Queens Public Library launches new season of podcast documenting borough’s growing Asian communities

Courtesy of Queens Memory

As the Asian American population has grown exponentially across the borough, Queens Public Library announced its community archiving program, Queens Memory, will kick off the third season of its award-winning podcast on Monday, April 11 with “Our Major Minor Voices,” which will document the experiences of that community in their own voices.

According to city data, one in four residents of Queens identifies as Asian American meaning more than 650,000 people have roots stretching back to Asia.

“In this season, we wanted to focus on Asian American communities in Queens because we know that the accomplishments and the struggles of our Asian American neighbors are often not as visible in the media landscape as they ought to be,” Queens Memory Project Director Natalie Milbrodt said. “The interviews our producers conducted during this project will become part of the Library’s permanent archives, helping us add perspectives and languages not yet well represented in our Queens Memory collection consisting of over 900 interviews. Future researchers curious about the lives of Asian Americans living in Queens way back in 2022 will be so glad we did this project.”

From the tales of Chinese newcomers struggling to find affordable housing to Bangladeshi families trying to pass on their native language to the next generation, each episode features stories about identity and belonging told by the people from various immigrant communities, making valuable contributions to the borough through their cultural traditions, belief systems and linguistic diversity, while also facing numerous challenges.

Bookended by the season introduction and finale, the series includes eight bilingual episodes representing the most widely spoken Asian languages in Queens: Bangla, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Nepali, Tagalog, Tibetan and Urdu.

“I’m thrilled to be the host of this season, which in itself is an unprecedented undertaking in the breadth and depth of its multilingual coverage,” Queens Memory Curator J. Faye Yuan said. “Not only are these themes universal, but the ways in which they are relayed are in voices both familiar and unfamiliar to the ear. Growing up in a bilingual household, I experienced firsthand how language can offer an intimate window into our way of life. To our listeners, I hope this season will offer the same.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian communities have been in turmoil. Already grappling with longstanding issues such as income inequality, immigration barriers and racial stereotyping, they now face concerns for their personal health and public safety amid an increase in violence against Asian Americans. In this moment, Queens Memory aims to document the stories of these vital communities and capture snapshots of the borough’s ever-changing neighborhoods.

“It is amazing for me to work with such a diverse team on this season’s episodes,” said Melody Cao, the podcast’s executive producer. “We have nine producers who speak eight different languages and have deep roots in their own ethnic groups, all in service of one goal: to take our listeners inside the rich and vivid Asian communities in Queens. Through the stories they bring to our ears, we can travel back in time to the 1950s and 60s when Queens began to see a large influx of Asian immigrants. We can also learn about the great effort people make to preserve their language and culture while facing new challenges in their daily lives.”

The season’s ten episodes will be released weekly on the Queens Memory website. They will also be available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify and other major podcast platforms. Each week, the library will host listening parties to celebrate Queens residents featured in each episode and organize cultural events inspired by its language and themes. For more information and a complete rundown of events, visit here.

The first season of the Queens Memory podcast focused on Memories of Migration, while the second one documented life in Queens during COVID-19. The third season of the podcast has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Meanwhile, QPL has extended the “Queens COVID Remembrance Day” exhibit at Elmhurst Library until the end of April. The exhibit opened March 1 and consists of 270 portraits of Queens residents who perished during the pandemic.