mano their elders as signs of respect, spread tsismis about their relatives, eat plenty of delicious Filipino food like lumpia and pancit, and exclaim susmariosep when something disappoints them. And the great thing about these stories is that sometimes Filipino-American characters don’t do any of these things at all. Sometimes they do something completely different, showcasing just how diverse just one community can be.

Beyond my motivation for writing Filipino-American stories to make my community more visible, I also want to make my own specific experience with my culture visible as well. Growing up in the 90s as a second generation Filipino-American in Eagle Rock, CA, my story differs from those of some of my peers as well as other Filipino-Americans. It is this difference that colors my stories and helps me present a part of our Diaspora that may have not been represented or explored before. It is my hope, as we continue to write and elevate AANHPI Literature, that we inspire more people to tell their story and present new and exciting facets of our communities to others and ourselves.

E. P. Tuazon is a Filipino-American writer from Los Angeles. They have worked on several publications and their most recent book is called A Professional Lola (Red Hen Press 2024). They were chosen by ZZ Packer as the winner of the 2022 AWP Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. They are a member of Advintage Press and The Blank Page Writing Club. In their spare time, they like to go to Filipino Seafood Markets to gossip with the crabs.

National English Honor Society

The National English Honor Society (NEHS), founded and sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, is the only international organization exclusively for secondary students and faculty who, in the field of English, merit special note for past and current accomplishments. Individual secondary schools are invited to petition for a local chapter, through which individuals may be inducted into Society membership. Immediate benefits of affiliation include academic recognition, scholarship and award eligibility, and opportunities for networking with others who share enthusiasm for, and accomplishment in, the language arts.

America’s first honor society was founded in 1776, but high school students didn’t have access to such organizations for another 150 years. Since then, high school honor societies have been developed in leadership, drama, journalism, French, Spanish, mathematics, the sciences, and in various other fields, but not in English. In 2005, National English Honor Society launched and has been growing steadily since, becoming one of the largest academic societies for secondary schools.

As Joyce Carol Oates writes, “This is the time for which we have been waiting.” Or perhaps it was Shakespeare: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer . . .” we celebrate English studies through NEHS.

National English Honor Society accepts submissions to our blog, NEHS Museletter, from all membership categories (students, Advisors, and alumni). If you are interested in submitting a blog, please read the Suggested Guidelines on our website. Email any questions and all submissions to: