Interview with Jee Yoon Lee’s “Writing Like an Asian”

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-1-40-25-pm

Most days I feel like a mess, other days I know I’m an educator, a wife, a mom, a hiker, a home cook and gardener, but I love the days when I can call myself a “Writer” and thanks to Melissa Sipin, I got a chance to escape the imposter syndrome and discuss some of my greatest loves and life’s passions. Professor Jee Yoon Lee, who teaches at the Georgetown University Writing Program, has created an incredibly comprehensive website featuring Asian/American writers and artists with “Writing Like An Asian.” The scope is astonishingly wide and the interviews are deep, such as Q&A’s with Sipin, Barbara Jane Reyes, Marianne Villaneuva, David Mura, and the list goes on and on.

Here’s a taste:

Every word I write is summoned by my mixed race heritage, and the hundreds if not thousands of miles my grandparents traveled from the Philippines and from Mexico to make a life for them selves and for our family here in the States. I feel in some sense I am re-telling the same story, the origin of our mixed ancestry. How opposing forces from different parts of the world came together to make new.

Read the entire interview here.

Peep out my interview and please share with lovers of lit to spread the word on “Writing Like An Asian.”

 

Re-thinking Panel Questions for Writing Our Way Home: Shaping Tradition, History and Culture” at SFPL this coming Saturday, October 19, 3-4pm.

BookFestival13_poster_v4
With only hours away, the questions are being finalized, some of them reconsidered for audience and accessibility thanks to a heads up from Lysley Tenorio about audience.
Proving once again that a writer’s work is never done, below are the revised questions, which will probably be tweaked and re-tweaked a few more times before put to the panel which includes Luisa A. Igloria (poetry), Jon Pineda (poetry, memoir, fiction), and Lysley Tenorio (fiction).
Fil Am Book Fest II is going to be an impressive and inspiring literary love fest. Here’s hoping to do the writers justice!
  • How do you start? When do you know you’ve come to the end?
  • Luisa Igloria’s newest collection The Saints of Streets (UST Publishing house, 2013) are comprised mainly of narrative poems. Can we talk about genre and shuttling among forms since Pineda has written a memoir, poetry, and a novel, Lysley moving from short fiction to a novel and Luisa focusing most recently on narrative within poetry?
  • How has family shaped you as a writer? What memories or experiences in childhood and with family serve as foundational in terms of what inspires you to write and what you write about?
  • Currently reading Pineda’s Apology, so his novel is forefront in my mind and specifically this quote: “It was not a dream, though it felt like one. A beautiful piece of memory that could make him cry. Exequiel woke now, feverish. Out of his head. He summoned it from the faint scar woven in the bottom of his foot. A story hidden in the flesh.” So many of the tales interwoven in this novel are told through the body. I’m curious to know how does the flesh experience–since this is such a visceral and at times violent set of interlocked stories–how does flesh dictate the telling of the novel as opposed to chronology? I’d love to hear the panelists discuss how the body dictates their work.
  • In Tenorio’s story “Felix Starro” the narrator contemplates age, time, and space, “I had turned nineteen three weeks before, on the plane to America. But I didn’t know exactly when it happened–that whole time in the sky I wasn’t sure if it was today or tomorrow, which country was ahead or behind and by how many hours or days…” Can you talk about geography and place. Is there as the title of the panel and conference suggests, a way to write home?
  • In D.R.M. Irving’s book on musical history of the Philippines, Colonial Counterpoint: Music in Early Modern Manila, (Oxford University Press, 2010) he posits that Manila during the 16th and 17th centuries became the first truly cosmopolitan city, linking the East with the West, the old world of Spain with the new world of New Spain in Mexico. Since each of your works are arguably transnational, do you feel that you speak to a new cosmopolitanism or that you might be  cosmopolitan yourself?
  • In the collection of essays Not Home But Here: Writing from the Filipino Diaspora, Luisa Igloria writes in her introduction of the “academic residence.” Might the panelists speak on multi-residences, be they academic, artistic, personal, familial, etc. and how they inform or influence your writing or shape the different self/selves as academic, writer, Filipino?
  • Who are you reading now?
  • What is the best dish or meal to sit down to after a day of writing?

Excerpt on the Re-Cap of Mills College Workshop: Geography as the Body

From Ruelle Electrique’s “Geography as the Body & Inherited Landscapes: A Shamefully Overdue Re-cap on the Mills College Workshop, November 18, 2012”:

Political Content Engagement Writing Workshop

Absolutely and positively late in re-capping but still here it is, an overview of the Mills workshop that your salonniere was invited to as a guest speaker hosted and organized by the gracious and talented writer and publisher melissa r. sipin , sponsored by ANAKBAYAN East Bay, TAYO Literary Magazine, Philippine American Writers & Artists and Mills College. The Political Content & Engagement Writing Workshop was a series of five free writing workshops where participants from all age ranges and from across the Bay Area also performed at a reading gala and had their work published in the “i am ND” anthology…

…When it came time for writing, yours truly created prompts to play with ideas on memory and/or cultural amnesia regarding native land, family, culture and tradition. The students wrote about body and space, concerning their hometowns of Vallejo, Toulumne, Los Angeles, and my neck of the woods, Paradise Hills in East County San Diego. The slides below are from the presentation on “Love & Labour: Geography and the Body” where writers explored their childhood neighborhoods and were challenged to describe their homes as a lover or an old friend.

Read the entire excerpt here.

Slide03

Excerpt on Lysley Tenorio’s Reading at San Francisco Philippine Consulate

On Wednesday November 28, after a wet and windy day, yours truly had the pleasure and honor of introducing my grad school mentor and thesis advisor fiction writer and Professor Lysley Tenorio, who’s new book, Monstress, a short story collection, was recently published by Ecco. Organized by PAWA Inc and hosted by the San Francisco Philippine Consulate, the literary event was started off with a welcome from the Consul General.

The introduction went something like this:

 A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Lysley Tenorio has received a Whiting Writer’s

Lysley Tenorio

Award, fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, The Chicago Tribune, and The Best New American Voices along with Pushcart Prize anthologies.

His latest book, Monstress published by Ecco/HarperCollins was reviewed in the New York Times where ANDREW HAIG MARTIN called his collectiona refreshingly off-kilter approach to the lives of Filipinos in America.”

Katy Waldman from SLATE.com wrote “it is the unassuming pitch of these stories that makes them so exquisitely deadly.”

And Dan Lopez in Lambda Literary described the collection saying: Hard lives and hard choices take center stage in Monstress, but this is no bleak landscape that Tenorio limns. Woven throughout the collection is a wry narrative of ambition. These characters whether they are gay or straight, American or Filipino, all share an abiding desire to succeed, their shared identity of otherness paradoxically empowering as it appears to disenfranchise. In that sense, they belong to a larger project of outsider fiction.”

To read more about the event, click here.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses

Last Call for Tenorio and his Monstress at the SF Philippine Consulate: Wednesday 28 November

Please join PAWA as we present Lysley Tenorio, author of the critically acclaimed Monstress. Writer and educator Rashaan Alexis Meneses will moderate.

When: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Doors open at 5:30 pm | Event begins at 6:00 pm
Where
: The Philippine Consulate
447 Sutter Street San Francisco, CA 94108

Arkipelago Books will handle book sales.

 

About Monstress

Monstress introduces a bold new writer who explores the clash and meld of disparate cultures. In the National Magazine Award-nominated title story, a has-been movie director and his reluctant leading lady travel from Manila to Hollywood for one last chance at stardom, unaware of what they truly stand to lose. In “Felix Starro,” a famous Filipino faith healer and his grandson conduct an illicit business in San Francisco, though each has his own plans for their earnings. And after the Beatles reject an invitation from Imelda Marcos for a Royal Command Performance, an aging bachelor attempts to defend her honor by recruiting his three nephews to attack the group at the Manila International Airport in “Help.”

Lysley Tenorio reveals the lives of people on the outside looking in with rare skill, humor, and deep understanding, in stories framed by tense, fascinating dichotomies—tenderness and power, the fantastical and the realistic, the familiar and the strange. Breathtakingly original, Monstress marks the arrival of a singular new voice in American fiction.

Lysley Tenorio is the author of Monstress (Ecco/HarperCollins). His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, The Chicago Tribune, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, he has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at Saint Mary’s College of California, and lives in San Francisco.

Born and raised in the seismically fractured and diverse landscape of California, Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California’s Creative Writing Program where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow. Nominated for a Sundress Best of the Net Prize, recent publications include a personal essay in Doveglion Press, short stories in the Australia based literary journal Kurungabaa, UC Riverside’s The Coachella Review, University of North Carolina’s Pembroke Magazine, and the anthology,Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. She currently teaches as Adjunct Professor for Liberal & Civic Studies at Saint Mary’s College and will be a resident at MacDowell Colony in 2013. Her website is http://rashaanalexismeneses.com.

Upcoming Writing Workshop at Mills College on “Political Narratives in Colonial Amnesia: Filipino/American Landscapes”

Honored to be invited as a speaker for writer Melissa Rae Sipon-Gabon’s Political Content & Engagement Writing Workshop where I’ll be discussing “Political Narratives in Colonial Amnesia: Filipino/American Landscapes” on Sunday, November 18 at Mills College.

PAWA is proud to co-sponsor this free and important writing workshop.

POLITICAL CONTENT & ENGAGEMENT

in story, memoir, and poetry

——-

five FREE writing workshops
participants’ reading gala
“i am ND” anthology

——-

DATES | Oct. 21, 2012 at 2pm–4pm
and every other Sunday onwards
(11/04, 11/18, 12/02, 12/16)

LOCATION | Mills College
5000 MacArthur Boulevard

——-

instructor melissa r. sipin and hosted by

ANAKBAYAN East Bay
TAYO Literary Magazine
Philippine American Writers & Artists
Mills College

“Every colonized people—in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality—finds itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mother country. The colonized is elevated above his jungle status in proportion to his adoption of the mother country’s cultural standards.”

— Frantz Fanon

This political content & engagement workshop invites writers to shape their memoir, poetry, prose, or performance work with an emphasis on impacting perceptions, be thy political, personal, social, literary, or cultural. We exchange our writing and develop voice and authority while working on techniques to elevate the richness and toughness of our voice. We read and analyze authors to observe how they effectively move the reader, affect perception, and perhaps opinion. Class discussions focus how our work affects how we are perceived and how the events of the world are understood. The elements of each genre are addressed as well.

amplify your writing
cultivate your craft

——-

Barbara Jane Reyes Shouts Out on Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog

Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog has the honor and pleasure of hosting a regular online column with poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes, who’s latest poets speaks truth to power, breaking silence and representation while giving a shout out to Pinay voices, including yours truly.

Do your soul a favor, and check out her words and Pinay works:

Teaching and Writing Pinay Lives and Voices

By Barbara Jane Reyes

As an author, I’ve been very uncomfortable, being expected to “represent” an entire community. Some years back, as a guest speaker in Willie Perdomo‘s VONA workshop, Building the Poetry Manuscript, I was asked by one Pinay student what that felt like, being a Pinay expected to “represent.” I told her I disliked it; though I think my work can be resonant and relevant to a Filipina American experience, it’s my own take on that wildly divergent thing. Moreover, something I’ve known since I was young, something to which my parents can attest, is that I am never the Pinay that people expect Pinays to be.

Read the entire post here.

Maraming salamat Barbara for making community!

Speaking on Love & Labor for Barbara Jane Reyes’ class “Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at USF

Thanks to professor and poet Barbara Jane Reyes and the sponsorship of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program and Asian Studies Program, I was able to guest lecture for Reyes’ Spring 2012 course “YPSP 195-01/ANST 195-02: Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Before my presentation, sixteen savvy students read my short personal essay “Barbie’s Gotta Work,” published in Doveglion. The essay was included in the course’s unit on “Work and Domesticity.”

Reyes recently discussed this very same class and its inception in her recent post on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet The Blog:

One day, I’d casually asked our program chair whether he was interested in an all Filipina/Pinay (Filipino women) literature course, and he said, yes, draft a syllabus, and we’ll get it approved by the curriculum committee. It was approved. It was quickly filled. This is the first semester I am teaching the course, and I’m still in disbelief. All Pinay Literature. I always think, wow, where was this class when I was young, and when I needed it most. It seems a lot of people have been asking this question too, as I have been asked by more people than I can count, for my syllabus and reading lists. So, in this space, I will be talking a bit about some of the items from my syllabus, in the hopes that it will prompt readers further.

Read entire post here.

For my guest lecture, after giving a brief power point presentation, featuring pictures of my family, my maternal and paternal grandparents at work and at play in their youth, the students asked challenging questions about the superficiality of Barbie and how that was complicated in the essay and what it was like to be a professor of color. Another student broached the gap between generations, wondering how to relate with family members who might not share the same  educational experiences. This brought on the idea of exploring the roots that hold us together and the stories family members share no matter where their paths in life take them.

We discussed looking at life and literature through a prism of lenses, much like looking through a kaleidoscope; we can shift the angles. We also talked about family memories that shape who we are. Some of the students shared their own experiences, remembering the work of their mothers, fathers, and grandparents.

Below is a sneak peek at the writing exercise students worked on, sifting through their past and their parents’ and grandparents’ pasts to uncover half-forgotten memories concerning love and labor, two themes that I keep coming back to with my own writing.

Love & Labor Writing Exercise

  • How do your parents and/or grandparents use their body at work?
  • How did work define your parents and/or grandparents?
  • What sense of self and purpose did they find through their labor?
  • Describe one of your parents or grandparents at work: What is the setting? What are their hands doing? Explain the actions of the body and mind.
  • How are they interacting with their setting? With other people at work?

Professor Dawn Bohulano Mabalon Honors Visayan Roots

Professor Dawn Bohulano Mabalon from San Francisco State University shares family stories and a Visayan favorite, binangkal, which my grandma and grandpa loved to make and share for breakfast with a nice cup of coffee. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean we can’t keep sharing good times with family & food.

From Our Own Voice, published December 2011, “Bohulano Family Binangkal”:

Several friends, many of them second and third generation with roots in the Visayas, reacted quickly and rapturously to my binangkal photo, thrilled that Facebook love had been given to an obscure regional treat beloved across the Visayas and wherever in the world Visayans settled. My writer friend Rashaan Alexis Meneses posted: “My grandpa used to make these! Sob.”…Binangkal is a sesame-covered baking powder donut, deep fried until crisp and brown on the outside and pillowy on the inside. When made well, its surface is craggy, brown and caramelized from the hot oil, its insides moist and fluffy. A popular snack in Cebu and the Visayas, it has look-alikes in Chinese dim sum restaurants and bakeries, which is a clue that binangkal may have some Chinese influence.

Read entire article here and have a go at the recipe to bring a taste of sweet memories into your kitchen.