Annual Report from APALA President Eileen K. Bosch

Wow! What an amazing 2014-2015 year for APALA! We ended this past year on a high note – celebrating its 35th anniversary with a daylong series of workshops designed to share Asian Pacific American (APA) stories, highlight successful library programs, and feature new partnerships and advocacy efforts in building coalitions to meet the needs of APA communities. The “Building Bridges: Connecting Communities Through Librarianship & Advocacy” 35th anniversary symposium was a big success! We had an unprecedented number of librarians, speakers, library leaders, community activists, writers/artists/filmmakers, students, volunteers, and corporate partners coming together to celebrate this milestone. The symposium took place on June 25, 2015 at the University of San Francisco’s McLaren Conference Center.

Image of Eileen K Bosch

Eileen K. Bosch, APALA President, 2014-2015

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who worked hard throughout this past year to make APALA’s 35th anniversary a memorable and historic event!

THANK YOU to the 60+ committee members and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the APALA 35th symposium, APALA’s President Program, APALA’s tour of Chinatown and Manila Heritage Foundation, APALA Literature Award Banquet, and several programs & events during ALA annual.

THANK YOU to the 100+ participants who registered to attend our very 1st APALA 35th Symposium, and to the 120+ participants who joined us at the APALA Literature Award Banquet at ALA Annual. The high attendance numbers at both of these events truly shows the continued support from our members, friends, and partners!

THANK YOU to all of our 2014-2015 sponsors and individual donors! Your support is valued and appreciated by all of us in APALA!

THANK YOU to all the 20+ API community organizers, speakers, and library community leaders who joined us at the symposium to celebrate our 35th anniversary.

THANK YOU to our amazing keynote speaker Valarie Kaur for her inspiring remarks; to our plenary session speakers: Ghada Kanafani Elturk, Nancy Hom, Andrew Lam, and Gene Luen Yang who engaged us in a frank conversation on how to build connections across APA communities, professions, and fields; and to the University of San Francisco, Dean Tyrone Cannon, and Associate Dean Shawn Calhoun who very generously offered APALA the use of the McLaren Conference Center and the Gleeson Library staff to host and help with the APALA symposium.

…And behind the scenes making it all come together…

THANK YOU to my unbelievable 2014-2015 Executive Board: Vice-President/President Elect Janet Clarke, Secretary Sarah Jeong, Treasurer Dora Ho, Member-at-Large Melissa Cardenas-Dow, Member-at-Large Anna Coats, Member-at-Large Paolo Gujilde, Member-at-Large Annie Pho, Immediate Past President Eugenia Beh, and Executive Director Buenaventura (Ven) Basco.  Thank you for the great teamwork spirit, enthusiasm, and constructive feedback and guidance during the past year.

THANK YOU to all the Standing & Ad Hoc Committees Chairs and their incredible teams who dedicated months, weeks, and hundreds of hours to make APALA’s 35th anniversary a successful year. APALA’s success is largely due to the drive and accomplishments of our committees. Thank you to the following Chairs:  Constitution and Bylaws Chair Paul Lai; Finance and Fundraising Chair Sandy Wee & Lessa Pelayo-Lozada; Literature Awards Jury Chairs Dora Ho & Buenaventura (Ven) Basco; Literary Awards Category Chairs Tiffany Chow, Tinamarie Vella, Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Jerry Dear, Gayatri Singh, Sandy Wee, Evelyn Yee, Irene Zapata, Tarida Anantachai, and Virginia Loh-Hagan; Membership Co-Chairs Maria Pontillas Shackles & Emily Chan; Mentoring Committee Co-Chairs Johana Orellana & Heawon Paick; Newsletter and Publications Co-Chairs Gary Colmenar & Melissa Cardenas-Dow; Nominations Chair Eugenia Beh; Program Committee & 2015 President’s Program Co-Chairs Janet Clarke & Peter Spyers-Duran; Publicity Co-Chairs Yen Tran & Holly Okuhara; Web Chair Alvin Dantes; Scholarships & Awards Co-Chairs Tassannee Chitcharoen & Valeria Molteni; Task Force on Family Literacy Focus Co-Chairs Lessa Pelayo-Lozada & Ariana Hussain; Task Force on  2015 annual Local Arrangements – San Francisco Co-Chairs Jerry Dear & Sherise Kimura; Task Force on 2015 midwinter Local Arrangements – Chicago Co-Chairs Annie Pho & Richard Kong; Task Force on 2015 Archives & Handbook Co-Chairs Paolo Guijilde & Sarah Jeong; Task Force on 2015 annual ALA Diversity & Outreach Fair – San Francisco Co-Chairs Paolo Gujilde & Tinamarie Vella; Diversity Council Representatives Sandy Wee & Eugenia Beh; ALA Working Group on Libraries & Digital Content Representative Holly Yu; JCLC Executive Board Committee Representative Kenneth Yamashita. I also would like to thank the APALA 35th Co-Chairs: Gary Colmenar, Florante Ibanez, and Jade Alburo as well as to APALA 35 Steering Committee Chairs: Assessment Chair Catherine Phan; Fundraising Chair Eileen K. Bosch; the fabulous Local Planning Co-Chairs Jerry Dear & Sherise Kimura; Program Committee Co Chairs Jade Alburo & Gerard “Gary” Colmenar; Anniversary Program Booklet designers Florante Ibanez & Brian Leaf; our brilliant Finance & Budget Committee Co-Chairs Dora Ho & Heawon Paick, Publicity/Outreach Committee  Co-Chairs Young Lee & Sandy Wee,  Raffle & Prizes Chair Tinamarie Vella, our super San Francisco to-go contacts Brian Huynh & Janet Tom; and to our creative web designer and logo creator Young Lee!

Below is a list of accomplishments and highlights during 2014-2015:

FUNDRAISING

  • APALA’s fundraising campaign surpassed our initial fundraising goal of $10,000 for the APALA 35th Anniversary. As a result of APALA’s fundraising initiatives and the hard work of several members, APALA secured the sponsorship of many individuals and corporate sponsors supporting the APALA 35 Symposium and Literature Award Banquet. Our sponsorships and individual donations fully covered our expenses during the 35th Anniversary celebrations.
  • A “Fundraising Toolkit” was created to help and assist future committee members to keep doing the work.
  • Launched APALA AmazonSmile account to benefit our Scholarships & Awards fund and our Family Literacy Focus project.
  • Created a membership drive campaign before new membership fee increases for 2015-2016 beginning in August 1, 2015. Members were also offered a one time only lifetime membership special by making 4 monthly payments of $100 before December 31, 2015.

SUCCESSION PLANNING & STREAMLINING

  • Completed the APALA Operational Manual. This manual will serve a much larger purpose than simply stating expectations; it will provide a definitive source of reference for EB officers and committee chairs on how to do their committee work and provide a better understanding of the organization.
  • Planned and developed an orientation session to returning and incoming EB officers at ALA Annual.
  • Appointed Melissa Cardenas-Dow to serve as Communication Coordinator to streamline communication processes between the standing committees, EB, and membership.
  • Encouraged the appointment of two co-chairs in all standing committees to begin succession-planning work within committees.

VISIBILITY & PROMOTION

  • Actively promoted our organization via our social media outlets.
  • Published 6 articles: 1 Minnesota Institute Early Career Librarians article; 3 advocacy fatigue mini-series articles; 1 APALA founder/library leader article; 1 APALA 35th focus piece.
  • Continued to support and encourage APALA representation at ALA national level: Working Group on ALA Advocacy Coordination, Diversity Council, and JCLC Executive Board.
  • We increased our membership numbers from 350 (ALA MW) to 372 members (ALA Annual).
  • Organized our first national symposium, APALA 35th Symposium & Anniversary with over 100 attendees and planned several programs and events co-sponsored with other divisions and units at ALA Conference.
  • Organized APALA President’s Program featuring a dynamic discussion between Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC-Berkeley and Maria Taesil Hudson Carpenter, the City Librarian of the Santa Monica Public Library System. They examined the issues raised by Geographies of Kinship: International Asian Adoption, a new film by award-winning Berkeley-based filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem, in the larger context of international adoption and reflect on universal questions of identity, assimilation, family, community, and advocacy. Excerpts from the film and a personal introduction especially produced for this program by Deann was shown. The APALA President’s Program was co-sponsored by APALA and ALA Video Round Table (VRT) division.
  • Sponsored a record number of programs at ALA Annual. For a complete list of events, please see the annual ALA conference list.
  • Website redesign – Assigned four ALA Emerging Leaders (EL TEAM B: Xiaoyu Duan, Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, Ximin Mi, and Jennifer Nabzdyk) to work with Web Committee on the redesign of the APALA website. Even though Emerging Leaders members presented the results of their work at the EB Annual Meeting, the Web Committee has not yet finalized this ongoing project.

SCHOLARSHIPS & AWARDS

  • Melody Tsz-Way Leung was recipient of our Scholarship Award.
  • Shanna Shiah received our Travel Award.
  • Cynthia Orozco was recipient of Emerging Leaders Scholarship.
  • Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library (TN), Kenton County Public Library (Kentucky), Native Village of Eyak (Alaska), Oceanside Public Library (CA), Pacific Islands University (Guam), Palms-Rancho Park Library (CA), Red Lake Nation College (MN), San Juan College (NM), Sonoma County Library (CA), and USD 497 Native American Student Services for Lawrence Public Schools (KS) are recipients of our Family Literacy Focus:  Talk Story Grants. Each one was awarded $600 to complete a Talk Story grants.

PROFESSIONAL & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

  • 8 Mentors & Protégés were paired.
  • APALA 35th Symposium offered several workshops addressing professional development and outreach.
  • 4 ALA Emerging Leaders were able to work closely and be mentored by Web Committee and Executive Board throughout their EL project.

I could not emphasize enough my sincere thank yous to everyone who have contributed in helping me shape and create a shared vision for APALA during 2014-2015. Many – many THANK YOUs go out to many-many people! It takes an entire community to make incredible things happen!!

It has been an honor to serve as the President of APALA over the past year. I look forward to working as the Past Immediate President with the new Executive Board in 2015 as we strive to achieve our new strategic directions under the leadership of incoming President, Janet Clarke, Vice-President/President Elect Lessa Pelayo-Lozada, Secretary Anna Coats, Treasurer Dora Ho, Member-at-Large Brian Leaf, Member-at-Large Arianna Hussain, Member-at-Large Paolo Gujilde, and Member-at-Large Melissa Cardenas-Dow.  APALA is lucky to have such a talented board and membership!

THANK YOU FOR BEING A PART OF THIS YEAR’S APALA 35th Anniversary!

Eileen K. Bosch
APALA President, 2014-2015

 

APA Library Leaders Roster

Asian Pacific American Library Leaders: Past, Present, and Future

 

Dear APALA members,

In celebration of the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association’s 35th anniversary, APALA wishes to honor a diverse array of APA librarians who are helping to shape our profession. The roster compiles the names of retired, current, and future APA librarian leaders who have made and are still making a significant impact in librarianship since 1980, the year that APALA was founded, and will continue to make such contributions in the future.  Several librarians listed in the roster have served as Presidents of both APALA and CALA, the Chinese American Librarians Association.

The roster is divided into two sections: APA Library Leaders – Current & Retired and APA Library Leaders – Future Voices. The first section highlights some of the incredible APA librarian leaders who have attained distinguished positions and roles as deans/directors of academic (university and community college) and public libraries, as well as state librarians and library school deans; American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board members, Division Presidents and Office Directors; and achieved other noteworthy professional accomplishments.

The second section honors aspiring APA library leaders who may not have yet attained distinguished positions; however, their leadership skills have been essential in guiding and leading current policy and important conversations that are helping to shape the future of our library profession.  They make our field more flexible in, and embracing of, the changes that are necessary to keep it thriving and sustainable, and especially attractive to future APA librarians. The categories include: ALA Councilors, ALA Emerging Leaders, ALA Leadership Institute Selected Participants, ARL Leadership Fellows, Library Journal Movers & Shakers and PLA Leadership Academy Fellows.

The roster of APA Library Leaders is not intended to be comprehensive or final. It is our hope that this list becomes a living document that will continue to evolve and change as more APA library professionals provide input and feedback as to names to include and more information to add or revise.  This list will serve as a resource for library leaders, library administrators, library and information professionals, library educators, and library students to enhance and promote a more diverse workforce and to inspire future APA librarians to empower the library communities they serve. These are the best and brightest voices of today that are shaping the profession of tomorrow.

Dr. Ken Yamashita
APALA President, 1996-1997

Eileen K. Bosch
APALA President, 2014-2015

 

 

Note – This roster is a continuation and expansion of the list of Asian American library directors/deans compiled by Ben Wakashige in 2007 and inspired by Dr. Jian-Zhong “JZ” Zhou’s research on Asian American library leadership on 5/2012.

 

To view the list, please download the roster:  APA Library Leaders Roster.pdf

 

Raffle Fundraiser at the APA Literature Awards Dinner

APALA’s annual awards dinner will be held on Saturday, June 27th at the Canton Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant from 6-9:30 p.m. If you would like to join us, don’t forget to buy your tickets. There will be a raffle drawing to raise funds for APALA. Please don’t forget to bring cash. Tickets are 1 for $2, 5 for $5, and 15 for $10, etc. The more raffle tickets you buy, the better your chances of winning. And the more money we raise!
Raffle winners will be called throughout the dinner. You must be present to win.
You could win these great prizes below:
image of red Beats Headphones by Dr. Dre

Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones

Customized Book Bracelet Jewelry from Diane Weltzer

Customized Book Bracelet Jewelry from Diane Weltzer

image of web banner for City Lights Booksellers & Publishers

Book Bundle From City Lights Bookstore

image of Firebrand Soprano Ukulele Complete Pack

Firebrand Soprano Ukulele Complete Pack

image of logo for Better World Books

Gift Cards from Better World Books

images of book covers in raffle

Assorted Books, CDs and DVDs from Asian American Publishers and Authors

image of logo from Springer Publisher

Promotional Swag from Springer

image of Hello Kitty logo

Hello Kitty Memorabilia

image of Chalk Hill Winery logo

Wine from Chalk Hill Winery

 Hope to see you there!

The Not-So-New History of Asian International and Transracial Adoption by Catherine Ceniza Choy

Social media’s recent co-option of the term “transracial” to describe former NAACP chapter President Rachel Dolezal’s controversial identification as black has garnered a maelstrom of criticism from adoption community members for good reason.  It erases the decades-long history of Asian international and transracial adoption in the United States.  The United States is the top recipient of adoptive children from throughout the world.  In the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, American families have adopted children from Latin American, European, and African nations.  However, beginning in the 1950s, predominantly white American parents’ adoption of Asian children played a formative role in making adoption global and transracial.

In the aftermath of World War II and at the onset of the Cold War, Americans’ adoption of mixed-race Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese children born of U.S. servicemen and Asian women captured the hearts and minds of the general public.  The distinctive racial features of these mixed Asian and American children had made them visible targets for abuse.  The lack of U.S. and Asian governmental support, and desertion by their American fathers, influenced their mothers’ decisions to abandon them, creating a group of children available for adoption.  International adoption from China is popularly conceived as a more recent phenomenon. Yet, an earlier period of Chinese international adoption took place under the auspices of “the Hong Kong Project” through which Chinese American and white American families adopted hundreds of Chinese boys and girls, who had been relinquished by refugee families fleeing communist mainland China.

The history of Asian international adoption in the United States provides a lens to view the relationship between U.S. foreign relations and immigration, specifically between an American military presence in other countries and the resultant migrations of children to the United States.  It also helps us glean the shifting definitions of what constitutes an American family.  Confronting this history is not easy.  It compels us to grapple with the brutal aftermath of war, the absence of social services to vulnerable populations, U.S. as well as Asian racisms, the adoption of children who were not true orphans, but whose relatives relinquished them because of poverty and hopelessness, American adoptive parents’ tense encounters with family members and neighbors who opposed their decision to adopt internationally and transracially, and Asian adoptees’ painful loss of their birth families and homelands.  Yet, these earlier experiences also contributed to progressive social changes—such as the increasing acceptance of multiracial peoples and multicultural heritages–that enabled Asian international adoption in the United States to grow exponentially.

Between 1971 and 2001, U.S. citizens adopted 265,677 children from other countries.  Over half of those children were from Asian countries. In the twenty-first century, China, South Korea, Vietnam, India, Cambodia, and the Philippines are among the top twenty sending countries of adoptive children. Beginning around 2005, the total numbers of international adoptions in the United States started to decline.  However, current demographic trends cannot undo the impact of Asian international adoption in the United States.  International adoption continues to shape the American experience through the presence of multiple generations of Asian adult adoptees as well as Asian adoptive children in our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.

Image of book cover of Global Families by Catherine ChoyAt the Fall 2014 UC Berkeley Mixed Student Union conference, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation about my book Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption.  Afterwards, two young people—a college student and a recent college graduate—approached me to ask for further resources about international adoption.  The college student was a Chinese adoptee who was just beginning to explore her adoptive identity.  The recent graduate was not an adoptee, but he had become interested in Asian international adoption because his mother is a Korean adoptee.  She was uninterested in exploring her Korean heritage and trying to reunite with her Korean birth family, he explained.  But he was.  Listening to their stories powerfully reminded me that the United States is an international adoption nation.

Thus, the history of Asian international adoption in the United States and its legacies are important for all of us–and not solely those who are directly involved in adoption as parents, practitioners, and adoptees themselves—to know.  Educators and librarians play an important role by responding to questions, such as the ones posed to me at the student conference, with awareness, sensitivity, and insight.  We can and should advocate for making a diverse array of resources on international and transracial adoption available and accessible to our local communities and the general public.  APALA’s May 16th blog post on a resource guide to this topic by Sofia Leung and its upcoming President’s Program, “Global Roots, Local Identities: Asian International Adoption and Advocacy,” on June 27 provide a wonderful place to begin.

 

Global Roots, Local Identities: Asian International Adoption and Advocacy

Co-sponsored by Video Round Table
Saturday, June 27, 2015, 4:30-5:30 PM
Moscone Convention Center, 236-238 (S)

Description: APALA President’s Program will feature a dynamic discussion between Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC-Berkeley and Maria Taesil Hudson Carpenter, the City Librarian of the Santa Monica Public Library System. They will examine the issues raised by Geographies of Kinship: International Asian Adoption, a new film by award-winning Berkeley-based filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem, in the larger context of international adoption and reflect on universal questions of identity, assimilation, family, community, and advocacy. Excerpts from the film and a personal introduction especially produced for this program by Deann will be shown. The APALA President’s Program is co-sponsored by APALA and VRT.

We hope to see everyone there!

Lacuna: Writing from the Gaps

From Lacuna’s Facebook page:

Lacuna means a gap in a manuscript. Emerging AAPI writers write from the gaps, telling stories to evoke a sense of belonging and history while at the same time rebuilding a home and future in the diaspora.

Image of Lacuna: Writing from the gaps

Two writers in the AAPI community will read and describe their creative process and inspiration of their recently published first books:

Viet Thanh Nguyen is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, as well as a member of the steering committee for the Center for Transpacific Studies. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002) and the recent novel The Sympathizer, from Grove/Atlantic. His articles have appeared in numerous journals and books, including PMLA, American Literary History, Western American Literature, positions: east asia cultures critique, The New Centennial Review, Postmodern Culture, the Japanese Journal of American Studies, and Asian American Studies After Critical Mass. His short fiction has been published in Manoa, Best New American Voices 2007, A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross-Cultural Collision and Connection, Narrative Magazine, TriQuarterly, the Chicago Tribune, and Gulf Coast, where his story won the 2007 Fiction Prize.

Lysley Tenorio’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. A Whiting Writer’s Award winner and former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he has received fellowships from the University of Wisconsin, Phillips Exeter Academy, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in the Philippines, Lysley currently lives in San Francisco, and is an associate professor at Saint Mary’s College of California.

Paul Ocampo (moderator) assisted Maxine Hong Kingston in editing Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, which includes his short story “Butterfly.” He was a former editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review and is a recipient of the SF Arts Commission Individual Artist Commissions grant.

The event will feature readings from the authors. Q&A will follow.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 27, 2015, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. at the I-Hotel Manilatown Center, 868 Kearny Street, San Francisco. It is free to the public, but please RSVP. Refreshments will be served.

The event is sponsored by Lacuna Giving Circle, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and APALA.

 

APA Author Interview — Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, author of “Dance Among Elephants”

Molly Higgins (MH): Please introduce yourself and briefly describe your literary work and career path to date. What attracted you to writing?

Krysada Panusith Phounsiri (KPP): My name is Krysada Panusith Phounsiri. I also go by Binly. I am a poet and a former student under the June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley. My book of Poetry, “Dance Among Elephants,” is a collection of poems dating back from 2007 to now. I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12, but never truly felt confident in my poetic voice until 2007. There was always a feeling, a sense of weight that pulled me into the idea of writing my feelings down on paper. It was a lonely journey; a search for self. My mind lighted my path and my pen did the walking. I wrote this book in hopes that it represents the themes that hit me the hardest. It’s about my experiences with love, dancing, growing up as a Lao American kid in Southeast San Diego, and the challenge of living through internal struggles. I am currently a Systems Engineer working at a BioTech company. I help develop instruments for life science research, to keep it brief.

SnapPilots_15-03-06_26

MH: You’re not a full-time writer. What else keeps you busy, and why do you make time for writing?

KPP: I dedicate huge chunks of my time dancing because I love it. I am a professional dancer who travels to various cities to compete or judge dance competitions and teach workshops. I also perform shows on a gig-to-gig basis for different projects. A group of friends and I recently opened a studio in San Diego. I spend a lot of my time there training, teaching, and managing the daily activities and task that the studio demands. I also focus my efforts on photography. Currently, I am running a Photography/Cinema project called Snap Pilots alongside a partner and close friend. We aim to Snap our lives, the places we travel, and people in hopes that the photo captures a portrayal of honesty. That honesty is in the expression, the setting, and the feeling that was meant to be captured.

Besides all of that, I make time for writing because it fulfills things that those two art mediums can’t. Think of it as a triangle of passions that all need to balance each other out. Sure, all of the arts I practice can help me grab certain feelings, but some art forms do it better than the others. For writing, it becomes a true challenge to be honest. I am the most vulnerable when it comes to writing because I dig deep into my memories and emotions. Writing is coupled with reading; it sounds obvious but compared to dancing and photography, people are literally reading what I write. Dancing and Photographs leave a lot more to interpretations. I choose not to hide my feelings and my experiences. It gives me a sense of strength in the end. Different energies that I desire. Writing is that powerful to me, so I have to explore that world and make time for it.

 

MH: Your first book, “Dance with Elephants,” is about to be released from Sahtu Press. How did that collaboration come about? Did you consciously choose to publish with an independent, Lao American publisher?

KPP: Yes, I consciously chose to publish my work with them. The story goes as this: From 2010 I attempted to publish my manuscript. As the years went by, I was published in an anthology, a few magazines, and educational journals. Every press I applied to and sent my manuscript to, I received rejection letters from. I met with the editor of Sahtu Press around the middle 2011. It was then that he reached out and tried to motivate me to continue writing. He also sent me links from time to time for publishers that might be interested in my work. I kept trying, but with no success. I continued to write more poems as he continued to check in with me. It was late 2013 when we went through the last few rounds of publishers. He hinted to me that he had something I might be interested in, but he wanted me to keep trying to reach out to publishers. Three publishers later, still no success. It was then that he approached me with an offer. He mentioned Sahtu Press was a venture he and a partner was working together on. He gave me an offer, after 4 years of trying. I was warned that the press was small, and that if I was hoping to make big profits from this, that I should continue trying elsewhere. I already knew that Poetry just doesn’t sell. I knew that I wasn’t going to be making the next Harry Potter books anytime soon. It wasn’t a pessimistic view in my opinion. All that did was motivate me to focus on what was important. It is important that I get my voice out there and that I write my story. I did not want anyone else doing that. It’s a dream to publish a book because it is a way for me to leave something for the world. I wanted to express something about my life, and if it inspired at least one person to do something honest and positive for the world, then my words mattered. I don’t care about the money or the awards. I took that inspiration from my career as a dancer. The fame does not matter, the prestige of being an author is nothing to me if it doesn’t serve a meaningful purpose to the people I love and to the communities I represent. With those thoughts in mind, I proceeded to accept the offer to publish under Sahtu Press. Bryan Thao Worra and Nor Sanavongsay are the two gentlemen who run that. I have no regrets moving forward.

 

MH: Make us excited to read your book! How would you describe your writing?

KPP: I’d say it’s a waltz with my wild mind; multifaceted in story, theme, and cadence. There are moments where I want to slow the readers down and there are plenty times where I want the reading experience to flow with the words. It all depends on the purpose. You’ll take in fragments of who I am and what I love to do. It’s a different side that I am hesitant to share, but one that I feel needs to roam free. I leave it out there for people to read but still keep some mystery. I don’t know. Just read it and see for yourself. I put my all into the writing. I want to be clear that I want the reader to lie in their bed, sit at a coffee shop, or chill somewhere outside and read my poems. I want the words to marinate. Although I do read my poetry, I can’t define it as spoken word; I don’t perform my pieces. I aimed at making this book less of a performance and more of a pondering of sorts. The poetry is something I want readers to walk away from with an impression that channels emotion to the rawest extent.

 

MH: How do you think your personal identity influences your writing and/or the diversity of your readership?

KPP: I love to do many things. Because of this, I involve myself with various groups of people and communities. Mostly from different art and cultural foundations. My personal identity is complicated and confusing at best. I try to focus on expressing myself in a simple and powerful manner. The experiences I have outside of writing allow me to jump between different voices, languages, and metaphors. All of this represents me in different ways. I never enjoyed wanting to just be standard so how I write never stays in one mode. I hope that the range of experiences in my life is something readers can connect to.

 

MH: We’re always looking for more to read. Who are your top five literary influences?

KPP: Bryan Thao Worra’s work is actually taking Lao American creative writing to its edges. You should check his work if you want to see one of the many possibilities where Lao American writers can go. I’m a huge fan of Kevin Young and I’ve been reading a few of his books. He can write about the personal, the political, the love stuff, and even the historical, and it’ll all somehow work. Ruth Forman influenced a lot of my work as well, especially the idea of resisting standard language. She can say anything and it’ll always be her voice. The clarity in her words is a true practice of poetry, not tied to gimmicks in grammar and/or punctuation. Francisco Alarcon, not enough can be said about his creation of images in poems. The action he creates, the poems come alive. They run and you have to chase. The finish line is an experience of reading poems worth reading. Alan Moore, I just have to recommend this man. You can start by just reading “Watchmen” and “V for Vendetta.” Then you can go back to some of his crazier work. I love comic books and graphic novels; his work feels so raw. He is a mad man and his writing gives me adrenaline. Lastly, I recommend June Jordan. Without her books of poetry and her program at Berkeley, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today (and shout outs to Marcos Ramirez for being the spark of it all). June Jordan is where I credit the foundation of my poetry to. Her poetry is a testament to what honesty can do to the world. Her work is a symbol for using love to fight it all, and such potency comes equally in craft and purpose.

 

MH: You’re being interviewed by a librarian, for an audience of progressive Asian American librarians. What are your thoughts on libraries, and their place in building diverse communities?

KPP: I used to walk to my local Library, called Malcolm X Library, to read books. I walked there years later to use their public internet back when I didn’t have internet at home. I used the internet to look up Breaking, what mainstream society calls Breakdancing but I don’t use that term. I can safely say that my trips to this library paved the way for my fascination with the world and it introduced me to Hip Hop Culture. That library was placed right in the heart of Southeast San Diego. My neighborhood is full of beauty; full of colorful personalities and backgrounds. I believe Southeast represented multiculturalism undeniably. The fact that this library is called Malcolm X speaks for itself. I witnessed the possibilities of libraries and their potential in building diverse communities. The reality lives, it starts with youth. Libraries are still a child’s gateway to the world. I say a “child’s gateway” because once you introduce the power of learning and the magic that libraries offer in providing information/stories to children, they can fall in love with that notion for years to come. They begin to interact with other youth from different experiences, all willing to learn in the library as well. Now, extrapolate that to all ages and communities, you have a physical space where learning is a choice and a passion. Instead of joining gangs or falling to street vices, folks would use their struggles to learn about the world and themselves. That speaks volumes for libraries and their ability to unite people for the sake of building.

 

MH: What advice would you give young professionals, especially those from diverse backgrounds, who are interested in a career in poetry or writing?

KPP: Never allow anyone to write your story if you absolutely know you can do it. Never fear what people might say about your work. Focus on the art AND craft of writing because the message can be powerful but the delivery can sink and come across as weak if no discipline is put behind it. We have to work harder and put in that much more into our writing because it gets scrutinized or outright ignored. Write to be un-denying in any space. Know that you must write and it can free you from all that weighs you down. Poetry and writing may be an unconventional path and one that your family is concerned you won’t make a living from, but you have to do it if you will it. Be sure to scout for progressive publishers, but do not be afraid to send your work to any publisher, magazine, journal, etc. All it takes is one to get the gears going. Do not be discouraged with rejections. The fact that you write is as powerful as it is beautiful. Your words need to be shared, so put your work out there and forget about the rejections. They won’t define you. Your strength comes from knowing that mainstream society cannot and sometimes will not understand your purpose. You must write in a way that forces them to fall in love with your purpose through solid poetry/writing technique. Conviction is key.


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Editing assistance provided by Jaena Rae Cabrera.

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