We’re treading the treacherous waters of the Age of Exploration and the history of New World slavery. Guiding your rudder will be two formally adventurous story collections: Dark Room Collective member John Keene’sCounternarratives (named Best of 2015 by Flavorwire, Lambda Literary, LitHub, Vanity Fair, and New York Magazine) and Japanese American novelist Naomi Williams’sLandfalls (picked for the NBCC longlist and the One Story Debut Ball). Moderated by AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen.
John’s story collection Counternarratives (New Directions 2015) documents the history of race and transatlantic slavery wielding a metatextual witchcraft that tries to be as expansive as what it documents. The book spans several centuries, hundreds of characters, both real and imagined, and a range of styles, from slave narrative, field manual, newspaper accounts, epistolary narrative, maritime history, and concrete poetry. Keene writes about a settlements in Brazil, the death of a newborn in a Kentucky convent, and a curious remeeting between Huck and Jim. As Max Nelson writes in Bookforum: “Keene has a gift for channeling archaic literary idioms, and it’s no accident that many of the styles he most often slips into—epistolary narratives; histories of maritime exploration and trade—are relics from a specific stage in Western Europe’s colonial past. The stories in Counternarratives all address the efforts of enslaved or nominally free people of color to give their stymied, overflowing consciousnesses room to unfold, and a similar effort is evident in Keene’s style. Practically every sentence in the book perforates, stretches out, or pries open literary modes designed to be airtight, restrictive, and racially exclusionary.” Alternative narratives, told from the perspectives of enslaved or nominally free people of color, Counternarratives reinvents the histories of maritime exploration, slave rebellion, sorcery, and trade to map centuries of western colonization. Major Jackson calls it, “the story collection as freedom project.”
Naomi Williams’s meticulous debut collection Landfalls (Macmillian 2015) reimagines the ill-fated Lapérouse expedition (1785-1788), an ill-fated French voyage that went from Chile to Alaska to California, Macao to Sydney--only to never be heard from again. Williams narrates each chapter of Landfalls from a different point of view, ranging from French captains to the scientists onboard to indigenous subjects encountering the Europeans. A captivating narrative of an 18th century French voyage for a 21st century readership, Landfalls blurs the line between real and imagined, pushing the boundaries of interpretation and art. As The Guardian writes: “This is a novel that blurs the line between history and fiction and, in its method and its structure, pushes the boundaries of the form. Throughout the long voyage, the expedition sent back regular dispatches to France, and Williams has devoured every available source (her monumental bibliography is published on her website). Just as her characters are drawn mostly from the ships’ manifests, their stories cleave closely to the historical record. They explore the otherness of a world for the most part charted but still barely understood.” Japanese-born and not speaking English until age six, Puschart-winner Williams was long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for this book.
$5 suggested donation
Open to the public
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If you’ve been following the Presidential election, you’ve heard Donald Trump call for a database tracking all Muslim Americans and Ted Cruz suggest banning Muslim refugees purely on their religion. While this nativism is not new, dating back to 9/11 and before, these examples show how crucial xenophobia remains for American nationalism. Come hear attorney/activist Deepa Iyer read from her crucial new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future (New Press 2016). She’ll discuss the targeting of South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Americans with Arab American Association of New York Youth Lead Organizer Aber Kawas and ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi. Headlining the event will be queer performance artist YaliniDream, a Tamil Sri Lankan activist and one of the most prominent performance poets in the South Asian American community.
A necessary history of the post-9/11 backlash, Iyer’s We Too Sing America spans the immediate roundups and Patriot Act provisions after 9/11 to more recent flashpoints like the Park 51 Community Center and the 2012 Sikh massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Combining top-level policy discussions with personal stories and activist interviews, Iyer paints a compelling portrait of the American racial state. Arguing for Asian Americans to fight their assimilation into whiteness, Iyer links the fight against anti-Muslim hysteria to the undocumented youth movement, Black Lives Matter, and the fight against systemic racial violence and state surveillance. Described by Vijay Prashad as having “the head of a lawyer and the heart of a community activist,” Iyer is the former Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together and Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion.
Moderated by ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi, a civil liberties attorney who has served as a national security expert reference for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and Reuters. She has litigated cases upholding the freedoms of speech and association, and challenging targeted killing, torture, unlawful detention, and post-9/11 discrimination against racial and religious minorities. Read her pieces in The Guardian and Huffington Post. Hina Shamsi is appearing in her personal capacity and not as a representative of the ACLU.
Aber Kawas works at the Arab American Association of New York as the Youth Lead Organizer. She has worked with several organizations in the city around issues such as immigration, police surveillance, racial profiling, ect. and hopes to work to improve the conditions of immigrants in the New York area by providing programs and services to both them and their children. Check out a video of her here and see her leading a demonstration in the New York Times here.
Co-sponsored by the South Asian Bar Association of New York, Asian American Bar Association of New York, Arab American Association of New York, and NAPAWF*NYC.
$5 suggested donation
Open to the public
RESERVE A SEAT!
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Four sessions 6-8pm: Wed 5/11, Tues 5/24, Tues 5/31, Tues 6/7. No class 5/17. Fees & Payment Options:Full class tuition: $325 General / $300 Members
Full payment due before first class.Deposit: $80 General / $75 Members
Try out the first class and see what you think! Just pay a deposit due before the first class.Why you should take this class: Novelist Helen Wan, author of The Partner Track (St. Martin’s Press 2013) invites you to learn how to take personal experiences and transform them into the workings of a novel. She wrote her own novel while working as a corporate lawyer in an AAWW writing workshop.
I hear from aspiring writers all the time that they’d love to write about an actual real-life experience, but don't know how to start because they fear their story is "too personal." I was fortunate to turn my 15-year corporate law career into a debut novel about an Asian American woman competing at a powerful law firm and a new career as an author. My book began as a homework assignment in an "Intro to Fiction" workshop with Terrence Cheng at AAWW. So it can be done. Over the course of this four week workshop, using assigned readings and your original works of fiction, we will examine:
- How to get over the fear of telling “too personal” a story.
- How to turn your scribblings about your real life into fiction -- developing voice, character, story, plot, conflict, and theme.
- How to get over the boundaries of "sticking to the facts, ma'am" (Hint: you don’t have to!).
- How to “pitch” personal life experience as author platform in the mainstream publishing business (especially a story featuring an Asian-American or other “non-traditional” protagonist).
For this course, we’ll read published novel excerpts, articles on the art and business of publishing, and your student manuscripts. Everyone will get to submit work once (15 to 20 pages of your original work, double-spaced). Everyone is welcome, but especially recommended for those with prior experience taking a workshop format class. Limited to 12 students. I look forward to meeting you and reading and discussing your work! HAPPY WRITING!
Note: We’ll need three volunteers who are brave enough to workshop the first day of class, 5/11. They should be able to email work to Helen by Monday May 2, to give folks a chance to read and gather their comments.Helen Wan is an author, lawyer, and frequent speaker on diversity and inclusion in the law and media. Her debut novel, The Partner Track (St. Martin's Press), about a young Asian American woman up for partnership at a powerful law firm, became the subject of a Washington Post Magazine cover story, was optioned for television, and is now taught in universities and law schools. Before becoming a full-time author, Helen practiced corporate law in New York for over 15 years. She is a graduate of Amherst College and Virginia Law. She is now finishing her second novel, which explores our complicated relationship with ambition. Helen's author website is helenwan.com and you can follow her on Twitter @helenwan1. [Photography credit: Anna Campanelli]To register, please fill out this form, and submit payment for one of the options below:
Full Payment - General $325Full Payment - AAWW Member $300Deposit - General $80Deposit - AAWW Member $75
Questions? Contact Nadia Ahmad at firstname.lastname@example.org..