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!