For a long time, I thought it was just a coincidence that I made at least one close Asian friend no matter where I was. Despite growing up in a predominantly white town, we always found our way to each other — first in middle school and then high school and college and beyond.
I recently reconnected with one of those friends from childhood, and now — both of us having had many years to reflect — we could finally talk about the immediate connection we shared back then. Our family backgrounds were quite different, an important reminder that the APIA community is far from monolithic. But the point was that the rest of the world largely saw us as the same — and being othered, together, created a vital bond. Whether it was how boys looked at us or our teachers' expectations of us, it turns out we both treasured not having to navigate it all alone.
These days, I turn to these friends in my lowest moments. When anti-Asian violence started surging during the pandemic, there was a rage and fear I didn't know how to define for anyone besides them. It's no surprise that, for generations, a close-knit community has been essential for various Asian and Pacific Islander American communities, whether in dense Californian cities or tiny Midwestern towns. We depend on each other for our very survival.
But our friendships aren't just deep; they're full of joy, humour, pride. Together, we laugh until we cry. We eat each other's moms' dishes, relishing how they taste like home. We shine brightest in each other's eyes, because we're genuinely rooting for each other. Pop culture, too, reflects this — just think of how the "Everything Everywhere All at Once" cast lifted each other up as they made history at this year's Oscars.
It's why POPSUGAR is exploring the theme of friendship this APIA Heritage Month. Through stories with amazing stars like Joel Kim Booster, Tina Leung, and more, we're immersing readers in the beautiful world that is APIA friendship. These bonds should be celebrated always — in this moment and beyond. Start reading here.
Lena Felton, Director of Special Content at POPSUGAR