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Friday, March 13 • 9:00am - 10:50am
Where's Wanda: Writers of Color, the Unconscious Quota System, and Our Inadequate Imaginings

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(Presentation will be from 9:00-9:30)

Presenter bio: Geneva Chao has recently proposed the torus (a surface of revolution in continual motion around its coplanar axis) as a metaphor for the Asian American writing community. This happened at the California Institute for Integral Studies’ Conference “From Trauma to Catharsis: Performing the Asian Avant-Garde” in August 2014 in San Francisco, where she also read from the creative work “A Comprehensive History of Asian Americans.” Her critical piece on Don Mee Choi’s translations of Kim Hyesoon’s poetry will appear from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in November. Her poems and translations have appeared in various places, including New American Writing and The L.A. Telephone Book, vol. 2, and she teaches writing in Los Angeles. genevachao@gmail.com

Presentation/performance: Solo piece entitled “Where’s Wanda:  Writers of Color, the Unconcious Quota System, and Our Inadequate Imaginings.” Sesshu Foster’s recent blog post discussing the “Made in L.A.” art exhibit at UCLA’s Hammer Museum lamented that there were not more artists of color in that event and in the city in general, saying “so it’s okay, because “black los angeles” had its day/it had the one exhibit/it has black history month every year/it had wanda coleman (in those days).” At almost the same moment, NYC poet Jennifer Tamayo posted the following Facebook status update: “A DECISION'S BEEN MADE: if your NYC reading event has more than 2 people in it and all of them are white, i'm not going.” This creative talk/performance will explore the ways in which “checking the POC box” by including a small minority of POC writers and artists may make an event or community feel “integrated,” while both ghettoizing and pigeonholing the minority writer, who is then forced to be the token minority and to “represent” (through acquiescence to or rejection of) others’ racial imaginings. Wanda Coleman, beloved “unofficial poet laureate,” was an example of this -- her name was a mantra reassuring you that Los Angeles poetry was not all white -- the way the presence of a tiny minority of writers of color in a community serves to maintain their ghettoization. Through research, discussion of critical race theory, and imagined dialogues, this piece will both educate and enrage its audience.

Event statement of merit: Coleman once said that "Words seem inadequate in expressing the anger and outrage I feel at the persistent racism that permeates every aspect of black American life. Since words are what I am best at, I concern myself with this as an urban actuality as best I can." It is my project in this piece to synthesise some of the ways writers of color respond to the racial label that dogs them and to illustrate how through resistance, interrogation, and the wielding of words, we address the inadequacy of racial imagining, the constant burr of literariness being centered in whiteness, and the way in which participation in the greater, hegemonic literary world can be both necessary and a self-betrayal. I will respond to other writers’ words on these thems and incorporate the plurality of voices through interview/events with other writers in the community, particularly in my community of Los Angeles which includes such writers as Brian Kim Stefans, Ara Shirinyan, Margaret Rhee, Jen Hofer, Sesshu Foster, and many others whose conversation makes up some of the backdrop to this piece. My piece will thus represent not only my own inadequacy of words, to paraphrase Coleman, confronted with the suffocating inadequacy of the racial imaginary, but also a slice of the “urban actuality” that exists right now, in this enormous cacophony on the edge of the continent. It is a hybrid form, part performance, part reading, part lecture, personal and also inclusive like this hybrid identity that threatens always to emerge from under the seamless face of a cultural or racial label.

Speakers
avatar for Geneva Chao

Geneva Chao

Geneva Chao has recently proposed the torus (a surface of revolution in continual motion around its coplanar axis) as a metaphor for the Asian American writing community. This happened at the California Institute for Integral Studies’ Conference “From Trauma to Catharsis: Performing the Asian Avant-Garde” in August 2014 in San Francisco, where she also read from the creative work “A Comprehensive History of Asian Americans.” Her... Read More →


Friday March 13, 2015 9:00am - 10:50am
UC 330

Attendees (5)