May is AAPI Heritage Month


Emily Duong, Contributor

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! This month celebrates all people of Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander descent and their contributions to the US’s culture and society. 

A little history lesson: there are two reasons why AAPI Month is in May. Firstly, the immigration of the first Japanese person to the US was on the 7th of May in 1843. Secondly, this marks the anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s completion on May 10, 1869, where the majority of the tracks laid were by Chinese immigrants.

House Representative Frank Horton of New York first introduced the idea to celebrate AAPI Heritage as a week in 1977, made to be the first 10 days in May. Though that original bill didn’t go through, a different one did go through in 1978 and was signed in by President Carter. During the next decade, presidents passed annual proclamations for this AAPI Heritage Week until 1990 when Congress expanded the observance to a month. Then in 1992, Congress passed a law that annually designated May as AAPI Heritage Month.

Here are some things you can do around the Huntsville-Madison area to support our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community, as well as celebrate AAPI culture this month:



There are many local restaurants you can support to celebrate AAPI month. Fulin’s on Hwy 72 is great for a variety of Asian cuisine. For Korean food, try Stone Age Korean BBQ on both Memorial Parkway and Hwy 72, I Love Korea on Jordan Lane, or Haru on Madison Blvd. Some good Vietnamese restaurants include Viet Huong on Old Monrovia Road, Pho V Nam on County Line Road, Phomous on Hwy 72, Viet Cuisine on Jordan Lane, and Viet House on Airport Road. 

For Thai, food, there’s Phuket in Providence, Big Bowl Thai on University Drive, Surin of Thailand on Airport Road, and Thai Elephant on Madison Blvd. MidCity has a whole corner with Asian food: try Kung Fu Tea for boba, Tous Les Jours for European-Asian pastries/baked goods (my personal favorite), and Komodo Ramen for noodles. 

For Hawaiian cuisine, you can try Luv Hawaiian BBQ on Whitesburg Drive, and for Indian food, Sitar on Jordan Lane is great. For some good Filipino food, try Lovely’s Kitchen on Madison Blvd (which also has karaoke). You can find delicious Japanese food at Aki on University Drive and Sakura Sushi & Steak House on County Line Road. For some classic Chinese dim sum, go to Ding How II on Whitesburg Drive. There are many, many places to try out.



The Huntsville-Madison area has some beautiful places you can visit to celebrate Asian culture during this month. The Huntsville Botanical Garden has the Damson Aquatic Garden, with pergola-covered pathways overseeing their water lily pool filled with Victoria lilies, hardy water lilies, water lotus, and other plants. This formal circular garden is a beautiful, tranquil escape. 

Meanwhile, at Monte Sano State Park, enjoy the North Alabama Japanese Garden and their annual Japanese Spring Festival this Sunday, May 7th, from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. What began as a simple hobby garden now contains a traditional Tea House and an abundance of Japanese Maples and native azaleas. At the Spring Festival, experience a variety of Japanese cultural experiences including a tea ceremony, traditional dance, Taiko (Japanese drums), Japanese martial arts, and much more.

In Big Spring Park, visit the iconic Red Friendship Bridge and see the gorgeous blooming cherry blossoms. These were a gift to celebrate America’s bicentennial, given by Japanese Major General Mikio Kimata, who visited Redstone Arsenal from 1964 to 1966. The bridge symbolizes a bridging of friendship between Japan and Huntsville, and is one of the most notable attractions in Big Spring Park. There are several stunning sights to see all around HSV!


And besides local spaces, here are some other ways to celebrate AAPI month:



Due to the spike of xenophobia that has emerged since 2020, it is more important than ever that people are educated about the AAPI community and their contributions to this country’s culture. After all, stories, from fantasy to nonfiction, are windows into culture.

One of my recommended authors is Amy Tan, notably the author of The Joy Luck Club, a novel centered around four Chinese immigrants who, united by their loss and hope, form the Joy Luck Club to share their experiences, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter, a story in two parts about an American-born Chinese daughter’s relationship with her mother. Her writing, ranging from novels to children’s stories, encapsulate the Asian-American experience and contains themes of hope, identity, and complex storytelling. My two recommendations are her short story “Two Kinds,” a story of a difficult mother-daughter relationship and the fight between being extraordinary versus ordinary, as well as her narrative essay “Fish Cheeks,” a recounting of a Christmas dinner when Tan was fourteen, and her conflicting emotions between embracing family traditions of Chinese culture and fitting in with American culture.

Here are some choices for some heavy reading representing AAPI culture. E.M Foster’s A Passage to India discusses the racism and prejudice between the Indians and the British during the colonial era and the fight between morality and spirituality. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a dystopian novel set in an alternate England where human cloning is common practice and clones are seen solely as organ donors, and is a novel about growth, loss, and hope. Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee is a journey of cultural isolation as a minority, alienation from oneself, and relationships with identity. The emotional memoir Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston recounts Houston and her family’s experiences in the US’s internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II and the oppression, confusion, and fear within it. The Mountains Sing, the first English novel of famous Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, is a stirring multigenerational tale of a family and nation broken apart by the Vietnam War.

For some YA novels by AAPI authors, try these stories. The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho is a harrowing story of a Taiwanese-American girl who must navigate racism, classism, and her own struggling mentality when a family tragedy rips her world apart. Mary H.K. Choi’s Yolk is a story of two estranged, vastly different sisters reconnecting after one is struck with a devastating diagnosis. For some cheesy teen romance, there’s To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han where the main character keeps love letters of every big crush she’s ever had. For something more fantastical, try The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman, taking Indian culture and mythology and spinning a magical tale of four royal siblings brought together to find the Ivory Key, a source of magic that could save their kingdom after the assassination of its ruler and mother, and must learn to work together amidst their very different agendas.

For more stories, check out this collection made by Barnes & Noble and this one by Penguin Random House.



For TV shows and movies, there are so many from all corners that feature AAPI casts and showcase AAPI culture. Some examples from Disney alone include the coming-of-age stories Andi Mack (Disney Channel show) and Turning Red (movie), the action-fantasy film Moana set in ancient Polynesia, the touching short film Bao, the classic Mulan based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, the magical action-fantasy movie Raya and the Last Dragon encompassing many Southeast Asian cultures, and the high-tech superhero movie Big Hero 6 in the fictional fusion city San Fransokyo. Of course, there’s Marvel’s legendary superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Some of the books mentioned above, such as The Joy Luck Club and To All the Boys I Loved Before, also have TV/movie adaptations. Recently, the surreal action-packed movie Everything Everywhere All At Once has shattered records and has received worldwide acclaim for its introspection on Asian American identity, and the comedic romance novel-turned-movie Crazy Rich Asians is one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of the 2010s. 

For more shows and movies, follow this link to a list by Medium.


Happy AAPI Heritage Month!