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 especiallyliked 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 manageablehas 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.
Congratulations to our friends at The Asian American Literary Review, who have just announced the release of their inaugural issue featuring poetry and prose by Oliver de la Paz, Mong-Lan, Cathy Song, Nick Carbo, Ed Lin, David Mura, and many other Asian American literary luminaries.
The issue is available by snail mail for $12 plus shipping and handling, and may be obtained using the subscription form on their web site. Copies can also be procured in person at their upcoming symposium or their panel at the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in two weeks.
Our friends at The Asian American Literary Review have just passed on some information about an exciting event of theirs that is coming up in April.
8: A Symposium: Voices from The Asian American Literary Review will feature free public readings, Q&A sessions, and book signings by eight highly accomplished Asian American writers: Karen Tei Yamashita, Sonya Chung, Kyoko Mori, April Naoko Heck, Ed Lin, Srikanth Reddy, Peter Bacho and Ru Freeman. The symposium will be an all-day affair, and will take place on April 24th, 2010, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Ulrich Recital Hall as part of the University of Maryland, College Park’s, Maryland Day celebration.
For more information, please contact the organizers by email: asianamericanliteraryreview[at]gmail[dot]com.
If you live in the vicinity of Maryland or will be in the area around the time of April 24th, we highly encourage you to check out this event!
“The Asian American Literary Review is a space for writers who consider the designation ‘Asian American’ a fruitful starting point for artistic vision and community. In showcasing the work of established and emerging writers, the journal aims to incubate dialogues and, just as importantly, open those dialogues to regional, national, and international audiences of all constituencies. We select work that is, as Marianne Moore once put it, ‘an expression of our needs…[and] feeling, modified by the writer’s moral and technical insights.’ AALR features fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, comic art, interviews, and book reviews.
Our first issue, debuting in April 2010, features forum responses by Alexander Chee, David Mura, and Ru Freeman; poetry by Cathy Song, Oliver de la Paz, Paisley Rekdal, April Naoko Heck, Mong-Lan, Eugene Gloria, Nick Carbo, and David Woo; Karen Tei Yamashita interviewed by Kandice Chuh; prose by Ed Lin, Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Sonya Chung, Hasanthika Sirisena, David Mura, Gary Pak, and Brian Ascalon Roley; and book reviews by Paul Lai, Timothy Yu, and Jennifer Ann Ho.”
Lawrence speculates that submissions will likely open sometime in late spring or early summer of 2010. In the meantime, please head on over and check out their temporary web site, or leave them some love on Facebook by joining their group.