Sno-Isle Libraries program explores the Asian experience in America

Sno-Isle Libraries’ Whidbey Reads program — in a virtual format available to all — is celebrating the Asian American experience with online events in March and April. The program culminates April 27 in a conversation with Charles Yu, author of 2021 National Book Award winner “Interior Chinatown.”

Avid readers have gathered each spring since 2003 for Whidbey Reads events to celebrate a selected book title and participate in related events to explore the themes the title raises. The pandemic means all Whidbey Reads events will be online for the third year running, but event organizer Marie Byars sees a silver lining.

“The program is called ‘Whidbey Reads,’ but you don’t have to live on Whidbey Island to participate,” said Byars, an Information Assistant at Oak Harbor Library.

Yu’s latest novel speaks to the racial stereotypes endured by Asian Americans, with unexpected humor and biting satire.

“One of our Whidbey Reads team members said it’s the funniest book about racism they’ve ever read,” Byars said.

Yu’s story follows the form of a screenplay whose protagonist, Willis Wu, is a struggling actor. Willis dreams of expanding his bit-part screen roles beyond background “delivery guy” characters to a more prominent “Kung Fu guy” with more screen presence. He comes to see that even “Kung Fu guy” remains a Hollywood stereotype that shortchanges his potential.

Whidbey Reads officially kicks off at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 16, with Bruce Lee’s Continued Influence for the 21st Century – A Bruce Lee Foundation Discussion. It’s a look at the influence of the legendary Bruce Lee, who popularized martial arts in the U.S. Shannon Lee discusses her father’s life, philosophy and continued legacy as it relates to current issues of representation, identity, self-worth, and unity.

Whidbey Reads shifts to humor with Laughing Matters: Asian Americans, Comedy, and Inclusion at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 29. In this Humanities Washington presentation, University of Washington Professor Michelle Liu uses clips of comedians and cartoons to explore how Asian Americans have experimented with humor to address racial stereotypes.

At 3 p.m. April 11, Wing Luke Museum staff take you through the historically preserved spaces of their Seattle building, the East Kong Yick historic hotel. Built in 1910, the multi-use building housed commercial spaces below the Freeman Hotel and Chinese Family Association Halls on the upper floors.

Register in advance to receive a reminder email for all these Whidbey Reads events.

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