James Zarsadiaz is an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program (YPSP) at USF. His research revolves around his interest in Asian American studies and Filipino American history. He currently teaches US history. Some of his publications include “Raising Hell in the Heartland: Filipino Chicago and the Anti-Martial Law Movement, 1972-1986” (2017) and “Design Assimilation in Suburbia: Asian Americans, Built Landscapes, and Suburban Advantage in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley since 1970” (co-authored with Becky Nicolaides, 2015).
During our interview, we spoke about the current climate of the United States, quarantine, and the Shelter-in-Place protocols. In particular, we discussed social justice issues regarding being Asian American during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Zarsadiaz stressed that it is important to be well-informed, safe, and conscious of our actions during these times.
Q: Where do you want to travel next within Asia?
A: I really want to go to Taiwan. Part of me always hears about how good the street food is from friends. I grew up around a lot of Taiwanese Americans in Los Angeles and I think that I have a good sense of the culture, so I want to be able to go to the country and understand for myself. People also always talk about how interesting Taipei is and how nice the Taiwanese countryside is. So I think that is somewhere I would want to go that I haven’t been to before. I haven’t travelled to Asia in recent times so I can’t say for certain what my favorite destination in Asia has been.
Q: Who do you feel is an important Asian or Asian American historical figure?
A: I have always admired Helen Zia. She is an Asian American activist who has been pushing for social justice within Asian American communities since the 1970s. She is based here in the Bay Area. I have met her before very briefly and recommended her for an honorary doctorate from USF. She is most well known for her role in proving the death of Vincent Chin in Detroit as a hate crime.
Q: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
A: It would be sinigang, which is a Filipino soup. Pork sinigang is my favorite. I grew up eating it a lot and still make it. I love it because it’s sour. The more tamarind and sour flavor it has, the better. Sour is a major flavor profile of Filipino cuisine. You can also eat sinigang over rice. I could eat that forever.
Dr. Zarsadiaz has been inspired by his experiences growing up as an Asian American in
Southern California. He is an American-born Filipino Chinese American. According to
Zarsadiaz, he never understood why there was so little information pertaining to the role and impact of Asian Americans in US history textbooks. He dedicated his studies to dive deeper into researching this topic and becoming a teacher, professor, and scholar.
Dr. Zarsadiaz was Interviewed by Nicholas Banaria, University of San Francisco – School of Nursing and Health Professions, BSN, May 2020; Vice President, Male Student Nursing Society; Student Assistant, USF MA in Asia Pacific Studies Program