Photo series by Annie Wong: How to Burn Paper to the Dead investigates a hauntology of cultural loss and obscured genealogies evoked by ancestral worship practices that have become estranged within the Chinese-Canadian diaspora, includingthe burning of joss paper – that is, sheets of rice or bamboo paper, often decorated to resemble gold or silver. We were excited by the idea (as advanced by Yuling Zhong in her essay) that this is a form of remittance between the living and the dead, as well as between diaspora and homeland.
Welcome to the Transpacific Literary Project, a new initiative of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop that will present urgent, exciting fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from across East and Southeast Asia.
The theme of our inaugural portfolio is particularly apposite as our very mission is a sort of “remittance.” We believe literature should travel across languages, communities, and borders, and that all readers benefit from encountering the unfamiliar and remote. It is vital for all of us to read beyond our comfort zones and at a time when walls—literal and metaphorical—seem to be springing up everywhere, these conversations are more important than ever.
Remittance, here, is interpreted broadly, making use of the full range of possibilities that language affords us. A new piece from this portfolio will be released weekly over the next six weeks. You’ll read about migrant workers remitting their wages home, the idea of burning hell money as a remittance between the living and dead, and the remittance of culture itself, as call center employees in Asia are urged to absorb Americanness in order to make their customers feel more comfortable.
The Transpacific Literary Project at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop is made possible with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation.