Author Joanna Ho spreads awareness at MAC presentation
Author Joanna Ho spreads awareness at MAC presentation
Annika Chu

Author Joanna Ho spreads awareness at MAC presentation

Ho discusses mental health experiences of AAPI community in Silicon Valley

Joanna Ho, a 2000 Paly grad and the author of “The Silence That Binds Us,” “We Who Produce Pearls” and other books about the Asian American Pacific Islander community in the Bay Area, spoke at the MAC today.

Event organizer and freshman Leilani Chen said both AAPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month fall on the same dates, and she wanted to organize an event that would reflect them.

“Our speaker is really inspiring because I appreciate how she connected Asian stories to mental health and I appreciate how that kindness is reflected in her writing,” Chen said. “There’s not too much stuff like this out there, so it’s good to see.”

Ho said she was inspired to write books about the AAPI experience in Silicon Valley because of the lack of representation she felt growing up.

“I grew up in a space where we had no stories, no representation,” Ho said. “I never saw myself in books or movies, and I don’t think that we understand the harm that that causes –– the messages we internalize about our worth.”

Ho said her books are inspired by her personal experience with racism.

“(Anti-Asian racism) is something that’s so misunderstood in what’s often a black-white dichotomy of race,” Ho said. “As I researched the history, it came to be so clear that we are so connected — we have so many intersecting parallels and shared experiences. We’ve always risen up, and that’s not the narrative that we are told about Asians, so it felt important to call us into solidarity and to power.”

Chen said she thought Ho’s message is applicable to many students at Paly.

“There’s just a general feeling of being in a pressure cooker sometimes, so I’m glad that there are books that talk about that,” Chen said. “I feel like it’s really significant to see yourself in literature and be able to say, ‘Hey, that’s somebody like me.’”

During her book-writing process, Ho said it would sometimes be difficult and painful to research the racism that occurred throughout history.

“To see the layers of how deeply-rooted the invisibility or how deeply-rooted the racism is hard to go head on,” Ho said. “Always be critically conscious and also compassionate.”

At the start of the talk, Ho quizzed audience members on prominent Asian Americans, and junior Zachary Crystal said the lack of responses reiterated Ho’s point that the history of Asian Americans is often hidden or overlooked.

“With all those questions you get started with at the beginning, you didn’t know the answer because you hadn’t heard of anything,” Crystal said. “And then with this, it shows how uneducated you are and how you can learn.”

And Ho said this research experience also brought her closer to her family and community.

“I’ve been connecting with my family and learning about my own personal history,” Ho said. “I feel like all of this has helped me to understand the power of my own voice in the world that makes it easier to speak up.”

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