Archive for the ‘Asian American Art’ Category

As promised, I’m now posting some short videos from the Tiger Girl launch party at Books Inc., including a short reading and excerpt from the Q&A, a song by the amazing Cambodian American singer Laura Mam, and a 30-second video that gives you a feel for the event!



Much thanks to everyone who came to the launch at Books Inc./Opera Plaza in San Francisco! And I hope these videos can give a feel of the event to those who could not come in person.

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Video interview about my new novel, Tiger Girl, family, secrets, and hybridity! We also talk about some of my other books, including Hapa Girl, The Girl from Purple Mountain, and Dragon Chica.

And you can read more about it by clicking on the Inlandia Literary Journal blog.

Much thanks to John Bender, Metro Editor of the Riverside, CA, Press-Enterprise newspaper; Orlando Ramirez, editor of La Prensa; and Cati Porter, executive director of the Inlandia Institute.

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On this last day of APA Heritage Month, I wanted to remember the thrilling poetry reading I curated at SOMArts Gallery in San Francisco earlier this May. (These amazing photographs were taken by Shahrukh Faquih. See the full set here: Navigating the underCurrents)

We had such a great turnout for the AAPICC (Asian American Pacific Islander Culture Center) and AAWAA (Asian American Women Artists Association) co-sponsored event!

Poets wrote original poems inspired by an artwork in the “underCurrents & the Quest for Space” exhibition. SOMArts-bartender SOMArts-Calvillo-2 SOMArts-Calvillo SOMArts-crowd-2 SOMArts-crowd-mido SOMArts-crowd SOMArts-Frances-1 SOMArts-frances-2 SOMArts-guy SOMArts-Kimono SOMArts-Linda-Bory SOMArts-Ploy-2 SOMArts-Ploy SOMArts-Seigel SOMArts-Shiz-May-lee SOMArts-Shizue-2 SOMArts-Shizue SOMArts-Shobha-2 SOMArts-Shobha-3 SOMArts-Shobha-Ploy SOMArts-Shobha SOMArts-Susan-Amy May-lee-SOMArts

In several cases, the poets were able to meet face-to-face with the artists who created the works that inspired them.


There was an amazing group of poets who participated: Amy K. Bell, Susan Calvillo, Ploy Pirapokin, Shobha Rao, Shizue Seigel, Bory Thach, and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang. Their work represented many different forms of poetry–from narrative to language poetry.

It was a lovely evening!

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Save the date! I’m curating this poetry reading:

Poetry Reading: Navigating the underCurrents, May 15

What: Poetry Reading: Navigating the underCurrents

When: Wednesday, May 15, 7–8:30pm

Where: 934 Brannan St. (between 8th & 9th)

How Much: Free admission.

Bay Area author and international journalist, May-lee Chai curates this poetry reading inspired and surrounded by the socio-political visual art works during the underCurrents & the Quest for Space art exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center, as part of Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s (APICC’s) Annual United States of Asian American Art Festival.

The activist poets read their original poems in reaction to specific art pieces, challenging the status quo and proposing new aesthetic spaces. The reading, which will take place in front of the art piece that inspired each poet, will question our concepts and assumptions of gender, race, class, nationality, and the constructed femininity used to silence Asian American women throughout history.


Amy K. Bell writes fiction and poetry. Her chapbook, Book of Sibyl, is forthcoming from The Gorilla Press (thegorillapress.com). She studies writing at San Francisco State University’s MFA program and lives in Oakland. Find more of her work at amykbell.com.

Susan Calvillo is a Chinese- and Mexican-American poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in West Wind Review, New American Writing, Zyzzyva, LUMINA, Davis PoetryAnthology, Gesture Zine, and others. An excerpt of her Dual Duel poetry collection received an honorable mention from The Academy of American Poets for the Harold Taylor Prize.

Ploy Pirapokin is a Thai born, Hong Kong native, and an MFA candidate in Fiction at San Francisco State University. Her work will be featured in the sixth anthology of the World Englishes Literature series coming late 2013, and she has been accepted to the post-MFA summer residency at the City University of Hong Kong. She is now working on a collection of short stories grounded in Asia focusing on themes such as identity development, third world culture kids, and scary Asian parents.

Shobha Rao is currently pursuing an MFA at San Francisco State University. Her work has been published by Gorilla Press and in the anthology Building Bridges and will be forthcoming in Tincture. She was awarded the Gita Specker First Place Award for Best Dramatic Monologue by the San Francisco Browning Society in 2013. Previously she practiced as a lawyer in the areas of domestic violence and immigration law. She lives in San Francisco.

Shizue Seigel is a third-generation Japanese American writer and visual artist whose paintings, mixed media and photo collage explore complex intersections of history, culture and spirituality.  Her artwork has appeared in local, national and international group exhibitions. She authored In Good Conscience: Supporting Japanese Americans During the Internmentand her poetry and prose have been published in numerous anthologies.

Bory Thach was born in Khao I Dang, a refugee camp on the Thai and Cambodian border.  He is an Iraq War veteran and graduate M.F.A. student at California State University San Bernardino.  He enjoys writing fiction and poetry.  He currently lives in San Bernardino, CA.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawai’i. She was the arts and culture editor of IMDiversity.com Asian American Village, wrote a nationally syndicated column called “Adventures in Multicultural Living,” and is also a contributor for New America Media’s Ethnoblog, Chicago is the World, Pacific Citizen, InCultureParent.com, and HuffPost Live. She is the author of Imaginary Affairs—Postcards from an Imagined Life andWhere the Lava Meets the Sea—Asian Pacific American Postcards from Hawaii, available at Blacklava.net. Check out her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com and her website at franceskaihwawang.com.


May-lee Chai is the author of seven books, including the memoir Hapa Girl, which was a 2008 Kiriyama Prize Notable Book, and most recently the novel Dragon Chica. A former reporter for the Associated Press, she is a frequent contributor to The Jakarta Post Weekender Magazine. Her fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is the recipient of an NEA grant in literature.


Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA) is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to ensuring the visibility and documentation of Asian American women in the arts. Through exhibitions, publications, and educational programs, we offer thought-provoking perspectives that challenge societal assumptions and promote dialogue. www.aawaa.net

Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) supports and produces multi-disciplinary art reflective of the unique experiences of Asian Pacific Islanders living in the United States. underCurrents is featured as part of Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center’s  (APICC) 16th Annual United States of Asian America Festival at SOMArts Cultural Center. www.apiculturalcenter.org

Pictured: Alexandra Lee’s “Do I Dare” 

(From the SOMArts web calendar. Written by Jess in News)

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I saw the cover for my new novel, Tiger Girl, for the first time this week. And it is GORGEOUS!

I’m so excited that I just had to share it with everyone!


TIGER GIRL is coming this October 2013 from GemmaMedia.

Tiger Girl continues the story of Nea Chhim, the heroine of my novel Dragon Chica.

Plot: Nea is struggling with college. Nightmares of war flood the waking memories of this 19-year-old survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Nea decides she must confront the past to overcome her fear and begin her own life in America.

Without telling Ma, she hops on a cross-country bus in Nebraska to see her biological father in Southern California. There Nea comes face to face with a man wounded by survivor’s guilt who refuses to acknowledge the family’s secrets. Nea decides to revive his struggling donut shop and help him recover. Her tireless efforts attract a mysterious young man’s attention. Is he casing the place for a gang? she wonders. It is up to Nea to find out the truth: about her family, the war that nearly destroyed them, and herself. Tiger Girl weaves together Cambodian folklore and its painful past with contemporary American life to create an unforgettable novel about love, war, and acceptance.

Advance praise:

“An original storyteller writing a book about the need for a young woman’s love, her cross-country journey that is also an inner journey, and her surviving, with others, a life they weren’t meant to survive. This is their story. I couldn’t stop reading. This is a writer to follow on her own journey of words.”–Linda Hogan, award-winning author of The Book of Medicines and Indios.

“Like many of her characters, May-lee Chai is a masterful storyteller with a poignant and gripping tale to tell. I couldn’t put TIGER GIRL down: I wanted to know what was going to happen next of course, but I also wanted to learn more about the past, to understand the painful and astonishing paths that led these people to find one another. Her book travels far and wide, but in the end it’s about families–not just the ones we’re born into but also the ones we make for ourselves. It’s enthralling and moving and fascinating and absolutely wonderful.”–Claire LaZebnik, best-selling author of If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now and Families and Other Non-Returnable Gifts.

The cover was designed by the talented Howard Wong of Grace Image Photography/SF.

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I just got back from meeting with my publisher, Trish O’Hare of GemmaMedia, in Boston. We had a great time discussing launch plans for my new novel, Tiger Girl, the sequel to Dragon Chica. This time around Nea is going to be traveling to California where she will surprise her father, who is still looking for her missing older brother. Ah, the family intrigues continue! I’ll be posting more soon. The novel is coming out this fall.


(This photo with Trish O’Hare was taken in front of the famed 10 1/2 Beacon Street Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest independent libraries in America and one of only 16 members-only libraries. What beautiful art! It’s really a lovely place, full of stacks that members can browse with stunning works of American portraiture on the walls and sculptures tucked into alcoves. At a time when so many libraries are removing books and replacing them with computer terminals, I have to say the Athenaeum was a powerful reminder of the joy of browsing actual, physical, let-me-hold-you-in-my-hands books.)





I also was able to visit the lovely Boston Museum of Fine Arts where I was particularly taken by some of the works depicting what I call “fierce women.”

For example, these polo-playing Chinese ladies:

Tang Dynasty polo players

Tang Dynasty polo players











And this rather interesting porcelain figurine (made in Germany circa 1720) of Guan Yin:

Guan Yin...and Christ?

Guan Yin…and Christ?











And how about this 1803 portrait by William Jennings of “Mrs. Cephas Smith and Child”?

Quite the expressions on this madonna and child!

Quite the expressions on this madonna and child!










Overall I had a great trip and feel energized as we prepare to launch Tiger Girl in 2013!


Speaking of fierce women...the Dragon Chica's adventures will continue this fall!

Speaking of fierce women…the Dragon Chica’s adventures will continue this fall!

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I had a fabulous time at the 8th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration in San Francisco this past Saturday, May 19th.

at the Asian Art Museum of SF

The Asian Art Museum opened its doors for the festival and had free admission all day! There were splendid Southeast Asian dance performances (loved the children’s dances), art demonstrations, and even a flash mob dance performance. I enjoyed seeing the Phantoms of Asia contemporary exhibit exploring concepts of the supernatural past and present. And it was a thrill to be able to see Apichatpong Weerasethekul’s short “Phantoms of Nabua.” I’d seen this visually stunning film online but it was even more powerful on a big screen. (You can watch it online here: Phantoms of Nabua.)

Larkin Street from Civic Center Plaza through the Little Saigon District was filled with vendors and hundreds and hundreds of visitors. Smoke from the many barbecue stands formed a wafting cloud on one side street:

And the Asian fusion food trucks that are super popular in the city also set up for the day. The line in front of Chairman Bao Buns was running half-way down the block at one point. I managed to get some fabulous Korean bulgogi tacos at Seoul on Wheels!

It was a great celebration indeed. Even the weather cooperated. It was sunny but windy, which really made the Breathing Flower lotus sculpture in front of the Asian Art Museum come to life!

This street fair was a great way to celebrate APA Heritage Month and brought many diverse communities together.

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