Skip to main content

Global Asia Book Group – NCTA Online Series

Participants explored “Asia” in its many manifestations through the lens of Global Asias (the notion of studying Asia transnationally and transculturally through the movement of people, ideas, and culture across place and time). Through a curated series of online book groups designed for high school teachers, this course focused on stories that center the human experience against the backdrop of war. This series featured four novels that link Asia (China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, and India) to North America (the United States and Canada) through multifaceted exploration of identity, migration, war, and resilience. Each book provided a unique lens through which to examine history complexities of life across our global community, making them valuable resources for educators looking to enrich their curriculum with diverse narratives and historical contexts.

This series enriched educators’ understanding of diverse cultures and histories across Asia and equip them with tools to foster a more inclusive and global perspective in their classrooms. Each of these books offer a fantastic resource to explore themes of migration, identity, war and resilience with students, encouraging a deeper appreciation for the complex interconnections that define our world.

Participation to this program was free and it includes a copy of each book selected.

Books in this series

  • Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka – This story shares the collective experiences of Japanese “picture brides” who sailed to San Francisco in the early 20th century, hoping for a better life. Otsuka’s novel, narrated in the first person plural, offers a poignant look at their dreams, struggles, and the harsh realities they face in America against the backdrop of anti-Asian racism.
  • We Measure the Earth With Our Bodies” by Tsering Yangzom Lama – This novel offers a meditation on colonization, displacement, and the enduring connections to family and ancestral land. Spanning fifty years and told through the lives of four individuals, this book paints a picture of the Tibetan-in-exile community.
  • Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee – This epic saga follows four generations of a Korean family in Japan, exploring themes of identity, survival, and the quest for a home. The novel delves into the experiences of the Korean-Japanese community, highlighting the impacts of World War Two and the personal stories of those caught in between.
  • The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See – Set on the Korean island of Jeju, this novel focuses on the lives of haenyeo, female divers, over several decades. The story of friendship, love, and the challenges faced by these women against the backdrop of historical events (WWII, the Korean War, and the Post-War) provides a glimpse into a matriarchal community and the strength of women in shaping their destinies.

Program expectations

Before each book group, participants were be expected to read the novel and answer a short reflection question.

Date and time

Participants chose to attend at least one of the following sessions:

Monday, April 1, 2024, from 4:30 to 6:30 PM (Pacific Time): “Buddha in the Attic” by Julie Otsuka
Monday, April 15, 2024, from 4:30 to 6:30 PM (Pacific Time): “We Measure the Earth With Our Bodies” by Tsering Yangzom Lama
Wednesday, May 8, 2024, from 4:30 to 6:30 PM (Pacific Time): “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee
Monday, June 3, 2024, , from 4:30 to 6:30 PM (Pacific Time): “The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See

Program benefits

  • Free copies of the book(s) for the sections(s) selected.
  • Teaching resources.
  • Free WA OSPI clock hours (4 per session).

Program leaders

Dr. Brian Dowdle, Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Culture, and Mansfield Fellow, University of Montana.
Dr. Lauren Collins, Program Director of Asian Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Online Resources

For resources shared during our sessions, follow this link.

This seminar was offered to K-12 educators free of charge thanks to a generous grant from the Freeman Foundation to the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA), and it is sponsored by the University of Washington’s East Asia Resource Center.