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Classes and Demos: Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道, sadō or chadō, lit. "the way of tea" or 茶の湯, chanoyu) is a Japanese tradition steeped in history. Beyond serving and receiving tea, one of the main purposes of the tea ceremony is for the guests to enjoy the hospitality of the host in an atmosphere distinct from the fast pace and distractions of everyday life. 

Yumie Farringer has been performing the Japanese tea ceremony at the library’s Asian-American Festival for the past 17 years. We are so grateful that this year is no exception.  

Here’s what Yumie told us about her experience with this special practice: 

I started studying the tea ceremony in high school; I was probably 16 or 17 years old.  I stopped practicing when my children were small, but once they were more grown up, I resumed practicing tea and started teaching students. 

The ceremony is very important in Japanese culture. It’s almost 500 years old. Originally it was not for everybody. When it started, the tea ceremony was developed for high class, or high-ranking people, like a shogun. But eventually it started to spread out to people like us. Since then it’s been very much about keeping traditional practice. 

The ceremony is meditative, but it’s also about respect for people. That’s why there is very careful handling of the items. For example, when you turn the cup when you are serving it to the guest, you are turning it very precisely to show the front side to the guest. This is done as a show of respect; turning the cup, the specific cleaning of the utensils. 

When doing a tea ceremony, you aren’t thinking about everyday life. It’s more meditation and concentration on what I am doing. It’s about being and keeping a peaceful mind.

Below is a video of Yumie performing the tea ceremony in her home. 

Community Spotlight: Kendo

If you’ve been to Asian-American Fest then you’ve probably witnessed a demonstration by Tulsa Kendo. And if you’ve witnessed a demonstration, you were probably struck by many of the unique aspects of this traditional Japanese martial art.  A descendant of the art of swordsmanship, Kendo implements the use of bamboo swords (shinai) and protective armour (bōgu). Practitioners engage each other with a shout (kiai) to express their fighting spirit. 

Shaw Furukawa and Michael Lindsay oversee the Tulsa Kendo Dojo, or "Shin Sou Fu Kan," together. We spoke to Shaw and Michael about Kendo, what their practice means to them, and maintaining a sense of community during the pandemic. To learn more about Tulsa Kendo, visit their website at


How and when did you each first get involved in Kendo? 

Michael: I first started practicing Kendo in 2004. I had wanted to try it since childhood—but up until we opened the dojo here in Tulsa, the only avenue available was driving to Oklahoma City for lessons. My family could never afford that, so I had to wait until college for my shot. Luckily my experience was everything I could have hoped it would be. What I’ve learned practicing Kendo has impacted my life in every conceivable way since then. In 2014, I almost died in the hospital. I was told by my surgeon before, during and after two years of medical proceedings that Kendo had helped me survive the ordeal. It sustains me to this day. 

Shaw: Funny thing is, we both got into Kendo at around the same time. But we started in completely different parts of the country; Michael in Oklahoma and I in New York. I started at the Rochester Institute of Technology Kendo Club under Matsushita Katsunori sensei, who was an IT grad student. I had always been a fan of Star Wars, and samurai movies and manga. Having the opportunity to experience a real Kendo class was exciting. Until that point, I didn't realize kendo could exist outside of Japan or Korea, haha. I made a friend at my university orientation who was also interested in going, and the rest is history. We were both hooked, he still practices kendo too. 

Shaw and Michael

How long have you known each other? When did you meet? 

Michael: I met the one-and-only Shaw Furukawa in the Fall of 2008, and we’ve been friends ever since. I received an invitation to attend a practice in OKC that would be filmed for an action-reel of the dojo—someone had let it slip that a “Japanese university Kendo player” would be joining the practice as well. It turned out he was just a kid from Connecticut. I can remember recognizing the kanji of the name on his protective equipment as “Furukawa” which means something like “Old River.” I think I fumbled the rest of the introduction though. 

Shaw: I distinctly remember there was some mix up and Michael thought I was from a Japanese university team. He was super accommodating and introduced himself in Japanese as best he could. Haha, you should have seen his face; when he realized I was American, he was a combination of embarrassed and relieved. 


What are some misconceptions people might have about Kendo? About martial arts in general?      

Shaw: I guess the most common misunderstanding is the fundamental purpose of it. Kendo is a type of fencing -- it will not teach you how to fight, nor how to reenact 17th century samurai duels. Kendo is a sport and martial art with profound philosophical significance. The All Japan Kendo Federation describes Kendo as a, "ningen kei-sei no michi 人間形成の道," meaning roughly, “a way to develop one’s humanity.” The goal of training is to learn principles and applications of the katana and then apply those principles through rigorous training in order to build character, as well as become proficient at the art. I think this concept applies to many different martial arts in general.  

Another misconception is that of Kendo being an obscure sport. Pretty much any major city in America has at least one registered dojo. In Japan it's the most common martial art, with a higher reported participation rate than even judo. The Kendo-practicing population internationally is about 6 million and growing. 

Lastly, another misconception is that only Japanese people are good at Kendo. Let me tell you a little story: In 2006 a plucky nation called the USA came out of left field and dethroned Japan at 

the Kendo World Championships! That was a first in the competition's history and  an exceptionally mind-blowing feat since we don't have full time professional Kendoists like in Korea, or Japan. 

Michael: The misconceptions people typically have about Kendo are similar to the misconceptions about swordsmanship and fencing in general. Most people have an idea that what we do is what they’ve seen in movies or video games, and a few have misconstrued understandings from things poorly represented online. The worst examples would be people wanting to try Kendo to satisfy a personal fantasy, people trying to fight one of us to see “who would win a real swordfight,” or those who believe that they’ll be able to hurt others in practice. That’s the case with most martial arts though, and luckily we are blessed to have a group of genuinely interested folks who practice for the sake of personal improvement within our own community here in Tulsa. 

Kendo represents a blend of both martial discipline and sport, and for that reason is practiced by millions around the world. The All Japan Kendo Federation describes Kendo practice as “a way to discipline the human character through the principles and applications of the Katana”—the famous Japanese sword which symbolizes Samurai culture. As the most popular martial art in Japan, it teaches mental toughness and self-discipline to practitioners ranging from young children to senior citizens. I love that aspect of practice the most—once we put on the bogu (protective armor), we are all the same.  


Talk about the pandemic’s effect on your Kendo practice. How have you adapted? What has been hardest about it? What are some positive things that have come out of it?  

Shaw: Luckily, we’re a volunteer dojo, so closing classes during the pandemic does not financially impact us much. We halted operations in OKC and Tulsa back in March and transitioned to an online model, using a meeting app. Our normal practice already includes solo exercises, so we structured the lesson plans around these.   

Kendo is a 1 on 1 martial art, so sparring and tactile feedback are obviously not possible currently, which is a major drawback and limits our training. Furthermore, the entire southwest federation has cancelled all major events like testing and tournaments through at least October. The silver lining to all of this is having the opportunity to practice with our teachers Abe Koki Sensei Renshi 6-Dan and Iwanami Yoshio Sensei Kyoshi 7-Dan, in Kanagawa, Japan and getting direct feedback from them on a weekly basis. We also have opportunities to attend virtual seminars and lectures from prominent athletes and coaches all over the world. Normally, something that is difficult due to travel and time. 


What are some lessons from Kendo that you may apply in your everyday life? 

Shaw: In Kendo there is the concept of, "Utte Hansei Utarete Kansha 打って反省、打たれて感謝," meaning, “strike and reflect, be struck and give thanks.” I take this to mean a few things like: acknowledging and learning through failure, remaining humble, introspection on actions, and respecting an opponent.  

A large part of Kendo is challenging yourself through adversity and direct confrontation. In practice we face daily failures and are in a position where fighting through these experiences is the only solution. This kind of hard training helps build a type of assertiveness and mental and physical resilience. I think these are the kind of “practical skills” I import for my everyday life. 

Michael: Kendo dominates my thinking all the time. At this point in my life, I cannot separate daily behavior from the lessons I’ve learned in practice. Understandings of respect come to mind the most since the start of the pandemic. 

In Kendo, we start practice and end practice with a show of respect to the space, our teachers, and each other. We do our best to carry that respect forward in actual practice, and give our entire focus to both the opponent and situation without thinking too much about discomfort or distraction. Right now, every day contains a thousand-million tiny distractions that can pull me from my responsibilities. The focus I use in Kendo has sustained my ability to keep up with all the little things around my house and within my job that might otherwise fall by the wayside. 


Have you encountered any racism or stereotyping in the context of your martial arts practice? How have you handled it? 

Shaw: I remember at one demonstration, during a Q&A session Michael was asked, “How can YOU be the teacher of all these Japanese people in Kendo?” in reference to the other Asian people on our team (FYI only one member of our demo group was actually of Japanese descent). We calmly explained how Kendo is practiced internationally and how anyone can practice regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, or gender. Rank has nothing to do with where you were born. We continued to explain the certification process and how long it took us to get where we are. 

In Kendo there is no outward expression of experience, we only get a certificate, there are no colored belts or sashes. In this regard, I think Kendo is very egalitarian. We all basically wear the same thing. 

Michael: One stereotype that I personally run up against is actually that of Kendo being fake—not a real martial art, or somehow being “watered-down” because it’s a modern martial art. The extension of this is usually the party in question wanting to fight me. I try to invite these types of folks to attend one of our regular practices— which for the most part, they do not do. When they do show up, they experience first-hand the intense mental and physical exertion which defines Budo (Japanese martial arts). I think for some people with preconceptions, that when we say Kendo is meant to discipline the human character, they fail to grasp what the word “discipline” actually entails. Our practice is a means of refining ourselves as human beings, and it requires constantly confronting the weak points inside our hearts and minds. Some people do that through exercise or meditation, some through creative expression or community action—we do it through studying the principles and applications of the sword. 


What are you most looking forward to as far as Kendo, post-pandemic? 

Michael: I am looking forward to seeing my friends again—more than anything. Our virtual practices have only made me appreciate what we have with Kendo in Oklahoma even more, and I am tremendously excited to cross swords with these excellent people in whatever ways we can manage. 

Shaw: Honestly, I think it will be quite some time before we can meet up and do activities together once more, like in the above image. I look forward to seeing my friends in person again and having a sense of normalcy. I can’t wait for road trips and getting back into some serious training. I also really miss just the goofy things we would all go out and do together. 


What would you tell someone who is interested in Kendo, but who might feel intimidated as a beginner? 

Michael: It’s important to understand that Kendo means “the Way of the Sword.” Kendo is truly a limitless journey, and the only way to understand it is to give it a try for yourself. Anyone that has ever practiced has felt that same reservation against trying something outside of a comfort zone—you will be in good company. 

Like most martial arts, joining our practice means gaining a family. Our family goes back a long way, and has branches all over the world. Anyone who practices Kendo walks on the same road together, and we take great joy in helping each other out when times get tough. The Way of the Sword is an incredible journey, and even one step forward will always be enough.  

Shaw: Honestly? I'm just impressed you read this whole thing, clearly you’re interested in learning about Kendo! Just contact us and try it out, no one will make fun of you for stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new. We’re all failing at this thing with varying degrees, so let’s practice and fail at something together. 

Here’s a video from last year’s Asian-American Fest:

Staff Profile: Malinda


Malinda Collage

Tell us a little bit about your cultural heritage. 

I am a Hmong American who was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My parents came to the United States from Laos as refugees of the Vietnam War. 

You might be asking, “Who are the Hmong?” In short, the Hmong are an ethnic group of people that has 18 clans and surnames in the United States. Hmong people reside all over the world and do not have a country of their own. Many Hmong people sought refuge and/or immigrated to the United States and their allied countries when the Vietnam War ended. The Hmong people were also allies to the United States in the secret war in Laos. 

My family is part of the “Thao” clan (our patrilineal surname). The Hmong language has two dialects - Green and White. In my family, we speak the White dialect, however, my mother knows both because she was raised speaking the Green dialect. My family mostly practices shamanism. 

Are there any specific ways you celebrate your heritage? 

My family practices and celebrates our heritage every day. Every year my family and the Hmong community celebrate the Hmong New Year. Historically, it was a time to thank the ancestors for the past year and to welcome new beginnings. It was also a time to celebrate the end of the harvest season. In Tulsa, the celebration is typically held in October. During this celebration, my family and I dress in our traditional attire and attend the event to enjoy dancing, singing, sports, food, and more. 

Generally, you can tell by looking at a person’s traditional attire which region, tribe, or dialect their family comes from. For example, Green Hmong clothing have green patterns which can be found on the sleeves and collars of the outfit and White Hmong clothing can be distinguished by their white skirts. Back in the day and perhaps in different parts of the world where there are Hmong people, textile art may also be used to display a person’s wealth and identity. The designs on clothing consist of different motifs and patterns that represent social life, culture, and history. 

Is there anything you find to be challenging about being Asian American in Oklahoma? 

Growing up as an Asian American, it was always challenging for me to truly embrace my Asian identity, especially my Hmong identity. Not many people knew who the Hmong people were, and my history and culture were not taught or celebrated in the school curriculum. Also, growing up in the US, there is a lot of pressure to behave and act in a certain way that didn’t reflect my heritage and culture. I felt I had to appease both identities- my Hmong identity and my American identity, separately, and not together. I also view racism as a challenge that comes with being Asian American in Oklahoma. 

What does being Asian American mean to you? 

Being Asian American is an identity I cannot ignore or hide. I am proud and honored to be Hmong American. I know my ancestors sacrificed a lot for me to have a better life in the United States. I come from a rich culture and history of family traditions that created who I am today. 

Community Spotlight: OU Confucius Institute

Established in 2006, the University of Oklahoma Confucius Institute (OUCI) seeks to support Oklahoma educators in their efforts to teach the Chinese language, and to assist those Oklahoma businesses that wish to do business in the Chinese speaking world. The first Confucius Institute in the US South, OUCI has become one of the most comprehensive Confucius Institutes in the nation. To learn more about the OUCI, please visit their website at

The OUCI offers a Chinese summer camp for young learners with opportunities to explore Chinese history and culture through language, dance, music, and art. This year, due to the pandemic, camp was moved entirely online. Watch the video below from this year’s OUCI summer camp to learn about the colorful and exciting tradition of the Chinese Dragon Dance! 

Community Spotlight: Thomas Academy


Thomas Acad

The Thomas Academy of Tai Chi and Kung Fu has been a presence at the Asian-American Festival since its inception in 2002.  Headed by Shifu Rick Thomas, Thomas Academy is dedicated to educating the public about the nature and benefits of Chinese martial arts. With a background in psychology and social work, Shifu Thomas has combined his dedication to serving at-risk youth and senior populations, in particular seniors with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, with his passion for teaching martial arts. 

As Thomas Academy navigates the pandemic, many members have continued their practice at home or in their own space. They created a video for our online festival to share their love of Tai Chi and to demonstrate how they are maintaining a sense of community even in these difficult and occasionally isolating times. For more information on Thomas Academy please visit their website at  

Featured Resource: Mango

Mango Languages is a tool that offers instruction in more than 70 languages. There are even courses for people who are learning English as a second language! Learn at your own pace with lessons that are built around real conversational situations. Listen to native speakers as they demonstrate different parts of conversation and practice as you go by recording and comparing your voice to the native sound.  

Each lesson has goals and concepts that build on the lesson that came before, steadily advancing as your knowledge of the language grows. Mango languages helps you to build practical language skills wherever you are—one conversation at a time! 

New to Mango? This brief tutorial in our TCCL Online Learning portal will show you how to create an account. Want the mobile version? That tutorial will also show you how to set up Mango on your Android or Apple iOS device.  

How it works: 

Every language pathway is composed of units, chapters and lessons. Chapters start conversations lessons, which focus on teaching language through conversation. Listening and reading lessons follow, designed to increase a learner’s familiarity with material learned in the conversations courses. Recap lessons help users review the contents learned in each chapter, and quizzes can be found at the end of most chapters. 

Many languages also have Specialty courses that cover professional or specialized terminologies such as medical, text talk, romance, business, legal and more! 

Helpful tools and features: 

  • Tools tab: Here you’ll find a free, text-based translation tool. Simply type or paste text to see the translation. 

  • Voice comparison tool: Mango’s voice comparison feature allows you to compare your pronunciation/enunciation with that of a native speaker. This tool uses the most advanced technology to do so; your ears! Your own ears are exceptionally tuned to pick up even the smallest variations in pronunciation, enunciation, inflection, speed, rhythm, syllable stress, glottal stops, nasal sounds, vowel length, tone, etc., which are all essential components to language learning! 

  • Offline use: With the free Mango Languages mobile apps you can download lessons to study later when you don't have an internet connection. 

Mango Languages also offers specialized tools for teachers! 

  • Those who sign up with an instructor profile associated with an academic institution have exclusive access to Mango’s Groups feature. Groups allows instructors to create groups for their students to join. Once a group is created, an instructor can view a student’s individual activity. 

  • Learn how to get started your school started with Mango here 

  • In addition, instructors can communicate which lesson(s) they want their students to work on by sharing lessons. Note that students will need their own Mango profile created and linked to their school in order to receive communications from instructors. 

Check out these facts about just a few of the many Asian languages available on Mango! 

  • Bengali: It’s easy to fall in love with Bengali, the local speech of the most easternmost Indo-European languages. Spoken in Bengal, a colorful region rich in natural beauty matching well with its warm and friendly people, Bengali is a key component in tying together Bengal's regional pride and cultural diversity. 

  • Dari: Walk the sandy roads of Afghanistan and trek the same paths left by humans at least 50,000 years ago. Today, Afghanistan is a crossroads of civilization and home to 31 million people. As an increasingly relevant region, learning the language opens up lines of communication crucial to global affairs, politics and cultural competence. 

  • Hindi: Learning Hindi is a gateway to many official languages spoken all over Asia and the Middle East. By choosing to learn Hindi, you are opening yourself up to a magical world of fascinating culture, ancient history, sublime cuisine, and wonderful people. 

  • Indonesian: Indonesia is the fourth most populated nation in the world. The Indonesian language is used throughout classrooms and media services in Indonesia, as well as in other areas of the world like the Netherlands, Suriname, East Timor, the Philippines and Australia. 

  • Korean: With over 78 million speakers worldwide, learning Korean is a smart move for business, economic and cultural advances. With South Korea’s booming industry, rich culture, and increased global importance, now’s the time to learn this language! 

  • Malay: Malay is spoken over a large area of southeast Asia. Learning this fascinating tongue gives you limitless conversational possibilities with nearly 180 million people! 

  • Tagalog: An incredibly unique and interesting language born of a fusion of Spanish and Southeastern Asian influence, Tagalog is the official language of the Philippines. 

Community Spotlight: Disaster Resilience Network

Today we’re featuring another long-time participant of Asian-American Fest: Tulsa’s Disaster Resilience Network’s Cross-Cultural Council. The Disaster Resilience Network (DRN), formerly known as Tulsa Partners, Inc., is a non-profit organization which was incorporated in December 2000. A grassroots network of multicultural and multilingual groups, the DRN Cross-Cultural Council works with many communities and cultural groups to help their members prepare for disasters, and to help all people receive emergency communications in a way they can understand.  

The Council is committed to providing vital information and resources to our community in nearly 20 different languages including Hmong, Russian, Spanish, Burmese, Turkish, and American Sign Language. They have made it their mission to harness the power of storytelling to engage and educate members of diverse communities with stories and information that could be literally life-saving. The Council had built an incredible library of stories and information that can be accessed at

The Council’s latest project is creating a collaborative book full of weather-related fables and folklore sourced from the community, alongside important contemporary weather information. To learn more about this unique project, or if you have your own weather folklore you’d like to contribute, visit  

Below is a video of Council member and Tulsa meteorologist Mike Grogan giving an overview of the impact this important organization has on our community. 

Community Spotlight: Tulsa Global Alliance

Tulsa Global Alliance is a long-time participant of our Asian-American Festival. TGA is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to building global community in Northeast Oklahoma by hosting international visitors, facilitating Sister Cities activities, promoting global education, assisting with international trade development, cooperating with international organizations, and serving as a resource for area governments, business, educational institutions, organizations, and residents. For more about TGA and to take virtual tours of our Sister Cities, visit

If you missed the Hoopla Digital's LIVE author event with Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, you can still check out the conversation archived on their Instagram @hoopladigital! Make sure you also stop by our book club on Facebook for an ongoing discussion over The Mountains Sing.

Hoopla Book Club


Arts & Crafts: Jini Kim

Jini Kim is a painter and printmaker from Tulsa, OK. She is also an art instructor at Rogers State University. She received her BFA in Painting and Drawing at Oklahoma State and her MFA in Painting at the University of Tulsa. Her work is highly inspired by her multicultural background. By combining two very different pairs into her Midwestern-inspired printmaking, she hopes to encourage viewers to accept and embrace other cultures.

Tell us about the idea for the piece you made in your video.

I always loved turtles, tortoises, and Aesops’ fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. The idea behind this story is that hard work beats talent. Personally, I was always terrible at athletics and an incredibly slow runner. I started running almost religiously at 17 to challenge myself and be stronger. Now at 28 I run about 5 miles a week. Despite being born “slow,” like myself, this tiny creature has a hopeful face and looks like it can take on anything life throws its way.

What tools and materials are shown in your video?

The surface I am carving on is yellow linoleum, or a linoblock. Linoleum is the same material used for kitchen tiles. After drawing the image onto the surface, I carve out the negative space using sharp gouging tools called a linoleum cutter or a wood cutter. After I roll the ink on the carved block (process not shown) I press the paper onto the block with a glass baren. The baren shown here is made out of recycled glass and has two sides - one large to press down as much surface area as possible and one small to press down on the smaller detail.

How long have you been making art?

Ever since I could hold a pencil.

What role does your cultural heritage play in your art? What else has influenced you?

My drawing style has an influence from every aspect of my upbringing, including American cartoons, animes, comic books, technology, and traditional Korean ink paintings. I started out painting before discovering printmaking during school. I’ve actually only been printmaking for 3 or so years, and I often paint my linocut prints.

Other influences on my work include just being a millennial in our current society – navigating advanced technology, substantial political division, modern feminism, and now a global pandemic and protesting. All of these things together create a great sense of anxiety, confusion, and discomfort in our society; the same feelings I’ve been feeling since I was a child and something I’m sure most people in my generation can relate to. I am used to having to create and draw my own, unique world, acknowledging aspects of what gives me grief, but still trying to make something beautiful out of it. That is why my art is not all sugar and candy - it has a bite. By incorporating aspects of Korean and American culture, I create an environment that shows triumph over adversity.

Where can people find your work?

Follow me on Instagram @jini.kimchi! I also have a website with an online shop if you want to snag the tortoise print for yourself

Featured Resource: A to Z

Yesterday, Bic Nguyen, an artist, chef and the founder of Vietnamese restaurant Jackrabbit Tulsa, showed us how to make chicken pho. Scroll down to the previous post if you missed it! Today we’re going to use our AtoZ World Food database to dive into Vietnamese cuisine and find out what a day of meals looks like in Vietnam. First, let’s explore what this database has to offer! Find it on this page by scrolling down to AtoZ World Food.

How to use AtoZ World Food Database

We love this database because it has so much information but is so easy to navigate! You can search information by selecting a country from a map or from a list. You can even search by ingredient to find meals you can cook with what you already have on hand!

Once you select a country, you can start learning about its food and beverage culture and exploring recipes! Each country’s Food Culture section includes regional cuisine, classic dishes, daily meals, dining etiquette, special occasion foods and a Did You Know? tab. The Beverages section includes tea culture, mixed drinks, national beers and liquors. Our favorite part, the Recipes section, offers appetizers, soups, salads, breads, main courses, side dishes, desserts and snacks. Each recipe includes the recipe’s serving size, prep time and cook time, as well as an ingredients list and some dietary information.

Exploring Vietnam through food

Vietnamese cuisine is shaped by widespread influences, mainly from nearby China and France, which colonized Vietnam for almost a decade. Stir-fry dishes and noodle-based soups are based on Chinese cuisine. Some French influence is evident in the French-style broth that constitutes pho and the baguettes that make banh mi, a sandwich of meat and pickled vegetables, so unique.

If you’re interested in making Bic’s pho, that’s a great place to start because pho is traditionally eaten as a breakfast food in Vietnam! Lunch and dinner typically consist of a variety of different meat and vegetable dishes, almost always accompanied by a soup and a side of white rice. We recommend making banh mi for lunch and bo luc lac, a sautéed dish cooked over high heat so the meat is well-browned, with canh bi ro ham dua (pumpkin in coconut milk), a side dish of vegetables simmered in coconut milk.

Whatever you make, we hope you enjoy exploring some of the colorful flavors of Vietnamese cuisine!

Classes & Demos: Bic Nguyen

Bic Nguyen is an artist, chef, and the founder of Jackrabbit Tulsa. Bic showed us how she makes an essential Vietnamese dish: chicken pho. We spoke with Bic about this popular dish and her love for cooking.

How did you choose chicken pho as the dish to share with us?

Pho is a national dish in Vietnam and has grown in popularity through the years. Most cultures have a version of chicken noodle soup, and pho ga (chicken noodle soup) is Vietnam's version of this noodle soup. It has everything you want in a dish: savory bone broth and shredded chicken, toasted aromatic spices, fresh herbs add a cooling effect, thai peppers for a little heat, fresh lime juice for brightness, fried shallot and bean sprouts for crunch. It is a perfectly balanced dish; it’s not only delicious but also healthy.

How and when did you develop your love for cooking?

Cooking has always been a way for my family to show our love and care for one another. I was born in Vinh Long, Vietnam in 1984. When I was five, I moved to Oklahoma with my family. My mom taught me how to cook traditional Vietnamese food when I was a little girl. I learned to clean and cut vegetables and meats. She never measured anything, measuring seasoning was always in terms of "a little bit of this and a little bit of that". I learned to cook based on sight and taste. When I cook today, it is all based on memory of family recipes. My family also had a garden next to our house, and I learned to care for the crop during the changing seasons. One of my favorite childhood memories was digging for purple potatoes, because you had to follow the roots and each find was a surprise and part of the fun.

Follow Bic on Instagram (@jackrabbittulsa) or visit her website at where she is currently offering free delivery on her fresh or frozen eggrolls. Keep an eye out for her first self-illustrated recipe booklet as well!

Staff Profile


Fatima Collage

Fatima on her cultural heritage:

I was born and brought up in India in a traditional, semi-joint but broadminded Muslim household. I grew up speaking Hindi, Urdu and English. Being multilingual is commonplace in our culture and most people are fluent in more than 5 languages. On the other hand, diversity has paved the way to a plethora of cuisines. To name a few, the south-Indian Dosa, Pav-Bhaji from Mumbai, Hyderabadi Biryani, and Uttar Pradesh for its massive variety of flatbreads and kebab. India is famous for its historical architecture such as Taj Mahal and Lotus Temple as well as our effervescent attires, like the 9-yard Sarees, Shalwar Qameez, intricate Bindis, etc. Body painting with mehndi is also a customary part of our ethnicity. Religion, dance forms, music, Bollywood movies, all play a significant role.

On the importance of language, food, and family:

I celebrate my heritage by trying my best to speak mostly in my mother tongue at home. I endear Indian food. The amalgamation of spices, juxtaposition of different consistencies and sumptuous aroma which combines to make each morsel a party in your mouth. Celebrating our national and cultural holidays such as Independence Day, Eid, Holi, Diwali, etc. also keeps me close to my roots. Next in line is family, which encircles our fathers and forefathers and everyone in between. It makes us who we are. Family is the hearth and home and a binding force no matter where we settle in the world. It is undoubtedly the most celebrated embodiment of my heritage.

On being Asian American in Oklahoma:

I personally find us Oklahomans to be friendly, secular and quite respectful of other cultures. The only challenging part is perhaps being oceans apart from my immediate and extended relatives and missing out on most of the little and big events, for instance, weekly family get-togethers, weddings of my cousins, or birth of my nieces and nephews.

On what being Asian American means to her:

South Asia is one of the most diverse parts of the world, hence it engrains secularity, respect towards the elderly, empathy for the impoverished and a sense of selflessness. While the American dream has instilled in me the constant need for improvement as well as seeking personal happiness to keep my loved ones happy. It has taught me to celebrate gender equality, freedom for all, and uniform opportunity. In a nutshell, being Asian-American balances me to the core. It keeps my morals intact without losing myself in the process.


Rangoli Collage

Rangoli is a traditional art form popular in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Rangoli are made by using colorful sand, flour, rice or other materials to make a pattern on the ground. They are often made outside the entrance of homes and as part of festivals such as Diwali or Onam. Rangoli symbolize good luck, prosperity and welcome to guests who visit during the holidays. Most rangoli are made from colored powder made from flour or rice, or colored sand. You can also make a rangoli out of natural materials like flowers, spices and small stones. They’re often decorated with candles, especially during Diwali. Most rangoli are done near the entrance to your home, either indoors or outdoors. But you can also make them on a canvas, a plate, or in a bowl. Sometimes a community will make a large rangoli in a park or on the street. Rangoli can be very simple, or extremely intricate, it’s up to you!

Watch below as we make a rangoli using colored rice and rice powder. Special thanks to Fatima Zehra for her input and art direction!




Jhumpa Lahiri
Hoopla Spotlight

Hoopla is a great resource for eBook readers because Hoopla’s eBooks are always available without holds! Through Hoopla, you can check out six items per month. The Hoopla app is available for Android, iOS and Kindle Fire users, but Hoopla can also be accessed in a web browser. If you’re new to Hoopla, visit our Hoopla help guide or Hoopla’s website for assistance. 

Hoopla has many ways to browse topics, themes and genres. Our favorite way to find groups of similar books is by using Hoopla’s “Categories” section. To explore Hoopla’s “Categories,” first login to Hoopla or sign up if you haven’t already. Once you are logged in, hover your mouse over “Browse” at the top of the page and then click Ebooks. From the Ebooks page, click categories, then start exploring!  

Hoopla has many categories to choose from, so we selected a handful of categories that celebrate Asian American people and cultures. Check them out below!

Recommended reading on Hoopla - for youth

Asian-American Authors on Hoopla 

Tip: Just click on the author’s name to be redirected to their titles available in Hoopla!  

  • Award-winning American-Indian author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. 

  • Thrity Umrigar, an American-Indian journalist and novelist, says she writes “to make sense of the world and to make sense of [her] own, often contradictory emotions and feelings.” 

  • Arundhati Roy is an Indian author best known for The God of Small Things, which won the 1997 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and became the best-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author. She is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes.  

More categories for books by and about Asian American people and cultures books on Hoopla: 

The Hoopla Book Club will host a live event with Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, the author of The Mountains Sing, on Tuesday, June16, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT. Attend this live event and even ask questions and get real-time answers from the author through Hoopla's Instagram @hoopladigital. Make sure you join our ongoing book discussion as well here!

Header for AAF post

As part of this year's virtual Asian-American Fest, we are proud to feature a series of staff profiles. We spoke with several TCCL staff members about what being Asian American means to them.

Collage of Katrina's family

Katrina on her mother and cultural heritage:

I am half Japanese and half white. My mom was born and raised in Naha, Okinawa, Japan during the 1950s. She immigrated to the US in the early 70s and married my dad in the late 70s. There were very few influences that my mom brought from Okinawa into our day-to-day life, but she did share with me her love for manga and crafts. She brought with her many thick volumes of manga when she immigrated, and I still remember going through each of the pages. Even though I can’t read Japanese I would make up my own dialogue along the way. She also brought over a few of her Japanese crochet books that are still intimidating to me to this day (I’m not the best at reading charts.)

For the most part we do not celebrate any culturally specific holidays due to my mom not being raised to celebrate them. She has a couple memories about getting dressed up for the new year, but her family really didn’t celebrate much. We celebrate the food and crafting that she brought along with her more than the holidays.

On people’s preconceived ideas about appearance:

Some people don’t think I look Japanese. My hair isn’t straight and black, and my eyes are not as angled as many people think they would be for someone half-Japanese, which makes me pretty racially ambiguous to the people I meet. I’ve been asked if I was Thai, Pilipino, Vietnamese, Native American, and Hispanic by many and when I answer “Japanese” people are genuinely surprised.

On perseverance:

This may be a theme with any immigrant family or person of color, but the amount of perseverance that Asian Americans have is amazing. My mother never let her previous negative experiences influence her present or future. She worked hard with what she had when she got here, and worked even harder once she had the life she wanted. We may have different ethnic backgrounds, but perseverance is always with us, handed down from those who fought to get us where we are today.

Kyoto Artwork Exchange

Since the inception of Tulsa City-County Library’s Asian-American Festival in 2002, TCCL has participated in the Kyoto-Oklahoma art exchange by displaying artwork created by children in Kyoto at the festival, held annually in June at the Martin Regional Library, and by procuring artwork from Oklahoma students to reciprocate with Japan. The artwork is created by students in pre-K to eighth grade.

Oklahoma has enjoyed a sister state relationship with Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture since 1985. Coordinated by the Oklahoma Secretary of State, the Oklahoma Sister States relationships involve community schools, government and organizational support to conduct cultural, educational, business, agricultural, medical, and other types of programs and exchanges, including an annual student art exchange, to further these relationships. For more details about Oklahoma Sister States, visit

Oklahoma students who participate in the art exchange get the pleasure of creating an art piece depicting something from their daily lives to give the children of Kyoto, Japan a glimpse into our culture. In return, they get to see what life is like in the artwork created by students in Kyoto and at the same time learn something about a different culture. They also get to experience the value of sharing as their original artwork is sent to Kyoto.

Below is a slideshow of some of the artwork from the exchange that has been on display as a part of Asian-American Fest. Special thanks to Jackie Hill for providing us with the details on the history of this special project!


Join your community during the month of June as we work together to create a senbazuru for Tulsa. A senbazuru (千羽鶴, literally “1,000 cranes”) is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes (折鶴, orizuru) held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish.

The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures and is said to live for a thousand years; that is why 1,000 cranes are made, one for each year. A thousand paper cranes are often given to a person who is seriously ill, to wish for their recovery. They are usually created by friends or colleagues as a collective effort.

Watch our how-to video and fold your own paper cranes using any square piece of paper. Kits are also available at curbside from Central, Hardesty, Rudisill, Zarrow, and Martin Libraries. Drop your completed cranes at any of these locations from June 15 - June 30. Look for tubs outside marked with the green crane! At the end of the month we will assemble our own senbazuru to be displayed for the community.