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A case for AAPI literature

Staff Illustrator Clarissa

I have a bone to pick with the English Department. As an avid reader and writer, I have spent my last five years at Marlborough in excitement and anticipation for the senior privilege of choosing my English electives. Within the diverse selection of courses, I dreamed of the ability to design a curriculum tailored to my specific interests. But after searching through the list of options for courses, which included the honors English electives of African American Literature, California in Literature, Jewish Literature, Latinx Literature, Political Plays and Post-Apocalyptic Literature, I discovered a gaping hole in the offerings: there was no Asian or Asian American Literature class. As a Chinese and Taiwanese American student, this lack of representation of Asian and Asian American literature was both frustrating and disappointing.

Though Asian American Literature has been offered as an honors English elective in the past, the elective has been unavailable to students since its teaching position was vacated in the 2019-2020 academic year. To the English Department’s credit, for the past three years, they have been conducting an ongoing search for a qualified instructor to fill that position. The department has also incorporated more works by Asian authors since the removal of the course. For example, California in Literature now reads “Tropic of Orange” by Karen Tei Yamashita and “Fiona and Jane” by Jean Chen Ho. The syllabus for Post-Apocalyptic Literature, another senior English elective, has also been amended to include the book “Severance” by Ling Ma.

But simply scattering a few texts by Asian authors throughout the English curriculum is an inadequate representation of the racial and cultural diversity of Marlborough. As an Asian American student, this lack of representation makes me feel underrepresented and unaffirmed; an afterthought addition to a pre-existing class instead of a stand-alone course in its own right. 

Furthermore, this failure to offer an Asian or Asian American Literature honors English elective leaves empty the opportunity to better educate the Marlborough community as a whole. Especially in light of the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and racism following the COVID-19 pandemic, generating space to share and learn about the identities and experiences of Asians and Asian Americans is more important than ever. From personal experience, I can attest to the influence that so many Asian and Asian American authors and works have played in my adolescence — both as a means of shaping my perception of my race and also as a means of instilling in me a sense of belonging and pride in my culture. 

As the English Department continues its years-long search for an instructor to teach an Asian or Asian American Literature senior English elective, I implore the Marlborough administration, students and broader community to urge this endeavor forward. Included in the Nov. 6 weekly email is a course interest form created by three former leaders of Exploring Asian Societies Together (EAST), one of Marlborough’s Asian Affinity clubs, through which members of the community can express their interest in the course. Take a stand for diversifying the racial representation in the English curriculum and applauding Asian culture in literature. Express your interest in adding an Asian American Literature elective to the curriculum and fill out the form to indicate your interest in adding an Asian Literature course to the list of senior English elective offerings. May Marlborough’s core value of “championing inclusion” prevail in the near future.

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