Be the Refuge: Book summary and reviews of Be the Refuge by Chenxing Han

Be the Refuge

Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists

by Chenxing Han

Be the Refuge by Chenxing Han X
Be the Refuge by Chenxing Han
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Book Summary

A must-read for modern sanghas--Asian American Buddhists in their own words, on their own terms.

Despite the fact that two thirds of U.S. Buddhists identify as Asian American, mainstream perceptions about what it means to be Buddhist in America often whitewash and invisibilize the diverse, inclusive, and intersectional communities that lie at the heart of American Buddhism.

Be the Refuge is both critique and celebration, calling out the erasure of Asian American Buddhists while uplifting the complexity and nuance of their authentic stories and vital, thriving communities. Drawn from in-depth interviews with a pan-ethnic, pan-Buddhist group, Be the Refuge is the first book to center young Asian American Buddhists' own voices. With insights from multi-generational, second-generation, convert, and socially engaged Asian American Buddhists, Be the Refuge includes the stories of trailblazers, bridge-builders, integrators, and refuge-makers who hail from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds.

Championing nuanced representation over stale stereotypes, Han and the 89 interviewees in Be the Refuge push back against false narratives like the Oriental monk, the superstitious immigrant, and the banana Buddhist--typecasting that collapses the multivocality of Asian American Buddhists into tired, essentialized tropes. Encouraging frank conversations about race, representation, and inclusivity among Buddhists of all backgrounds, Be the Refuge embodies the spirit of interconnection that glows at the heart of American Buddhism.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In this impressive debut, Buddhist chaplain Han offers an illuminating analysis of the intersection of race and privilege within American Buddhist communities...By presenting an intricate and intimate mosaic of experiences, Han thoughtfully and successfully confronts stereotypes of Buddhism in the U.S." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An eye-opening read for anyone under the false impression that American Buddhism is primarily the province of Whites." - Kirkus Reviews

"Be the Refuge is first and foremost a celebration. Han's interviewees descend from numerous countries, followed various paths to their faith, practice in different ways, and often question the validity of their own identity; but Han argues—compellingly and joyfully—that all contribute to a diverse and thriving American Buddhism." - Booklist

"[I]lluminating...Han's contribution to this overlooked aspect of the Asian American experience is an important one as it gives a voice to many invisible people in American society." - Library Journal

"Be the Refuge is a call to rescue the soul of Buddhism in the western world…throughout this amazing and comprehensive work, Han disrupts the habitual and hegemonic Buddhist discourse with the question, 'Whose Buddhism are we talking about?'" - Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, author of The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality and Gender

"Chenxing Han writes with a singular grace, missing nothing in a work that draws from a well of academic origins, while merging cultural critique and luminous voices into a moving memoir. No doubt many an Asian American Buddhist will find themselves heard and championed here, even as the book's careful sifting of histories and possibilities makes it valuable reading for future scholarship. Above all, Be the Refuge lives up to its name." - Erin Khuê Ninh, author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature

"Be the Refuge brings us stories of complexity and multiplicity from Buddhist Asian America. Reflected in this net of jewels is the heart of the American sangha—a transmission of culturally engaged Buddhism." - Duncan Ryuken Williams, author of American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War

"A book destined to be a classic, setting the bar high for future studies on Asian American Buddhism." - Jonathan H. X. Lee, author of Asian American Religious Cultures

This information about Be the Refuge shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Chenxing Han

Chenxing Han is a Bay Area-based writer whose publications have appeared in Buddhadharma, Journal of Global Buddhism, Lion's Roar, Pacific World, Tricycle, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MA in Buddhist Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. After studying chaplaincy at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California, she worked in spiritual care at a nearby community hospital in Oakland. Be the Refuge is her first book.

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