The Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, culminating with a virtual event reflecting the literary organization’s long history.
At the AAWW’s final event in 2021, writers Alexander Chee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Amitava Kumar and Monica Youn spoke with New Yorker moderator and editor Hua Hsu about their experiences over the years at AAWW. The event, called AAWW at 30: Activating the Archive, took place on Zoom on December 14.
According to them website, AAWW was founded in New York in 1991 by Curtis Chin, Christina Chiu, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and Bino A. Realuyo. The group was looking for a literary community of Asian Americans in New York City. Over its 30 year history, AAWW has supported the careers of dozens of young writers and provides space for literary events to the Asian American community.
Formative experiences for young writers
At the event, the writers spoke about their formative experiences at AAWW, discussing how the organization has grown over the years. From their original space under a Gap store in Saint Marks’ Place at a location in Koreatown to the current location of the workshops in Chelsea, the writers have fondly remembered the support they received early in their careers.
Novelist Alex Chee, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, mentioned that during his early days as a writer he was looking for a place like AAWW. “My first experience as an Asian American writer was being alone, and it meant so much to find others.”
Poet Monica Youn agreed, saying as she grew up she did not initially recognize the lack of representation of Asian Americans in the spaces around her. When she first met AAWW, she said she quickly realized, “There are so many things that I miss. There is a community that I didn’t know existed.
A space to share with the Asian American community
AAWW provided these writers with a space to launch their careers, a physical location for book launches and readings, which even allowed some of the writers to meet with their agents and editors.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explained how AAWW provided a space to share the work where there was a real sense of comfort in being around people who understood her. “I felt like I read differently when I read in the studio. I could just be myself. I didn’t need to explain anything.
“The Saint-Marc space, the Koreatown space, and of course the Chelsea space and the green sofa,” Hua Hsu said. “The workshop is so much more than a physical space, it is a community.
Functionality via Asian American Writers Workshop
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