The Asian American Writers’ Workshop was founded in 1991 by four friends, who shared a passion and energy for uplifting the work of Asian American writers. Publishing literature from the Asian diaspora has been at the heart of the Workshop’s mission since the organization’s founding, and as we celebrate thirty years of the AAWW, we are taking the time to look back to where it all started, convening talented editors and writers to discuss the Workshop’s long history of publishing Asian American writers.
We’ll be joined by Marina Budhos, who will share reflections on working with Meena Alexander; Curtis Chin and Barbara Tran, who will speak to the founding of the Workshop, and the very first issues of the Asian Pacific American Journal; Monique Truong, Rajini Srikanth, Sunaina Maira, and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, who will discuss the anthologies published by the Workshop, and their experience bringing those anthologies to life; Lisa Ko and Andrea Louie, who will discuss the transitional period between print publications, our newsletter, and magazine; Eileen Tabios, who will discuss the Workshop’s support of Asian American poetics; and writers and former Open City and Margins Fellows Fellow Tammy Kim, Humera Afridi, Joseph Lee, and Emperatriz Ung, who will discuss the connection between the Workshop’s fellowships and our digital magazine The Margins.
The title of this event is drawn from the inaugural issue of The Asian Pacific American Journal, which was titled “In the Heart,” drawing inspiration from America Is In the Heart, by Carlos Bulosan.
In commemoration of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s 30th anniversary, AAWW at 30 will explore the values and ideas that lie at the heart of the Workshop’s mission. From the complexities of representation to the need for an artistic home to interrogating our editorial and archival legacies, this series of events will serve not only as a retrospective of our rich and layered history, but also as a resounding call to envision our future.
HUMERA AFRIDI is a New York-based writer of Pakistani origin. She was a Fiction Fellow at the Writers Institute, CUNY Graduate Center. She holds an M.A. degree in Literary and Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University and earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at New York University where she was the recipient of a New York Times Fellowship. Humera earned her B.A. in English cum laude at Mount Holyoke College. In 2017, she received a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature and was selected as a named Gregory Millard Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, Guernica, The New York Times and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing amongst other publications.
MARINA BUDHOS is an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent novel is The Long Ride, about three mixed race girls during a 1970s integration struggle. (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House). She recently published Watched , a follow-up to Ask Me No Questions, and takes on surveillance in a post 9/11 era. Set in Queens, NYC, Watched tells the story of Naeem—a teenage boy who thinks he can charm his way through life. One day his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer him a dark deal. Watched received an Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature YA Honor (APALA) and is an Honor Book for The Walter Award (We Need Diverse Books). Marina has also co-authored with her husband Marc Aronson, the nonfiction books Eyes of the World: Robert Capa & Gerda Taro & The Invention of Modern Photojournalism, which is currently under TV series development with film director Dev Benegal, and Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom & Science, which was a 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist. Her books have been translated into several languages and Marina has been a Fulbright Scholar to India, received a 2020 NEA Literature Fellowship, an EMMA (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and two Fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. Her next novel, We Are All We Have, is forthcoming in 2022.
CURTIS CHIN is an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker whose voice has been recognized by the National Association for Multicultural Education, the National Association for Ethnic Studies, the American Librarians Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and more. A graduate of the creative program at the University of Michigan, Chin has also received fellowships from ABC/Disney Television, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and served as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. Chin has spoken and screened his films, Vincent Who? and Tested, with over 600 entities in sixteen countries including the White House, Lincoln Center, Amnesty International, SXSWEdu, and the Government of Norway. Past media appearances include CNN, MSNBC, and public radio, as well as national print media including the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Huffington Post. As a community activist, Chin co-founded the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the premiere non-profit dedicated to promoting Asian American writers. He has also worked as the Director of Outreach for the Democratic National Committee and served on Barack Obama’s Asian American Leadership Committee during his 2008 Presidential Campaign.
BARBARA TRAN‘s writing has appeared in Conjunctions, Ploughshares, and The Paris Review. A video poem of hers will tour with the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network traveling exhibition “Textures of April 30th” in 2022. A contributor to She Who Has No Master(s)’ collaborative projects, Barbara is a member of the arts and humanities collective AfroMundo. Honors include a MacDowell Freund Fellowship, Bread Loaf Scholarship, Pushcart Prize, and Lannan Foundation Writing Residency. Along with Monique Truong and Luu Truong Khoi, Barbara is co-editor of Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry & Prose, which will be released in a 25th anniversary edition in 2023. Barbara gratefully acknowledges Hedgebrook for radical hospitality at a crucial time and Canada Council for the Arts for essential support.
MONIQUE TRUONG is the Vietnamese American author of the bestselling, award-winning novels The Book of Salt, Bitter in the Mouth, and The Sweetest Fruits and the co-author of the forthcoming children’s picture book Mai’s Áo Dài. She’s also a former refugee, essayist, avid eater, lyricist/librettist, and intellectual property attorney.
RAJINI SRIKANTH is Professor of English and Dean of Faculty at UMass Boston. She is the author of the award-winning book The World Next Door: South Asian American Literature and the Idea of America (2004) and Constructing the Enemy: Empathy/Antipathy in U.S. Literature and Law (2012).
SUNAINA MAIRA is Professor of Asian American Studies, and affiliated with the Middle East/South Asia Studies program and the Cultural Studies Graduate Group. Her research and teaching focus on Asian, Arab, and Muslim American youth culture, migrant rights and refugee organizing, and transnational movements challenging militarization, imperialism, and settler colonialism. Maira was a Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellow for 2019-20 and has been doing transnational research project focuses on Arab refugees and immigrants in the Bay Area and in Athens, Greece. Her new community-engaged project is focused on Yemeni Americans in Oakland and the impact of the pandemic, the Muslim Bans, and the war in Yemen. Her ethnographic research highlights the experiences of Yemeni corner store owners and their families who were essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. In partnership with the StoryCenter, she has produced digital stories with Yemeni and Arab Americans in the Bay Area that highlight alternative narratives and underdiscussed stories about the Covid “crisis,” the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, the War on Terror, Islamophobia, and community organizing. Maira co-edited (with Piya Chatterjee) The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent which has been much discussed in critical university studies. She also co-edited Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America, which won the American Book Award in 1997, and Youthscapes: The Popular, the National, and the Global.
ROWAN HISAYO BUCHANAN is the author of Harmless Like You and Starling Days. She has won The Authors’ Club First Novel Award and a Betty Trask Award and been shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. Her work has been a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and an NPR Great Read. Her short work has appeared in several places including Granta, Guernica, The Guardian, The Harvard Review, and NPR’s Selected Shorts. She is the editor of the Go Home! anthology.
LISA KO is the author of The Leavers, which was a 2017 National Book Award for Fiction finalist, won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, and was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2017 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. The Leavers was a national best seller and named a best book of the year by NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, The Los Angeles Times, Electric Literature, the Irish Times and others, and has been translated into five languages. Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories and her essays and nonfiction in The New York Times, The Believer, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships from Hedgebrook, the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Ucross, Blue Mountain Center, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. She has taught creative writing at the City College of New York, Indiana University, the New School, Queens College, the One Story Summer Writers Conference, and in many community settings. She lives in New York City.
ANDREA LOUIE is Secretary at the Nassau County Department of Health, where she has been supporting the emergency response to COVID-19, including coordinating the COVID-19 hotline team and vaccination clinics as well as leading workforce tracking and documentation. She was previously executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance, leading arts advocacy and cultural equity for New York City’s diverse, pan-Asian, multidisciplinary cultural community. She is the author of a novel, Moon Cakes (Ballantine Books) and coeditor of an anthology, Topography of War: Asian American Essays (The Asian American Writers’ Workshop). Andrea is a recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, the Hannah S. and Samuel A. Cohn Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a Ludwig Volgelstein Foundation grant and was short-listed for the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. She has served as a review panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Joyce Foundation, EmcArts, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. She was a writer-in-residence for the National Book Foundation and has been awarded artist residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Djerassi, Hedgebrook, and the Fundacíon Valparáiso in Spain. She has been appointed by Gov. Cuomo to the NYS Commission on National and Volunteer Service and serves on the boards of SMU DataArts, New Yorkers for Culture & Arts, and Bellevue Literary Press. She is a member of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop as well as the Asian American Journalists Association. She was 2016 honoree of Leadership for Asian Pacifics (LEAP) in Los Angeles, and was a 2017 arts and community advocate honoree of the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre.
EILEEN R. TABIOS loves books and has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in ten countries and cyberspace. Publications include the long-form novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times; the form-based Selected Poems, The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets (1996-2019), THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL: Selected Visual Poetry (2001-2019), INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems & New (1996-2015), and THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New (1998-2010); the first book-length haybun collection, 147 MILLION ORPHANS (MMXI-MML); a collection of 7-chapter novels, SILK EGG; an experimental autobiography AGAINST MISANTHROPY; as well as one book translated into French and three bilingual and one trilingual editions involving English, Spanish, Thai, and Romanian. Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku poetic form as well as a first poetry book, Beyond Life Sentences (1998), which received the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry (Manila Critics Circle). Her poems have been translated into 11 languages as well as computer-generated hybrid languages, paintings, video, drawings, visual poetry, mixed media collages, Kali martial arts, music, modern dance, sculpture and a sweat shirt. Additionally, she has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays as well as exhibited visual art and visual poetry in the United States and Asia.
E. TAMMY KIM is a freelance magazine writer and a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times. She’s also a co-host of the Time to Say Goodbye podcast and a contributing editor at Lux, a new socialist-feminist magazine. Tammy previously worked as a do-gooding lawyer and was an Open City fellow at the workshop in 2012–2013.
JOSEPH LEE is a nonfiction writer and teacher. He is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha’s Vineyard. Joseph lives in Queens and is a graduate of the MFA program in nonfiction at Columbia University. He has written for publications including Tin House, Catapult, and The Guardian.
EMPERATRIZ UNG is a Chinese-Colombian game designer, writer, & educator from the American Southwest. When she’s not making games, she’s at work on her memoir. You can find her on Twitter at @mprtrzng.
Marina Budhos, Curtis Chin, Barbara Tran, Monique Truong, Rajini Srikanth, Sunaina Maira, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Lisa Ko, Andrea Louie, Eileen Tabios, Tammy Kim, Humera Afridi, Joseph Lee, Emperatriz Ung
AAWW at 30