NOEL KING, HOST:
In what way do Asian American immigrants pass down trauma through generations? Muriel Leung explores this question in her new book of poetic essays. It's called "Imagine Us, The Swarm." The swarm, like bees in a hive or the American working class or the Asian American diaspora. She wrote the book as a way to examine both her family's immigration history and the model minority myth.
MURIEL LEUNG: Which is this idea that if you work hard enough, you can be just as successful as white, middle-class citizens in this country.
KING: But she says America's long history of racial discrimination often makes that impossible.
LEUNG: Unfortunately, in my father's passing from cancer, something which I think became exacerbated by this devotion to this failing ideology, I learned very early on that this is not an idea that was healthy.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Leung read an excerpt from her poem "This Is To Live Several Lives."
LEUNG: (Reading) Let me tell you a story which begins with a death and ends with a study of a life of labor done with such seeming ease. It is like an art, the way it takes on this other life, the body as another metaphor while also literally doing its job to write the story of itself, the words lost before they were ever spoken. But I suppose this is a way to remember with holes.
INSKEEP: In Leung's mind, dealing with the suffering leads to strength.
LEUNG: Part of repair is that we tend to our past, but we also listen to those presently who are showing us the way.
KING: Which brings us back to the swarm.
LEUNG: In order to think about collective liberation, I think it does require us to think in terms of the swarm. So what can we do together better than we can when we're apart?
KING: Muriel Leung's book "Imagine Us, The Swarm" is out now.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.