How can we begin to change the world around us? How can we begin to understand when acts of racism occur every day?
A North Salinas High School teacher and his students found that these questions can be answered by telling their stories.
The book “Our American Stories: Volume 2” was published by North Salinas high school students Alisal and Everett Alvarez. In the Japanese-language story collection, students tell stories of their families ’immigration experiences.
The book shares photos and stories of local families from all backgrounds.
Strength in numbers
NSHS junior Carl Sabado wrote the story of the financial disparity his family experienced after coming from the Philippines.
“I saw the difference between families with more money and those who didn’t have it, like mine,” Sabado said. “When I was growing up, we didn’t have the things other people had. I didn’t even want my friends to know how I was living, so I never let them come.”
Ximena Vega, another NSHS Japanese class student, held a photo of her parents as she recounted her trip from Mexico to the United States.
Her mother was finally able to work and get a college education.
Vega says his father, a former farm worker, did not make the trip without some distressing incidents, including an escape of immigration officials.
“He just started running and went into the backyard of a stranger. There was a child there,” he said. “They didn’t know each other at all, but the little boy allowed him to hide there with him until the police.
For Vega it was best to hear similar stories from colleagues, such as that of Arturo Ordaz Gutiérrez.
Gutierrez says his parents also emigrated from Mexico as children.
“They didn’t know the language. They didn’t know where to go or what to do, “he said. “I know I’m very lucky to be born here in the United States because a lot of people go through a lot of things just to support their families.”
Students said they don’t always talk about stories like theirs, but that they are taking steps to understand adversity.
“A book like this is really important right now because it really shows what the different families have to go through to get to where they are now,” Gutierrez said.
The real stories come to light
In 2018, former Japanese NSHS professor Yo Azama and his students published the first volume of “American Stories” to detail the experiences of Japanese immigrants on the central coast.
In the book, Azama wrote, “In the midst of challenging political times, our real stories can get lost in debates.”
Following the release of the first book, Azama received a civic innovation grant from the Monterey County Board of Education and the Dan and Lilian King Foundation.
This allowed for a new book and to expand the project to include stories from students and teachers from other high schools in the Salinas Union High School district.
NSHS Japanese teacher Cameron Chien says the goal of the book is to teach Salinas students lessons that go beyond the classroom, such as empathy, kindness, and creating a sense of community and understanding.
“His book really means something. His words are powerful,” says Chien. “I hope that with this they can see that they are inspiring others because what they are doing here is not just for themselves.”
Chien says students learned that Salinas had been used as a “stopping point” before Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II.
Today, Chien and his students reflect on the rise in racial hate crimes across the country, including the recent mass shootings of members of the black community in Buffalo, New York, and a Taiwanese church in Southern California.
“We wrote this book beforehand, but it made us think even more that this is one of the reasons we need to put the voice of our students and families,” says Chien. “If we can start seeing through other people’s glasses, we can reduce these unnecessary tragedies.”
The book is sold on Amazon and accessible to everyone. For more details or to buy the book, click HERE.
Salinas students publish ‘Our American Stories: Volume 2’ Source link Salinas students publish ‘Our American Stories: Volume 2’