YELL-Oh Girls! Book Review by A. Girmay
edited by Vickie Nam
YELL-Oh Girls! needs to be read. Quietly and out loud. In houses and in schools. This anthology of Asian-American writers is a long awaited collection of work by women between the ages of 14 and 22.It is a book dedicated to the exploration of culture, identity, and gender in a U.S. American landscape. Would it be redundant to call it vital?
Editor, Vickie Nam, had a vision to produce a collection of literary works that would contribute to social empowerment and awareness. She has done this with energy and dedication. Although the anthology's tone fosters an adolescent audience, the collection inspires dialogue in young and old alike. The poems, essays, memoirs, and stories are often short and seemingly simple pieces. However, many demand a second, more thorough read as if to say, "Listen to this voice. Don't you dare turn your back. Listen."
YELL-Oh Girls! is divided into five, sharp sections: Orientation: Finding the Way Home, Family Ties, Dolly Rage, Finding My Voice, and Girlwind: Emerging Voices for Change. And, as suggested, the writers ask important questions: Does a singular homeland exist in a diasporic context? How does one come to celebrate self in a society that sees you as Other, even invisible? What are my responsibilities as an activist? What is the importance of heritage and familial legacy? The voices come from the pages, ask questions and answer, ask again. They challenge myths and stereotypes. They challenge tradition and celebrate tradition. The words are angry, beautiful, joyful, sad. Sometimes lipstick, a stone, the smell of fried fish. Sometimes ghosts or birds or thorns.
From coast to coast and all in between, these women have offered their words as a bridge to link and guide and open the channels of communication. And these voices are accompanied by mentor pieces written by various Asian-American women leaders such as Patsy Mink, Elaine Kim, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, and Helen Zia. As written by author Elaine Mar, "This book is valuable not only for its insights-which are sharp-but perhaps more importantly, as an inspiration to any young person seeking self-expression." Yes. YELL-Oh Girls! is inspiring, funny, complex. An important resource for young people the country over.