Monday, August 01, 2011

Asian Pacific Islander American Writers

This summer the International Examiner published the annual Pacific Reader which includes a Literary Supplement of APIA book reviews
What the hell is APIA? 
You know you're an outsider when you have to look up the meaning of an acronym. Yes, I did. So much for having been the IE's Arts writer from 2004 - 2006 and so much for having interviewed Asian American authors and written reviews of their books. My excuse? I'm a white Western woman who hails from the Netherlands, an ESL writer and reader. 
What the hell is ESL, I hear my Dutch friends think (yes, you, I'll give the answer at the bottom of this post).

The heading APIA Literature that Influenced Me made me think about the effect the books I've read and reviewed for the International Examiner and the Pacific Reader had on me.
Here are a few of the titles:
    As a Dutch national I have friends who lived in Indonesia at the onset of WWII. Fathers were hauled away, mothers and children imprisoned in camps by Japanese soldiers. My Dutch - Japanese American friend Giotta Tajiri wondered about the attitude of Dutch people toward "the Japanese". That her father Shinkichi had fought with the American 442nd Regimental Combat Team against Nazis in Europe came as a total surprise to me at the time. I was quite surprised to learn that Shinkichi's family was imprisoned by fellow American citizens, while other Dutch friends of mine were tortured (their relatives killed) by Japanese soldiers in Indonesia. Gruenwald's book only added to my understanding how important it is to read widely, because the title says it all, and yet may come as a surprise.
      This collection of short stories made me feel like a well informed tourist, not just a foreigner who suffers from culture shock. Great beach reads I'd say. 
        The I.E. published a review of Juliet Kono's latest book Anshu: Dark Sorrow and is on my wish list. She brings to life the Japanese-American community in Hawaii like no other poet/ writer. 
      As an English as a Second Language Reader I gain tremendous understanding of American culture by reading across the border, by taking in stories written by immigrants and expats, by foreigners and nationals. Reading is fundamental, reading is powerful, reading is a must.
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