The DC/MD/VA Report: Part I


28 April 2010

Firstly, thanks to Karen Tei Yamashita (author of three novels and the just released I Hotel, a collection of 10 novellas about the birth and rise of Asian American arts/activist movements) with whom I shared the stage at the Voices from the Asian American Literary Review Symposium this past weekend — for reminding me of the Galeano quote that is this week’s “quote of the week.”  Here is the full quote:

Why does one write, if not to put one’s pieces together?  From the moment we enter school or church, education chops us into pieces; it teaches us to divorce soul from body and mind from heart.  The fishermen of the Colombian coast must be learned doctors of ethics and morality, for they invented the word sentipensante, feeling-thinking, to define language that speaks the truth.

— “Celebration of the Marriage of Heart and Mind,” from Galeano’s The Book of Embraces

When I started this blog, over a year ago now, I found the whole “online presence” thing to be obligatory, awkward, and a bit burdensome.  But I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve missed posting here while on the road doing book events.  I very much write to put my pieces together

Ed Lin and Srikanth “Chicu” Reddy, yukking it up on stage

The Symposium was terrific, and I was honored to spend the weekend with not only Karen, but six other writers whose stunning work and generous spirits inspired me:  so thanks also to Ed Lin, Peter Bacho, Srikanth Reddy, April Naoko Heck, Kyoko Mori, and Ru Freeman.  I hope you’ll google these folks and check out their work.  (And let me add here Marie Mutsuki Mockett, intrepid novelist-traveler, who came down from NYC with 4-month old baby boy, and whose work appears in the inaugural issue of the Review.) Our fearless leaders and moderators Lawrence-Minh Bui Davis, Gerald Maa, and Terry Hong also deserve a round applause.

Hyphen Magazine did a nice, and detailed, blog report on the event, read it here.

Lawrence-Minh Bui Davis & Gerald Maa, Co-Editors of the
Asian American Literary Review

Karen Tei Yamashita, giving a multi-media presentation on I HOTEL

Ru Freeman, novelist and essayist, author of A DISOBEDIENT GIRL


By the time the Symposium events had ended, I was pretty pooped out.  I had three classroom visits ahead of me, and I confess that a part of me wondered why the heck I’d agreed to do all of these appearances — did I think my introversion would somehow melt away and that some kind of literary-adrenaline would kick in?  Not to mention the fact that transporting oneself around the DC area is kind of a nightmare; every Point-A-to-Point-B journey involves traffic, significant distance, expensive gas, parking, ugh.  Spoiled New Yorker, I am.

But I am happy to report that each of the three visits — one to Montgomery College, two to the University of MD — was encouraging and energizing.  I met revved-up and deeply caring teachers; smart, engaged students; bright-eyed, aspiring writers.  A highlight was visiting a class that had read Long for This World and spent two full class sessions discussing it (my visit was to the second session).  Hearing a group of intelligent, interested students talking, and even arguing, about the novel’s themes, intentions, meanings, as well as the characters’ motivations and transformations — was such a treat.  I loved especially hearing students express conflicting allegiances to the characters.  That’s exactly the kind of experience I would have hoped for the reader — to feel ambivalent about the characters, to understand them as both victims and perpetrators (and everything in between), to be immersed in the complexity of a polyphonic, polycultural family.

The report on Part 2 of my visit — the Border’s reading in northern Virginia, where I read for an almost-all-Korean audience! — forthcoming.


3 Responses to “The DC/MD/VA Report: Part I”

  1. lauren Says:

    thanks so much for coming to our class, sonya (or in my case, classes)! i wish i could have hung around to talk when you were signing books, but i just wanted to thank you for dedicating your time to us. both classes were really engaging and it was super interesting to be able to talk so in-depth to an author about their work – i’ve never really experienced that before. and i feel you on the DC transportation thing…that’s why I’m moving back to New York after i graduate, of course.

  2. sonyachung Says:

    Hi Lauren, thanks for stopping by here! It was really my pleasure to chat with you guys. Glad to hear you’re heading for NYC post-graduation; obviously, I’m partial to city life!

  3. […] months ago, thinking that it would be nice to do a bookstore reading while in the DC area (for the Asian American Literature Symposium). I grew up in Maryland, so I thought of it as a sort of “hometown event.”  As the […]

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