the apa women leader spotlights: amy lam

15 Days. 15 APA Women. 15th Anniversary. To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, we're partnering up with NAPAWF and Hyphen to spotlight 15 Women Warriors for 15 days, sponsored by 15 hosts. Meet today's spotlight:

Amy Lam
Nominated by Anne Chiang.

Describe your name.
My English name is Amy Lam. My mom decided to name me after Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 34. Earhart was an adventurous woman who defied conventional norms, took many risks, and learned to fly! Although I spent my early childhood trying to convince my mom to change my name to Emily, my mother must have had the foresight to know that my spirit, too, shared much in common with my namesake. For once I'm glad that mom didn't let me have my way!

How do you identify?
I am a writer, mother, and psychologist. I am eclectic. - Chinese with a corazón latino. Canadian who grew up most of her life in the U.S. I have a Ph.D. but love working with grassroots communities. My CD player can go from playing A Tribe Called Quest to Les Misérables.

Your passion issues?
I was sexually abused by my grandfather when I was four and kept that a secret for fear of getting in trouble. My personal struggle with my own voice has made me particularly empathetic to others' struggle to be heard in a society that has silenced them, whether that is ethnic minorities, young people, women, immigrants, or survivors of trauma.

Best advice someone has ever given you?
Be gentle to yourself. If you don't learn to be gentle to yourself, how can you be compassionate and gentle with others? - The best advice for the fierce warrior in me.

Who's your hero?
My parents have lived amazing lives. My father grew up in extreme poverty in Hong Kong and only completed elementary school education. When he had his chance to come to America for a better life, he grabbed it and never let go! My father got a high school degree, worked tireless nights, and now has a Ph.D. in chemistry. My mom was a wildly energetic child who never let her polio get in the way of accomplishing what she wanted for herself and her family. In addition to moving to the U.S., learning English, and getting a university degree, my mom has also conquered her fear of driving, gone on a solo journey to Inner Mongolia, and took summer courses at Beijing University just to improve her Mandarin! I thank my parents for the examples they set for me to be a determined dreamer and daring nonconformist!

Biggest lesson you've learned as an APA Woman?
The biggest lesson I have learned as an APA woman is the importance of not abandoning myself. Coming from a collective society, our identity and worth is often related to being a good daughter, mother, wife, sister, and caretaker. What I am learning every day is to be committed to myself. If I can commit to be fully who I came to be in this lifetime, I will unfold into being a good daughter, mother, wife, sister, and caretaker.

What advice would you give to other Asian Pacific American women?
One of my short stories is about a young woman struggling to find her way in the world. My favorite line is when the Universe whispers in her ear, "My child, you know who you are, go do what you must do." APA women out there, we need you. Your sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, daughters all need you to be who you are. So go with love and do what you must do!

Why support NAPAWF?
There are few voices for Asian Americans in the women's reproductive justice movement. With NAPAWF at the table, I know that Asian American women's voices will be heard.

Favorite guilty pleasure?
Chinese and Latin pop songs. No deep lyrics, great vocals, or complex musical compositions. But I'm a sucker for sweet love songs!

If you weren't doing what you're doing, what would your dream vocation be?
Hands down, my dream job is being a published children's picture book writer. I am finally taking the plunge to actualize my dream and am sending out my stories. I am excited to be an Asian American writer for children and use storytelling as a way to bring people from all different backgrounds together. Ultimately social justice work is about transformation and healing, something that I've learned stories can do. Check out my new website www.amygracelam.com. (props to Adriel Luis for a smashing website!)

Anne says:
Amy is a mother of two and currently lives in San Francisco. She was born in Canada to parents from Hong Kong, but grew up in New York and strongly identifies with her New York upbringing, calling herself a chinariqueña. Amy was the past director for the California Young Women's Collaborative (CYWC), a project of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. Believe it or not, I didn't know I was a women nor did I ever IDENTIFY myself as a woman until my second year of college. It was there with Amy and CYWC that I realized I had a gender identity and it was so interwoven with my upbringing, my roots, my perceptions, and especially my commitment and passion for social justice. Amy's leadership with the project opened doors to the world of possibilities of research for advocacy and how to turn research findings into tangible actions for the advancement of women and girls. It was there where we conducted the 1st ever study on APA women and sexual assault disclosure on the UC Berkeley campus. Our findings resulted in an action campaign that promoted awareness and the start of a cross campus coalition effort from student groups, to the University health center, administration and the police in order to improve the environment for survivors of sexual assault to find safety in disclosure and healing. Our study was subsequently published in the California Journal of Public Health! We were all undergraduates at the time, selecting our own topic, designing and analysing our first study and getting it published. The experiences were absolutely one of my most empowering moments of my life. However, the real reason that I am nominating Amy is because of her absolute commitment to mentorship for younger APA women, providing guidance to them to become powerful, influential shakers and makers in a world that sees them invisible. Amy does more than her best to provide that mentorship in a nation where there is a lack of Asian American woman role models, mentors and representation in every field, while juggling 88 million things and raising a family of her own. Amy is a fighter, as a young mother having her first child at 18 years old, she managed get her Ph.D while rising an amazing young woman simultaneously. She embodies what it means to be fierce and to be warrior and is definitely one of my all time SHEros.

Donate in honor of Amy and Anne:
Support Amy and Anne by donating to NAPAWF in their honor.

To see the rest of the 15 APA Women Leader Spotlights, go here.

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