Secret History

Ly, Megan

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 In this week’s reading from Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions, we explore three Asian American artists’ art works and how trauma and social memory are key concepts of these works. One artist that I found particularly interesting is Kristine Aono and her work which is centered on the Japanese American internment experience. Aono, a third generation Japanese-American, was determined to understand her family history because she thought of it as an essential part of her identity. Aono talks about this “secret” history and expresses that it is important to keep this secret history alive by documenting and sharing these experiences in the internment camps. Eager to find out more about the Japanese American internment experience, Aono sets herself on a journey to travel and visit internment camps, converse with and interviewe those who have directly experienced life in the internment camps and those who witnessed internment camps, and collected relics. Her work Relics from Camp is exhibited in JACL. Reading about Aono’s personal experiences and her determination to wholly understand her family’s history and to connect to her heritage is truly admirable and inspiring. Similar to how Aono initially felt, I too felt disconnected to my family’s history. As a first generation Hmong American, I always understood that my grandparents and parents lived through and past the Vietnam War but was never told about specific experiences each one of them endured. I too feel that a secret history still exists. Personally, I believe that a large part of my identity stems from my heritage and my family’s history. Learning about artists who use art as a means of documenting their family’s “secret” history, seize the opportunity to educate him/her about his/her history, and sharing their knowledge through a form of unique art which is accessible to the public inspires me seek out more information about my own history and to keep this history alive generation after generation. 

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