Had a great time in Albuquerque and especially at the University of New Mexico this past week!
Albuquerque really put on a show: heat, a dust storm with 63 mph winds, snow (!), and then more of that famous southwestern sunshine! All in the space of three days. Wow. I was impressed, New Mexico. You get four seasons all at the same time!
Thank you, everyone, who attended my reading at UNM on April 30. I was very excited to meet the wonderful writer (and Director of the Creative Writing Program at UNM) Julie Shigekuni.
And the UNM bookstore really rocks! They put together the coolest poster for me of my book covers. (Hey, authors! If you get to read at UNM, the bookstore staff will make a poster for you, too.) I love when bookstores not only stock cool books but are also staffed by cool, creative people.
I was surprised by the big turnout for my reading. I read my short story, “The Dancing Girl’s Story” from my collection Glamorous Asians. In the story, a Cambodian Apsaras, a goddess, is mistakenly picked up by the INS and interrogated. She gives them an earful as she explains her life to them and why she decided to flee her home temple. They don’t understand her, but how is one supposed to explain a life in one story?
Then I talked about “The Lone Apache” chapter from my memoir, Hapa Girl, which describes how my brother was nearly killed when he was a teenager. He was mistaken for a Native American in a small town in South Dakota, and a group of white boys decided to teach him a lesson for going to watch the white girls play basketball. In the parking lot after the game, my brother suddenly found himself approached by this pack of bigots–armed with baseball bats and a two-by-four, no less. They called him a local slur used for Native Americans and approached. My brother put up his fists, knowing this would most likely be a fight to the death. His friends deserted him…but then one white boy in the group suddenly decided to stand by my brother. That changed the dynamics, and the would-be killers got scared. They thought: What if the crowd turned? What if they got beaten instead? So the thugs ran away.
I told the students that because of this, I know one person really can make a difference in this world. If not for that one boy siding with my brother, my brother could have died that night. We can all try to be that one voice that makes a difference, each in our own unique way. I try to be that voice with my writing, but every one of us has a way that we can make a difference. We shouldn’t be afraid to try.
I was also invited to participate on the MFA Thesis Committee and Defense of my former student, Chris Boat. His thesis passed with flying colors. I won’t give away anything about the plot now, but someday y’all will get to read his novel, I’m sure.
Finally, I also got to see some beautiful sites in Albuquerque, including the historic “Old Town” neighborhood, which dates from the 1700s and features adobe buildings, the area’s first Catholic church, and a lot of local artists.