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Hi! I'm Amanda.

Reading Changes Lives

Published about 2 years ago • 5 min read

Reading Changes Lives

Welcome, Reader!

“Authenticity requires vulnerability, transparency, and integrity.”

When I made this newsletter my only desire was to connect with you on a deeper level. That’s still my goal! With Bookish Brews, I had always felt like I was behind this big screen and I didn’t really have a space where I could chat with you. Though I know we’re still only starting this newsletter, I have such high hopes that we can grow together. I believe that together we can become the people we want to be so that we can begin to shape the world into a place we can only dream of.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about authenticity and what it means. When I shared with some people about my nerves about starting and continuing this newsletter, I got a lot of “just be authentic” and “just be yourself!” But I started to wonder how to do that when I’m still behind that screen. How can I break through that to connect with you? I firmly believe in the power of stories and how stories can help bridge gaps between peoples, cultures, and ideologies, so it only feels natural to me to tell you a story. So here is the story of how diverse literature changed my life and turned into what is now Bookish Brews.

This story is about me but it’s mostly about all the readers who are finally starting to see themselves in stories. My experience is not a solitary one.

My Journey Out of Reading

I used to love to read when I was young. My mom used to read books to me as I fell asleep before I could read and when I could finally read on my own I devoured books. One of the best holiday gifts I ever got was a coupon book from my mom that was redeemable for 12 books throughout the year! I think back on these times and I wish that I had kept it up but I just didn’t.

As I got a little bit older I started to realize that I didn’t relate to anyone in the books that I was reading. I think this is when I started to realize just how different I looked from the people around me and the main characters in books. They all had blue eyes, blond hair, came from wealthy families, and somehow had never been asked “but where are you really from?”

The books that we read in school didn’t help. I joined the IB program in school because it was an international advanced program hoping that meant that we’d get a wider variety of lessons. Unfortunately, our lessons can only ever be as wise as our teachers, our curriculums, and our school boards. Unsurprisingly, I related to these stories even less. Can you imagine being a white English teacher, teaching a book about American soldiers in the Vietnam War to the daughter of a Vietnamese immigrant in your class? I can’t imagine she even noticed.

Looking back, the gravest consequence of reading stories exclusively by white people was that I started to lose myself. There was no one in my life who could show me what it meant to be Asian American, let alone Vietnamese American. I didn't see people who looked like me in media, nor did I read about them in books. I was essentially living my life where I was the only Vietnamese person I had even heard about. I spent my time desperately trying to fit in, to assimilate, to be what they called "a banana." You know, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. To build a safe space that I can call home, even though it was built on sand.

Rediscovery

Then, one very big thing happened in my life to bring me back to my reading journey: the year after I graduated college, for the first time, I read a story by an Asian author with an all Asian cast. To tell you that moment changed my life would be the biggest understatement in the world. My entire world began to shift at that moment. It’s not entirely attributed to a single book but that book gave me the realization that people like me could exist in books too. And in those few weeks that I read that series, I started to notice exactly how big of a hole I’d had in my heart.

The Power of Stories

From that moment on, slowly but surely, I started reading more Asian authored books with Asian protagonists. While there still aren’t too many novels that feature people who look exactly like me (what was the last book you read by a mixed Vietnamese author… that wasn’t Helen Hoang? PS if you haven't read The Kiss Quotient, you should!), hearing stories from people who also experience being Asian American changed everything for me.

Until that moment I would often reject the parts of me that were Vietnamese because I just didn’t understand. I didn’t have anyone to show me what it meant to be Asian, let alone Vietnamese. I didn’t know any Vietnamese people at all! But, miraculously, something that I never had in person was given to me in the form of stories. Since then, I’ve been working on embracing who I am and learning whatever I can about my heritage. Even more extraordinary, I have met incredible people who are in my corner helping me along the way. And it all started with stories.

I share all of this with you not to overshare but because I know I'm not the only one to have a similar experience. Reading has changed my life in so many ways and it can do the same for others. I know that it doesn't have to be quite so personal of an experience to change lives. Even if someone isn't in a position to find themselves like I did within books, maybe they will discover that we are not all so different after all. Whether you're a reader, a writer, or anything in between, I promise you, reading books changes you. It's up to you to decide how you want to be changed.

If Bookish Brews can help just one person have the same experience with stories as I have, everything that I do for diverse authors and readers has been worth it. Even more importantly, just by being here with me, you are helping connect readers to books that can change their lives too! So thank you, thank you, thank you.

— Amanda


Thank you!

I want to send out a big thank you to everyone who has decided to join me on this journey. I’m excited that, together, we can get the right books into the right hands to make an impact like this on other people. I wholeheartedly believe that books, reading, and stories have the power to change the world and I'm so glad that you've decided to join me as I talk about it with you.

What have I been reading?

Come visit my Bookshop list to see all the books that I read in April! My favorite was definitely The Turning Pointe by Vanessa L. Torres (I just reviewed this on Bookish Brews if you want to check it out!) but I read some amazing books last month.

Instagram?!

It's a little premature to be sharing this with you all, but you've signed up for my newsletter for updates too! I'm in the process of launching instagram! Be on the look out for that happening! In the meantime, if you want to follow before it's up and running, you can find me @bookishbrews_ 🤍

Chat with me!

You can always hit that reply button and chat with me! I'd love to know, what are you reading? What is your next read? Is there a story that you heard recently that changed you?

Hi! I'm Amanda.

Decolonize your bookshelf with me! Amanda (she/her) is a mixed Vietnamese American writer who firmly believes that stories can change the world and that protest happens in small everyday disruptions consistently over time. She's based on unceded Tongva land and is the Chief Editor at Bookish Brews and an associate editor at Cast of Wonders and GigaNotoSaurus. 🤍

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