cover image Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists

Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists

Chenxing Han. North Atlantic, $17.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-62317-523-8

In this impressive debut, Buddhist chaplain Han offers an illuminating analysis of the intersection of race and privilege within American Buddhist communities. Along with Han’s accounts of her marginalization as a young Asian American Buddhist, she profiles 89 fellow Buddhists, providing a nuanced portrait of how those interviewed have practiced Buddhism in a way they feel is “in-between” older non-Buddhist Asian Americans, non–Asian American Buddhists, and Asian Americans of other faiths. Though Asian Americans make up most of the American Buddhist community, they are often dismissed as “superstitious” or exotic by white converts, according to Han. Han also explores the lingering mistrust many Asian Americans feel within the U.S. as a result of the many Japanese American Buddhists who were confined in WWII-era internment camps. Many subjcts express their frustrations about not seeing themselves represented on the covers of popular Buddhist magazines like Tricycle, at fashionable conferences such as “Buddhist Geeks,” or in celebrated books written by white converts and Asian monastics. By presenting an intricate and intimate mosaic of experiences, Han thoughtfully and successfully confronts stereotypes of Buddhism in the U.S. (Jan.)