Tuesday, February 15, 2011

[500 Project] More beginning readings in APIA Literature.

The ever-readable Barbara Jane Reyes has added her list of recommendations for beginning readings in Asian /Pacific Islander American literature at: http://www.barbarajanereyes.com/2011/02/14/api-literature-recommendations/ as we continue our efforts on the 500 Project to find people passionate about APIA literature.

I should point out that I think her work, as hard to find as it tends to be, also comes with my recommendations.

It also occurs to me that one of the great things that always keeps me interested in APIA literature is that it's NOT a simple subject and it's enjoyably debatable on many fronts, the same way people root and cheer and argue over sports.

While APIA literature is one way of organizing our sense of many writers, there's many questions that don't necessarily have definitive answers.

For example, even though there are at least 60 different nations and cultures one or one's family may come from, should APIA literature consider Russian American writers APIA writers. Most people I've spoken to consider Hapa writers APIA writers, but I'm sure there's probably someone who disagrees.

Do we exclude APIA writers who don't identify as APIA writers, such as a certain Chicago-based poet I know, or APIA-opportunists who, if they're getting paid or selling books let people promote them as APIA writers but otherwise have no investment or history in the progress and growth of their community?

We've seen the debates regarding the adopted 'non-Asian' children of APIA parents.

In a case of semantics, should APIA literature consider the work of refugees who have not naturalized or are in the process of naturalizing as American citizens? Or does it only matter that the majority of their writing takes place in the US? If so, then does a piece written abroad count? Will their work count if they ultimately resettle in another country or return back to their former homeland?

Is it APIA literature if it's not written in English, for example? Or, in terms of content, if they never write a story or a poem with a single Asian or Asian American or Pacific Islander character? Does it count if it's not written down, but preserved in a strictly oral or audio/video recorded format?

There are many ways to find oneself in an intriguing tug of war, and I hope people see that many of the assumptions we take for granted are not clear cut.

Of course, in the end, "good literature is good literature" but I think part of the joy is the many civil debates we can have on the matter.

Keep reading, keep writing!


Barbara Jane Reyes said...

thanks for linking, and thanks for these posts.

i am always thinking it might just be time to stop doing the "look! an asian!" identity politic thing with lit.

you and i both know there are whack (for various reasons of whackness) works out there that i don't want to feel pressured to support.

also, my recent lack of interest in asian am lit really has to do with the much stronger resonances i've been finding with latin@, arab american, pacific islander, and african american poetries.

i also think there's a trend in asian am poetry that i don't abide so much, that deference to the establishment, no roots in or respect for protest literature, and also an articulated disdain for work borne of activism which are historical cornerstones for APIA communities.

well that's my dos centavos.

Bryan Thao Worra said...

I think it's difficult but important to set up a lush baseline that we can either add to, subvert or at least know what we're ignoring over time.

There's a lot of people out there who think I'm going to acknowledge them or wave the flag for them and their work, but no, it doesn't work that way.

I really resent the lack of opportunities for us to provide critical space and feedback on other APIA work without coming across like the Antichrist or someone who's not 'down with brown.'

It's very few people I'd tell to hang up the pen, or at least, the public pen, but there are candidates. But I wind up with so many moments where it feels like we can't call each other out on pedestrian thinking, on sloppy writing or say something as simple as "you can put this stuff on paper, but you can't make people read it..."

When did APIA literature get populated with so many easily bruised strawberries?

How do we create resilience and incentive to create, how do we establish authentic mechanisms for recognition that don't become inbred bodies of cronies or hypesters?