Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The 500 Project: Do You Care about Asian American Literature?

Kartika Review and poet Bryan Thao Worra have thrown down the gauntlet. Can we find 500 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders--10 from each state--who love Asian American literature?

The 500 Project is seeking responses from Asian Americans in all 50 states. The goal is to find at least 500 "writer activists who will express without equivocation that Asian American literature matters" in order to begin to "build a vibrant, amazing network of readers and writers." There's a questionnaire to fill out, and the Kartika Review folks will post the number of responses they get from each state.

Angry Asian Man has picked up the story, and asks: "I'm sure they'll have no problem finding respondents from California and New York... But what about everywhere in the middle?"

The middle? Them's fightin' words. So I wrote in to make sure Wisconsin was in the house. My response to their questionnaire, below.

Does Asian/Pacific Islander American literature matter to you?


Why does APIA literature matter to you?

APIA literature is our best window into the Asian American and Pacific Islander experience. It's the place where we continue to ask the question of what it means to be APIA, exploring different voices, different stories, different forms and different politics. It's exciting because it's a literature that's still being created, like Asian America itself. And because of that it can be a source of creativity and renewal for American culture as a whole.

Cite the last 3 works of APIA literature you read.

Lawson Fusao Inada, Legends from Camp; Adrian Tomine, Shortcomings; Karen Tei Yamashita, I-Hotel.

Who are your favorite APIA writers or poets and why?

There are so many great APIA writers, but my two favorites are Maxine Hong Kingston and John Yau. Kingston is a powerful storyteller who constantly challenges us to rethink what we mean by "Asian" and "American," and who mashes up and rewrites stories to make them her own. Yau is a brilliant and uproariously funny poet who takes pleasure in remixing stereotypes of Asians to create new hybrid characters (like "Genghis Chan: Private Eye"), but who also has a remarkable sense of lyricism.

In your own words, you are:

I'm a poet, critic, and teacher who sees in APIA literature what I care about most deeply in writing: a spirit of creativity and fearless exploration. I'm a Midwesterner (born in Illinois, living in Wisconsin) who sees that the Asian American experience is happening here, too, and that its story is just beginning to be written.

In your own words, APIA literature is:

APIA literature is Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders inventing our culture.


Susan M. Schultz said...

Ah, so someone asks if anyone cares about Asian and Pacific Islander poetry who is in the middle, between California and the East Coast? For goodness' sake! How about in Hawai`i, where Pacific Islander poets come from? To say nothing of Asian American ones!

Tim said...

Blame Angry Asian Man for that "middle" line. His map of "Angry Asian America" looks a heck of a lot like the contiguous 48!

pam said...

Tim, apologies for knocking on your back door this way-- I have a somewhat urgent question for you and lost your email address. Can you email me when you get a chance?
pamela dot wh dot lu at gmail dot com. Thanks.