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Keeping Tabs: Prisms

Writing magic and mermaids, negotiating boundaries and borders, combatting immigrant detention, living in disaster, and more.


Follow our lines of thought this week as we consider the vectors and shapes of our writing — who we write for, who we write as, and conditions we write within. If you’re wondering how to give your writing form, our line-up for you this week gets into these difficult contentions. Make sure to open up another window to save all these links for a weekend best spent with your favorite notebook and word processor!


The Novelist Whose Twitter Feed is a Work of Art by Jonathan Blitzer

For the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer writes on how Workshop friend Rabih Alameddine (whose fifth novel Angel of History is forthcoming!) takes a break from writing with Twitter, and how popular Alameddine’s curated feed of paintings, photographs, and poems has become.

Every morning, Alameddine searches for images to post, and throughout the day he’ll continue looking for more, confecting his feed with a zany spread of GIFs, for good measure. He spends about two hours, all told, collecting and posting the images he finds. Mostly, he mines the Facebook folders of two social-media archivists, an Englishman named Stephen Ellcock and the Dutch artist Patty Struik. Each of them maintains folders on Facebook that are full of images organized under a range of different headings—colors, subjects, genres, time periods. “Often, I just use their folders. I curate their images. I’m the messenger—I just put it out there.”

Content warning in the following piece for antiblack violence.

Who Gets to Write What? by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Kaitlyn Greenidge, featured on a panel at AAWW PubCon 2016, pushes for a reassessment of identity politics and writing, on the New York Times. (Also mentioned in the article is Workshop friend and Southern Cross the Dog author Bill Cheng!)

It’s the wish not so much to be able to write a character of another race, but to do so without criticism. And at the heart of that rather ludicrous request is a question of power. There is the power of rendering another’s perspective, which is not your own. There is the adage “Don’t punch down,” which sits like the shiny red lever of a fire alarm, irresistible for some writers who wish to pull it.


From mermaids to girl gangs: Kai Cheng Thom tells us more about her upcoming first novel by Ashley Fortier

Kai Cheng Tom (also featured in a past Keeping Tabs installment!) discusses the memoir genre in trans lit and hints themes of sisterhood, magic, and reconciliation in her forthcoming novel from Metonymy Press, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir.


Ecological Trauma in the Body: Viet Dinh’s “After Disasters” Explores the Inner Conflicts of Disaster Relief by Heidi Hong

For the L.A. Review of Books, Heidi Hong reviews Viet Dinh’s debut novel on transnational disaster politics and negotiating and navigating life within our landscape of constant catastrophe, After Disasters.

Meticulously researched and vividly told, After Disasters is an ambitious page-turner that weaves together environmental devastation, queer masculinities, and postcolonial landscapes. The novel falls in line with a genealogy of Asian-American narratives concerned with identity, sexuality, and the environment, such as Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and Matthew Salesses’s The Hundred Year Flood. Dinh’s stunning rendering of postcolonial India and the river Ganges is reminiscent of Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide. The multitude of voices exploring queer masculine intimacies and attachments at times echoes Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Dinh’s exploration of queer masculinity and desire alongside the sprawling traumatic effects of war, postcolonialism, and natural disaster is a fascinating and subversive move. After Disasters is a disaster novel that transcends: grappling with universal questions of mortality and romance while paying careful attention to the particularities of history and identity.


Deportations of Southeast Asian Americans: A Glaring Human Rights Issue in an Unjust Immigration System by Chanida Phaengdara Potter and Mia-lia Boua Kiernan

In response to recent Minneapolis protests against the deportation and detention of Cambodian refugees, Chanida Phaengdara Potter and Mia-lia Boua Kiernan on Reappropriate overview histories of war and deportation in Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian American communities and provide resources for how to join resistance against continuing deportation.

As Southeast Asians in the same struggle with a shared history of U.S. intervention and civil wars, we’re writing this together as a show of unity in a moment when Lao, Hmong, Khmer, Viet, and Southeast Asian American solidarity overall is urgent and necessary now more than ever. We know the violence and fear that has been instilled by our own fellow community members against each other in our home countries during war, and here in the U.S. during Drug War-era resettlement when communities of color were pitted against each other for survival. As we struggle and commit to recognize the harm and violence we’ve enacted upon one another throughout our history, we also recognize the systems of militarism, foreign policy, and institutionalized criminalization and racism that created the conditions we all live under today.


Episode 15 Featuring Your Questions– Part 1 by The Poetry Gods

Prepare for The Poetry Gods’ season one finale with their most recent episode: a Q&A on poems and poets we return to, gatekeeping, and (not) preparing for the apocalypse. (And catch their cover art by Jess X. Chen!)


Hunger Drives the Body into Imagination by Jess X. Chen

A very recent reader at the Workshop for the launch of AMPLIFY(HER) and previous Margins feature Jess X. Chen stretches between the expanses, magics, and violences of immigration, in Blue Shift Journal.

We are at the border, again.
so white it is ready for paint
Watch our shoulders spread
that will never face

The border—a fence
Go ahead and jump
into sails of ships
the direction of home



September in Books: Small Press New Releases by Entropy

If you’re wanting something a bit longer to sink into, Entropy Magazine pulls together a list of September’s small press releases — including a new poetry collection by AAWW Director Monica Youn!

Hello — we have the twenty-first installment of Entropy’s small press new releases ready for you! … September looks promising on the title front, so take a look below.