Asian-American Pacific Islander Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Available to Review

Religious and Philosophical Traditions of Korea

By Kevin Cawley

From the publisher:
"Religious and Philosophical Traditions of Korea addresses a wide range of traditions, serving as a guide to those interested in Buddhism, Confucianism, Shamanism, Christianity and many others. It brings readers along a journey from the past to the present, moving beyond the confines of the Korean peninsula. In this book Kevin N. Cawley examines the different ideas which have shaped a vibrant and exciting intellectual history and engages with some of the key texts and figures from Korea’s intellectual traditions. This comprehensive and riveting text emphasizes how some of these ideas have real relevance in the world today and how they have practical value for our lives in the twenty-first century."

Being Muslim in Indonesia: Religiosity, Politics and Cultural Diversity in Bima

By Muhammad Adlin Sila

From the publisher:
"By examining the various ways Bima Muslims constitute their Islamic identities and agencies through rituals and festivals, this book argues that religious practice is still vigorous in present Bima. It explores the reproduction of religious meanings among various local Muslims and the differences between social groups. Islam is represented as divided between the traditionalist Muslims and the reformist Muslims, between the royal family and the ordinary Muslims, and between Muslim clerics and lay people. Consequently, there is no single picture of Islam. As Bima Muslims construe their Islam in response to their surroundings, what it means to be a Muslim is constantly being negotiated. The complexity of religious life has been a result of the duality of socio-political settings in Bima which stems from the early period of the Islamization of Bima to the present."

A History of Shaolin: Buddhism, Kung Fu and Identity, 1st Edition

By Lu Zhouxiang

From the publisher:
"Shaolin Monastery at Mount Song is considered the epicenter of the Chan school of Buddhism. It is also well known for its martial arts tradition and has long been regarded as a special cultural heritage site and an important symbol of the Chinese nation. This book is the first scholarly work in English to comprehensively examine the full history of Shaolin Monastery from 496 to 2016. More importantly, it offers a clear grasp of the origins and development of Chan Buddhism through an examination of Shaolin, and highlights the role of Shaolin and Shaolin kung fu in the construction of a national identity among the Chinese people in the past two centuries."

Christian Women and Modern China: Recovering a Women's History of Chinese Protestantism

By Li Ma

From the publisher:
"Christian Women and Modern China presents a social history of women pioneers in Chinese Protestantism from the 1880s to the 2010s. The author interrupts a hegemonic framework of historical narratives by exploring formal institutions and rules as well as social networks and social norms that shape the lived experiences of women. This book achieves a more nuanced understanding about the interplays of Christianity, gender, power and modern Chinese history. It reintroduces Chinese Christian women pioneers not only to women’s history and the history of Chinese Christianity, but also to the history of global Christian mission and the global history of many modern professions, such as medicine, education, literature, music, charity, journalism, and literature."

God Is Samoan: Dialogues between Culture and Theology in the Pacific

By Matt Tomlinson

From the publisher:
"In this pathbreaking book, Matt Tomlinson engages in an anthropological conversation with the work of “contextual theologians,” exploring how the combination of Pacific Islands culture and Christianity shapes theological dialogues. Employing both scholarly research and ethnographic fieldwork, the author addresses a range of topics: from radical criticisms of biblical stories as inappropriate for Pacific audiences to celebrations of traditional gods such as Tagaloa as inherently Christian figures. This book presents a symphony of voices—engaged, critical, prophetic—from the contemporary Pacific’s leading religious thinkers and suggests how their work articulates with broad social transformations in the region."

Reviews to Read

American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War

By Duncan Ryüken Williams 

From the review:
“What makes Williams’s narrative so compelling is that it is not centered on the state or its subsidiaries but rather on the lived experiences of Japanese and Japanese American Buddhists. American Sutra encapsulates the very best of what ‘lived religion’ scholarship can and should be.” - Taylor W. Dean


Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists

By Chenxing Han 

From the review:
“[...]Han’s monograph is a welcome addition to the recent scholarly effort to go beyond the racial myopia in American Buddhism[...][Her]elegant prose and vivid narration will engender many frank conversations about race and religion in undergraduate courses related to global Buddhism, American religions, and Asian American studies.” – Jessica Xiaomin Zu


The Confucian Four Books for Women: A New Translation of the Nü Sishu and the Commentary for Wang Xiang

Edited and translated by Ann A. Pang-White

From the review:
“[This book] is a gift for Anglophone scholarship on Chinese philosophy and religion. It is also a major step for feminist reclamation. This is the first time these texts have been translated together in their entirety, and Pang-White situates each text in its historical and cultural context with her introduction, commentary, and annotations.” – Sarah Mattice 


The Tao of Asian American Belonging: A Yinist Spirituality

By Young Lee Hertig

From the review:
“While Asian traditional spirituality has been researched in recent years, this insightful topic is seriously underrepresented in the North American theological community and Asian-American evangelical churches. That is why Hertig’s contribution is exceptional and outstanding.” – Eunjin Jeon


Gods in the Time of Democracy

By Kajri Jain

From the review:
“Kajri Jain’s [book] is an ambitious account of the rise of colossi and monumental icons in modern India as dynamic and often-shifting sites of political ideology, religiosity, capitalist philanthropy, artistry, materiality, and identity[...]Jain’s monograph is a complex and challenging attempt at reframing the discussion around monumental iconography in India and its diaspora.” – Manasvin Rajagopalan