Thursday, March 03, 2016

Readings for Transitions: Refugee Memories & Imagination in Diasporic Expression

On Monday, March 7th, at UC Davis, I'll be sharing some of my work and speaking about the role that memory and imagination plays in the lives of refugees in diaspora. This covers a significant amount of territory, but I'll be drawing at length on my own experience with the Southeast Asian refugee communities who began arriving to the US forty years ago with the end of the Vietnam War, and the nearby civil wars in Laos and Cambodia.

Some of you have already asked where you can start to get an idea of what my writing is like, particularly how I use various elements from popular culture, science fiction, fantasy, and horror to address the refugee journey. To address that, here are some resource that may be of use.

Slideshare has a copy of my short introductory collection "Between Souls" that was created around 2011. It also contains a bibliography of my work and some notable appearances during the 2000s.

Over at Scribd, a few years ago, I uploaded a copy of my worksample that I submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts that led to me becoming the first Lao American to hold a Fellowship in Literature in Poetry from the NEA. This may be useful to some first-time readers as well. 

I've also made a number of my works available on including my 2009 collection Tanon Sai Jai, and other works I feel will demonstrate the possibilities we have when we more fully explore and give voice to refugee journeys.

This topic is an ongoing concern for me because I feel too often in literature, the voices of refugees are reduced to predictable, marketable texts by larger publishing houses, film, theater, and radio. 

I appreciate their economic practicality, but for refugee communities attempting to rebuild their voice, all too often this has become a problematic process, fraught with gatekeeping and homogenous, monolithic narratives. While we are often cautioned to see the forest, not just the trees, this approach often leads us to overlook rare and valuable "trees" we need to understand the story in its fullest context.

Contemporary literature often overlooks the inner lives of refugees. There are few histories that take a serious concern with what we dream, what we imagine as we transition from monarchies to democracies, or other traditions. Our spiritual beliefs are often considered secondary to statistical figures and secular documents, codified names, dates, and places. This often leads to distorted views of our history and journey that I think we would do well to avoid. 

Throughout the evening I will also discuss the importance of why we must write to the limits of our imagination if we are to participate more fully in free and open societies.

Our talk will be in the Risling Room of Hart Hall on the third floor, starting at 6:30 PM. The event is free to the public. I haven't spoken to the community in the Sacramento county since 2009, six years ago, so I'm looking forward to the  conversation and catching up with all of you.

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