AAJA’s End of Year Top 10 Lists
Journalistic Works, Podcasts, Documentaries, Books, and Newsletters/Zines
#AAJAFamily, as we close out the year, we wanted to shout out and share with you some of our favorite new AAPI media we’ve discovered in 2020.
Our lists of journalistic works, podcasts, documentaries, books, and newsletters/zines created by AAJA members and AAPI creators are by no means comprehensive (and in no particular order).
We hope these lists encourage you to share what you’ve created this year. Please feel free to bring to our radar any awesome things that you’ve been working on.
*This is an AAJA member or supporter
10 Works Essential to 2020 by AAJA Members
- “How the Pandemic Defeated America” by Ed Yong — The Atlantic’s Ed Yong*, winner of the 2020 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting, unearths every missed opportunity the U.S. had to slow Covid-19’s spread. Published in September, Yong’s article follows upon his examination in March, “How the Pandemic Will End,” and his hypothetical query four years ago into how an incoming Trump administration would act.
- “Dear Newsroom Managers, Journalists of Color Can’t Do All the Work” by Doris Truong — Poynter’s director of training and diversity — and former AAJA President — Doris Truong* penned a letter earlier this year saying that journalists of color “still show up” despite the trauma of 2020 disproportionately affecting marginalized communities — and demands that newsrooms need to step up.
- “How Do You Cover a Group as Diverse as Asian Americans in Southern California?” by Teresa Watanabe — In an LA Times opinion piece, AAJA-Los Angeles Chapter President Teresa Watanabe* addresses the racist past of the paper where she works. Incorporating old newspaper clips, Watanabe examines that legacy and recent efforts by the Times to rectify past wrongs and offers guidance for its coverage.
- “Asian Americans: Battling Bias” hosted by Elaine Quijano — The new CBS News Race and Culture unit examines anti-Asian discrimination in 2020, from racist attacks and President Trump’s rhetoric to Covid-19’s heavy toll on the community, and the political awakening arising from the Black Lives Matter movement. Elaine Quijano*, Weijia Jiang*, Nancy Chen, and Michael George report.
- “I’m 33 Years Old. I Got Covid-19 Eight Months Ago. I’m Still Sick” by Nidhi Prakash — Buzzfeed’s Nidhi Prakash* recounts her personal experience with “long-term post-Covid symptoms” and considers society’s focus on productivity and self-worth during her illness.
- “As Harris Prepares to Take the Debate Stage, Asian-Americans Flood Twitter With Stories of Their “Sheroes.” by Priya Arora — In a New York Times piece, Priya Arora* wrote about #AAPISheRose, a Twitter hashtag that celebrated the her-story-making moment of Kamala Harris becoming the first Black and Asian American vice president-elect.
- “When I Experienced Racism, I Didn’t Think Others Would Care — but I Was Wrong” by Amara Walker — In an op-ed accompanying a broadcast segment, CNN correspondent Amara Walker* recounts experiencing three racist encounters at an airport within an hour, the experience of sharing her story— and the outpouring of support and solidarity she received.
8. “I Had a Million Reasons to Love Bruce Lee, but I Hated Him” by Cary Chow — In commentary for The Undefeated, Cary Chow* spoke with prominent AAPI voices in culture, politics and sports to help him unpack the cultural paradox of hating an Asian icon. Among those interviewed: Bao Nguyen, director of the Bruce Lee documentary, Be Water. Check out their discussion with author Sophia Chang and CNN’s W. Kamau Bell at AAJA Visibility Fest (#AAJA20).
9. “How Asian-American Leaders Are Grappling With Xenophobia Amid Coronavirus” by Matt Stevens — Matt Stevens* of the New York Times interviewed Asian American politicians, academics, and nonprofit group leaders about this political moment: racial hatred during the pandemic on the one hand and the presidential runs of three Asian American Pacific Islanders — Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris, and Tulsi Gabbard — on the other.
10. “Asian Americans Need to Talk About Anti-Blackness in Our Communities” by Rachel Ramirez — The killing of George Floyd by a police officer, while another, of Asian descent, stood by, served as pretext for Vox reporter Rachel Ramirez’s* piece. She addresses the history of anti-Blackness among Asian Americans, the influence of Western colonialism on how AAPIs view skin color, and the need for tough conversations with loved ones.
10 Podcasts by AAPIs and/or About the AAPI Experience We’ve Enjoyed This Year
- Axios Today — Host Niala Boodhoo* guides listeners through the daily news, from White House happenings to economic updates. In bite-sized, 10-minute briefings, she and the team of Axios journalists deliver updates each morning with brevity and accuracy.
- The Heist — This five-episode investigative series, the The Center for Public Integrity’s first podcast, breaks down the Trump administration’s tax policies — in a way that makes “one of the most unsexy topics sexy,” according to co-executive producer Mei Fong.*
- ESPN Daily — Hosted by Pablo Torre*, who succeeded Mina Kimes* in August, the daily show, in its inaugural year, highlights the day’s best sports stories. Features include a tribute to the late Tommy Heinsohn of the Boston Celtics and the path of Miami Marlins’ General Manager Kim Ng, the MLB’s first female and Asian-American in the role.
- Plum Radio — Emmy-winning Dolly Li* created and co-hosts with Rice University classmate Joey Yang this podcast that delves into news and culture from an Asian American lens, with topics ranging from Black Lives Matter to “boba liberalism.” (Listen to the pilot episode for more on that.)
- The Janchi Show — Co-hosts Nathan Nowack, Patrick Armstrong and K.J. Roelke have much in common: They’re Korean American adoptees with a love for food. On each episode of the podcast, they are joined by fellow adoptees to discuss shared and unique experiences relating to Korean American identity and culture.
- Self Evident — This podcast, now in its second season, is dedicated to Asian American narratives in the national conversation. Created by James Boo* and hosted by Cathy Erway, the podcast is community-driven, with callouts for community participants to be sounding boards, source stories and contribute to discussions.
- Talk Human To Me — This podcast, by Catalyst alum Jeffrey Shiau*, invites entrepreneurs to talk about their personal lives and relationships — and identities apart from work.
- Asian Enough — The Los Angeles Times podcast, hosted by Jen Yamato* and Frank Shyong*, unpacks the Asian American identity with celebrity guests, like John Cho and Lulu Wang.
- Loud Slurp — Inspired by their conversations on Asian culture, food and China, two friends — journalists Ang Li* and Vicky Huang* — began this podcast to reconnect during Covid-19. Guests have included Carol Pak, founder and CEO of Makku, talking about the Korean drink makgeolli, and writer Hannah Bae* discussing freelancing and memoir.
- Fresh Off the Vote — Billed as a “100% grassroots podcast for gen-zillenial politics” with the mission of making politics fun, the podcast — founded by Helen Li* and produced by a team of all AAPI youth — hosts conversations about AAPI voter-engagement strategies and key issues.
10 Documentaries by AAPI Filmmakers
- Be Water — ESPN’s Bruce Lee documentary, directed by Bao Nguyen, uses archive film to chronicle the actor, director and martial artist’s movie career and highlights his social awareness and inspiration of millions. He would have turned 80 this year.
- Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation — Richard Lui’s* directorial debut looks at the millions of teens and twenty-somethings caring for a veteran parent or grandparent. The movie, with a production team stacked with AAJA members and predominantly comprising women of color, tells the quietly heroic stories of young caregivers.
- First Vote — A Chinese immigrant and first-time voter in 2020, filmmaker Yi Chen* documents the journey of four politically-engaged Chinese Americans in battleground states from the 2016 presidential election to the 2018 midterms.
- A Thousand Cuts — Maria Ressa*, co-founder and CEO of Rappler, and her team of journalists are at the center of Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary about the erosion of democracy and free press in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines. Check out our talkback from AAJA Visibility Fest (#AAJA20) featuring Maria Ressa and Ramona S. Diaz in conversation with Benjamin Pimentel* of Business Insider.
5. Standing Above the Clouds — The documentary follows Native Hawaiian mother-daughter activists seeking to protect their sacred Mauna Kea volcano from the building of a megatelescope. The film is directed by Jalena Keane-Lee, co-founder of Breaktide Productions, an all-women-of-color video-production company.
6. How My Family Dealt With the Coronavirus Outbreak — Junting Zhou chronicles the quarantine experience of his family back in his hometown, Guangzhou, not long after Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, went into lockdown. This New York Times Op-Doc reflects life in a major Chinese city during a historic time.
7. 76 Days — Directed by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and Anonymous, the documentary chronicles the struggle of frontline hospital workers and patients in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan, which was locked down for 76 days.
8. Asian Americans — The most comprehensive documentary series to date about the Asian American experience, the five episodes, produced by WETA and the Center for Asian American Media for PBS, examines the history, contributions and challenges facing Asian Americans through their stories.
9. Patutiki: The Guardians of the Marquesan Tattoo — Screened in the native Polynesian language of the Marquesas, the film uncovers the cultural puzzles left by the Patutiki, or Marquesan tattoo, which was declared illegal in the early 1900s. The film was co-directed, written, and produced by a Marquesan, Heretu Tetahiotupa, and Christophe Cordier of France.
10. Noodle Kid — Mei Xiang, 14, opens a noodle shop, a common story among ethnic Huis in western China, where the Muslim Chinese minority is besieged. The documentary by Gary Shih and Ning Huo looks at their religious life through his lens and apprenticeship; he wants to be an imam one day.
10 New Books (Fiction/Nonfiction) by AAPI Authors
- Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong — Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong relates her experiences as a Korean American — to racism, depression, the English language and female friendships. In a provocative and unflinchingly honest voice, Hong examines race and belonging in America through a portrait of her own psyche.
- Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui — New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui dives into the allure of swimming, despite its dangers. From Olympic champions and Japanese samurai swimmers to an Icelandic fisherman who survived a shipwreck, the book features fascinating narratives across cultures. (Join Bonnie at the AAJA-NY bookclub in January.)
- The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo — A fantasy novel by Nghi Vo that follows Cleric Chih and assistant Almost Brilliant to uncover truths about Empress In-Yo, who has been exiled from her court. Chih and Brilliant encounter Rabbit, who reveals In-Yo’s secrets.
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha — Set in contemporary Seoul, this novel by Frances Cha follows the lives of four women living in the same apartment building, tackling strength and friendships, trauma, beauty standards and crushing pressures in South Korean society.
- Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi — This Booker-shortlisted debut novel by Avni Doshi revolves around the dysfunctional bond between Antara and her mother, Tara, who had abandoned her for a life at the local ashram, a cultish hermitage in western India. When Tara develops dementia, Antara wrestles with resentment and anger toward her.
- Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu — Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, Charles Yu’s novel explores the toxic effects of Hollywood clichés and stereotypes on Asian Americans like protagonist Willis Wu, an actor who aspires to one day play “Kung Fu Guy.”
- How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang — In her debut novel, C Pam Zhang explores the mythmaking of the American West as well as grief, loss, belonging, and memory. The story follows Lucy and Sam, children of Chinese laborers, as they journey across California during the Gold Rush with their father’s corpse to find a burial site and home.
- One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924–1965 by Jia Lynn Yang — New York Times editor Jia Lynn Yang* walks readers through decades of immigration laws and the resulting changes to the American cultural landscape. Besides well-researched history with an intriguing cast of characters, the book also features the moving immigration story of Yang’s own family.
- This Is One Way to Dance by Sejal Shah — Sejal Shah’s debut collection of essays moves from her childhood in western New York, with its stark segregation, through her teaching career and travels in New England, New York City and the Midwest. The book explores her identities as a writer of color, South Asian American, American and feminist.
- Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, an American Daughter by Lan Cao and Harlan Margaret Van Cao — This joint memoir alternates between Lan Cao, a Vietnamese-born law professor and novelist who came to the U.S. in 1975 as a child refugee, and her U.S.-born daughter, Harlan Margaret Van Cao. Their relationship cycles through themes of war, tragedy and a new life.
10 Must-Follow AAPI Newsletters, Zines, and Collectives
- Yappie — Powered by volunteers, many of them students, the Yappie offers weekly overviews of political happenings that involve AAPI communities. It also provides a community for AAPI members looking to become involved in government, policy, or communications.
- The Sacramento Bee’s AAPI Newsletter — If you’re in California, subscribing to the Sacramento Bee’s weekly AAPI newsletter is a must. From politics to culture and the arts, it’s an informative roundup of news important to the Asian community. Even if you’re not in California, the issues tackled by the Sac Bee are unfolding throughout the nation, and the coverage lends context.
- USA Today’s “This is America” — This newsletter focusing on race and identity launched in September and is written through a Generation Z and Millennial lens. Each issue features the paper’s reporters and social-media editors.
- Splice's Slugs — Splice’s weekly newsletter highlights media trends, threats, and tools in Asia via Alan Soon and Rishad Patel’s self-funded media startup, which has a partnership with the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.
Zines and Collectives
- Slant’d — The annual anthology, founded in 2017 by Katerina Jeng and Krystie Yen, features Asian voices, illustrations and photographs. The collective also offers memberships and hosts gatherings.
- Banana Magazine — Founded by Vicki Ho and Kathleen Tso with the mission to deliver “all things AZN,” the magazine emphasizes Asian voices, activism and strong visuals. Banana also has a newsletter.
- Dear Asian Youth — Launched in May, the literary platform has evolved into a full-on organization aimed at Asian American young people up to age 24 and boasts 56,000 Instagram followers. Sixteen-year-old founder Stephanie Hu works with her remote team of over 100 members in this fusion of activist, journalistic, and educational work.
- Overachiever Magazine — From cultural critiques and career tips to personal stories and poetry, the magazine, started in 2018 by Rehana Paul, features narratives penned by women and pushes against the stereotype that Asian women are inherent overachievers.
- Buah zine — Offering everything creative from poetry to music playlists, the online magazine founded by Teta Alim in 2018, seeks to connect the Indonesian diaspora and create a space to explore what it means to be Indonesian.
- Silk Club — The Austin-based organization, co-founded by Kristina Nguyen and Camille Park, seeks to creates spaces for the Asian and queer community. It hosts events and connects members seeking to to collaborate on projects, including the bi-annual zine, QUIET!
Compiled by AAJA fellow & interns Sofia Koyama, Alice Nguyen, and Wesley Chen / Edited by Jessica Xiao and Elizabeth Yuan