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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: From Whisper To Rallying Cry

Jarod Lew

One of Paula Yoo's greatest passions is raising awareness about the rise in racism against Asian-Americans.

Yoo is an award-winning book author, television writer-producer, a feature screenwriter, a former journalist, and a violinist. Her commitment comes through powerfully in Yoo's new non-fiction book for young adults, From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement.

A conversation with Paula Yoo

“My new book is coming out in April 2021,” Yoo says. “It’s being published by Norton Young Readers, which is the children’s book imprint of W. W. Norton & Company. On the night of his bachelor party, Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat by two white auto workers in Detroit in 1982. This happened during the height of anti-Japanese sentiment in the American auto industry due to increased competition from imported Japanese cars and mass layoffs across the country, especially in Michigan, which was home to the Big Three: Ford, Chrysler, and GM.”

Credit W.W. Norton & Company
W.W. Norton & Company

Yoo says the men beating Chin allegedly shouted that it was because of "people like you that we are out of work.” The killer never spent a day in jail after an appeal because of a legal technicality.

“But Chin’s death was not in vain,” Yoo says. “He became a symbol for justice in the Asian-American community. And Vincent Chin’s name has been mentioned again recently, ever since the president used racist rhetoric to describe COVID-19 as the ‘China Virus’ and the ‘China Plague,’ and that has led to a rise in more than 2,500 anti-Asian hate crimes.”

During her virtual keynote talk for the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Youth Literature Seminar, Yoo says she'll speak in more detail about the Chin case.

“It is actually a lot more complicated than people realize,” Yoo says. “A lot of times, people misrepresent the case.”

The Kalamazoo Public Library says, “This year’s Youth Literature Seminar will focus not only on how our present echoes our past, but also how historical trauma affects how we respond to current tragedies. Join us as we examine our past, its impact on our present and our future, and how books can help guide us through a process of healing, growth, and unity.”

The theme of the Youth Literature Seminar is “The Time is Now.” This year's event is free and will be held online on Friday, November 13, 2020, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Registration is required. There's more about the featured speakers, breakout sessions, schedule and to how to register on the library's website.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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