rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 74
Sources: Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife
Megan Coder

Megan Coder, Senior Assistant Librarian, State University of New York, New Paltz

The Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife is a three-volume set that covers twenty-three Asian American cultural groups. Lee and Nadeau explain in the preface that they wanted “to be as exhaustive as possible in terms of covering all the different Asian American cultural communities, especially those traditionally underrepresented in the literature, such as new immigrant communities, adoptees, and interracial and mixed heritage Asian Americans” (xxix). Some of these underrepresented groups include the Afghan Americans, Nepali Americans, Okinawan Americans, Pakistani Americans, and Tibetan Americans. Readers will find the lengthiest entries involving more recognized cultures like the Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans, and Vietnamese Americans.

The encyclopedia is arranged alphabetically by Asian American group, and each culture is introduced with an extensive historical essay followed by shorter essays on a variety of topics like “Clothes and Jewelry,” “Dying and Death Rituals,” Folk Music,” “Heroes and Heroines,” “Literature and Folklore,” “Religion,” and “Superstition and Taboo.” The editors state, “Asian American folklore and folklife consists of more than Asian mythologies narrated in Asian American families and communities … Asian American folklore and folklife is an Asian American way of life” (xxxvi).

There are more than 600 entries that have all been signed and written by 179 international contributors and the institutional affiliations of these experts can be found in volume 3. Each volume contains a comprehensive index, and many of the essays conclude with a further reading list and “See also” cross- references that direct the reader to related topics. Volume 3 also includes a five-page bibliography listing many essential Asian American folklore and folklife texts along with an appendix that contains a selection of eleven folktales from some of the Asian American cultural groups like the Filipino Americans and their legend of the pineapple. Black-and-white illustrations and photographs accompany several entries.

Overall, the Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife is geared toward a general audience and is very user-friendly. The introduction is most informative because the editors define folklore and folklife and clarify how these definitions and studies have developed through time. This is very helpful for someone who is unfamiliar with the discourse on this topic. Following this introduction is an eighty-nine-page section on “Pan Asian Americans,” which contains scholarly essays on topics like “Asian American Ethnomusicology and Folklore” and “Asian American Queer Studies and Folklore.”

Simon J. Bronner’s Encyclopedia of American Folklife (M.E. Sharpe, 2006) addresses some Asian American communities like the Chinese, Hmong, Japanese, and Korean, but does not encompass as many or in as much detail as the Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. This encyclopedia is an outstanding contribution to the emerging field of Asian American Studies. Because it is interdisciplinary, a multitude of high school and college-aged students would benefit from using this source. Highly recommended for all libraries.

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