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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Page Turner: The Asian American Literary Festival

"The Asian American Writers' Workshop is proud to present Page Turner: The Asian American Literary Festival. Our book bash is like the ideal boyfriend or girlfriend: that hot unabashedly lefty braniac with an awesome sense of humor and a great heart. Open to readers of all backgrounds, Page Turner is the only event of its kind -- a multi-day celebration of the best minds in Asian American arts and politics: Richard Price, Susan Choi, Monica Youn, Jennifer 8 Lee, Tao Lin, Tim Wu, Hari Kunzru, Das Racist, Hari Kondabolu, and nearly thirty other writers.
We're like the TED of Asian American literature, but with more booze and better battle rhymes. Come for the post-identity discourse, high-toned literary hoo-ha, and our warm sense of community. Stay for the cocktail receptions, haiku market, and drunken scrabble. Come back to aaww.org and pageturnerfest.org as we update our full schedule."
As I'll be in New York next weekend, I'm excited to attend Page Turner. AAWW was using Kickstarter to raise funds for the festival and while they've hit their initial $5,000 goal, they're still open to funding for another five days and all the money goes to making the festival that much bigger and better. There are a ton of cool awards available so go check those out. Sadly I won't be in New York in time to attend the Sexy Nerd Party on the sixth, but I will be there on Sunday. And I'm hoping to introduce people to Squabble, the far superior version of Scrabble!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Angela S. Choi

I was in San Franciso last week for LitQuake and debut author Angela S. Choi was doing a reading. Sadly I could not attend as I was flipping out trying to get my reading ready that night but I had really wanted to go see her.

Choi's book is the incredibly titled, "Hello Kitty Must Die," complete with an eye catching pink cover. Now I'm a fierce Hello Kitty fan but I won't hold that against Choi because her book seems all kinds of awesome. I mean, there's satire (the best kind of comedy), an Asian American protagonist, a serial killer, and oh so much more. Joy Luck Club meets Dexter is like a dream come true! I'm so jealous I didn't think of this first because it's brilliant.

Choi is an ex-lawyer -- who quit her career to write -- and just wrapped up some jury duty so we know she's not only smart and talented but a responsible civic minded person to boot. It's rumored that her next book is titled "Jesus Will See You Now" which makes another instant read for me.
"Choi's scorching-hot debut rips into the stereotype of Hello Kitties, young Asian-American women who are upwardly mobile, outwardly modern, but trapped by their families' old-fashioned cultural expectations. A week before turning 28, Fiona 'Fi' Yu, a San Francisco corporate lawyer who lives with her parents, uses a silicone device to take her own virginity, an act she soon regrets. When she consults Dr. Sean Killroy about restoring her hymen, the cosmetic surgeon turns out to be Sean Deacon, a former grade school classmate who once lit a girl's hair on fire. Fi renews her friendship with Sean, who draws her into a secret world that's empowering but also highly disturbing. As Sean encourages Fi to fight back when her parents suggest suitors, people who cause problems for Fi wind up dead. A demonic stir-fry of influences, including Amy Tan, Chuck Palahniuk, Clive Barker, and Candace Bushnell, infuses Choi's prose with passionate ferocity."
-Starred review from Publisher's Weekly
All this plus Choi's German publisher has created an online game where you get to shoot Hello Kitties. Like wow. The high score is 34,710 which I find unbelievable as my Starcraft honed skills only managed a 1,239 on my second go-around. I'm blaming my mouse.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hyphen Magazine

"Hyphen is a magazine about Asian America for the culturally and politically savvy. Built around a clarity of image, word and social awareness, Hyphen takes form from the artists, thinkers and creators who are shaping a new multiethnic generation.
Hyphen is not a formula but a sensibility—not a collection of recycled fare with an Asian flavor, but original reporting on stories that move beneath the mainstream. Curious and questioning, Hyphen looks into the hard issues, but also the Asian American by accident, by tangent or by happenstance. Visually arresting, it strikes the gut with clean design, sharp photography and original illustration.
Like its readers, Hyphen is many things—cool librarian, shy musician, dorky hipster, cute techie. Like Asian America, its interests are varied—politics, art, health, music. Much like the hyphen connects words and concepts, Hyphen magazine connects readers with Asian America as it happens."
Launched in 2002, Hyphen is a nonprofit, all volunteer magazine printed three times a year. Based out of the Bay Area, Hyphen has been putting out an award winning magazine for almost a decade. You know how you sit around with a few friends and ask "how can we create something that we care about and believe in," and then (if you're like me) you forget about it the next morning? Well check out the story behind Hyphen's beginnings, which shows you what a dedicated and talented group of people can do.

The Hyphen staff puts in so much time, heart, and effort into make Hyphen a success that it would only be right for everyone to support them by subscribing and donating. They are currently in the middle of a fundraising campaign and everyone knows how hard it is to put out a quality paper mag nowadays so help'em out! Also, Hyphen is always on the lookout for passionate volunteers to join their business, editorial, events, and web teams. And if you got a short story to share, Hyphen's new fiction editor is looking for submissions.

On top of publishing a magazine and hosting social events around the Bay Area, Hyphen also organizes an annual Mr. Hyphen competition. This year's winner will be crowned on November 6th. What is Mr. Hyphen? Glad you asked.
"Mr. Hyphen turns stereotypes about Asian males on their heads. The competition is structured like a pageant with rounds of talent, fashion and Q&A in front of a sold-out crowd. Striking a blow for equal-opportunity all-in-good-fun ogling, Mr. Hyphen is an energy-filled evening of fun and charity. And to top it off, the man crowned Mr. Hyphen wins a $1,000 cash donation to his nonprofit organization."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith

While I can't speak with absolute authority on this, award winning author Cynthia Leitich Smith's website and blog (Cynsations), are the top destinations for anyone interested in literature for children and young adults. Actually, who needs authority. Cynthia's website is definitely the best destination!

Seriously, there's so much great stuff on her recently redesigned main site that trying to sum it up could take forever. Instead I'll just recommend clicking over and losing yourself in all the wonderful articles, videos, links, news, advice she has gathered over the years.

There is one section on her site I wanted to specifically highlight though, as it's relevant to Lonely Comma's purpose. Under the link to Children's and YA Literature Resources is a section for Diverse Reads. Within it are sub-categories such as multicultural, multiracial, Native Americans, and an Asian-Heritage page. Cynthia's husband, Greg Leitich Smith, an author himself, provides us with the introduction:
"The field of Asian American children's and young adult literature includes many wonderful books — poetically written and exquisitely illustrated. The number of children's authors and illustrators working from the relevant communities is steadily on the rise, and some of these folks — like Yumi Heo, Cynthia Kadohata, Allen Say, An Na, Linda Sue Park, Janet Wong, Lisa Yee, and Laurence Yep — have received great critical acclaim.

Books featuring Japanese, Chinese, and Korean characters — while still limited in number — are far more prevalent than those reflecting any other Asian or Asian American community, especially the Southeast Asian. We hope to see more quality books reflecting the diversity of Asian American life in the future."
-Children's and YA Books with Asian Heritage Themes-
On the rest of the page, there's a few highlighted books as well as links to interviews and featured authors on the sidebar. Also, there are separate sections for anthologies, Chinese heritage, Korean heritage, Japanese heritage, and a resources and links section. In a way, Lonely Comma hopes to be a continuation of the passion and work the Leitich Smiths have obviously put in and they've been kind of inspiring figures. Currently Cynthia teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts so that could call for a field trip right? Leitich Smith also does quite a few events. Consider yourself lucky if you've been able to catch any of her events or speeches.

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Greg Leitich Smith
Website | Blog

Friday, October 1, 2010

Association of Iranian American Writers (AIAW)

"The Association of Iranian American Writers is a member-based organization dedicated to promoting the work of fiction and non-fiction writers, essayists, poets, journalists, photojournalists, and artists who work with words. Iranian heritage and/or Iranian history and culture are important aspects of our work, although not necessarily our essential subject matter."
There's been a lot of books from and about Iran in recent years and I hope you've all read Persepolis, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Septembers of Shiraz, and Funny in Farsi. I mean, c'mon, they are huge books (not literally) and you couldn't have missed them at the bookstore. Up until a few years ago, I had no exposure to Iranian American literature, which is totally sad because there's a ton of great Iranian American writers and stories that need to be told. AIAW's well organized and informative site is a great place to get started, especially their Featured Writers Overview page.

I have to admit, I didn't know much about the history of Iran back then either, pre- or post-revolution, and I had to take some time to educate myself because if you're going to journey into works set in unfamiliar historical places, you gotta study up. That's half the fun of reading, am I right?

Also, this past weekend I went to Zohreh Ghahremani's book launch -- which was how I found out about AIAW. I had the honor of getting an advance copy of Sky of Red Poppies awhile ago and Zoe was kind enough to let me blurb it! Let me tell you, it is not easy to sum up a beautiful book in a few short sentences. Or in my case, a sentence. If it were up to me, I would have slapped a lot of superlatives and exclamation marks for my portion because that's how I felt about Zoe's book. I think you'll agree after reading it.
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