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Today we’re pleased to announce that Melissa Borja is joining The Anxious Bench, after having contributed two guest posts last month. An assistant professor of American culture at the University of Michigan, Melissa holds a doctorate from Columbia University and specializes in Asian American studies, religion, and migration. Her first official post will go up July 26, but Melissa was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for this introductory interview.
In your two guest posts earlier this summer, you wrote about the intersection of migration and religion. What initially drew you to this field?
Fascination - Experience - Upbringing - Mother - Father
My fascination with the immigrant experience began with my own upbringing. My mother and father immigrated from the Philippines in 1976 and 1980, and I was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Growing up as Asian American kid in Michigan in the 1980s was a complicated experience. The same year I was born, a Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by white autoworkers. The repercussions of that event had an important impact on the Asian American community, which organized a powerful response to seek justice. It also had an enormous impact on how Asian American families like my own navigated the racial politics in our own communities, where the auto industry was a core part of the local economy and where anti-Asian hostility was on the rise as American auto-makers faced stiffer competition from Asian auto manufacturers. So, throughout my childhood, I was grappling with some of the typical questions that immigrant kids face—questions about how to negotiate being both American and Filipino—and, in addition to that, I was also trying to make sense of the reality of racism. In particular, it became clear to me from a young age that racism needed to be explored and understood beyond the black-white...
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