Much of literature and journalism is about identity. Debates about contemporary issues –globalization, immigration, religious conflict–have identity as a basis.
Who are we?
How are we changed by the world around us?
What is our impact on others?
In this discussion with poet and winner of this year’s Yale Younger Poets Prize, Ken Chen and writer, journalist, and English professor Amitava Kumar, we explore the explosion of Asian American literature in this context.
This Saturday, Nov. 14, Chen and Kumar are among more than 40 Asian American writers, comics, journalists to gather at the Asian American Literary Festival in DUMBO.
They will come together to discuss, listen, and read work from the Asian American community. On Saturday evening, an awards ceremony will honor writers, including Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth. Writers whose family backgrounds come from the vastness of Asia–the Philippines, India, China, the Koreas, Iran, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam will attend.
Chen and Kumar say Asian American writers, despite their widespread origins and national heritages, share an important commonality–otherness–the experience of belonging in two worlds. Kumar talks of writing a “love poem” to U.S. immigration officials and has titled his upcoming book, a report on the global war on terror, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb. Chen’s poetry links the style of traditional Chinese poetry to the mad modernity of American life and his relationship with his immigrant family. His book collection of poems, entitled Juvenilia will be published in March 2010.