Trying To Recognize People Like Me

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2019-07-25 01:01Z by Steven

Trying To Recognize People Like Me

The Margins
Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

(from left to right) T Kira Madden, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Violet Kupersmith

Writers Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Violet Kupersmith, and T Kira Madden speak to each other about mixed-race identities in life and literature

February 28 isn’t too cold. I hurry through sharp sunlight to a café in Lincoln Center. It is the official launch day of my novel, Harmless Like You, in the USA. I feel woozy and anxious. I’ve been avoiding bookshops, because I’m too scared to know if it’s in stock. I’m meeting two dear friends who are also writers. T Kira Madden is the Editor in Chief of No Tokens Journal, with her memoir forthcoming. Violet Kupersmith’s collection of stories The Frangipani Hotel was published by Speigel & Grau, and her novel is forthcoming. They are both dear friends of mine, and it has been too long since I’ve seen their faces. The other thing we have in common is that we are mixed-race. Specifically, we have one Asian parent and one white parent. I’ve been told that equals accessible exotic. I want to ask Violet and Kira how they deal with this and how it affects them as writers.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: I never know what to call myself. At readings, people laugh at me when I get introduced as British-Japanese-Chinese-American, like it’s a punchline. I think, hey it’s not a joke. But I laugh too because I’m nervous. In Japan, I called myself hafu which is the accepted word there. I know lots of Americans say hapa—but I’m nervous about my right to take something from Hawaiian Islander culture. I grew up saying halfie, which I worry is too cute—but it is at least mine. So these days, I go back to halfie.

Violet Kupersmith: I’m half-Vietnamese and half-white. My mother’s family came to America on a boat in the seventies. My father’s side is all mixed European potato genes. I remember being really excited when the term “hapa” first started getting circulated, because it was finally a real label I could apply to myself after growing up having to just check the “other” box on all my paperwork. But I still feel a little squirmy referring to myself as hapa out loud because, like you said, it’s from Hawaiian Islander culture.

T Kira Madden: I am Hawaiian so I’m used to “hapa! hapa haole!”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Discovering the Illusion: An Interview with T Kira Madden

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Gay & Lesbian, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-04-21 16:56Z by Steven

Discovering the Illusion: An Interview with T Kira Madden

Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Pik-Shuen Fung

T Kira Madden, Photo by Jac Martinez

“Magic and writing, it’s all misdirection, defamiliarization, and at its best, the ahhhhh moment of surprise.”

Nothing is steadfast in the childhood of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, only a slow unraveling. An only child born out of an affair between her wealthy white shoe-brand father and her Chinese-Hawaiian model mother, [T Kira] Madden went back and forth between the chaos of her home, where her parents struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, to the misery of her Boca Raton private school, where she faced ostracism as a queer biracial girl.

Madden writes, “I wanted love the size of a fist. Something I could hold, something hot and knuckled and alive.” To contain, to hold, to be vulnerable—these intense desires both shape and propel her exploration of grief, trauma, pain, and forgiveness. Composed as a kaleidoscope of darkly shimmering fragments, this courageous debut memoir is the documentation of one woman’s attempt to write down and rewrite her own history, so as to make space for more love.

I had the chance to speak with T Kira on a freezing afternoon in January. She welcomed me into her cozy home, where there were glowing candles, a pot of roasted buckwheat tea, and two energetic poodles who insisted on sitting around for the conversation…

Read the entire interview here.

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Hybrid Details: Honoring Fred Wah: with Fred Wah, Wo Chan, Mark Nowak and Jeff Derksen

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2016-04-12 22:53Z by Steven

Hybrid Details: Honoring Fred Wah: with Fred Wah, Wo Chan, Mark Nowak and Jeff Derksen

Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 West 27th Street, 6th Floor
New York, New York 11366
Wednesday, 2016-04-13, 19:00 EDT (Local Time)

Poet Fred Wah is a living legend in Canada, but he remains woefully under-read in this country. To remedy that, we’re celebrating Fred’s oeuvre–a jazzy, radical exploration of place and racial hybridity–and the publication of Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962–1991 (Talonbooks 2016). We’ll have Fred himself, on a rare visit from Canada, and acclaimed poets Wo Chan, Mark Nowak, and Jeff Derksen.

A hapa poet who grew up in his father’s Chinese restaurant, Fred is the winner of the Governor General’s Award (Canada’s highest literary award), served as the country’s fifth Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. He has been compared to the American experimental poets–like the Language Poets and Objectivists Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, with whom he studied–but Fred’s work is informed by his identity growing up in a Chinese-Irish-Scots and Swedish household and his relationship to the countryside of British Columbia. A self-described “Kootenay boy,” Wah has said, “My writing has been sustained, primarily, by two interests: racial hybridity and the local, the landscape of the Kootenays in southeastern BC; it mountains, lakes, and forests.” The editor of several important Canadian literary journals (TISH, Open Letter, West Coast Line), Fred is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including Waiting For Saskatchewan (Turnstone 1985) (this Governor’s General award-winner explores Saskatchewan, “a place that held, for me,” Fred states, “the complications of a mixed-race family history and the geographical site for an Asian-European intersection”) and Diamond Grill (Edmonton: NeWest Press, 1996), a coming-of-age collection based on childhood memories working at his father’s Chinese restaurant. Scree collects almost a half century of work, ranging from visual poetry and jazzy riffs to Black Mountain-style open poems about the Canadian landscape to new narrative prose poems and Haibun. As the poet Rob McLennan writes, “The dialogue between Fred Wah’s earlier works tests the possibilities of a poetics of place, of a syntactic dynamism opened by the North American postwar experiments in form and a push against the Western box of knowledge (a push that is threaded through 1960s counterculture up to the globalization of the early 1990s).”

Three award-winning poets will read and comment on Fred’s poems: Wo Chan and Mark Nowak. A queer Fujianese poet and drag performer, Wo Chan was a 2015 AAWW Margins Fellow, as well as the recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Kundiman, and Lambda Literary; read Wo’s poems Such as and Chopped in The Margins. Guggenheim Fellow and former labor organizer Mark Nowak is the author of Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press 2004, afterword by Amiri Baraka), named a The New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” and the acclaimed book on coal mining disasters in the US and China, Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press 2009), which Howard Zinn called “a stunning educational tool.”

Moderated by Simon Fraser University Professors Jeff Derksen. A poet and theorist at the nexus of geography, cultural production, and globalization, Jeff co-founded Vancouver’s writer-run centre, the Kootenay School of Writing. He has written several books including The Vestiges (2013), Transnational Muscle Cars (2010) and Annihilated Time: Poetry and Other Politics (2010), all from Talonbooks.

Co-sponsored by the Manhattanville MFA program

For more information, click here.

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The Forgotten Amerasians

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive, Oceania on 2016-02-25 00:11Z by Steven

The Forgotten Amerasians

Open City
Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Enrico Dungca

Unwanted in their mothers’ country and unwelcome in their fathers’ homeland, Filipino Amerasians are still in search of a home.

“Do you know your father?” I asked him.

It was a humid, rainy night in Angeles City, some 50 miles north of Manila. I was aboard a jeepney on my way home after partying with friends during a recent trip to the Philippines. He was also a passenger on that jeepney, the most popular mode of public transportation in the Philippines that were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II – one of the more visible and enduring vestiges of American military presence in the Philippines.

“My mother is a Filipino, and my father is an American,” Eric said, as he lowered his gaze and kept it fixed on the jeepney floor. He started shaking his head and said he has no recollection of his father, although he often wondered about him — where he lives, if he is still alive, or if he remembers him or if he knew that he existed at all.

His father is a U.S. serviceman, one of the hundreds of thousands of American military men who were stationed in the Philippines since 1898 when the U.S. became the new colonial master of the former Spanish colony. Eric is what Nobel Prize for literature awardee Pearl Buck called an “Amerasian” — born of Asian mothers and sired and abandoned by their American soldier-fathers who were momentarily posted in countries that were either stages or hosts to U.S. military adventures…

Read the entire article here.

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Hello World: How Nike Sold Tiger Woods

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-11-26 21:01Z by Steven

Hello World: How Nike Sold Tiger Woods

The Margins (After 1989)
Asian American Writer’s Workshop

Hiram Perez, Assistant Professor of English
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

How did a multinational corporation like Nike appeal to diverse markets without violating the principle of colorblindness that became increasingly and insidiously sacrosanct in the U.S. in the 1990s? A deconstruction of two infamous Tiger Woods ads sheds some light.

Percussion punctuates the chanting voices of boys and men as images of Tiger Woods, first as a toddler, then a young man, are choreographed into a montage that builds to an emotional, triumphalist crescendo. Over footage of fist-pumping victories and slow-motion shots of Woods, golf club in hand, walking across greens surrounded by galleries of peers, media, and fans, the following title sequence appears:

Hello world.

I shot in the 70s when I was 8.

I shot in the 60s when I was 12.

I played in the Nissan Open when I was 16.

Hello world.

I won the U.S. Amateur when I was 18.

I played in the Masters when I was 19.

I am the only man to win three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles.

Hello world.

There are still courses in the U.S. I am not allowed to play

because of the color of my skin.

Hello world.

I’ve heard I’m not ready for you.

Are you ready for me?

Nike made Woods the new major face of its brand when he turned professional in 1996. That year Nike signed Woods to a 40-million dollar, five-year contract (eclipsed by the $100 million dollar contract that followed in 2001) and released its controversial “Hello World” television campaign. The skilled editing, writing, and scoring of the ad elicits goose bumps to this day, even from cynical viewers (like me)…

…Tiger Woods’ racial celebrity personifies the paradox of ’90s racial discourse: a simultaneous institutionalization of diversity politics and colorblind universalism. This union of seemingly contradictory ideologies becomes a hallmark of liberal multiculturalism and its commodity forms. Race does not matter, or it matters only insofar as it can be commercialized.

We see this clearly in “I am Tiger Woods,” the second Nike campaign for Tiger Woods released in 1996, which universalizes multiraciality to herald colorblindness. The television commercial begins with a black boy pronouncing, “I am Tiger Woods.” The next shot features an Asian girl doing the same—hardly a coincidence since Woods is the son of a black father and Thai mother. Accompanied by percussion and the flute-like sounds of a falsetto chant, several more children follow, each making identical pronouncements. In the final shot, Tiger Woods appears on a dewy green striking a golf ball in slow motion, and a white subtitle at the bottom of the screen announces, “I am Tiger Woods.” The ad succeeds in evacuating the fact of Woods’ blackness much more effectively than his now infamous identification as “Cablinasian.” Personal criticism of Woods at the time for his use of this neologism could have been more productively directed at Nike’s construction of Woods’ transcendent racial celebrity, an iconography that so effectively sutured multiculturalism to colorblindness. The celebrity of Tiger Woods and its corporatization safeguard status quo, institutionalized racism.

However paradoxical, colorblindness and multiculturalism ultimately advance similar ideologies. Each imagines racial difference independently from systemic racism. Liberal multiculturalism promotes diversity for the sake of diversity and has little interest in radically challenging the institutions that secure white privilege…

Read the entire article here.

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