East Side Voices: Essays Celebrating East and Southeast Asian Identity in Britain edited by Helena Lee
The publishing world is now marketing November as Non-Fiction November. This is to highlight the importance of information books and to promote the reading of non-fiction books for pleasure. So this month, I’m highlighting East Side Voices, which is the first printed collection of essays to describe the wide range of experiences of East and Southeast Asian people growing up in Britain.
East Side Voices was first started as a literary salon (a meeting place for creatives) by Helena Lee, the Deputy-Editor at Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 2019. She had been at the cinema watching a film called Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and was astounded at the depiction of the legendary, Hong Kong born, martial artist, Bruce Lee. She was even more shocked that the racial stereotyping went unacknowledged by the audience around her. East Side Voices was created out of the need to amplify the voices of those with East and Southeast Asian heritage in Britain.
The collection is wide ranging, contributors range from the actor Gemma Chan to the model Naomi Shimada. We hear from the frontline of the NHS during the COVID pandemic, the set of a Harry Potter film and a bustling restaurant in London. All the writers are successful in their fields but none are immune from the hurt of racism and ignorance. Many write of the internal conflict they feel, the shame of hiding and questioning their cultural heritage.
This is a timely and important read, which reminds us of the stories that get hidden behind the stereotypes.