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eBook Expo

Displays featuring eBooks from UNO Libraries.

Asian American & Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

During the month of May, the nation observes individuals of Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent (abbreviated as AAPI or AAPI month) and the people that comprise a larger community of varied and vibrant cultures. In 1992, this celebration was expanded from a one-week celebration in the first week of May to a whole month (and the Pacific Islander part was later added in 1997). But why celebrate in May instead of June or December? May also contains important milestones in Asian-American history, with Japanese immigrants' first recorded arrival being in this spring month. Chinese immigrants also played a significant role in laying the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed on May 10th, 1869. But legacy of AAPI heritage in America has deep roots in other parts of the world. In this eBook display, take a virtual voyage across Asia to explore truly diverse communities of Asians and Pacific Islanders--of all colors & creeds--from the Arctic Circle to the South Pacific Ocean.

The first slideshow contains just three generally-themed AAPI eBooks. After that, each section presents a survey over a specific subdivision of the Asian continent, with a small selection of eBooks arranged in slide format. Don't forget to use the links below to search for more fascinating eBooks in our vast online collection!

North Asia

Image by Aleksandr Mikhailovich Bermant (2004) via loc.gov

The crown of the Asian side of the Eurasian continent lies completely within Russia's borders, but as can be seen in other regions, culture can vary depending on location. Siberia and Russia's Far East are generally considered to be part of Asia since populations in this area have much more in common culturally with their Central Asian and indigenous neighbors. Not to be confused with the Turkish people, Turkic groups inhabit the borderlands near Central Asia. These groups include the Chuvashes, Tuvans, and Bashkirs, each of whom generally live in republics with different degrees of autonomy within Russia's borders. In the more remote reaches of the north, numerous tribes and villages adhere to varying forms of animism and shamanism, particularly among indigenous groups like the Nenets, Buryats, Chukchi, and more.

Image by Artem Gotlib & Aleksandr Vladmirovich Sorin (2003) via loc.gov

Through DNA evidence, it's theorized that the ancestors of Far Eastern indigenous peoples were among those who crossed the Bering Sea land-bridge, a naturally forming ice structure that once connected the Far East to Alaska. This relation between indigenous eastern Siberians and indigenous North Americans emphasizes the connections between us that may not always be so clear at first. Enjoy these reads on customs, traditions, and what life is like in the taiga and tundra of the far north.

Image by Aleksandr Mikhailovich Bermant (2004) via loc.gov

East Asia

Image by Lan Yao via Pexels

No area of the planet is without its powerhouse countries, and East Asia demonstrates this by containing three major players on the world stage: China, Japan, and South Korea (and perhaps in medieval times, Mongolia too!). However, despite their geographic proximity and history of cultural exchange, China, Japan, and South Korea have developed distinct identities that dispel common stereotypes of an Asian mono-culture. China stands out as the world's oldest continuous civilization, with a dynastic heritage extending back millennia. Japan's relations with the sea are well-documented in myth, art, and literature, while the formerly unified North and South Korea maintain a blend of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Korean shamanism as subtle influences in culture. The cultural interrelations between these nations remain very nuanced, much of which has also had an impact on geopolitical tensions in the area.

Image by Tomas Malik via Pexels

The area is familiar with exchange as goods like tea and gunpowder originated in this part of the world, where the old Silk Road once ended. East Asia's history is rich and serves as an equally-interesting foil to traditional interests in Western culture. Today, the globe looks to East Asia as leaders in technology, industry, and popular culture.

Image by Julia Volk via Pexels

Southeast Asia & Pacific Islands

Image by Lan Yao via Pexels

Home to some of the world's most precious rainforests, Southeast Asia is where the continental mainland gives way to a tropical archipelago, where fertile, mineral-rich soils meet torrential rains--good conditions for agriculture. An emphasis on farming combines with religion to create an identity that is unique from other regions of Asia, religion playing a big part in many corners of the continent. Southeast Asia is notable as an intersection between Buddhism and Islam. History runs deep here, too. Ancient sites like Angkor Wat in Cambodia and numerous temples across the region stand as a testament to endurance. Though earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, monsoons, and typhoons, inhabitants of this area know the importance of living in concert with land and sea.

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While the waters surrounding Southeast Asia are relatively shallow (especially in and around Indonesia), this region serves as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean, where both inhabited and uninhabited islands pepper the open sea. Many of these islands were formed over eons of tectonic and volcanic activity, some being part of the huge circle of volcanoes around the Pacific known as the Ring of Fire. These fiery forces feature heavily in some belief systems native to this area, almost as much as the sea does. The indigenous peoples of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia come from a long line of seafaring ancestors whose voyages took them across some of the most remote corridors of our planet. 

Image by Andrea Vera Sasso via Pexels

Colonial legacies in and near the Pacific persist today, as these regions have long been a strategic area for larger world powers like China and the United States. As a result, the Pacific Islands bear the brunt of sea-based warfare, climate change, and the effects of geographical isolation. But regional identities throughout the region remain tenacious, as the sovereign, independent island nations explore ways to preserve long-standing traditions in addition to both the land and sea that represent all that is delicate, beautiful, and changing in our world.

South Asia

Image by Artem Beliaikin via Pexels

With one of the most dense populations on the planet, India and its neighbors make up the bustling region of South Asia, where tropical jungles meet the steepest slopes of the "roof of the world," the Himalayas. Each country in this region brings something unique to the table: Pakistan's status as a majority Islamic state; India's wide blend of agricultural and technological industries; Nepal's mountainous reputation; Bhutan's emphasis on eco-friendliness; Bangladesh and the important confluence of major regional rivers; and the intriguing Indo-Pacific blended culture of the surrounding island nations.

Image by Mike Sangma via Pexels

Like other regions of Asia, imperial interests have shaped so much of the region's history. India in particular is noted for the Indus Valley civilization, which existed contemporaneously with Mesopotamia. The Maurya and Mughal empires are also important, the latter being responsible for bringing Islam to eventual intersection with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other faiths. British influence directed the course of history in the area, too, causing tensions to flare sporadically since the waves of independence in the mid- to late-twentieth century. Today, South Asia is a developing region ripe with opportunities for growth in the coming decades.

Image by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz via Pexels

Central Asia

Image by Meline Asryan via Pexels

Known by some as "the -Stans," Central Asia encompasses much of the dry Eurasian steppe-lands and rugged mountains that dominate the horizon. The Caspian Sea is also a main feature of the area, a welcome contrast to the landlocked countries east of its salt-licked shores. In times past, this region was a hub for commerce as a main stop on the famous Silk Road, which served as a conduit for cultural exchange between the West and East for centuries. It was in Central Asia that the Mongols forged one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, with a sphere of influence that extended into Chine and even as far as Eastern Europe. The plains have served as a lifeline for Eurasian nomadic tribes though the ages. Mosques dot the desolate landscape, each replete with ornate embellishments like turquoise tiles, grand arches, and patterned facades.

Image by Afzalbek Sadikov via Pexels

On the west side of the Caspian Sea is the region known as Transcaucasia, named after the Caucasus mountain range. While Central Asia has a significant population of Muslims in "The -Stans," the Caucasus region has historically held both Muslim and Christian populations (the latter religion being most prevalent in Georgia). This is due to periods of rulership by outside powers such as the Umayyad Caliphate, the Mongols, Russia, and more.

In modern times, Central Asia faces a challenging future in the lengthy aftermath of Soviet occupation. But hope remains as inhabitants enact social change to install governments and policies that better reflect the will of the people.

Why do so many countries end with -stan? What does -stan mean?

According to dictionary.com, -stan is a suffix meaning "place of" in the Persian and Urdu languages. Sometimes, this can also be interpreted as "land of." The first part of the name refers to a people group, often the ethnic group that resides in the area. For example, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would mean "the place/land of the Kazakh people" and "the place/land of the Uzbek people," respectively.

Image by falco via Pixabay

Interested in more about Central Asia and surrounding areas? UNO Criss Library is home to the Arthur Paul Afghanistan Collection, one of the largest collections of material about Afghanistan in the United States. Learn more at the link below:

 

The Middle East

Image by Vincent Pelletier via Pexels

Long known as the "cradle of civilization," this region is another crossroads--a common theme in Asia--where practitioners of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam convene and intersect. The sacred city of Jerusalem stands as a relic of an ancient time, while in other areas, the sand dunes whisper with stories passed down the centuries. Though the region has seen turmoil in the last several decades due to internal and external factors, the Middle East's role in shaping culture in other parts of the world can't be overlooked. In former times, the Middle East was the heart of great empires, from the rulers of Mesopotamia to the powerful Muslim caliphs and their dynasties. With the expansion of empire also came the spread of knowledge and trade goods, most notably from the city of Baghdad, where medicine and philosophy flourished. Today, the shadows of empire can still be seen: ancient mosques as far as southern Spain; the prevalence of Islam in North Africa and other parts of Asia; the fragile, arbitrary borders drawn with Western imperialist interests in mind. The tales of this region are extensive and numerous. Begin with some of the books found below.

Image by Julia Volk via Pexels