Pacific Rim Asian writers gather for a second year

It’s the second year for LiterASIAN: A Festival of Pacific Rim Asian Canadian Writing. The organizers of the Vancouver Asian Writers’ Workshop will host the event from Oct. 9
to 12.

Although there are mainstream literary festivals that recognize diversity and inclusiveness, says Jim Wong-Chu, LiterASIAN organizer, he feels there is a need to feature visible minority authors that have a common historical cultural background.

In the first year, 2013, there were 600 participants. To make the festival more accessible, this year, the organizers have created an outreach initiative/book fair for the City of Richmond’s main library to bring the festival to people in areas outside of Vancouver’s Chinatown, where the festival’s main venue,the UBC Learning Exchange, is located.

The workshops at the literary event are designed to offer introduction and pathways to writing and publishing. “There is (also) a celebration dinner event, which is a way to bring writers and readers together to share a meal and socialize as a community, says Wong-Chu.

Stories, style and ethnicity

Yasuko Thanh is one of many authors invited to feature their works, do readings or even launch their books at this event

Yasuko Thanh, author. | Photo by Robert Kenney

Yasuko Thanh, author. | Photo by Robert Kenney

“I hope to meet other writers whose work I’ve read and admired, whose works I’ve not yet read but would like to. It’s an opportunity to talk shop, to meet emerging writers and offer the benefit of some of my years of experience, to pass on what I can, to learn from them, too,” says Thanh.

She believes one challenge an Asian Canadian author might face is the risk of labelling. In writing about something with an Asian subject matter, Thanh points out that a writer may be classified according to his or her heritage alone.

“Then [if the author is] trying to write something completely different in their next book, [they may] not be taken seriously. What does a Vietnamese writer know about polkas in Northern Germany for instance, or hoodoo root doctors in the Deep South. Can you hear the suspicions of detractors? The challenges are beneficial in the sense that, I guess, the public may be apt to take you more seriously when you write about an ‘Asian’ subject matter [like] D’Arcy Island lepers,” says Thanh.

“I might say, this writer works in the vein of magic realism vein, or this book is predominantly a work of realism, but I don’t set out, before I read, to label a work of ‘Asian Canadian writing,” she says. In fact, she thinks labelling a writer limits the person and their works.

Thanh plans to rub shoulders with fellow writers as well as make connections with the public through her readings at this year’s festival.

Her novel, Floating Like the Dead, was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award.

Mingling and sharing

To Wong-Chu, writing is a solitary discipline and writers, aside from readings and literary events, seldom have an opportunity to meet and dialogue with readers and the public.

“LiterASIAN uses the event as a cross-fertilizing process – a means to inspire young emerging writers by surrounding and intermingling them with more established and successful role models,” says Wong-Chu.

“By putting them within a positive community environment, featured writers were afforded an opportunity to experience the community and their readers and share their experiences and a more casual and meaningful way,” says Wong-Chu.

He notes that the one of the public’s comments was that many wanted to take every workshop because they offered different and valuable information.

“This year, we are deliberately staggering the workshop schedule to allow for those who want to take as many as they need,” he says.


LiterASIAN: A Festival of Pacific Rim Asian Canadian Writing runs October 9 to 12 at 612 Main St., Vancouver.

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