Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
Filipino Americans: Blending Cultures, Redefining Race
In The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race, author Anthony Christian Ocampo examines the complex history of Filipino American identity and the colonial relationships that underlie it. “Filipinos, even before migrating, are socialized to American norms,” Ocampo explains in this interview. “So by the time they get here, the usual things that push people into ethnic enclaves like not knowing the language, not having the social networks, don’t apply because of that strong American influence.”
“The Problem With Apu”: A New Documentary Studies “The Simpsons” Character’s Minstrel-Style Racism
In The Problem with Apu, comedian Hari Kondabolu traces the history of Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. “No character has a more controversial legacy than [Apu], the heavily accented Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner and father of octuplets,” Kondabolu explains. Featuring interviews with Simpsons writer Dana Gould, comedian Aasif Mandvi, and others, the documentary “questions how this controversial caricature was created, burrowed its away into the hearts and minds of Americans and continues to exist.”
Lost In Translation: Growing Up Latin-Ish
For Isabella Ortiz and Diego Villarroel, self-described “children of the children of the Latin American diaspora,” realizing and asserting their cultural identities has been a study in intergenerational exchange. In this interview, the two teens discuss the value of language, proper pronunciation, and feelings of “disconnection from a culture that we felt was part of us but we weren’t allowed to be a part of.”
Leah Mata: A Life in Abalone, Pine Nuts and Culture
“You can’t go to a store and buy the pieces. Regalia can take a lifetime of collecting and preparing,” says artist Leah Mata, a member of the Northern Chumash Tribe in Central California. In this piece, Mata explores the traditional and cultural motifs in her work and the role of family in keeping these practices alive. “I learned these values from my mom, and my great uncles and cousins, who credit their love of family and our homelands from my great grandmother.”
‘The Big Sick,’ South Asian Identity and Me
For Times reporter Sopan Deb, what The Big Sick offers a long-overdue look at South Asian culture and the identities he still tries to navigate as an Indian American. In this review, Deb reflects on his parents’ divorce, his awkward dates, and the value of examining cultural differences on screen. “Mr. Nanjiani’s film explored that freedom to choose—one brown guy’s experience crossing the chasm between two very different cultures.”
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason for their contributions to this week’s digest.