Thursday, February 17, 2011

[The 500 Project] APIA Literature and the X-Files

A big thanks to Claire Light who reminded me of her list of great books to start with in your adventures with APIA Literature: Check it out.

The editors at the Kartika Review have also set a new goal for us to try and find those 500 folks by May. Now that's going to take some getting the word out, so thanks to all of you who've been responding. And tell your friends, please. There's still a few states who haven't checked in, but I'm not going to point fingers yet.

In the meantime, having a recent conversation with Barbara Jane Reyes about flying pigs and metaphors, the following scene from the classic show the X-Files in many ways also touches on an important reason why APIA literature needs an opportunity to find its audience, to grow and to flourish:

Or: The dangers of homogeneity in the literary and intellectual marketplace.

One of the big concerns, and justifiably so, has been that a limited number of channels for real distribution and presentation of work has permitted only a handful of types of stories to emerge that are predictable and creating a false impression of popularity and consumer demand. 

Good books like Ed Lin's Waylaid, which really speak from a hilarious point of view and without the usual wistful, cloying pathos of certain other APIA writers, rarely make it to readers within the historic mechanisms of 20th and 21st century publishing. 

Speaking of which, Ed Lin's recent Asian American mystery novel Snakes Can't Run has a new book trailer out. It's worth finding or special ordering a copy if you can. Ed consistently delivers with his work. Personally, I'd love to see what he'd do with post-apocalyptic science fiction or a good zombie story, but that's probably not going to happen.

One important thing to mention is that I'd hate to see a trend where APIA writers and readers have to turn into Indie Rock Petes who can't enjoy what others are putting out there. But at the same time, we need to do more to encourage a true plurality that can provide constructive feedback, support and when necessary, criticism in order to get us the stories that are truly classics for our time.

Stay tuned!


Barbara Jane Reyes said...

Bryan, let me also direct you to this Fil Am Lit biblio I started compiling some years ago. I try to update when I hear of new titles:

Really, I've also been thinking there isn't really a set "starting place" for some people. I think of how some folks can enter into APIA lit through some of the most avant garde poetics, versus more straight forward narratives. Some readers' brains, I think, are configured that way, to "decode" that "difficult" poetry and appreciate the APIA themes, issues, politics that some "experimental" poetries handle well.

Bryan Thao Worra said...

ooh. Good. But at the same time let me suggest "Their Guys, Those Glittering Asian Guys" is probably on my top 5 worst places to start. ;)

Barbara Jane Reyes said...

I am of course, talking about APIA authored lit. Whatever other folks are writing about us is NOT a good place to start, esp. when it's coming from an uninformed place.

So clarification: avant garde poetries authored by APIA writers.

Bryan Thao Worra said...

Lol, and then the fun goes back to our Pearl Buck-Tera Patrick debate we were having.

Barbara Jane Reyes said...

Um, I don't know what that means.

Bryan Thao Worra said...

Per Dr. Wikipedia: Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (June 26, 1892 – March 6, 1973) also known by her Chinese name Sai Zhenzhu (Chinese: 賽珍珠; pinyin: Sài Zhēnzhū), was an award-winning American writer who spent most of her time until 1934 in China.

Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the U.S. in 1931 and 1932, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

In 1938, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces."[1]

Informed by her experience in Asia, should we consider an Asian American writer or an American Asian writer or just throw it out of consideration all together.

In any case, for her, I think it would not be a conventional start into the socio-political-literary minefields of modern APIA literature, but consider that Anchee Min felt Pearl Buck portrayed Chinese peasants "with such love, affection and humanity."

And others felt that she demythologized the Chinese to American minds, and so, drawing from that, might we then extend the argument to say she opened a pathway for Asian American literature?


Bryan Thao Worra said...

Or: Can a healthy introduction to Asian American literature emerge from reading "Sinner Takes All," the autobiography of Thai-American porn star Tera Patrick?

While some might say it doesn't belong in the ranks of "Heaven and Earth", "the Winged Seed" or "Turning Japanese," her book ranks #72,654 to Turning Japanese score of #1,208,340 on Amazon's best seller list. Winged Seed is 848,845 just to keep it all in perspective.

Which doesn't necessarily mean much more than a cup of coffee, I suppose, but it's an interesting figure.

Bryan Thao Worra said...

Which was all an elaborate set-up to getting back to our discussion of the X-files. Zing!