Editors’ Corner: Celebrating Banned Books Week 2016


In honor of Banned Books Week 2016, the Lantern Review Blog has solicited a list of recommended reading from its friends, former staff, and past contributors. These are titles that our community has identified as works too important not to be read; that is, books that ought to be defended, rather than challenged and/or removed from bookstores, libraries, and classrooms. Join us and the rest of the book community as we celebrate the right to express and to seek ideas through literature. And don’t forget to leave a comment below, if you’d like to contribute to this list of books that you believe we deserve the freedom to read!

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Corona by Bushra Rehman (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013)
“Corona is a dark comedy featuring Razia Mirza, a young Pakistani woman from Queens, NYC. When a rebellious streak leads to her excommunication from her Muslim community, she decides to go on the road, but it doesn’t take her long to realize traveling as a Muslim woman is quite different than traveling as Jack Kerouac.”  —Bushra Rehman

culebra by Roberto Harrison (Green Lantern Press, 2016)
“Roberto Harrison’s tercets investigate, uncover, the ways in which a landscape, a history can embody the mythos of an animal. In this case, the snake: ‘The Kuna Indians of Panama make their molas in pairs. According to this tradition, things arrive in the world in pairs, so as to create a third from the union. As we are limited in our binary thinking, the snake points away toward the integral through a triad, toward a more whole understanding of the world. It knows the silence of death in the ground of the living. It heals as it sees with his tongue and symbolizes an alternative way of knowing.’ ”  —Mg Roberts

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Bantam Books, 1984)
“Set in the aftermath of World War I, Johnny Got His Gun is a scathing commentary on the realities of war and raises troubling questions about taking extraordinary measures to prolong life when someone does not wish to live. The main character, Joe Bonham, lives as a prisoner in his own body, having lost his arms, legs, and all of his face after being caught in the blast of an artillery shell.”  —Kathleen Hellen

Lettres philosophiques (1734) by Voltaire (University of Oxford, 2017)
“This book of twenty-five letters by Voltaire has been translated as Letters on England (Penguin Classics) and Letters Concerning the English Nation (Oxford World’s Classics), among other editions.  My favorite letters are the ones about Newton and Descartes, British tragedy, and Pascal’s Pensées.”  —Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino (Cleis Press, 2008)
Opening Up is an excellent introduction to polyamory, the practice of having multiple romantic relationships at the same time with the knowledge and consent of all involved. The percentage of people who practice some form of ethical non-monogamy has been growing rapidly in recent years and polyamory has been called a lifestyle choice, a sexual orientation, and a relationship orientation.”  —Clara Changxin Fang

Pinoy Poetics: A Collection of Autobiographical and Critical Essays on Filipino and Filipino American Poetics Edited by Nick Carbo (Meritage Press, 2004)
“Pinoy Poetics was long overdue when it was released in 2004. A collection of autobiographical poetics by Filipino and Filipino American authors, it remains fresh today. Even as many of the book’s poets since has received major awards, Pinoy Poetics remains unique in representing the concerns and interests of Filipin@ poets, which are often reduced or elided in categories like ‘Asian American,’ ‘poets of color,’ et al.”  —Eileen R. Tabios

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press, 2015)
“I wish I’d had a wise aunt like Maggie Nelson to talk to when I was growing up, or this book. I’ve read few better meditations on love: and death, and pregnancy, friendship, motherhood, birth, family, gender, the pain of losing love, loving a parent who’s dying, love and sex, loving anal sex… The first paragraph will make people want to ban this book. And it gets better after that so we need to protect it.”  —JoAnn Balingit

The Butcher’s Wife by Li Ang (Peter Owen Publishers, 2002)
“Set in a Taiwanese village in the 1930’s, this is a harrowing morality tale of violence and patriarchy. It’s the most frightening, gory book on the oppression of women I’ve ever read.”  —Joseph O. Legaspi

When the Chant Comes by Kay Ulanday Barrett (Topside Press, 2016)
“When the Chant Comes is a love song for all the ‘queer hungry parched kids,’ for those who gather in many tongues, for those whose bodies hold memory across ocean and scar, for those who desire and deserve rest and dream.”  —Ching-In Chen

Friends & Neighbors: Issue 1 of THE ASIAN AMERICAN LITERARY REVIEW


It’s always exciting to receive a fat jiffy envelope with a book-like bulge in it when the mail comes. So when my copy of The Asian American Literary Review‘s inaugural issue arrived last month, I was especially ecstatic to rip into the envelope. Since the editors of AALR announced their presence online earlier this year, I had been eagerly anticipating their first issue.  Their pre-release publicity had advertised an impressive lineup of literary luminaries, and I must say that in every respect, the issue has managed to live up to the editors’ promises.

I’m going to focus on some of the poetry in the issue in a bit (since this is, after all, a poetry blog), but before I delve into that train of thought, I should note that I immensely enjoyed the prose in the issue, too.  I especially liked that the editors chose to began the issue with a “forum” (i.e. a series of position statements and replies) in which three Asian American writers (Alexander Chee, David Mura, Ru Freeman) responded to questions regarding the necessity and purpose of an Asian American literary magazine.  I enjoyed following the convergence and divergence of the participant’s different points of view, and in particular,  thought that their discussion about whether an Asian American writer must necessarily write ‘about’ his or her ethnicity brought up some very important questions, such as: do MFA programs disservice students of color by teaching them to write toward a “norm” set by mostly middle-class, white models?  Or, conversely, do they force students of color to conform their work to an particular “trope” or mode in which  “ethnic writing”  is expected to operate?  I also enjoyed the dialogue sparked by David Mura’s observations about the lack of longevity that has hitherto plagued many Asian American literary ventures.  Mura noted two problems that have contributed to this trend: 1) a lack of financial and administrative know-how, and 2) the divided nature of the Asian American community with regards to whether or not to claim a pan-Asian American identity.  I thought that Mura’s observations were spot-on. Young as LR is, my work on it thus far has already given me a taste of some of the challenges that he identifies.  I was especially struck by his point about lack of administrative manpower.  Administratively, LR is a two-woman operation and our solution thus far to keeping the administrative side of things manageable has been to keep the magazine relatively small.  But what of the future?  What will happen if LR expands beyond our administrative capacities?  Mura’s observations (and the ensuing responses by Chee and Freeman) touched on a very real concern for us, and served as a good reminder that in order to avoid burnout, we will need to be humble enough to seek out help when it’s necessary while remaining practical enough to stay grounded in whatever way we can.

Continue reading “Friends & Neighbors: Issue 1 of THE ASIAN AMERICAN LITERARY REVIEW”