Emil Guillermo: Congressional gold medals to veterans featured in new book from Smithsonian

Image for Emil Guillermo: Congressional gold medals to veterans featured in new book from Smithsonian

An Interview with Theodore S. Gonsalves, editor of “Smithsonian Asian Pacific American History, Art, and Culture in 101 Objects.”

Maybe it was the coincidence of the weekend holiday, but when you look at the three Congressional Gold Medals given to Chinese American, Filipino American and Japanese American soldiers who served in World War II, there aren’t many objects that so perfectly embrace our APA history, art, and culture.

Image by AALDEF

Consider how in a single medal, there are engraved depictions and words that evoke not just the stories of the men who served, but the stories of their arrival to America and how their families were established in American society. APA families owe much to the GI Bill that created a post-World War II APA middle class. But it wasn’t until decades later that the medals were created and awarded to those who served.This medal encompasses art, history, and culture as a special American heirloom for many APA families.

Sorting through the thousands of items at the Smithsonian and getting down to just 101 objects was the task for Theo Gonzalves, a past president of the Association of Asian American Studies and now an APA curator at the Smithsonian.

I talked to Gonzalves, a personal friend of mine whom I’ve known for nearly 20 years, about how he sorted through all the objects in the Smithsonian collection, and how he managed to capture the depth of Asian American history in 101 objects, with a timeline in the book to hang each object.

Listen to our conversation here.

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NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters n “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on