AALR Presents 8: A Symposium RECAP

On Saturday April 24th, I was able to attend the Asian American Literary Review’s 8: A Symposium at the University of Maryland. I was able to see all of editors Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis and Gerald Maa’s hard work after being featured on Fil-Am Ako. The first authors to be featured in the very first AALR symposium were Peter Bacho and Ru Freeman. Fil-Am author Peter Bacho is also an attorney and teacher from Seattle, Washington whose novel Cebu won the American Book Award. His latest work is also his first young adult novel, which captures in new ways and for new audiences, some of Bacho’s favorite themes: religion, boxing and Filipino Immigration. Ru Freeman from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania was published in the US and Canada by Atria/Simon & Schuster in July, 2009, by Viking in the UK, and in translation in Italy, Israel, Taiwan, Brazil and the Netherlands for her debut novel, A Disobedient Girl. Freeman’s novel is a coming of age story of two sri Lankan women, it offers what is perhaps the most honest and incisive portrait of contemporary Sri Lankan life. Due to heavy traffic for Maryland Day, I was unable to catch Peter Bacho and Ru Freeman’s readings/Q&As. FYI, Maryland Day commemorates March 25, 1634. On that day, settlers disembarked from two small sailing ships – the Ark and the Dove – on to Maryland soil.

Luckily, I was able to catch Srikanth Reddy and Ed Lin, who are both in the photo posted above. Srikanth Reddy is a poet, literary critic, and professor at the University of Chicago. His first collection of poetry is the highly regarded Facts for Visitors: Poems, much of which was written while Reddy worked for a rural literacy program in the south of India. The first thing that came into mind when I saw Ed Lin was that this guy is hilarious and entertaining, especially during his readings. Ed Lin is the first author to win two Members’ Choice Awards in the Asian American Literary Awards. His latest book is Snakes Can’t Run, the sequel to This is a Bust, both novels hardboiled noirs set in the Chinatown of 1970s New York City. For anyone who has a copy of the first issue of AALR’s journal, Ed Lin’s reading of Chinese New Year is what got me on a laugh riot. You can learn more about Ed Lin at his website EdLinForPresident.com

The next group of authors to be featured were Kyoko Mori and April Naoko Heck. Kyoko Mori is from Washington D.C. whose most recent work, Yarn: Remembering the Way Home, offers knitting as a way of understanding life, love, and finding home. Mori crosses genres with ease, she has published books of fiction, poetry, memoir, essay, and young adult fiction. I was very entertained by Mori’s stories of her experiences in Japan as a young woman. Her account of being told not to look at a man’s face, but rather his throat was something I couldn’t forget. She stated that this practice was ridiculous because how in the world would she be able to know when the man is done talking.

April Naoko Heck is a recipient of an AWP intro Journals Award and a writers residency at VCCA. A multicultural poet, she imagines her Japanese grandmother’s experiences during World War II. Her poems have appeared in Artful Dodge, Bordreland: Texas Quarterly Review, Epiphany, and Shenandoah. April Naoko Heck brought a great point that even during the nations current economic climate, it’s great to see that the University of Maryland would be able to support the Asian American Literary Review and celebrate Asian American authors.

Karen Tei Yamashita is an author of multiple award-winning groundbreaking novels that span Brazil, Japan, and the U.S., picturing global traffic and the interplay of commerce and the environment. Her latest work, I Hotel, chronicles the rise of the Asian American movement. I was very impressed with Karen Tei Yamashita’s presentation on I Hotel as it reaffirmed my sense of pride as a Filipino-American and made realize that Filipinos have so much history in America that should not go unrecognized.

Fil-Am author Peter Bacho was asked to read an excerpt from I Hotel. His reading was very entertaining and he even did a Filipino accent to capture the essence of the Filipino experience in California.

Sonya Chung is a recipient of the Charles Johnson Fiction Award, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and the Bronx Council on the Arts Literary Fellowship & Residency. Long for This World, her first novel, tells an expansive story of Korean immigration and return, exploring the connections between human rights and art.

Overall, I enjoyed 8: A Symposium presented by the Asian American Literary Review. It was great to be in a room with 8 of the most accomplished and intelligent Asian Americans. It was also a pleasure for a book lover and nerd like me who use to spend his days in college at the library for fun. As you can see from the photo, the 8 Asian American authors’ books were on sale and it was great to see people of all ages enjoying their work.

The Asian American Literary Review is a not-for-profit literary arts journal. It was founded in July 2009, with the aid of the University of Maryland’s Asian American Studies Program, and features poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, forum responses, interviews, comic art, translations, and book reviews.

You can purchase a copy of Issue 1 at AALR’s website at www.aalrmag.org or you can find them on Facebook.

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