An Interview with Paisley Rekdal

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2022-03-24 21:31Z by Steven

An Interview with Paisley Rekdal

Kenyan Review

Ruben Quesada

Paisley Rekdal is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Utah, where she is also the creator and editor of West: A Translation, as well as the community web projects Mapping Literary Utah and Mapping Salt Lake City. In May 2017, she was named Utah’s Poet Laureate and received a 2019 Academy of American Poets’ Poets Laureate Fellowship. Appropriate: A Provocation, which examines cultural appropriation, was published from W.W. Norton in Feb. 2021.

Her work has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Residency, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Pushcart Prizes (2009, 2013), Narrative’s Poetry Prize, the AWP Creative Nonfiction Prize, and various state arts council awards. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New Republic, Tin House, the Best American Poetry series (2012, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019), and on National Public Radio, among others.

RUBEN QUESADA: What is the earliest memory you have about your relationship to literature?

PAISLEY REKDAL: I recall when I felt I understood something about literature that other people didn’t. It was in fifth grade, when we were discussing Lord of the Flies, and the teacher asked who the self-sacrificial character Piggy might also remind us of. Piggy was meant to stand in for Jesus and I remember muttering that in class while the rest of the students looked a little baffled. I understood then that works of literature were often telling multiple stories at once; this multiplicity of meaning seemed to irritate other people, though it didn’t irritate me…

Read the entire interview here.

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Paisley Rekdal Wins the 2016 AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-10-11 00:49Z by Steven

Paisley Rekdal Wins the 2016 AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction

University of Georgia Press

Paisley Rekdal (photo credit: Austen Diamond)

Congratulations to Paisley Rekdal for winning this year’s Association of Writers & Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction with her work The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam. Rekdal is an essayist, photographer, and poet. She is the author of The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee, a book of essays; a photo-text memoir called Intimate; and five books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, Imaginary Vessels, and Animal Eye. She has received numerous awards and fellowships for her work. She currently holds the position of managing editor at Mapping Salt Lake City, a community-written web atlas of Salt Lake City of which she is creator. She is a professor of English at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and holds a Master of Arts from the University of Toronto and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Paisley Rekdal’s The Broken Country will be published by the University of Georgia Press in the fall of 2017…

Read the entire press release here.

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Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-12-22 04:18Z by Steven

Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture

Rutgers University Press
256 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-7070-9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-7069-3
Web PDF ISBN: 978-0-8135-7071-6
epub ISBN: 978-0-8135-7537-7

Jennifer Ann Ho, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The sheer diversity of the Asian American populace makes them an ambiguous racial category. Indeed, the 2010 U.S. Census lists twenty-four Asian-ethnic groups, lumping together under one heading people with dramatically different historical backgrounds and cultures. In Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture, Jennifer Ann Ho shines a light on the hybrid and indeterminate aspects of race, revealing ambiguity to be paramount to a more nuanced understanding both of race and of what it means to be Asian American.

Exploring a variety of subjects and cultural artifacts, Ho reveals how Asian American subjects evince a deep racial ambiguity that unmoors the concept of race from any fixed or finite understanding. For example, the book examines the racial ambiguity of Japanese American Nisei Yoshiko Nakamura deLeon, who during World War II underwent an abrupt transition from being an enemy alien to an assimilating American, via the Mixed Marriage Policy of 1942. It looks at the blogs of Korean, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese Americans who were adopted as children by white American families and have conflicted feelings about their “honorary white” status. And it discusses Tiger Woods, the most famous mixed-race Asian American, whose description of himself as “Cablinasian”—reflecting his background as Black, Asian, Caucasian, and Native American—perfectly captures the ambiguity of racial classifications.

Race is an abstraction that we treat as concrete, a construct that reflects only our desires, fears, and anxieties. Jennifer Ho demonstrates in Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture that seeing race as ambiguous puts us one step closer to a potential antidote to racism.

Table Of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Ambiguous Americans: Race and the State of Asian America
  • 1. From Enemy Alien to Assimilating American: Yoshiko deLeon and the Mixed-Marriage Policy of the Japanese American Incarceration
  • 2. Anti-Sentimental Loss: Stories of Transracial/Transnational Asian American Adult Adoptees in the Blogosphere
  • 3. Cablinasian Dreams, Amerasian Realities: Transcending Race in the Twenty-first Century and Other Myths Broken by Tiger Woods
  • 4. Ambiguous Movements and Mobile Subjectivity: Passing in between Autobiography and Fiction with Paisley Rekdal and Ruth Ozeki
  • 5. Transgressive Texts and Ambiguous Authors: Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Literature
  • Coda: Ending with Origins: My Own Racial Ambiguity
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Transpacific Mixed-Race Literatures: A Reading and Dialogue (Sawyer Seminar IX)

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-04 03:07Z by Steven

Transpacific Mixed-Race Literatures: A Reading and Dialogue (Sawyer Seminar IX)

University of Southern California, University Park Campus
Ronald Tutor Campus Center (TCC)
Room 351/352
Sunday, 2014-04-06, 10:00-17:00 PDT (Local Time)

How do Transpacific mixed-race authors inscribe and represent their heritage in their artistic representations? Are there common tropes or literary forms that inform these novels? What type of analysis might emerge from putting writers in dialogue with critical theorists?


Brian Castro, Professor and Chair of Creative Writing
University of Adelaide, Australia

Australian novelist of Chinese, Portuguese, and English descent; author of 12 novels including award-winning novels Birds of Passage (1982 Vogel Literary Award), Double-Wolf (1991 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction), Stepper (1997 National Book Council Prize), Shanghai Dancing (2004 Victoria and New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards), and The Garden Books (2005 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award).

Marilyne Brun, Lecturer
Université de Lorraine, France

Author of “Literary Doubles and Colonial Subjectivity: Brian Castro’s The Garden Book,” The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies (2012), “Racial Ambiguity and Whiteness in Brian Castro’s Drift,” Journal of the European Association for Studies on Australia (2011), and many other scholarly articles on the writings of Brian Castro.


Kien Nguyen, Novelist

Novelist of Vietnamese and American heritage. Author of 3 novels: The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood (2001), The Tapestries (2002), and Le Colonial (2004).

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies
San Francisco State University

Author of This is All I Choose to Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature (Temple University Press, 2011).


Paisley Rekdal, Professor of English
University of Utah

Writer of Chinese American and Norwegian heritage; author of four books of poetry, Crash of Rhinos (2000), Six Girls Without Pants (2002), The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (2007), and Animal Eye (2012), as well as a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In (2000). Her work has received a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award.

Viet Nguyen, Associate Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California

Author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford, 2002).

Presented by the Center for Japanese Religions and Culture’s “Critical Mixed-Race Studies: A Transpacific Approach” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminars Series at the University of Southern California.

For more information, click here.

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Podcast interview with Paisley Rekdal, poet and 2013 UNT Rilke Prize winner

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-26 20:21Z by Steven

Podcast interview with Paisley Rekdal, poet and 2013 UNT Rilke Prize winner

University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

Julie K. West, Publications Specialist
Office of Research and Economic Development

Poet Paisley Rekdal is the 2013 recipient of the University of North Texas Rilke Prize. The $10,000 award, named for the great German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, recognizes a book written by a mid-career poet and published in the preceding year that demonstrates exceptional artistry and vision. Paisley visited the UNT Department of English in April 2013 to accept the award for her prize-winning collection of poetry, “Animal Eye,” published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She joins Julie West, publications specialist with the UNT Office of Research, in an audio podcast interview to discuss her poetry and the creative writing process.

…JW: But yet that does seem to be somewhat of a theme running not only through this work but you, yourself, as a Chinese-American with Norwegian ancestry … surely you are used to switching lens …

PR: doubled

JW: … and having that doubled perspective, and I’m just now thinking of that, even, as I hear you read this last poem.

PR: I think that’s very true. I think that’s a really good point. What’s funny though, is the doubled-ness of my vision is not cultural because I grew up in America. So, to a certain extent, the doubled-ness of my vision is something that’s been placed on me. The ways in which — depending on who’s looking at me — I’m either potentially Chinese, or White, or a mixture of both … when people are interested in my ancestry and they’ll ask me questions about that. For me I feel like there’s a real — even though any self contains multiplicities and complexities — I feel like there’s a real unity to my vision. But the experience of being biracial in America means that I do recognize how I can appear two ways and what I mean can mean multiple things. So the willingness and the interest in playing with multiple perspectives — moving in and out of different bodies — I think reflects that, for sure, what you’re just pointing out — that experience of being biracial. But it doesn’t actually reflect my own identity, if that makes any sense. How biracialism exists outside of me, even though I, myself, am biracial…

Listen to the podcast here. Read the transcript here.

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Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2013-06-26 20:08Z by Steven

Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

Boston Review

Paisley Rekdal, Associate Professor of English
University of Utah

To be a biracial and female writer might suggest one of two things: first, that my gender and race are the subject matter of my work or, second, that the forms of my writing reflect my identity. Between these two possibilities–race and gender as theme versus race and gender as enacted form—a tension exists, perhaps arising from our current distrust of both narrative and identity politics. To write from the first position—race and gender as theme—boils a poem down to the recounting of experience, most likely the narrator’s marginalization. It is an easy poetry to identify, and it is a type whose detractors (rightfully and wrongly) criticize as an attempt to engender in the reader both sympathy with and catharsis through the personal revelations of the narrator. It is a poetry that at its worst risks becoming performative cultural “kitsch” through its manipulation of readers’ sensitivities to race and racism but, at its best, illuminates some part of the complexity currently surrounding ideas of racial authenticity and identification.

The second option—identity as enacted form—is harder to pinpoint, relying as it does as much on the writer’s stated objectives for the work, as on readers’ stereotypes about what kind of poetic form female biracialism could take. On the surface, we might expect “biracial” forms to be highly skeptical of an imaginatively coherent first person. They could be poems that rely on fragmentation, that are deeply engaged with critical theory regarding perception and language. They could be ironic, self-reflexive, suspicious of catharsis, engaged more with the playful destruction of archetypal myths of identity than in reifying them. In short, they would be hard to distinguish from much of contemporary poetry today…

Read the entire article here.

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Poet to discuss biracialism during UHV/ABR Fall Reading Series

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, Poetry, United States, Women on 2012-09-21 03:19Z by Steven

Poet to discuss biracialism during UHV/ABR Fall Reading Series

University of Houston-Victoria Newswire
Victoria, Texas

Born to a Chinese mother and a Norwegian father, award-winning author Paisley Rekdal’s mixed heritage often influences her poetry and essay writing.

She will share her insights about biracialism on Sept. 27 as the second speaker in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Fall Reading Series. Rekdal also will give a reading of her poetry.

The event will begin at noon in the Alcorn Auditorium of UHV University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. It is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

“Rekdal’s interesting mix of style and subject matter is a great addition to our reading series,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, ABR editor and publisher, and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “As an Asian American, she gives a voice to a part of biracialism that is underrepresented and continues that theme to other subjects that are often overlooked.”

During the event, Rekdal plans on reading and sharing photographs from her latest book, “Intimate: An American Family Album.” The book is a hybrid photo-text memoir that combines poems, fiction and nonfiction with photography from Edward S. Curtis, a famous photographer of the American West and Native American people.

The book explores her father’s mixed-race marriage to her mother while paralleling it with stories about Curtis and his Indian guide, Alexander Upshaw. Rekdal found inspiration by looking at photographs from Curtis and imagined his life.

“It’s a memoir about my family, but it also talks about representation of mixed-race people or how they are not represented,” she said…

Read the entire article here.

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Intimate: An American Family Photo Album

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Poetry, United States, Women on 2012-09-21 03:11Z by Steven

Intimate: An American Family Photo Album

Tupelo Press
April 2012
300 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-932195-96-5
Clothbound ISBN: 978-1-936797-08-0

Paisley Rekdal, Distinguished Professor of English
University of Utah

Intimate is a hybrid memoir and “photo album” that blends personal essay, historical documentary, and poetry to examine the tense relationship between self, society, and familial legacy in contemporary America. Typographically innovative, Intimate creates parallel streams, narrating the stories of Rekdal’s Norwegian-American father and his mixed-race marriage, the photographer Edward S. Curtis, and Curtis’s murdered Apsaroke guide, Alexander Upshaw. The result is panoramic, a completely original literary encounter with intimacy, identity, family relations, and race.

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Essayist and Poet Paisley Rekdal to Read From Works at Ithaca College

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2010-10-03 02:28Z by Steven

Essayist and Poet Paisley Rekdal to Read From Works at Ithaca College

Ithaca College
Clark Lounge, Egbert Hall
2010-10-05, 19:30 (Local Time)

ITHACA, NY — Essayist and poet Paisley Rekdal will give a free public reading from her works on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at Ithaca College. Her presentation, part of the Distinguished Visiting Writers Series, will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Clark Lounge, Egbert Hall.

The daughter of a Chinese-American mother and an American father of Norwegian heritage, Rekdal is the author of “The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee,” a collection of personal essays in which she confronts the difficulty of negotiating her biracial identity. She has also published three collections of poetry and will have a hybrid photo-text memoir that combines poems, nonfiction and fiction with photography, coming out from Tupelo Press in 2011.

Rekdal currently teaches at the University of Utah. She has been honored for her writing with a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, a Pushcart Prize, National Endowment for the Arts and Fulbright fellowships, the University of Georgia Press’s Contemporary Poetry Series Award and the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review.

For more information, click here.

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The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Women on 2010-10-03 02:27Z by Steven

The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In

Vintage an Imprint of Penguin Random House
224 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-375-70855-8 (0-375-70855-3)
E-Book ISBN: 978-0-307-42908-7 (0-307-42908-3)

Paisley Rekdal, Distinguished Professor of English and Asian Studies
University of Utah

When you come from a mixed race background as Paisley Rekdal does — her mother is Chinese American and her father is Norwegian– thorny issues of identity politics, and interracial desire are never far from the surface. Here in this hypnotic blend of personal essay and travelogue, Rekdal journeys throughout Asia to explore her place in a world where one’s “appearance is the deciding factor of one’s ethnicity.”

In her soul-searching voyage, she teaches English in South Korea where her native colleagues call her a “hermaphrodite,” and is dismissed by her host family in Japan as an American despite her assertion of being half-Chinese. A visit to Taipei with her mother, who doesn’t know the dialect, leads to the bitter realization that they are only tourists, which makes her further question her identity. Written with remarkable insight and clarity, Rekdal a poet whose fierce lyricism is apparent on every page, demonstrates that the shifting frames of identity can be as tricky as they are exhilarating.

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