These 3 Women Are Amplifying the Chinese-American Narrative

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When it comes to art, food, politics, economics, and more, Chinese culture has permeated the American mainstream. But many Chinese people feel their culture is not entirely understood in the United States. As a result, a new generation of Chinese-Americans has begun focusing their time and effort on squashing stereotypes and bringing their narrative to the forefront. CircleAround is highlighting three young women making extraordinary strides toward fostering awareness around Chinese culture by creating engaging content and facilitating conversations about the Chinese-American experience.

Shelley Zhang: Bridging Chinese Culture and Humor

Trying to navigate the current political situation in China can feel overwhelming, especially because so much isn’t publicized due to the country’s strict censorship laws. Since 2012, however, Shelley Zhang has worked to create a better understanding of these events, along with information about Chinese culture in general, through her series China Uncensored.

Together with host Chris Chappell and producer Matt Gnaizda, the self-proclaimed “Humor Ninja” Zhang uses a mix of personal experience, historical context, and connections with journalists and others back in China, to help inform her content. Her series has covered everything from pollution issues to the possible ban on TikTok to bike-sharing woes. Most recently, the series has centered around the political protests in Hong Kong, and how COVID-19 has shaped not only the country, but the world.

According to the China Uncensored website, Zhang, who is currently living in New York City, constructs scripts that are humorous and satirical, but also “show compassion for the people who endure the CCP’s oppression, tolerate different opinions, and respect traditional Chinese culture.” The show is even broadcast on New Tang Dynasty Television, translated with Chinese subtitles, for greater inclusive reach. For more of a personal take on the subjects she covers, Zhang fills her Twitter feed with more resources and “hot takes,” but especially as a way to amplify other Chinese voices covering these topics, as well.

Dominique Fung: Amplifying the Chinese-American Experience in the Art World 

In 2019, PLoS One published a survey quantifying the gender and race distribution of artists’ works at 18 major U.S. museums. The results found that 87 percent of the pieces shown were from male artists, predominantly white. Asian representation, regardless of gender, came in at 9 percent.

This gender and race disparity is part of what motivates Dominique Fung, a Canadian-born Chinese artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Her paintings are whimsical and dreamy, which is part of her intent, but they also feature Chinese artifacts and stereotypes. According to an interview with CNN, Fung focused on these symbols as a reaction to “the way Asian art was reduced and removed from its history in some New York museums.”

Her work explores the Asian-American experience, adding depth to inanimate objects and ensuring her culture permeates through her work, not just as an object behind glass. Her work has been exhibited around the world and she features completed paintings on her Instagram as a way to ensure inclusivity in the art space.

Clarissa Wei: Chinese Food Beyond the Takeout Menu

The Gold Rush and railroad boom of the 19th century brought thousands of Chinese immigrants to America. They brought their recipes from home, as well, adapting them using local ingredients, and ultimately created an entirely new cuisine: Chinese-American food, like chop suey, chicken and broccoli, and even fortune cookies.

Decades later, new generations of Asian-Americans have begun reclaiming their food heritage — and Clarissa Wei makes sure people know. A journalist originally from Los Angeles, she has written extensively about Chinese food and culture, both from the country itself and how it has changed in America. Her video series, Goldthread, deconstructs traditional Chinese cuisine and presents food in a more culturally-connected way.

Her work has brought her around the world, according to her website. She has been to the mushroom capital of China, written about the environmental hazards of sky lanterns, broke down the science of century eggs, and interviewed the founder of the facekini, all as a way to demystify some of the stereotypes Americans associate with Asian culture. Most recently, she’s written about durian parties, celebrating the stinky-smelling fruit of southeast Asia that is a staple in many kitchens. Through her work and investigative research, she provides a new take on the evolving world of Chinese cuisine, while preserving its traditions as well.

Tags: Career, Career

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit current Girl Scouts: the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us. So CircleAround for inspiration, and CircleAround the leaders of tomorrow. CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA.

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