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Journal of Asian American Studies 3.1 (2000) 122-123

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Book Review

"Heading East: California's Asian Pacific Experience"

"Heading East: California's Asian Pacific Experience," A Traveling Photographic Exhibit.

With major funding from the California State Library system in collaboration with community historical and performing arts groups, a California sesquicentennial exhibit designed to increase "awareness, appreciation, and understanding of California's Asian Pacific population" is traveling throughout the state until December 2000. (CAPAE brochure) In 1997, Beulah Quo--activist, actress, and sesquicentennial commissioner--assembled an impressive array of individuals to form the California Asian Pacific American Experience (CAPAE) committee whose purpose is to "promote, organize, and create activities and programs to commemorate and celebrate the history of Asian Pacific Americans in California for the past 150 years." (CAPAE brochure) Under the directorship of Munson Kwok and Suellen Cheng, a stunning exhibit produced by the Los Angeles-based Visual Communications/Southern California Asian American Studies Central entitled, "Heading East: California's Asian Pacific Experience," has emerged.

Designed to be both educational and entertaining, the exhibit is comprised of 150 photographs arranged on panels and cubes, and invites the viewer to wander and interact with the various displays. Organized around six major themes-Following the Dream, Ties of Gold, Enterprise, Shaping California, Heart to Heart, and Transformation-the cubes are sheathed with photographs and oral testimonies by Asian and Pacific Islanders with the top of each cube listing a chronology of major events applicable to the theme. Flanking the cubes are towering eight-foot high panels that captivate the viewer's eyes with bold colors, words, and photographs depicting the themes. In an effort to represent the more than fifty Asian and Pacific Island American groups in California, the pictures and words that diagonally span the screens are written in various languages. These words are not greetings but rather are the expressions of struggle and strength used to recount the immigrant experience.

Serving as bookends are two life-size cutouts atop a cubic base. At one end-representing the beginning-a young Chinese boy stands selling Sai Gai Yat Bo (The Chinese World Newspaper). At the other end-representing the present and the future-is a young Asian girl athlete kneeling beside a basketball.

"Following the Dream" examines the push/pull factors of immigration; "Ties of Gold" depicts the survival techniques of various groups in addressing the discrimination and social barriers encountered in California; "Enterprise" and "Shaping California" show the considerable contributions Asian Pacific Americans [End Page 122] have made in business and public policy; "Heart to Heart" is a tribute to the development of community within the diverse Asian Pacific American groups and to the creation of pan-Asian alliances that are helping to better California's schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and cultural centers; and "Transformation" focuses on the cultural benefits that Asian Pacific Americans may contribute to California in the coming millennium. As a whole, this exhibit provides an engaging , though brief, historical overview of Asian Pacific American history and contributions that have shaped and will continue to shape the golden state that is well-worth a viewing.

For the year 2000, "Heading East" will be on exhibit at: the City of Corona Public Library (January); the Long Beach Public Library (February); California State University, San Marcos (April); and the Torrance Public Library (October). Other sites are welcomed to submit applications for the exhibit. Those interested in hosting the exhibit should request an application from Callie Chung, CAPAE Exhibit schedule coordinator, at (213) 680-4462, extension 33 or by e-mail at

Judith Liu
University of San Diego



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pp. 122-123
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