(Photo courtesy of Lowell Sun) “Professor Allyssa McCabe (left) and Professor Minjeong Kim (right) standing with their new book “Perspectives on East and Southeast Asian Folktales.””
January 24 marks the successful launch of “Perspectives on East and Southeast Asian Folktales,” edited by UMass Lowell’s very own Professor Minjeong Kim and Professor Allyssa McCabe. The official public launching took place at Coburn Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and the editors gave a brief overview of their work, describing how their contributions and diligent effort developed their idea into a reality. Seven contributors to the book also presented their unique understanding of their writing and the impact different East and Southeast Asian folklore could have to its audience from a cultural perspective – especially in the present social climate the United States finds itself in. Those that presented include Professor Juwen Zhang from Willamette University, Professor Fangfang Zhang from Nanjing Normal University, Professor Charlotte Wilinsky from Holyoke Community College, Professor Allyssa McCabe from UMass Lowell, Professor Masahiko Minami from San Francisco State University, Professor Tham Tran from HUFLIT University, and Professor Minjeong Kim from UMass Lowell. After these eye-opening presentations, the night ended with the chance for the audience to participate in a Q&A. Many questions were asked concerning the content of the book. The topics ranged from how culture and folklore can be combined to maintain traditions and cultural beliefs, to the most common Folklore found in Southeast Asian culture.
This book is a conglomeration of East and Southeast Asian culture and folklore collected from both UMass Lowell Asian-American residence, families and from contributors across the nation. This project predated the Covid-19 Pandemic, creating a five-year long journey that fully encapsulated the message of the Center for Asian American Studies: to promote research and education for Southeast Asian Americans in New England. The culturally relevant material found in the book is important for both educational and cultural purposes, not only for children, but all of those who have the chance to read it. Professor Allyssa McCabe says, “The lessons to be learned from folktales are many, varied, and fascinating. They are a wonderful way to be introduced to cultures.”
Their book contains relevant pictures and cultural images that should be familiar for many people along with interesting stories that can spark a reader’s imagination. It’s also an important educational tool and source of learning, especially in the process of children learning about different cultures and experiences that encourages their understanding of empathy. Professor Minjeong Kim says, “Children must be exposed to various narrative texts to learn about themselves and others. In addition, it is vital to their socioemotional well-being and academic achievement as these two are interconnected.” It provides a bigger context to these stories and opens a wider conversation of the importance of folklore and culture that makes it more accessible for those who aren’t familiar with the source material. The book takes an interdisciplinary approach to exploring East and Southeast Asian folklore by looking at these stories from different perspectives, such as psychological, educational, etc. A published work of this magnitude is one of the important reasons why Asian and Asian-American representation matters in the social climate we find ourselves in today.
A big congratulations goes out to Professors Minjeong Kim and Allyssa McCabe and all other contributors that have worked so hard to make this book a reality. You’ve made UMass Lowell proud with your great success and achievements.