Writing from 130 years ago shows we’re still dealing with the same anti-Asian racism


Community members gather for a vigil in memory of the victims of the Atlanta shootings and to rally against anti-Asian racism in Ottawa.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Mary Chapman, University of British Columbia

In March, when a white man targeted and killed eight women in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian, mainstream media and police initially refused to categorize it as a racially motivated hate crime. But for Asian people, across North America and globally, this tragedy was one more episode in a long history of anti-Asian violence.

Over 150 years ago, white settlers in the United States rounded up Chinese merchants and miners and put them onto burning barges, threw them into railway cars and even lynched them. But this story is not limited to the U.S. — early Chinese immigrants were not welcome in Canada either.




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This is documented in the life and works of Chinese-Canadian author and journalist Edith Eaton (1865-1914). While researching Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism, and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton, I discovered numerous accounts of early Canadian anti-Chinese racism in her work.

Memoirs from the past show similar hatred

In Eaton’s memoir Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian, she recalls being called “Chinky, Chinky, Chinaman, yellow-face, pig-tail, rat-eater,” after moving to North America with her family — a white father, Chinese mother and five siblings — in 1872.

Soon after the family’s arrival in Montréal, locals would call out “Chinese!” “Chinoise!” as they walked down the street. Classmates would pull Eaton’s hair, pinch her and refuse to sit beside her.

These taunts and torments were felt deeply by Eaton throughout her life. She wrote:

“I have come from a race on my mother’s side which is said to be the most stolid and insensible to feeling of all races. Yet I look back over the years and see myself so keenly alive to every shade of sorrow and suffering that it is almost a pain to live.”

Eaton published a book of short stories depicting Chinese immigrants’ encounters with racism under the pseudonym “Sui Sin Far” (Cantonese for narcissus). And her advocacy was appreciated by Chinese people in Montréal who erected a memorial beside her grave with the inscription “Yi bu wang hua,” which means “The righteous one does not forget China.”

Since the Atlanta shootings, Asian women have been assaulted and even killed. Asian people have been accused of causing COVID-19, stealing intellectual property and more. What Eaton described in her fiction and memoir continues to happen today.

1896 newspaper article titled 'The Chinese Defended'
In a signed letter to the editor, Edith Eaton defends Chinese people in Montréal who have been the target of hate.
Montréal Daily Star

1890s headlines interchangeable with today’s

Eaton also documented anti-Chinese violence and championed the rights of Chinese immigrants in stories published in the Montréal Star and the Montréal Witness throughout the 1890s.

At the time, white men were convinced that Chinese immigrants were taking their jobs away and that Chinese men — many of whom lived alone behind their shops (because of the Head Tax — had an unfair advantage over white men with families.

In the Montréal Star, Eaton published A Plea for the Chinaman, in which she called out politicians for mistreating Chinese men in Canada:

“Every just person must feel his or her sense of justice outraged by the attacks which are being made by public men upon the Chinese who come to this country.… It makes one’s cheeks burn to read about men of high office standing up and abusing a lot of poor foreigners behind their backs and calling them all the bad names their tongues can utter.”

Anti-Chinese violence was so common in 1890s Montréal that Chinese men carried police whistles in their pockets. In an 1895 article, titled Beaten to Death, Eaton noted that even when they blew their whistles, no one would come to Chinese men’s aid. Bystanders often refused to identify their assailants and police told the men who had been assaulted that they should be arrested for bothering them.

The recent reports of a security guard’s refusal to act when a Filipino woman was brutally beaten uncannily recall the anti-Asian violence Eaton documented 125 years ago.

My research leads me to suspect that Eaton published other unsigned articles documenting anti-Chinese racism in Montreal newspapers at this time. She may have written a Gazette article reporting on youth who would gather nightly in Montreal’s Chinatown to throw stones at passing Chinese men and through the plate glass windows of their businesses, or those describing Chinese men being punched, kicked or beaten to death.

What was written when?

Looking at literature and journalism of the past such as Eaton’s can help illuminate the challenges of today. Her observations about people’s motivations — ignorance, jealousy, suspicion, competition — invite us to reflect on the motivations of today’s perpetrators of anti-Asian violence and conclude that not much has changed.

The anti-Asian racism recorded in Eaton’s work and journalism across Montreal persists today. Recent reports of racist violence, hate crimes, verbal harassment, opaque policing and passive bystanders could have been written more than a century ago.

We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to make up for over a century of treating Asian people like they do not belong.The Conversation

Mary Chapman, Professor of English and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub, University of British Columbia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

After a year of digital learning and virtual teaching, let’s hear it for the joy of real books


http://www.shutterstock.com

Kathryn MacCallum, University of Canterbury

We know COVID-19 and its associated changes to our work and learning habits caused a marked increase in the use of technology. More surprising, perhaps, is the impact these lockdowns have had on children’s and young people’s self-reported enjoyment of books and the overall positive impact this has made on reading rates.

A recent survey from the UK, for example, showed children were spending 34.5% more time reading than they were before lockdown. Their perceived enjoyment of reading had increased by 8%.

This seems logical — locked down with less to do means more time for other activities. But with the increase in other distractions, especially the digital kind, it’s encouraging to see many young people still gravitate towards reading, given the opportunity.

In general, most children still read physical books, but the survey showed a small increase in their use of audiobooks and digital devices. Audiobooks were particularly popular with boys and contributed to an overall increase in their interest in reading and writing.

There is no doubt, however, that digital texts are becoming more commonplace in schools, and there is a growing body of research exploring their influence. One such study showed no direct relationship between how often teachers used digital reading instruction and activities and their students’ actual engagement or reading confidence.




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What the study did show, however, was a direct, negative relationship between how often teachers had their students use computers or tablets for reading activities and how much the students liked reading.

These findings suggest physical books continue to play a critical role in fostering young children’s love of reading and learning. At a time when technology is clearly influencing reading habits and teaching practices, can we really expect the love of reading to be fostered by sitting alone on a digital device?

young boy using touch screen tablet
Reading alone on a digital device is no substitute for the real thing.
http://www.shutterstock.com

The limitations of eBooks

In schools and homes we often see eBooks being used to support independent reading. As teachers and parents, we have started to rely on these tools to support our emerging readers. But over-reliance has meant losing the potential for engagement and conversation.

Studies have shown children perform better when reading with an adult, and this is often a richer experience with a print book than with an eBook.

Reading when we’re young is still a communal experience. My own seven-year-old is at the age when reading to me at night is a crucial part of his development as a reader. Relying on him to sit on his own and read from his device will never work.




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This is not to deny the usefulness of eBooks. Their adoption in schools has been led by the desire to better support learners. They provide teachers with an extensive library of titles and features designed to entice and motivate.

These embedded features provide new ways of helping children decode language and also offer vital support for children with special needs, such as dyslexia and impaired vision.

The research, however, suggests caution rather than a wholesale adoption of eBooks. Studies have shown the extra features of eBooks, such as pop-ups, animation and sound, can actually distract the learner, detracting from the reading experience and reducing comprehension of the text.

The book as object

Captain Underpants book cover

Real books may lack these interactive features but their visual and tactile nature plays a strong role in engaging the reader.

Because books exist in the same physical space as their readers — scattered and found objects rather than apps on a screen — they introduce the role of choice, one of the big influences on engagement.

While generally a reluctant reader, my child loves to flick through books and look at the pictures. He might not necessarily read every word, but books such as Dog Man, Captain Underpants and Bad Guys have provided a fantastic opportunity to engage him.

We have even managed to link reading with our children’s favourite online games. Their Minecraft manuals have become valuable resources and are even taken to friends’ houses on play-dates.

Many of our books are not in the best shape, evidence they are lived with and loved. Second hand shops and school fairs provide a cheap option for adding variety, and libraries are also valuable for supplementing the home shelves.

Keeping it real

But cuts to library budgets and collections, such as have been announced recently by Wellington Central Library, threaten to further undermine the role of the physical book in children’s lives.

School libraries, too, are often the first space to be sacrificed when budgets and space restrictions tighten. This encourages the uptake of digital books and further reinforces a reliance on technological alternatives.




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Of course, digital technology plays an important role in supporting children to engage and learn, often in powerful new ways that would otherwise be impossible.

But in our haste to adopt and rely on “digital solutions” without clear justification or consideration of their effective use, we risk undervaluing the power of objects made from paper and ink.

As we emerge from a pandemic that has accelerated digital progress, we can’t let these developments obscure the place of real books in real — as opposed to virtual — lives.The Conversation

Kathryn MacCallum, Associate Professor, University of Canterbury

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

More on 2021 Public Domain Arrivals in the USA


The links below are to further articles reporting on this year’s additions to the public domain.

For more visit:
https://teleread.org/2021/01/02/get-1925-lit-classics-for-free-fitzgerald-dreiser-hemingway-woolf-kafka-among-authors/
https://bookriot.com/public-domain-books-2021/

Works Now in the Public Domain in the USA


The links below are to articles that take a look at what works are now in the public domain in the USA.

For more visit:
https://lithub.com/everything-published-in-the-greatest-year-for-books-ever-is-now-in-the-public-domain/
https://ebookevangelist.com/2020/12/31/public-domain-day-2021-works-from-1925-are-in-the-public-domain/
https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/these-are-all-of-the-new-ebooks-that-are-in-the-public-domain

Reasons Kindle Ebook Readers are Better than Traditional Books


The link below is to an article that takes a look at reasons why Kindle Ebook Readers are better than traditional books.

For more visit:
https://blog.the-ebook-reader.com/2020/12/09/10-reasons-kindle-ereaders-are-better-than-paper-books/

Friday essay: how many climate crisis books will it take to save the planet?



Ben White/Unsplash, CC BY

Ian Lowe, Griffith University

It’s that time of the year again. Brochures and emails spruik a bumper crop of new books about the climate crisis.

Book cover: Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

Goodreads

This time there are some really big names: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates, Climate Crisis and the Global New Deal by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, All We Can Save by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson, What Can I Do? The Truth About Climate Change and How to Fix It by Jane Fonda, as well as new efforts from David Attenborough and Tim Flannery.

The incoming tide of new books makes me reflect and wonder whether writing still more books about climate change is a waste of precious time. When the UN is calling for governments to act to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, are books just preaching to the converted? My answer is no, but that doesn’t mean publishing, buying or reading more books is the answer to our climate emergency right now.




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Decades of books

In April, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the New York Times told readers this might be the year they finally read about climate change. But many already have.

The earliest titles date back to 1989: The Greenhouse Effect, Living in a Warmer Australia by Ann Henderson-Sellers and Russell Blong; my own contribution, Living in the Greenhouse, and the first book aimed at the US public, Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature.

Book cover: planet earth image. By Al Gore.

Goodreads

The science was still developing then. We knew human activity was increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Measurable changes to the climate were also clear: more very hot days, fewer very cold nights, changes to rainfall patterns.

The 1985 Villach conference had culminated in an agreed statement warning there could be a link, but cautious scientists were saying more research was needed before we could be confident the changes had a human cause. There were credible alternative theories: the energy from the Sun could be changing, there could be changes in the Earth’s orbit, there might be natural factors we had not recognised.

By the mid-1990s, the debate was essentially over in the scientific community. Today there is barely a handful of credible climate scientists who don’t accept the evidence that human activity has caused the changes we are seeing. The agreed statements by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, led to the Kyoto Protocol being adopted in 1997.

And so — as the urgency being felt by the scientists increased — more books were published.

Former US vice president and 2007 Nobel Prize winner Al Gore’s book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis was first published in 2008 and has since been issued in 20 editions. There have been more than enough books to furnish a list of the top 100 bestselling titles on the topic, recommended by the likes of Elon Musk and esteemed climate scientists and commentators. The ones I have acquired fill an entire bookcase shelf — dozens of titles describing the problem, making dire predictions, calling for action.

Girl walks through bookshop.
Preaching to the converted might not be such a bad thing.
Becca Tapert/Unsplash, CC BY



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Deeds not words

Does the new batch of books risk spreading more despair? If the previous books didn’t change our climate trajectory then what is the point in making readers feel the cause is hopeless and a bleak future is inevitable?

Book cover: What can I do? by Jane Fonda

Goodreads

No. Writing more books isn’t a waste of time, but they also shouldn’t be a high priority at the moment. The point of writing a book is to summarise what we know about the problem and identify credible ways forward.

Those were my goals when I wrote Living in the Greenhouse in 1989 and Living in the Hothouse in 2005. The main purpose of the first book was to draw attention to a problem that was largely unrecognised, trying to inform and persuade readers that we needed to take action. By the release of the second book, the aim was to counter the tsunami of misinformation unleashed by the fossil fuel industry, conservative institutions and the Murdoch press. Rupert Murdoch spoke at News Corp’s AGM this week, maintaining: “We do not deny climate change, we are not deniers”.

But there are two reasons why I’m not working on a third book right now.

The first is time. If I started writing today, it would be late next year before the book would be in the shops. We can’t afford another year of inaction. More importantly, the inaction of our national government is not a result of a lack of knowledge.

On November 9, United Nations chief António Guterres said the world was still falling well short of the leadership required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050:

Our goal is to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Today, we are still headed towards three degrees at least.

Some believe the inaction is explained by the corruption of our politics by fossil fuel industry donations. Others see is a fundamental conflict between the concerted action needed and the dominant ideologies of governing parties. Making decision-makers better informed about the science won’t solve either of these problems.

They might be solved, however, by the evidence that a growing majority of voters want to see action to slow climate change.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has focused, rather than distracted, the community on the risks of climate change. A recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group of 3,000 people across eight countries found about 70% of respondents are now more aware of the risks of climate change than they were before the pandemic. Three-quarters say slowing climate change is as important as protecting the community from COVID-19.

The growing awareness and sense of urgency are backed by another recent study looking at internet search behaviour across 20 European countries. Researchers found signs of growing support for a post-COVID recovery program that emphasises sustainability.

Kids climate books on shelf.
Books have also educated young readers on the climate emergency.
Shutterstock



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Change is happening, more is needed

Still, preaching to the converted is not necessarily a bad thing. They might need to be reminded why they were persuaded that action is needed, or need help countering the half-truths and barefaced lies being peddled in the public debate. Books can fulfil that mission. So can speaking to community groups, which I do regularly.

I tell audiences the urgent priority now is to turn into action the knowledge we have about the accelerating impacts of climate change and economically viable responses. Our states and territories now have the goal of zero-carbon by 2050, so I am giving presentations spelling out how this can be achieved. We urgently need the Commonwealth government to catch up to the community.

Climate action protest sign above crowd.
Mass protests have called for environmental leadership.
Unsplash/Markus Spiske, CC BY

Change is happening rapidly. More than 2 million Australian households now have solar panels. Solar and wind provided more than half of the electricity used by South Australia last year and that state achieved a world-first on the morning of October 11: for a brief period, its entire electricity demand was met by solar panels.

The urgent task is not to publish more books on the crisis, but to change the political discourse and force our national government to play a positive role.The Conversation

Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.