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AAWW’s Space Through the Years

Former and current Workshop directors and workers reflect on 30 years of AAWW’s spaces

AAWW at 30, Essays | AAWW at 30, Community, Space
December 16, 2021

Editor’s Note: As the Asian American Writers’ Workshop celebrates its 30th anniversary, we invited current and former editors, writers, community members, and workers to make new meaning from the Workshop’s archive. Together, they have awakened AAWW’s print anthologies and journals, returned to the physical spaces of the Workshop starting from our basement location on St. Mark’s, and given shape to the stories from within AAWW that circulate like rumors, drawing writers back again and again. In revisiting the Workshop’s history, we hope for insight into the ever-changing landscape of Asian diasporic literature and politics and inspiration to guide us forward in our next 30 years. Read more in our AAWW at 30 notebook here.

From its earliest days as a group of writers meeting in New York City’s East Village in the nineties, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop—cofounded by Curtis Chin, Christina Chiu, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and Bino A. Realuyo—has created space for readers and writers of Asian and Asian American literature to gather and connect. To tell part of the Workshop’s 30-year history, we asked a group of former and current Workshop staff members to reflect on AAWW’s many spaces, from 37 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village and 16 West 32nd Street in Koreatown to our current office at 112 West 27th Street in Chelsea and our virtual space. In their pieces, they illustrate the charms and frustrations of these locations—burst pipes, the green couch, old Dell computers, the piano that event attendees sat underneath—and also reflect on the people who made the Workshop, as Amita Manghnani says, a place “where we cram in too tight, lean in together, and listen to artists and writers whose words never fail to reveal something new about ourselves.”

A Subterranean Home” by Peter Ong, Managing Director 1997–1999

Surrounded by Books” by Jeannie Wong, Administrative Director 1998–2009

A Shift in the Room” by Amita Manghnani, Program Manager 2011–2012

Nightlife at the Workshop” by Sophia Hussain, Program Coordinator 2017–2019

Through the Screen” by Jafreen Uddin, Executive Director 2020–Present