Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Reading List – The Sundial

To celebrate Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the daily sundial highlights five singers and bands from Asia-American and the Pacific Islands.

Greg Scranton via Flickr


Mitski is an American singer, songwriter, and musician of Japanese descent. She was born in Japan, but moved around a lot with her family and eventually moved to New York for college. In “Your Best American Girl,” a song from her 2016 album “Puberty 2,” Mitski sings about a girl struggling to be accepted by the all-American family of the son she wants to date her. She sings: “Your mom wouldn’t approve of how my mom raised me / But I do, I think I do / And you’re an all American boy / Guess I couldn’t help but try to be your best american girl. This song shows the common problem of Asian Americans feeling the pressure to conform to appear “more American” to be accepted by others.

The Walt Disney Company via Flickr

Awkwafina and Margaret Cho

Awkwafina was born Nora Lum in Stony Brook, New York, to her Chinese-American father and Korean mother. She is an Asian American actress, comedian, writer, producer and rapper. It was in 2016 that she collaborated with Margaret Cho, a Korean American actress, comedienne, fashion designer, songwriter and musician, in a rap song called “Green Tea”. In their song, they conjure up many Asian stereotypes, including the objectification of Asian women. Another stereotype they touch is how Asians are viewed as culinary roles. They recall, “Press 1 to pick up / Press 2 for delivery,” also arguing that people judge when someone speaks English with Asian accents.

David Lee via Flickr

Japanese breakfast

Japanese Breakfast is the stage name of Michelle Zauner, born in Seoul, South Korea, to a Korean mother and American Jewish father. When she was a baby, her family moved to Eugene, Oregon. His stage name was chosen to be an acceptable name for an Asian American artist, mixing something American (breakfast) with Japanese, which many assumed to be his ethnicity. One of the best-known songs from her 2016 album “Psychopomp” is “The Woman That Loves You”.

Caitlin Ison via Flickr

Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko is an Asian American singer, songwriter, and actress. She is of Japanese descent on her mother’s side of the family. She spoke about not being considered enough of an Asian American for her acting roles. In addition, she has openly said that she was embarrassed to be half Asian as a child because “it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be different,” according to her Instagram post. But she went on to write that “to be different is so powerful and liberating. Her songs focus more on supporting the LGBTQ + community, such as the song “Girls Like Girls”, which normalizes girls loving girls with the lyrics “Girls Like Girls Like Boys Do”.

Nino Ortiz via Flickr

Blue scholars

Blue Scholars are a Seattle-based hip-hop duo that formed while the members were attending the University of Washington. They are a semi-Asian American hip-hop duo formed by Alexei Saba “DJ Sabzi” Mohajerjasbi, who is of Iranian descent, and George “MC Geologic” Quibuyen, also known as MC Geologic, the son of Filipino immigrants. Their band’s name is a play on “blue collar” words and their songs address topics such as socio-economic issues and the challenge of authority. “OOF! EP ”is their album which speaks fully of Quibuyen’s heritage. In the first “Bananas,” he mentions the Hawaiian people and culture because he lived in Hawaii as a child. In the song, he raps how Hawaiians feel about lack of opportunity and how others take credit for the things they do. The lyrics highlight their struggle: “But when we say ‘now’, they say ‘not yet’ / They don’t feel it but give them respect” and “You might find this shit surprising / They all act like us / Carrying the legacy of divided people / Infighted, surviving / People on the outside look right about it / Choose the safest route that suits their palates. ”The duo also empower them youth and West Coast communities raising awareness of Filipino heritage, adding various musical elements not seen on traditional hip hop songs with multimedia programs.

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