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The Stories We Tell and the Objects We Keep: Asian American Women and the Archives

The stories of Asian American women extend far beyond the geographic borders of the United States. Inspired by tales and objects from family history, their narratives often reflect the transnational nature of Asian American women’s lives. Despite the importance of these narratives to expanding and complicating our understanding of war, migration, inequity, and difference, the accounts and perspectives of Asian American women have often been overlooked in formal records, and the tangible objects providing critical evidence of their histories have been ignored.

This program will bring together Asian American activists and artists, including novelists, filmmakers, and photographers, to share the stories that inspire their craft and the objects they retain as part of their personal histories.

“The Stories We Tell and the Objects We Keep” reflects the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to revealing complete, balanced, and diverse histories of women in America.

Radcliffe gratefully acknowledges the Steiner Dean’s Leadership Fund for Academic Ventures, which is supporting this event.

Event Video

Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean, Harvard Radcliffe Institute; Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School; and professor of history, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University 

FRAMING REMARKS: Asian American Women’s History
Genevieve Clutario, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of American Studies, Wellesley College

Julie Chung, Harvard College Class of 2020


This session will explore what it means to record and create stories beyond the limits of a national narrative, incorporating experiences across cultures and continents. Each of the panelists will consider their multiple affiliations and the perspectives and knowledge they have gained as a result.

Tanzila (Taz) Ahmed, activist, storyteller, poet, co-host of #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast

Gina Apostol, novelist, Insurrecto (Soho Press, 2018) and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata (Soho Press, 2021)

Hồng-Ân Trương, photographer and sound, video, and performance artist; associate professor of art and art history, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

MODERATED BY Ju Yon Kim, professor of English, Harvard University 


Vanessa Hu, Harvard College Class of 2024, AB candidate concentrating in computer science and ethnicity, migration, rights

History is revealed not only through formal written records but also in the preservation of tangible objects that illustrate personal and family stories. Speakers in this session will show and discuss a selection of the materials they keep to tell their stories while underscoring the importance of collecting such objects to preserve the history of Asian American women.

Wendy Maruyama, furniture maker and woodworker; professor emeritus, School of Art + Design, San Diego State University; 2020 United States Artists Fellow

Renee Tajima-Peña, professor, Department of Asian American Studies, UCLA 

Tanaïs (Tanwi Nandini Islam), novelist and perfumer; author of Bright Lines (Penguin House, 2015) 

MODERATED BY Denise Khor, assistant professor of American studies, College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston 

Moderated by Ajantha Subramanian, professor of anthropology and of South Asian studies; chair, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Helen Zia, author, Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution (Ballantine Books, 2019); former journalist; former executive editor, Ms.

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