Celebrate Asian Heritage Month
Ways for you to celebrate and learn about the meaningful contributions of Asian Canadians
In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month. Asian Heritage Month provides an opportunity for Canadians across the country to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of Asian Canadians to the growth and prosperity of Canada.
With the pandemic, celebrations will be a bit different this year. However, there are still many ways for us to learn about the contributions of Asian Canadians while we are at home.
Featuring Asian Calgarians
May is Asian Heritage Month and to celebrate, CBC Calgary is featuring Calgarians and what it means to be Asian-Canadian in 2021.
Read all profiles as they're published below:
Virtual events to attend
The Calgary-based Asian Heritage Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the appreciation of Asian-Canadian participation in and contribution to Canadian society. AHF includes active involvement from over 25 Asian-Canadian community groups in southern Alberta and over 200 volunteers in the development and delivery of its programs. Our partners at the Asian Heritage Foundation are featuring the following virtual community events:
Asian Heritage Month Community Kickoff: A celebration of the rich heritage and contributions of Asian Canadians hosted by CBC Cost of Living's Paul Haavardsrud | May 1, 2021 @ 11 a.m. via Zoom.
Dragonmasters: A Cultural Odyssey: The untold story of the Chinese dragon and its roots and history in China and North America | Screening May 2 onwards.
Eid Celebration Meal Deliveries: Community meal deliveries to celebrate Eid, a religious holiday celebrated worldwide at the end of a month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan | May 14 and 15, 2021
Let's Talk Webinar: A panel discussion about how anti-Asian racism has manifested in our systems, how resilient the Asian community has been and how we can find ways to resolve anti-Asian racism hosted by Act2EndRacism Network | May 20, 2021 @ 1 p.m.
Asian Gold Ribbon campaign: The Inaugural East Asian Youth Summit | May 20, 2021 @ 3:30 p.m.
Fireside Chat: Perspectives on the Bamboo Ceiling with Andy Mah, CEO Advantage Oil & Gas | May 20, 2021 @ 5:30 p.m.
Books to read
The Calgary Public Library staff curated a list of 47 books and movies for kids, teens and adults to combat anti-Asian racism. Gain a deeper understanding about the past and present of racism against Asians in Alberta and beyond. Learn the stories of incredible people through history with these inspiring stories led by Asian characters.
Books for adults
- Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong:
The library description: A unique personal, cultural and historical perspective of the exclusion and stereotyping of Asian Americans. Korean American poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in the United States. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative — and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world. provides a ruthlessly honest look at the results of being marginalized while being told and believing that you are not. Critically acclaimed as a 2020 Best Book of the Year and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Read more.
- Obasan, by Joy Kogawa.
The library description: Based on the author's own experiences, this award-winning novel was the first to tell the story of the evacuation, relocation and dispersal of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry during the Second World War. Read more.
- Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging, by William Ging Wee Dere.
The library description: A voice for generations of silenced families who were broken apart by racist immigration "head tax" policies set up to destroy the lives of those who had just finished building Canada's railroad. Author-activist William Dere balances historical reportage of such brutal facts with humorous, lyrical reflection to lighten the tone of some very heavy local history. Read more.
Moon Cakes in Gold Mountain: From China to the Canadian Plains, by J. Brian Dawson.
The library description: A vivid portrayal of everyday life for Chinese settlers in Western Canada, often in the face of violent prejudice, only to make incredible contributions to the same communities that kept them on the outside. Read more.
Patterns of Racism: Attitudes Towards Chinese and Japanese in Alberta, 1920-1950, by Howard Palmer.
The library description: At the time this 20-page essay from the Calgary Public Library's Local History collection was written, 40 years ago, hostility toward Asian Canadians was recognized mainly as a British Columbia problem. This thesis aimed to expose that Alberta had its own anti-Asian prejudice to deal with. Read more.
Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit in, by Phuc Tran.
The library description: Phuc Tran's coming-of-age memoir, available as a downloadable audiobook, explores his bewildering experiences of racism as a Vietnamese immigrant against the hairspray-and-synthesizer backdrop of the '80s United States. For anyone who has ever felt like they don't belong, Sigh, Gone shares an irreverent, funny, and moving tale of displacement and assimilation woven together with poignant themes from beloved works of classic literature. Read more.
Lives of the Family: Stories of Fate and Circumstance, by Denise Chong.
The library description: Denise Chong explores the lives of the earliest Chinese settlers in the Ottawa region amidst the backdrop of the Exclusion Act, Japanese occupation of China, and the rise of communism. Read more.
Great Fortune Dream: The Struggles and Triumphs of Chinese Settlers in Canada, 1858-1966, by David Chuenyan Lai.
The library description: A history of the Chinese in Canada, including racism and discrimination toward the Chinese community, their successes and contributions to Canadian society, and how the Canadian government has responded through policy to encourage multiculturalism and immigration. Read more.
See more great picks from the Calgary Public Library's All Ages Reading List to Combat Anti-Asian Racism list of 47 books and movies for kids, teens, and adults here.
Illustrative books to read with the kids:
Below is a list of picture books recommended by Calgary Reads to celebrate and learn more about Asian Heritage Month:
A Different Pond written by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui.
From the publisher: A 2018 Caldecott Honor Book that Kirkus Reviews calls "a must-read for our times," A Different Pond is an unforgettable story about a simple event — a long-ago fishing trip. Each morning, a father and son fish at a small pond in Minnesota to supply the family with food, and as they fish, the father tells a story about a fishing pond back in Vietnam. Read more.
Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon, written by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua.
From the publisher: In this sweet and brightly illustrated picture book, Amy Wu must craft a dragon unlike any other to share with her class at school in this unforgettable follow-up to Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao. After school, a story from Grandma sparks new inspiration, and Amy rounds up her family to help her. Together, can they make Amy's perfect dragon? Read more.
Stone Soup, by Jon J. Muth.
From the publisher: Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Read more.
Suki's Kimono, written by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch.
From the publisher: Suki's favourite possession is her blue cotton kimono. A gift from her obachan, it holds special memories of her grandmother's visit last summer. And Suki is going to wear it on her first day back to school — no matter what anyone says. Filled with gentle enthusiasm and a touch of whimsy, Suki's Kimono is the joyful story of a little girl whose spirit leads her to march — and dance — to her own drumbeat. Read more.
Sunday Funday in Koreatown, by Aram Kim.
From the publisher: Yoomi and Daddy are going to Koreatown today! This story celebrates family, resilience, and Korean culture. A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Read more.
The Change Your Name Store, by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kügler.
From the publisher: Meet Wilma Lee Wu, a spirited girl whose quest for a new name takes her around the world. Uncertain of where she belongs, Wilma marches to the Change Your Name Store. Each time she "tries on" a new name, she is transported to the country from which the name originates. Will Wilma find a new name that she likes and discover who she truly is? Read more.
The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi.
From the publisher: Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Read more.
Watercress, written by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin.
Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl's parents stop suddenly to gather watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. Read more.
Films and TV series to watch
The Calgary Underground Film Festival has put together a list of 10 Asian Canadian filmmakers whose work should be celebrated during Asian History Month. They have have listed some of their favourite films from these directors, including a few locals, and where you can stream these films online.
- Warren P. Sonoda | Things I do for Money | Crave
- Gillian McKercher | Circle of Steel | Crave
- Jennifer Shin (producer) | Paper Year | CBC Gem
- Jennifer Liao | End of Days, Inc.| AppleTV+
- Vicki Chau | Paper Lantern | vickichau.com
- Jason Wan Lim | Blood Mountain | Amazon Prime
- Corey Lee | Legend of a Warrior | Amazon Prime
- Albert Shin | Disaperance at Clifton Hill | Amazon Prime
- Julia Kwan | Eve and the Fire Horse | Hollywood Suite
- Yung Chang | Up the Yangtze
Celebrate with this collection that honours the culturally diverse and rich heritage of Canadians of Asian origin, streaming now on CBC Gem:
Bad Rap (Documentary)
From filmmaker Salima Koroma (Dreamland: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street, That's Amazing) and starring Awkwafina (The Farewell, Crazy Rich Asians), Bad Rap documents four Asian-American rappers who run into tough obstacles as they try to make it big in hip-hop, a genre rooted in black culture.
Drawn from a cache of personal video recordings from the past 22 years, director Steve Loveridge's Sundance award-winning Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. is a startlingly personal profile of the critically acclaimed artist, chronicling her remarkable journey from refugee immigrant to pop star.
Indian Space Dreams (Documentary) | *Canadian exclusive premiere*
From filmmaker Sue Sudbury (Hunger by the Sea, Village Tales), Indian Space Dreams is a documentary that has won multiple awards and grants extraordinary insight into contemporary India as it follows space scientists in Mumbai that prepare to launch the country's first astronomical satellite on a fraction of NASA's budget.
The Donut King (Documentary) | *Exclusive Canadian premiere*
From filmmaker Alice Gu (Epiphany, And Two If by Sea: The Hobgood Brothers), The Donut King documents the rise and fall of a Cambodian refugee who escaped genocide and overcame poverty to build a life for himself — by baking the U.S.'s favourite pastry and building an unlikely empire of donut shops.
Palisa Anderson's Water Heart Food (lifestyle series) | *Canadian exclusive premiere*
Respected cook, farmer, writer, entrepreneur, mother and member of a family business to a beloved restaurant chain, Chat Thai, Palisa Anderson is many things to many people. But ask her what connects her heart to it all, and she will simply reply "real, good food." From her farm in Byron Bay in the southeastern Australian state of New South Wales and its neighbouring salty enclaves, to the big smoke of Sydney and some of the city's best chefs, restaurants and out of town destinations, Anderson's Water Heart Food series sees her share a very intimate exchange with some of her favourite food industry icons and rising stars, exploring where their passion comes from and sharing food stories to discover we have more in common than we think.
Lost & Found (Documentary)
On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by the largest earthquake in its recorded history. The ensuing tsunami engulfed over 90 cities, killing more than 18,000 people, and causing millions of tons of debris to be pulled into the Pacific. One year later, beachcombers in North America began to find Japanese items washed ashore. Consumed with finding their owners, these beachcombers packed their bags and traveled to Japan in hopes of reuniting people with a small piece of their past. Lost & Found tells the story of the unlikely friendships that were forged in the wake of a massive natural disaster.
Music and podcasts to listen to
Recommended by Calgary Folk Music Festival:
The Calgary Folk Music Festival has stitched together a special playlist in honour of Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
On it are some of the artists and groups who have played at the Folk Fest, held annually in Prince's Island Park. They include indie singer Haley Heynderickx, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down and Kid Koala, a Chinese Canadian DJ and illustrator.
On CBC Listen:
Full series hosted by Asian-identified hosts/subjects:
Episode highlights (Asian guests and topics):
- Chosen Family: Bowen Yang, Margaret Cho, Kai Cheng Thom
- Secret Life of Canada: Where is Japantown?, Chinatown, The Gay Asians of Toronto, Madhu Verma, Private Buckham Singh, C.D. Hoy, Irene Uchida
- PlayME: Three Women of Swatow, Mizuko (Water Baby), Carried away on the crest of a wave, The Fish Eyes Trilogy, Prairie Nurse
- Party Lines: Party in the USA:To be Asian in America
- Front Burner: The Atlanta killings and anti-Asian hate
- Pop Chat: This ep. Includes a convo about #StopAsianHate
Radio show podcasts:
- Q with Tom: Kelly Marie Tran on playing Disney's first Southeast Asian princess
- The Doc Project:
How are you celebrating Asian Heritage Month? Have an event or resource to add? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.