Confronting Mental Health in Asian-American Communities Through Testimony and Art

By Deepa Iyer Feb 17, 2017

The latest issue of the Asian American Literary Review (AALR) arrives in a cardboard box with a red “Open In Emergency” sign on it. The box contains five interactive pieces that explore the varied experiences of mental wellness among Asian-Americans, including a foldout tapestry of testimonials, a deck of tarot cards with original artwork and text that illustrates stereotypes of Asian-Americans and a mock manual of mental illnesses, "DSM: Asian American Edition."

Mimi Khúc, guest editor of "Open in Emergency" describes the issue is “an arts and humanities intervention that decolonizes mental health.” 

The experiential and interactive nature of "Open in Emergency" is a deliberate reflection of how Asian-Americans do or do not experience mental well-being, according to Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, AALR editor. “We always imagined the tapestry—which includes written and illustrated testimonial—as something you unfold to view and give witness to Asian-American woundedness.”

The special issue is already being used in classrooms and forums, including an upcoming program at the University of Michigan that will explore the mental-health consequences of the mass interment of Japanese-Americans durin World War II as well as the adverse mental effects of the Trump era.

"Open In Emergency," with guest curating by educators Eliza Noh, erin Khue Ninh, Tamara Ho, and Long Bui, is available for purchase here.