By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Another year has come and gone quickly, but there is always time to recognize and acknowledge the amazing achievements by Asians and Asian Americans in the country and around the world.
It’s been a while, but let’s not forget about the epic achievement for Asian American representation earlier this year when the film Everything, Everywhere All At Once took home seven Academy Awards. It made Academy Awards history in several categories.
Michelle Yeoh became the first woman of Chinese ethnicity, the first Malaysian, and the second woman of color (after Halle Berry in 2002) to win Best Actress at the 2023 Academy Awards for her role in Everything, Everywhere All At Once. Her co-star, Ke Huy Quan, is the first Vietnamese-born actor to win an Academy Award; he won for Best Supporting Actor. Co-star Stephanie Hsu’s nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category, alongside Hong Chau’s nomination for The Whale, marked the first time two actresses of Asian ethnicity were nominated in the same category in the same year.
While we wait for 2024’s Academy Award nominations, we can still be in awe of the 2024 Golden Globe nominations that were recently announced.
Ali Wong and Steven Yeun snagged nominations for their acting in Netflix’s Beef, which also received a nomination for Best Television Limited Series.
Director Celine Song’s directorial debut of Past Lives received largely positive reviews and received five Golden Globe nominations for: Best Director—Celine Song; Best Motion Picture—Drama; Best Motion Picture—Non-English Language; Best Screenplay—Motion Picture; and Best Female Actor in a Motion Picture—Greta Lee.
Elemental, Wish and Suzume were also nominated for Best Motion Picture—Animated.
Charles Melton, whose mother is Korean, was nominated for his supporting role in May December, a film that was loosely based on Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau’s story.
Closer to home, Federal Way high school student Iam Tongi took home the win for the season 21 finale of “American Idol” in May.
Food writer, television chef, actor, and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, 90, became the first Indian to win a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. The James Beard Foundation announced Jeffrey as the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, making her the first Indian and South Asian to win the award.
In addition, having been mired in controversy for lack of diversity in previous years, 2023 was a record year as Asian Americans won eight out of 12 best chef 2023 James Beard Awards. Winners include: Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group, Justin Pichetrungsi of Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks, Genie Kwon of Kasama in Chicago, Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon of Kalaya in Philadelphia, Itaru Nagano of Fairchild in Madison, Kris Komori of KIN in Boise, Junghyun Park of Atomix in New York, Vince Nguyen of Berlu in Portland, and Benchawan Jabthong Painter of Street to Kitchen in Houston.
Also, Kristen Kish was announced as Padma Lakshmi’s replacement on the show, “Top Chef.”
Born in South Korea and adopted into a family in Michigan, Kish became the first woman of color to win Top Chef during the 10th season in 2013—and she came out as gay shortly after.
Asian languages are in demand! Language learning app Duolingo released their most popular languages for 2023 and they include Japanese (5th), Korean (6th), Hindi (8th), and Chinese (9th). Duolingo offers over 30 languages for people to learn in bite-sized lessons.
Thai American Dan Santat won the 2023 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The heartwarming coming-of-age memoir, A First Time for Everything, is a personal story that documents Santat’s awkward middle school years. He has previously won the Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend.
On June 1, 14-year-old Dev Shah from Largo, Florida, correctly spelled “psammophile” to become the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion. Shah won during his third appearance at the national competition.
Tom Nguyen, 20, becomes the first Asian American city commissioner in Garden City, Kansas.
Lily Wu became Wichita’s first Asian American mayor.
Rechie Valdez makes history as the first Filipino Canadian woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament in Canada.
The State of New York established the first-ever 15-member New York Asian American and Pacific Islander commission that will begin work in the first half of 2024. The AAPI commission will focus on developing policies to improve the economic and social wellbeing of the growing community and connect them to necessary resources. Another goal is to provide public education on AAPI issues and culture.
Hawaii will become the first U.S. state to teach Filipino history. Public high schools statewide will offer the social studies course next fall. The course focuses on six thematic units: identity, Philippine history, Culture and Connections, Filipinos in Hawaii and the U.S., Philippines in an interconnected world, and Community Engagement and Civic Action. Filipinos make up the largest ethnic group in Hawaii’s public schools, accounting for nearly 24% of the student population.
This October, the largest Hindu temple outside India opened in central New Jersey. The BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham campus occupies roughly 180 acres in the township just east of Trenton. About 13,000 people from around the world spent 12 years building the temple. In addition, it took a combined total of about 4.7 million hours of work by artisans and volunteers to hard-carve about 2 million cubic feet of stone. There are about 10,000 statues and its spire reaches 191 feet into the sky.
Professor Qikun Xue from Tsinghua University and Professor Ashvin Vishwanath from Harvard University were awarded the 2024 Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize. Xue was the first physicist of Chinese nationality to win the honor. Both professors won the prize for their innovative breakthroughs in the research in topological quantum materials.
Last month, a gay couple in Nepal became the first in the nation to receive official same-sex marriage status. Nepal is one of the first in Asia to allow it and the marriage has been hailed as a victory for transgender and same-sex couples in the region.
Disability awareness achievement
Disability rights activist Stacey Park Milbern will be the first Korean American to be featured on U.S. quarters. Milbern is one of five women who will be honored by the U.S. Mint as part of its American Women Quarters Program for 2025. The four other women featured in the 2025 program are National Association for the Advancement of Colored People co-founder Ida B. Wells, Girl Scouts organization in America founder Juliette Gordon Low, athlete Althea Gibson, and astronomer Dr. Vera Rubin.
Globe trotting achievement
79-year-old Filipino American, Luisa Yu, fulfills lifelong dream of visiting all 193 United Nations-member countries. She arrived at her last stop, Serbia, on Nov. 9. Yu left her job as a nurse in Miami to pursue her dream and funded her travels with earnings from property investments.
Nina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.